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Old 25th April 2015, 11:27   #1
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Default Exploring the Nilgiris by Road

Hello All

First of all, a big thanks to the moderator for approving my membership. Even though I am new as a member here, I've been following team BHP for quite sometime and it feels great to post my first travelogue.

This is the 2015 summer vacation experience that I am trying to document, our real first vacation after marriage. I intend to create such travelogues frequently going forward so that it will be a memorable experience reading through them at a later stage of our lives. So, what will this travelogue really contain? I will be attempting to capture the vacation plan (and the process), the itinerary and of course, a travel log to make it really memorable.

Starting Point: Chennai
Destination: The Nilgiri Mountains
Mode: By Road in our "Black Beauty", a Hyundai Accent Executive 2012 Model
Timeline: 1st May 2015 to 10th May 2015
Driver: Me, Mukund
Travel Log Keeper: My Wife, Srilatha
Entertainers: My Daughters Vaishnavi (8 yrs) and Poorna (3 yrs)

Trip Summary

Exploring the Nilgiris by Road-tripsummary.jpg

Destinations Explored
  • Coonoor – Place where we stayed
  • Kothagiri
  • Ooty
  • Pykara (Sholur)
  • Avalanchi / Upper Bhavani

Alright, let this not just be a travel-log. Let me take you through the experience we underwent even months before our actual trip so that you can also feel our excitement.


How exciting can it get!!! The first “family” vacation entirely planned and executed with a lot of enthusiasm by me single handed.

The vacation fever started about one month before the actual vacation itself. There were a lot of discussions, concerns, debates and of course, excitement, before finalizing this vacation. But, all these will be sweet memories when we look back.

All these years, we could not go on a vacation because, either Vaishnavi was too young or, at a later stage, Poorna was too young. Well, Poorna is only 3 years old even now, but we’ve still decided to go for a vacation probably because she’s growing in India and the vacation we’ve planned is also in India. Another reason why we did not go on vacations before was because we were anyways traveling a lot as a part of my work. But, this time, both Srilatha and I were mentally exhausted after a tough two years that had gone by. We really needed a break. But, when I started the discussion, the first fear that Srilatha had was – “how are we going manage Poorna?”. Poorna had been at her mischievous best in the last year or so. While we admired her mischievousness most of the times, it gets scary and agonizing sometimes. Our recent experience of taking her to Pollachi to visit her grandparents was also haunting us. In her last trip to Pollachi, she would stop eating completely giving sleepless nights to Srilatha and frequent quarrels between us. But, poor Vaishnavi has grown old enough and has been expecting to go on vacations for over 2 years now. Even as a 2nd grader, she would tell stories of her friends going out on vacations indicating to us that she also expects us to take her out. Now, she has completed her 3rd grade and I thought it was in deed important to go on a vacation, not only for our own relaxation, but also to fulfill Vaishnavi’s desire. So, it took quite a bit of my sales skills to convince Srilatha to agree to go on a vacation in the first place.

So, finally Srilatha also agreed and now, the excitement starts…

Our Vacation Plan

Where and When?

The second part of the plan was to finalize a destination. Both Srilatha and I were clear that we needed to head to a hill station to escape from the Hot Indian Summer. The options we were discussing initially were limited to Yelagiri, Yearcaud, Munar, Ooty and Kodaikannal, all in the southern part of India as it had to be a short travel, a promise I had made to her as a part of getting her agreement for the vacation. Then, Srilatha came up with a logical reasoning that I also agreed to. We were traveling with a 3 year old kid and going to a known region where there are no language or food barriers was important. So, Munar being in Kerala was ruled out. Some research on the internet revealed that Yelagiri was only a weekend gateway and there is not much to do out there. Moreover, the weather reports of Yelagiri also did not excite us as it was somewhere around 30 degrees. There were no reasons to drop Yearcaud from our plan, but the fact is we never considered Yearcaud seriously enough. So, the options were down to Ooty and Kodaikannal. While we were discussing the options for the destination, I had some nervous feeling in my mind if I would have enough leave balances at my new workplace. I had joined Cognizant for work only in January. So, I double checked to find that out and to my relief, I had sufficient leave balance and combining it with a national holiday on 1st of May along with 2 weekends would give me a solid 10-day-vacation. Meanwhile, Srilatha also checked the annual vacation dates of Vaishnavi and Poorna. So, 1st May to 10th May was decided as the best possible dates. But, a decision on the destination was still pending…
My gut was telling me to approach some travel agents to see if I can get a holiday package option. So, I started searching the internet. I started browsing Yatra.com, Thomas Cook, Travelguru.com, and many more sites. I had to give my contact details to even do a search on these sites and as expected, I started getting calls from these agents. I was spoilt for choices with holiday packages to Munar, Shimla, the North East, Srilanka, etc. But hey, hang on! Our plan was for either Ooty or Kodaikannal. It was only after few harsh words from Srilatha did I even realize that I was drifting from our original plan. None of the travel agents had any holiday packages for Ooty or Kodaikannal, that too starting from Chennai. So, I took a conscious decision to dump the travel agents.
Since our relatives, Ramesh & Praveena’s family had visited Ooty recently and had good words about the location; she was more interested to go there rather than Kodaikannal. But, historically, I’ve always visited Kodaikannal with my family when I was a kid and had great memories wandering around the hills with my brother, Arvind. So, I was inclined towards Kodaikannal. So, now, what more excitement can we have? We have a difference in opinion on the destination! Who will eventually have the final say? As always, my home is ruled by the queen. So, we finally decided that we will be going to Ooty for our vacation between the 1st and the 10th of May 2015!!!

Where and How?

Even though it was not the destination I chose, I was really excited about our first family vacation and got drenched in holiday mood right from the time we decided on the destination. But, the next part of our plan was on the stay and travel. I’ve always enjoyed train journeys and thought Vaishnav and Poorna would enjoy them too. More interestingly, traveling by the toy train to Ooty is supposed to be very interesting, even though I’ve not had that experience myself as a kid. So, I started exploring the ways to book the tickets. Based on my experience with the travel agents for holiday packages, I decided to do it all by myself. So, I started figuring out the ways to reach Ooty. After some research, I decided that we’ll travel to Coimbatore by train, take a cab to Mettupalayam and from there take the toy train to Ooty. Wow! Sounds great! Isn’t it?
So, what was I waiting for? Nothing really… So, I went about booking the train tickets over the internet. But, it was a horrible experience. I registered myself on the IRCTC website and started booking the tickets. I would first select the class and berths that would take me to the payment page. I would then key in the credit card details. It would also get authorized. But, when it returns to the booking page, I would get a message that there are no seats available. The same happened twice and my credit card was also charged twice. So, it took quite a follow up with the Government officials to understand the process and get a refund of the money. Eventually, we could not go by train because tickets weren’t available. This was the first set back in our vacation plan. I was very upset about it. But, Srilatha was crystal clear in her thoughts. She suggested that we go by a sleeper bus. While it did not sound very exciting for me, I still agreed, because I love her so much that I don’t say “no” to her .
The next day, at office, I was casually telling one of my colleagues about my vacation plan and the disaster it was heading towards. That is when he gave a very valuable piece of advice to me. He suggested that I travel by my own car and also sent me few links to read through as a preparation. All those links were from the forums of Team-BHP.com. Yes, this was the first real time I’d read a travelogue. All the tips mentioned in the travel forums of team-bhp.com were so helpful, it not only convinced me, but also Srilatha. Since, I used to travel between Chennai and Bangalore frequently, I was all geared up. But, she still had her doubts on my ability to drive for close to 10 hours and that too on ghat roads. Again, my sales skills had to be used to convince her. Finally, we decided that we’ll go for vacation from 1st May 2015 until 10th May 2015 in our car, the Black Beauty to Ooty!

Great! All set and the entire family was excited. But, hey, where are we going to stay though?

Ah, stay was the trickiest part. Since Srilatha spends every day in the kitchen without any break, I really wanted to give her a time off from the kitchen and hence, wanted to stay in a hotel. But, she was very worried that Poorna is still too young to have food from a hotel for a prolonged period. Alright! Again, team-BHP came to my help where I learnt that there are a lot of “homestays” in the Ooty region. Another piece of advice from my colleague who introduced me to team-BHP was to avoid the hustle and bustle of Ooty town (rather city) when picking a place to stay. So, we decided to stay in a “homestay” in either Coonoor, Kothagiri or Lovedale. So, I started searching for such options on the internet. Again, I had to browse through a lot of websites including stayzilla.com, booking.com, agoda.com, and so on. Most of these sites had the option of booking online with a free cancellation option. So, I went ahead and booked our stays in multiple properties with a hope to cancel the ones that are not shortlisted by Srilatha. So, one by one, we were reviewing the properties and cancelling the bookings when they were not found ideal. But, one of the property owners in Coonoor sent me an email asking why I had cancelled the booking. My response to her eventually ended up in a healthy conversation between us and the land-lady started interacting over phone with me and my wife. Since I was clear that the decision on our stay should be taken by Srilatha, I let her open her pandora’s box of questions and clarifications about the property to the land-lady. The land-lady also patiently explained all the possible options to Srilatha and it so happened that she was absolutely convinced about this property, especially because of the support she was offered to feed Poorna, we finalized our stay there by paying some money for a guaranteed booking. I will reveal the name of the property and also write about the experience staying there a little later. But, as far as our plan is concerned, we decided that we’ll go for vacation from 1st May 2015 until 10th May 2015 in our Black Beauty to Coonoor and stay in a homestay!

So, all set for the vacation now. But, I felt I should really plan the itinerary for all the days of our vacation in advance so that we are clear on where to go and what to do during our stay in the hills. So, my pre-vacation excitement continues…

Where and What?

Even though I have visited Ooty as a kid, I hardly remember the region and had to depend a lot on the internet to figure out where to go and what to do. The fact that we had also booked our stay in Coonoor, which is about an hour’s drive from Ooty, we had the option to explore more than just Ooty and Coonoor. Again, the travelogues available in team-BHP helped a lot and I figured out the best possible route to take from Chennai to Coonoor and also came up with a list of places to visit during our stay in Coonoor. The only thing left was to organize the places shortlisted based on routes and create a day-wise itinerary.
Since I depend heavily on google maps for even my travel within Chennai on a day to day basis, I decided to use it as a tool to plan my day-wise-itinerary at the Nilgiris as well. After a lot of permutations and combinations, and keeping in mind to avoid a lot of Ghat road travel immediately after breakfast or lunch, I came up with the below day-wise-itinerary.

Final Itinerary

Day 1 – Chennai to Coonoor
Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/53ur4
Route: Chennai - Ulundurpet - Kallakurichi - Bhavani - Sirumugai – Coonoor
Exploring the Nilgiris by Road-chennaicoonoorroute.jpg
Exploring the Nilgiris by Road-day1itinerary.jpg

Day 2 – Day 7 - Exploring the Nilgiris

Exploring the Nilgiris by Road-day27itinerary.jpg

Day 8 – Coonoor to Chennai
Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/eQTyF
Route: Coonoor – Mettupalayam – Avinasi – Ulundurpet - Chennai

Other Places of Interest to be explored if possible…
If time permits, the following places of interest will be included in the itinerary.
In Coonoor
  • Law's Falls - 6 KM
  • Katery Falls - 12 KM
  • Droog View Point - 25 KM
In Ooty
  • St. Stephens Church
  • Oldest Church in Nilgiris built 1892; John Sullivan, founder of Ooty cremated here
  • Fountain at Charring Cross Junction
  • Fruit Market

With this, our Vacation Planning completed and we are just waiting for the 1st of May to get drenched in excitement!!!

Vacation Preparation

Now that our vacation planning was done, it was then time for getting prepared for the 1st of May. There were quite a few things that had to be done. Srilatha and I decided to share the workload. While I would get the Car in shape for our travel, Srilatha would focus on the important items that we needed to carry along with us.

Preparing the Car

Alright! There were only 2 weeks left for our vacation to start and I had to get the car fit for our journey by then. The trickiest part was that I had to travel to Bangalore in-between for work. I was not happy with my Car’s performance at high speeds from the time I changed to Allow Wheels (during my earlier travel between Bangalore and Chennai). After quite a bit of research, I concluded it was because of bent alloy wheels. So, I came up with the following checklist to prepare the car for the journey.
  • Change of Tyres & Alloy Wheels
  • Travel to Bangalore for Work by Car to test if the performance got better
  • Paid Service of the Car at least a week before our journey
  • Collation of CDs and DVDs for entertainment during the journey

Baggage Checklist

Meanwhile, Srilatha was busy managing Vaishnavi and Poorna and her day to day chores. Moreover, the annual holidays for both Vaishnavi and Poorna had started and Srilatha was in deed getting really busy. So, I thought she needed a helping hand. So, I tried to help her with the packing and we were all set for the long journey.

Our Vacation Diary

Well, I had applied for leaves from the 29th of April itself, because there was a religious ritual on the 29th at home and I wanted a day's time to prepare for our travel for which I needed the day of 30th April. But, we completed all our work including packing our bags by the evening of 29th April itself. I casually asked Srilatha if we can travel a day in advance. She readily agreed without a second thought. That was it. We decided to leave on 30th April instead of 1st May. I could sense the excitement in Srilatha too. I called the holiday home and changed our reservation to advance the check-in by a day. So, our vacation was re-planned to begin from the 30th of April... We also decided to shuffle the day-wise plan based on how we felt on that particular day.

Here are some pictures of the car in which we spent most of our time during this vacation.

Exploring the Nilgiris by Road-blackbeautyexterior.jpg

Well, the above pictures are only the exteriors. It was actually the interiors of the car that we spent our time. So, here are some pictures of the interiors.

Exploring the Nilgiris by Road-blackbeautyinterior.jpg

Day 1 – Chennai to Coonoor

On 30th April, I was so excited that I couldn't catch any sleep till about mid-night. I woke up at 3:45 AM itself, but the alarm was set only for 4:00 AM. Vaishnavi & Poorna too woke up at 5:00 AM. One by one, we all got ready. We wanted to start by 5:00 AM. But, as always, the ladies took a little longer to get ready and we started by 5:20 AM. We stopped by a temple just outside our home, broke a coconut and set off for the long drive. Vaishnavi was literally jumping in joy and volunteered to maintain the trip logs. However, she slept in-between and Srilatha chipped in with her contribution eventually.

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As mentioned, we started from our home in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai after a small ritual at 5:20 AM. Since it was early morning, there was not much traffic on the city roads, but it was a little frustrating driving from Tambaram (Greater Chennai) to Chengalpet (Chennai Outskirts) on the Grand Southern Trunk (GST) road, navigating through an army of trucks going side-by-side. Nevertheless, we were able to reach Chengalpet toll plaza in less than an hour. So, I can still claim the roads were free enough.

There was a huge queue awaiting at the Chengalpet toll plaza. After waiting for 9 minutes, we finally managed to get through and headed towards our destination. This is when, our first threat to the vacation cropped up. Poorna was not feeling well and nauseated. We had to stop the car to make her feel comfortable and of course, to clean the floor mats. I almost felt that our earlier experience of a cancelled vacation was going to return, but thankfully, it was not as bad and Srilatha suggested that we continue with the journey. Phew! After all, the vacation is on…

While most part of the route had 4 lanes, there were some pockets after Villupuram that were not converted to yet and I had to slow down to be safe. However, the roads were good all through and I managed to cruise at 120.

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While I was enjoying the drive, the ladies resorted to watching a recently released horror-comedy movie. I was also happy as long as they did not sleep.

After having our breakfast at Villupuram A2B, the kids spent some time playing so that the food gets assimilated. We started our journey again only to realize that we were well ahead of our plan. So, we decided not to have lunch at a hotel and instead reach the Holiday Home and have a late lunch there. But we had coconut water after Bhavani to keep ourselves hydrated until we reached Coonoor.

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While I double checked on the route to Sathyamangalam, Poorna had an admirer in the coconut water vendor. She also gave us few tips to follow when we reach the mountains.

We then started our journey again towards Satyamangalam. The route was in deed scenic. We could not resist stopping in between to take few pictures.

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The banana fields, coconut farms and misty mountains around was indeed a great spectacle.

After the break, we started our journey again and soon entered the ghat roads. Now, the movie that was playing was stopped and Vaishnavi was amazed with the spectacular valley views. After about 40 minutes of drive on the Ghat road, Srilatha suggested to switch off the AC and open up the windows. Wow, it was pleasant. While the sun was beating down hard, the air was still cool. We reached Coonoor and called the holiday home to double check on its location. Good that we called. The location shown by Google Maps was incorrect and we reached the holiday home ahead of schedule.

Keep watching this space for more...

Last edited by Aditya : 1st June 2015 at 14:05. Reason: Removing mention of over speeding.
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Old 9th May 2015, 05:12   #2
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Note from Mod : Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing
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Old 9th May 2015, 08:29   #3
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After an amazing mountain drive, we reached our holiday home in Coonoor. I had mentioned before that I would reveal the identity of the property after my visit. I feel it was a great property and would for sure recommend it with a 5 star rating. If you are using booking.com, please select AGR Holiday Home. Otherwise, it is also known as Albert Villa.

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It was located in the middle of brooklands tea estate away from the hustle and bustle of the town, yet so near to SIM's park. The property had 3 cottages, one with a single bedroom and the other two with double bedrooms. We took the one with a single bedroom on the ground floor. The garden was very well maintained and the owners were very very friendly. It gave us a great feel-at-home atmosphere.

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After checking-in. We relaxed a bit and had the late lunch that we had ordered. It was really a nice feeling to have your stomach full after a long drive. We then decided to have a short drive around Coonoor. Our first stop was to explore the Brookland Tea Estate. It was a great experience to stand in the middle of tea plantations. The smell in the air was fantastic and it gave us a lot of energy.

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It was truly a unique experience, given that we've always lived in the plains. Keep watching this space for more...
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Old 9th May 2015, 20:19   #4
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After the stopover at the tea estate, we spent good time roaming around the Coonoor Market. Of course, we din't buy anything, but it was a great experience.

Just before dark, we returned to our cottage and settled down for the day. While Srilatha started unpacking our bags and arranging things in the wardrobes, the kids enjoyed the weather and went about exploring the holiday home. I too started exploring the flowers at the holiday home.

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With this, and of course, after a good dinner, Day 1 of our vacation came to a close.

It was a long day, but a good one. The tiredness gave us a good sleep and we were all eager and looking forward for a fun packed and wonderful Day 2. Keep watching this space for more...
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Old 11th May 2015, 15:33   #5
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Wonderful travelogue with nice pictures. Albert Villa looks fantastic. I'm not much into flowers, but I can say that the ones in your pictures are really pretty. The greenery of the tea plantations soothes the eyes. I'm sure your children had a great time.
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Old 11th May 2015, 15:39   #6
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Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
Wonderful travelogue with nice pictures. Albert Villa looks fantastic. I'm not much into flowers, but I can say that the ones in your pictures are really pretty. The greenery of the tea plantations soothes the eyes. I'm sure your children had a great time.
Thanks Aditya. Yes. The kids did enjoy and so did we adults too.
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Old 11th May 2015, 16:06   #7
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Nice travelogue. Beautiful pictures. Vacations should be enjoyed at leisure and you had the right serene surroundings for doing so. and welcome to tbhp. Enjoy your stay here.
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Old 31st May 2015, 11:06   #8
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Day 2 Ė Coonoor Sightseeing

After an eventful Day 1, the second day started on a lazy note. Generally, all of us wake up at the max by 7 AM. But, on this day, the adults woke up only at 7 AM and the kids at 8 AM. The view outside the window was fantastic and I didn't wait a second to click a picture of it.

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While I caught up with some News, Srilatha was busy preparing breakfast for Poorna, because itís easier to feed her when she's asleep. Meanwhile, our piping hot breakfast also arrived in a hot pack at our cottage. We got ready and had our breakfast in leisure. The plan for the day was to start with SIM's Park which was just about 2 kilometers from our holiday home. But, Google Maps guided me to the side gate of Sim's park which remains closed all the time. Nevertheless, we bumped into a board that read "Tea Museum". So, we decided to park the car there and get in before we could head to Sim's park.

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It was just about 9 in the morning and the staff of the tea museum also entered along with us. Being an early bird always pays off. So, we got the best possible attention and treatment. The museum had no models or items in display except for some pictures and facts printed and stuck on the walls. But, it was very informative as the staff explained the process of tea making and a lot of other facts about tea. As a first timer, it proved to be a good learning experience for us. Meanwhile, Poorna was at her mischievous best and attracted the staff as anywhere else.

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As a courtesy, we also bought some tea from there and headed off to Sim's park which was just a few minutesí walk from there.
Sim's park was not a place with eye-catching flowers and vast gardens. But, the variety of trees out there and their age was something that was astonishing.

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While as adults, Srilatha and I enjoyed these unique trees, the kids got attracted towards a "children's park" out there and wanted to spend some time there. We also managed to have some lighter moments while the kids were playing.

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It got a little difficult for us to get the kids out of the childrenís park as they were adamant to continue playing. But, with Srilathaís skills, she convinced the kids and we started exploring the rest of Simís park again.

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It was then time to wrap up at Sim's park and head to Lamb's rock and Dolphin's Nose. But, it was truly a pleasant experience at the Sim's Park.

Watch this space for our experience at Lamb's Rock and Dolphin's Nose...
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We then headed to Dolphin's Nose via Lamb's Rock. The road was narrow, but not bad at all. The road was covered by the shade from the surrounding trees and I opened up the windows to smell the fresh air. it gave us a feeling of driving through a dense forest and the kids were absolutely excited about it. After a short drive, we stumbled upon a great valley view of a Tea Estate. It was so eye-catching that we could not resist stopping by to click a few pictures.

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With this break at the valley view, our energy levels also increased and it was a great feeling heading towards Lamb's Rock. Our next destination was not too far from the valley view. But it was not such an established attraction and it was not available for search on Google Maps too. But, the locals out there were all aware of it and the sign boards easily led us to this place. There was a building that hosted few shops which had a hoarding that read "Lamb's Rock". But, we looked around and could not find any view point, when a person from one of the shops guided us to a staircase in that building that would take us to the terrace. Ah! So, that was the view point. So, we parked the car just outside the building and climbed up the stairs.
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Phew! Nevertheless, the person who guided us to the staircase also accompanied us to explain the views around. There is a popular belief among the locals there that it is called "Lamb's Rock" because the peak resembles a "Lamb". But, the truth is, it was made accessible by the effort of a collector called Captain Lamb and hence it was named after him. Of course, I din't bother to educate him, but enjoyed the views.
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On the other side was a mountain that resembled a sleeping pregnant lady. Well, I was not too keen on the commentary by that gentleman, but was rather amused with the views. But, the ladies were learning a lot out of his commentary though.
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The gentleman also offered to take a few pictures of us as a family.
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Of course, a trip to Lamb's Rock is not complete without a sip of hot tea. So, all of us had the most aromatic tea that we'd ever tasted.
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We then headed towards Dolphin's Nose. The parking space outside Dolphin's nose was not very well managed, nevertheless, we got a decent place to park our car and walked for about 400 meters to reach the actual viewpoint. But, the entire 400 meters of walk had a great view of the Catherine Falls separated just by a Tea Estate.
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Upon reaching the actual view point, we got a little scared by seeing the crowd. Fortunately, it was that of a single group and cleared off pretty quickly. We all had good time gazing through the views and Vaishnavi also had a good time seeing some of the magnified spots through the telescope.
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After gazing through the views, the ladies resorted to some shopping before returning home.

We then headed back home while it was just noon. Hot lunch was awaiting upon our return and it in deed was a great feeling to be pampered like this. The food was also tasty and Srilatha was happy to be freed up from her daily chores and at the same time get homely food for Poorna.
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Watch this space to know what we did after lunch...
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