Friday, 16 December 2016

The Broke Millennial's Guide to Ooty

I could not have been more excited as I alighted the bus into the chilly December morning, to a lofty little town, standing a breathtaking 7350 feet above sea level. This is the highest the coastal town-bred me has planted my feet in the dead of winter. My mind was flying a few feet higher at this feat of mine. I hugged my flimsy white shawl to myself, playing tug-of-war with the cold breeze, which was keen to have it.

Here’s Tip 1: Do not take an auto rickshaw with your travel bags and obviously touristy face. Unless it’s a trunk filled with currency notes and you’re a millionaire. Okay, world, laugh all you want, while us broke (and lugubrious) millennials take respite in our imagination, which we have truckloads of. Yours truly, unfailingly gullible and stupid, had to learn this the hard way. Buses in Ooty ply through the length, breadth and steep heights of the town. Also, they are so light on your wallets, you’ll be crying tears of gratitude.

The upside (and downside) of bus travel is all the fun downhill prancing you get to do with the lush greenery taking your breath away and if you’re unfortunate, that tedious uphill climb, that also takes your breath away.

So, while you are on these walks, and craving something, anything to keep you alive, there are these strategically located “Iyengar Bakery”s serving the most heavenly ginger tea and lemon tea. Or if you happen to be at, as I like to call them, the “Manga hotspots”, you could treat yourself to raw mangoes dipped in chili powder and salt ~salivates~
Map showing major snack zones

Tip 2: Staying at Charring Cross at the heart of the town seems like a wise choice. I shall not contradict you here. But wouldn’t you like to wake up to the chugging of the toy train among terraces of tea plantations and plump sheep grazing outside your doors? This is something you should not miss out on in Ooty and something you are definitely not going to experience in the bustling traffic at Charring Cross. Split your stay to get the best of both worlds. Lovedale is a great place to soak yourself in pure Ooty-ness.

View from Zostel Ooty
Tent at Zostel Ooty
Staying in a tent on the ridges of the Nilgiris in December probably sounds like the most ludicrous idea EVER (if you’re not used to single-digit temperatures like me). Trust me, it’s not. It’s the best experience you would have. Ooty is not too cold during the day, and the tent is just right to let in the daytime warmth. With a couple of blankets, you will be alright at night.

Tip 3: While we’re on the topic of soaking in the Ooty-ness, be sure to check into the tea factory and the chocolate factory. Though every shop, including pharmacies, show off stacks of homemade chocolate, the best are at the source. And it’s not every other day that you get to drink free samples of expensive white tea (although it tastes no different from warm water) and chocolate tea and cardamom tea (yum!).

Food suggestions: PLACE TO BEE!! Without question, this is one place you HAVE TO visit. Three reasons:
1. Great food (especially the cream of mushroom so
up and the hot chocolate) 
2.The indigenous products store. From honey to shampoo to note books to clothes, all locally produced by the Nilgiri tribes. Such a great initiative.
3. It is a bee museum! (Don’t worry, bees are not all over the place) 
This place is going to startle your poor little wallet a little, but it is worth every rupee.

On the slightly pricey places list is the Sidewalk Café. Great salads and it is vegetarian-friendly (yay!)
If you want a quick simple meal, nip into Adyar Ananda Bhavan or Quality restaurant. The sambar and rasam at Quality are blissful.

Tip 4: You could be the clichéd tourist running to all of the famous “Viewing Points” of Ooty and clicking pictures that have other clichéd tourists jostling around in the background, or you could be that enlightened tourist who knows where to go to get the best views. How, you ask? I am going to tell you.
The right spots
     1. As you enter the Botanical Gardens, don’t follow the herd that is ambling to the left of the park. Take the road not taken – the one on the right. And keep going up and up. Go all the way up to the Toda mund on top. Thank me later ~winks~
    2.Now you’re wondering what a Toda mund is. The Todas are the earliest inhabitants of Ooty and they call their hamlet “mund”. There are numerous munds peppered around Ooty. One of the most beautiful ones is the one at Glenmorgan, which is around 10 km from Pykara. Do take the residents’ permission before clicking pictures of their houses or themselves.
    3.Walk back to Ooty from the Tea Factory. It is an easy downhill stroll with plenty of potential photo spots.

This is the part where I tell you to pull on your sweaters, throw on your backpacks and set off to Ooty. Well, what are you waiting for?
Oh, and, don’t forget your monkey caps!
Walking downhill from Tea Factory

Road near Ooty Racecourse


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  2. Sounds like a lot of fun! Will bookmark this post for my long overdue Ooty trip. I should do a thorough trip through TN+Kerala one of these days. The balance between visiting pretty spots at home vs outside is terribly tilted to the latter at the moment.