- Tamil Nadu
or Udhagamandalam, which stands 7,349 feet above sea level
in the Nilgiris, is known as the Queen of southern hill resorts
of India. Ooty, as it is popularly known, spreads over 36
square miles, and the temperature ranges from 25 degree celsius
in summers, to near freezing in winters.
This famous hill station is at the junction of Tamil Nadu,
Kerala and Karnataka, three southern states of India. It was
founded by the Britishers, in the early part of the 19th century,
to serve as summer headquarters for the government of Madras.
Before that time, the area was inhabited by Todas. These tribal
people still inhabit the area, but only around 3000 remain.
What to See
The two most popular attractions of Ooty, are the Ooty lake
and the Botanical Gardens. The lake covers an area of one
and a half square miles, with a railway running along one
bank. The large graveyard of St. Thomas's church, built in
1870, overlooks the lake. It has the tallest memorial of Ooty,
a huge pillar surmounted by a cross, over the grave of William
Patrick Adam, the Governor of Madras Presidency, who died
in Ooty in 1881. Paddle boats or rowing boats are available
for boating enthusiasts.
The Botanical Gardens were established in 1848, by the Marquis
of Tweeddale. The gardens lie on the lower slopes of Dodabetta
peak, the highest point in Ooty. The gardens are formally
laid out with lily ponds, and there are clipped bushes in
the form of elephants, with raised trunks. Here, a thousand
different species of plants including some thirty types of
eucalyptus, are to be found. The Roman Catholic Cathedral,
recently enlarged, can be seen on the road from Charing Cross
to the Botanical Gardens.
Charing Cross is a road junction
with markets around it. A short walk from Charing Cross is
the Spencers departmental store, which still sells its own
Planter's Special cigars, made of Indian tobacco.
Ootacmund Club is the most exclusive,
and best preserved of all the former British clubs. The Ooty
hunt, which still rides to hounds, in pursuit of jackals,
is one of the main offerings of the club. A good game of golf
can be had, at the Wenlock Downs, of the Ooty Gymkhana Golf
Ooty races are the other major
attraction. The Ootacmund Derby is the climax of the season,
and attracts top Indian jockeys.
Ooty is spread on a number of hills. Dodabetta,
literally 'Big Mountain', is the highest peak in Tamil Nadu,
and a motor road takes you to the top, from where you can
see as far as Coonoor and Wellington. About three kilometres
away, is the Kandal Cross, which
has a full size crucifix secured on a huge boulder, and a
fragment of the true cross. Kalhatti
Falls, which drop some 131 feet down, are about 12
km from Ooty. About 26 km from Ooty is Avalanche,
known after an avalanche in the area in 1823. This is one
of the best spots for trout fishing, and rods can be hired
here from the trout hatchery. A 7 km walk from Avalanche is
the MacIvor's Bund. Ahead of
this is Mukerti Peak, at an altitude
of 8031 feet, which is also a part of Nilgiri
Tahr Sanctuary, created in the most remote part of
the mountains. Other areas of attraction around Ooty, are
Mukerti Lake, Pykara Lake, Tiger Hill
and Marlimun Lake. The famous Mudumalai
Wildlife Sanctuary is just 67 kms from Ooty.
How to Get There
Air: The nearest airport is at
Coimbatore, which has daily flights to and from Madras, Bangalore,
Cochin and Trivandrum.
Train: For a magnificent view
of the hillside covered with forests, a train journey is recommended.
The Nilgiri Express leaves Madras at night, reaching Coimbatore
in the morning, and continues to the small town of Mettupalyam,
at the foots of the mountains. From Mettupalyam, it connects
to the Nilgiri Passenger which takes you to Ooty.
Road: There is a regular bus
service from Bangalore (300 km), Mysore (170 km), Coimbatore
(105 km), Calicut (187 km) and Cochin (281 km).