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Old 19th January 2016, 06:26   #1
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Default Punto diaries: Coonoor!

"No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow."

It had been quite a while (over a month) that I had even started my car, owing to financial issues in the midst of a job change and due to the fact that settling down at a new workplace takes some time getting used to.

However, road trips weren't shut down completely as I recently did a Bangalore-Rameshwaram-Dhanushkodi-Kanyakumari-Bangalore on my motorbike (kinda solo ride). But, bike trips mostly mean a complaining companion. And one cannot keep a 'she' complaining for too long.
So, she wanted a drive. Seldom does she accompany me on a ride.

The issue was - dates. But new year didn't disappoint. 15th to 17th Jan were holidays. A quick google search yielded popular destinations like Goa, Munnar, Ooty and the likes. But these places were bound to be extremely crowded. I wanted to visit a hill station since Bangalore this year has not been cold at all during winters. Some place that is as beautiful as Ooty or Yercaud, if not more. Options? Coonoor, Vagamon and Kodaikanal.
Vagamon has been on the cards for a while now but sadly I didn't get any rooms in such short notice. OYO rooms helped and I secured a booking in Coonoor.

I conveyed the same to my passenger and she was happy!

The route chosen was the standard Bangalore - Srirangapatna - Bandipur - Ooty - Coonoor and back by the same route.
Mettupalyam - Satyamanagalam - Kanakpura - Bangalore would have been sweet but then that route is crazy. Undivided roads and people move like maniacs and therefore I was prepared to take the chaotic Mysore highway.

We started from Bangalore at 5:30 AM. Roads were kinda empty and dark. Also, the weather was cool. The temperature gauge read 16 degrees. We sped towards Maddur, where our first customary stop was pre-decided to be. At Cafe Coffee Day!

"It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way."

We reached the designated stop point (CCD) just after sunrise and we ordered our regular choice of stuff to eat - Latte and Egg wraps.

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The guy at the counter was courteous enough to draw a heart in our coffee and placed the platter in front of us.

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After resting for almost 45 min and freshening up, we left the place. Since I'd already tanked up the previous night, I didn't have to make any pit stops for the same.
Soon enough, we crossed Srirangapatna and were on our way to Gundlupet when roads deteriorated. Lot of construction work was going on and 4 lane roads became 2 lane with both sides of traffic occupying the same road. Our speed reduced to 40s and 50s. We decided to take a breather at another CCD. Having a female companion warrants pitstops for restrooms if nothing else.

Usually, my companion is a champ in sleeping during long drives but god knows what she had during this trip she never slept and kept talking to me all the time. Not that I was getting awfully distracted, but my jaws started hurting.

We stopped soon after spotting a nariyal waala (coconut vendor). Moved ahead in brisk pace after quenching our thirst.

We reached Bandipur gate at around 10:45 AM. Expecting wildlife, she quickly took out the camera to click away in glory if any creature presents itself. We saw a lot of monkeys and few sambars/deer. We hardly stopped at any place. Upon sighting any animal, I'd crawl in 1st gear while she'd click and then move on.

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Soon, we approached the 36 hair pins section and then I wanted to pee, courtesy the coconut water we had sometime back. But there was no place I could park the car and rush behind a stone. Very soon, she started nagging me with the same concern. She had to visit the loo as well. Wow!
It took us an hour to reach Masinagudi where we saw a board reading Restaurant + toilets.

Rarely do I feel so good after relieving myself.

Traffic was increasing steadily and soon we were in the Andaz Apna Apna land, Ooty.

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Google maps helped to a great extent in navigating to Coonoor which is only 20 km away but it was 1:30 PM already when we reached Coonoor railway station. After a short circus of going round and round in circles, we located our hotel and checked in.

I was delighted seeing the room and the view from the small balcony of sorts.

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We had a quick lunch after taking bath and we were out by 4:30 PM for sight seeing. Sims Park!

It's a lovely place and people usually don't litter. However, we were late by a few minutes for the boat ride but then we decided to roam around in the park anyway. It was open till 6 PM. Being away from chaos in a peaceful natural environment is rejuvenating!

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After roaming around and clicking pics till 6 PM, we got out and bought ourselves a box of home made chocolates and hence I got the much needed change as every single ATM had been serving me only 1000 rupee notes until then.

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Tomorrow, we were going to visit Dolphin's nose, Lady's seat, travel in Heritage train and do some roaming around town. But we got a little more than anticipated.

As they say - "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."

(to be contd...)

Last edited by Divya Sharan : 19th January 2016 at 22:51.
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Old 19th January 2016, 12:16   #2
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Default Re: Punto diaries: Coonoor!

------------Day 2-------------

After having a very nice night's sleep, I was up fresh as a daisy! The only issue was that it was still 4:30 AM. I dare not even try waking up the madam. I locked the door silently and went for a small stroll in the large hotel premises. Hardly 20 min into the walk, I started yawning and feeling cold.

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Rushed back to the comfort of the quilt.

However, I wasn't sleeping. Just tossing around till 6:30 AM when I could see sunrise right outside the balcony. Sadly, it had these mesh grills and therefore I couldn't use my bigger cams for taking shots of sunrise, but my mobile came to the rescue (since mobile cam fit inside the mesh hole just fine).

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After taking a few pics, I went ahead and got fresh and took bath. I must say, water was freezing cold! My backside went absolutely numb after I was done with you know what! And I did let out a few grunts as well in the process.

By the time I was out, madam was awake and wide eyed. I promptly informed her that water was cold and hence those sounds. She looked at me with a confused expression and then pointed towards a switch. I blank-mindedly switched it ON and ah, it was the geyser! Damn.
Half an hour later, she's out fresh after taking a warm water bath and starts with the usual lecture about me being lazy to not even spot a geyser (let alone its switch) and stuff like that. But I was fine as I'd dried up and acclimatized to the morning temperature by then.

We didn't even wait for complimentary breakfast and head out towards Dolphin's Nose view point.
One, it was about 15 km from where we were and two, it would be full of tourists late in the morning if not already.
A big shout out to Idea Network (2G) that never betrayed me during the trip. Airtel 4G on the other hand sucked (as usual). Google Maps (online maps) and HERE (offline maps) guided us well. A drive through tea estates, part owned by private players and part (major) by TN Govt. was truly awesome. We both loved the drive completely and in about 40 min of careful driving through narrow roads no wider than 6-8 feet, we reached Dolphin's Nose.
And a big HURRAH! We were the first ones to be there. It was 9:15 AM and we were the only ones. Even the ticket counter was closed. Tea shops were being opened.

We were busy clicking pics of the surrounding tea estates (with us in them at times) and the surrounding hills when we heard booming sound of water. On listening intently, we heard it in a continuous pattern. Turned around and lo and behold - there is a huge waterfall about 1 km away in the opposite mountain.

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I try to click the falls from the edge of the mountain I was on when I heard madam shouting towards me, apparently scared by something dangerous behind me. I turn around to see a fairly grown up monkey staring at the Maaza bottle packed into the side pocket of my bag pack. Initially, I tried to move away slowly but then the monkey complained. It started jumping and it wanted that bottle right away! Full DON ishtyle!

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I was amused to see it open the seal tight cap (unused new bottle we picked from the hotel) and drink all of it in a few gulps. It never disturbed us thereafter.

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I made friends with a cat as well who was initially in no mood to pose for a photograph, but later even she consented for the same.

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Madam then got into the Tea Plucker mode (for photographs only). There are a lot of photographers who click and develop photos on spot (under 5 min) for 70 odd rupees. Madam got 2 photos done, albeit a little larger in size and overpriced. Fairly good pics for 200 rupees spent. She was happy and that's all that mattered.

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We had already spent a lot of time here and we decided to scoot off to Lady's Nest. But not before buying masala tea leaves, eucalyptus oil, pain relieving oils, sandalwood face scrub, multaani mitti etc. Lady's Nest is 5 km from Dolphin's Nose towards Coonoor.

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Soon enough, we reached the place. I found a not so dangerous parking spot for Bellissa and we reached the ticket counter. There we were greeted by a guide who said that he'll take us around the place and even click pics for us for 150 rupees. Though I wasn't keen initially, I gave in and I'm glad I did. He showed us the sleeping lady mountains, tortoise hills, elephant hills and the famous Heritage train track from as high as 6000 feet. He even gave rough directions to Mettupalyam and Sathyamangalam from up top. It was just so beautiful that I didn't even want to dispute or disrupt him for that would break the harmony.
P.S - RGV's Jungle had a few scenes shot in this place.

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It was time to head back to Coonoor for we didn't want to miss the Heritage train scheduled to depart at 12:35 PM. However, I wasn't very confident in parking my car outside the railway station for obvious reasons and hence I parked it in the hotel where we stayed and took a walk to the railway station down the city slopes. It was just 1.5 km from the hotel but we took 15 min to cover the same through small and steep roads. We just made in time. 10 min later the train would have departed.

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We took a few shots while the train was parked and got some refreshments and a bottle of water and waited for the train to start. It started and we all clapped and hooted.
POOOO POOOO POOOO and off we went! An awesome ride for 40 min till we reached Ooty. I had fine admiring outside the window and clicking pics whenever I could and so was madam.

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We had plans of doing nothing in Ooty (just wanted to experience the old wooden cart on tracks) and therefore we thought of inquiring about return tickets to Coonoor. We were in for a shock when we were informed that the return train would arrive only 4 hours later, this being a single track and the train would go to Mettupalyam and only then come back.

I looked at madam and said, let's hire a taxi to Coonoor. Only 20 km. How much would it cost!
She said - Shut up and let's take a bus. 40 min and 26 rupees for 2 people - 'Nuff said!
We got down at the railway station and hired an auto that charged us more than the bus but I was loving it. Car, train, bus, auto - we were actually loving all of it!

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We rested for a while and had a late lunch. It was almost 5:30 PM. Took another bath and we set out to roam the nearby market on foot.

We saw many tea/home-made chocos/medicinal juice etc. shops and almost all of them had begun shutting down. We strolled through the city and managed to get photo-bombed by someone each time. One such incident is this.

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Finally, madam saw what she wanted to see - Fab India!

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Shopping done, madam happy and we walk back to the hotel. Dog tired! Nothing else can explain our condition. No dinner nothing! It's night night by 7 PM already and tomorrow we leave back for Bangalore.

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Last edited by Divya Sharan : 19th January 2016 at 22:34. Reason: Adding pics.
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Old 19th January 2016, 22:32   #3
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Default Re: Punto diaries: Coonoor!

Since there's not much to share in terms of text or pics from Day 3, let me share some pics from the previous days which I couldn't share due to the 30 pics limitation.

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------------Day 3-------------

This time, madam gets up earlier. She practically repeats what I did the previous day minus the geyser blunder of course.

I, OTOH got up after a 12 hour long beauty sleep. Pretty content with how the trip had panned out and the fact that most tourists would leave Coonoor/Ooty early morning, we decided to finally avail the services of our hotel's complimentary breakfast and leave for Bangalore thereafter.

It's 10 AM and we're full courtesy the delicious food (buffet) and we check out. Google maps navigates us through a different route taking us through Wellington and we happily soak in the greenery around. Soon we reach Ooty and proceed slowly through the marketplace that it has become.
I tanked up the car at a BP outlet just after crossing Ooty. The car took in 25L. So, I covered 390 km in 25L, not bad!

After a while we were on the 36 hair pins section. One must descend in the same gear as the one used while ascending. I know this for a fact and having done a lot of ghats on my motorcycle, I was not really scared but I wasn't prepared for what happened at curve number 17/36. I was in 2nd gear and the descend was steep. I marginally applied the A pedal to smoothen out the turn and I see the car lunge forward towards an oncoming car at breakneck speed. For a moment I thought my brakes are fried or I applied A pedal instead of B after completing the turn but nope; I was standing on the B pedal.

Madam was petrified and she was only looking at me and the car in front. Swaying away via a jerk on the steering wasn't an option. Thinking quick I downshifted to 1st and stood on the B pedal and hoped for the best. Bellissa stopped merely inches from the car in front who saw the commotion and was already stopped. I apologized to my passenger and the driver of the other car and moved ahead. Whoops, clearly a case of driving in a gear too high!

This incident made me all the more cautious and we took a long time covering the remainder of ghats region. Soon we were back in Karnataka and in Bandipur forest. Madam took out the camera in anticipation of seeing wildlife but she was let down. Not a single sight until 3 km from the gate. We managed to spot an elephant and few sambars again. She was happy.

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I was feeling thirsty and soon I spotted another coconut vendor and stopped there for a couple of tender coconuts. The vendor was kind enough to take a photograph of us both at his roadside stall.

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Thereafter it was a boring uneventful journey through Mysore road to Bangalore. We touched base after 8 PM.

The car showed these figures at the end of the ride.
Overall, I was happy and more importantly, madam was happy. No more complaints for a month at least.

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Mark Twain has rightly said: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."


Last edited by Divya Sharan : 19th January 2016 at 22:43.
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Old 20th January 2016, 07:58   #4
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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