After a trip to Goa before last Christmas, I haven’t been on the road. A trip, any trip to somewhere was really due.
This was a dream on the map. The plan: Take the Bangalore-Kanakpura-Malavalli-Kollegal-Sathyamangalam route to Kotagiri and swing by BR Hills on the way. On the second day, drive to Ooty, Manjoor and back to Ooty. The return trip from Manjoor will show us Avanlanche Lake from a distance. From Ooty, drive straight back to Bangalore.
This trip took us through roads like this…
.. and showed us views like this.
In the month of May 2016, we set out to fulfill this dream. This is what we did last summer.
5 in the morning is a good time to start a journey.
We followed this route.
Before we could get out of the city, we lost a crew. She felt sick and bailed out at Silk Board. Our spirit dipped but not enough to abandon ship.
We crossed Kanakapura before 8 AM through mostly empty roads like this.
We did not find a desirable stop for breakfast at Kanakapura. We had little hope anyway. There are numerous reports in Team-BHP that Kanakapura road has limited option for food unlike Mysore road. Therefore, we resorted to the backup plan- biscuits. I recommend you pack sandwiches.
We drove through narrow roads through villages with tiny huts and colorful ones.
Then it was time to drive by BR Hills. We made an entry at the check post. I can’t remember if there was an entrance fee. It’s not in our expense book.
The lonely drive through empty forest was very therapeutic.
We crossed small settlements, the biggest of which is the Forest Camp.
Then we were back to the plains through lonely narrow road like this.
Before Chamarajanagar we steered left towards Sathyamangalam through very scenic road. To our surprise TN cops were stopping vehicles in the middle of nowhere. Surprise check? We were led go without inspection because we are nice guys.
As the descent was approaching, we were drawn by the sudden appearance of this ridge.
We maneuvered down the hairpin bends, the first of which is this.
Remember to anticipate and give way to the upcoming lengthy trucks.
Breakfast and lunch were long overdue. By popular demand, we stopped at small settlement called Hasanur. We had delicious simple Tamil Nadu meals and omelette.
Hereafter, it was non-stop drive to Kotagiri. It’s really painful to get stuck behind the ass of truck and buses. If we stopped, we risked having to re-overtake those we had painstakingly overtook. We were in no mood for that.
Kotagiri is a nice small charming town. If you hate crowded Ooty during the peak season, you should make Kotagiri your base. We stayed at Bel Air Cottages. We got a generous friend’s discount and hospitality. Thanks to Anand.
This is main building of BelAir Cottage.
We stayed here though. Higher with better views.
We had time to kill till sunset. After a rejuvenating cold shower, we went out to town. PS: The room does have hot water. Cold shower is my ice bucket challenge.
The Departmental Store in Kotagiri, you will find most things you need here.
The market area is far from chaos.
We went to see Kotagiri Public School (KPS) to be driven away by the watch man.
I tried to explain our purpose of visit which was just to see the school. Many seniors from Mt. Carmel, Aizawl joined KPS after 10th standard. He insisted we report to the school office.
We drove away into Kotagiri’s beautiful mansions and tea estate.
Becky wanted to pluck some tea leaves for her aunt. I think she’s got some in her pocket.
A village right beside Kotagiri. If it was in Mizoram, it would be called New Kotagiri!
At night temperature dropped to 14C. We took turns to stand at the balcony to feel the cold aided by spirits that provided the right amount of numbness.
This is the moon rising soon to be followed by a blanket of fog, so thick the NSA won’t be able to snoop on us from above if we were the bad guys in a hide out.
One the second day, we woke up to these dew drops.
Because they haven’t seen sun rise in a while.
After a cup of tea, we left for the next phase of the trip- Ooty-Manjoor-Ooty and back home.
The road to Ooty felt like a botanical garden all the way.
To the girls, Twilight!
Doddabetta may be the highest peak in Nilgiris but we would not join the crazy long queue of tourist vehicles. Bye bye Doddabetta! Perhaps some other day.
We arrived at Ooty around 7AM and we struggled to find breakfast and bathroom. Restaurants were open but most had not started serving breakfast. The paid restroom at the bus stand was pathetic. The disappointment was written all over my friends’ faces.
This is St Stephens’ Church. I strongly recommend you pay a visit if you travel to Ooty.
The road to Manjoor was smooth, quiet and offered great views.
Wish we have friends that own these.
At Manjoor, they have a dam in their backyard!
And they also have peaks in the horizon.
From here we descended into the valley and turned left to MDR 1071. It took us back to Ooty and showed us Avalanche lake on the way. Once we climbed the bends to the top, we were greeted with awesome road, sprawling valleys and farms.
I had to turn around to capture this.
Freshly prepared soil for the next cultivation. Chocolate Bars? We thought.
More chocolate bars.
Somebody got to pluck tea leaves again. The other experimented with angles.
And someone was selfie-ing the old way.
And I was admiring the beauty of the winding road.
Then came the reason I dreamed of this drive. Hello, Avalanche Lake.
It was the middle of summer, hence not a lot of water.
We were back at Ooty around 11AM. As this was the first trip to Ooty beside me, it was naturally to visit the. There was a long queue at the ticket booth, boating was out of question.
Is pedal boat a leisure or an exercise?
With boating out of the way, Becky succumbed to a picture with a white horse which might as well be named Gandalf. Even the toilet at the lake was burned out. The care taker said, only No. 1 allowed! With that, we abandoned the lake.
A new dinosaur theme park has come up next to the lake. Jesh wanted to check out.
Perhaps she thought- Jurassic Park!!
Jesh took off with Becky to meet the animals. Johnson and I opted to sip some milkshake.
If Skeletor, the archenemy of He-Man has a pet, I think it would look like this.
I am still working on my dinosaur lingo. I don’t know what this is but nice shot, Jesh.
They have this ride that sort of looks like it’s from a sci-fi movie.
Kids totally love to ride this.Yes, this thing can walk!
For lunch we went to Shinkows Chinese Restaurant. The time waiting for our order was spent on connecting with the outside world and reviewing the experience which was already a memory.
Around 2 PM, we started from Ooty. We took the usual Gudalur-Bandipur road. Becky was disappointed we saw no tiger in the so called Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. We did see the usual monkeys, elephant and deer and other tourists on an evening safari ride.
Speaking of tourists, from a car that had pulled over, came out a lady with a beautiful gown (or dress?) .What a sight 🙂 I have never seen that in Bandipur! The monkey and deer business continued till Bandipur National Park which was swarmed with tourists.
We drove on to the road that would take us home…
.. and to the end of the tour.