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Old 23rd March 2009, 20:47   #1
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Default Exploring Kotagiri - Some musings

Last long drive was to Shirdi in December, it seemed like aeons ago. Wife had got into a new job and I had started a new venture so going on a trip was next to impossible. But then the wanderer within was striving to break loose.

Suddenly there was a lull at work and the heat of summer was driving me crazy, in the meantime I had been asked by a dear friend if I could join in on a trip to Masinagudi on the long weekend beginning 27th. I was not quite sure for that weekend, but the current weekend I was free and that was enough.

Now, it came down to choosing a getaway, our own Princezahed had given me an open invite to his homestay in Coorg, I wanted to head out into the hills. But, the Queen of Hills really does not attract me, I always felt that Ooty resembled Avenue road Bangalore on a cold winter morning.

But to get a feel of the winter morning in summer, one needs to set aside one's misgivings.
Made a few calls and decided to go past Ooty to Kotagiri. This town is about 28 kms away from Ooty and is situated amidst tea gardens and is not so crowded.

The Nahar group of Hotels have an ancient but well maintained cottage in Kotagiri called the Stone House Retreat. Had spoken to the manager quite a few times in the past but had not had the opportunity to visit the place. Called him up and he told me that he had the entire place vacant so we were welcome.

Friday 20th March

Left work at 12 noon, came home packed and had a hurried lunch, wife had already packed and had taken half a day leave from work. Filled up fuel from Shell and then picked up my wife on the way. By 3 pm we were at Kengeri, the traffic was mild and we were entering Mysore by 5 pm. The road from Mysore to Nanjangud is quite slow due to traffic, but once
we cross Nanjangud speeds go up substantially. I wanted to cross the forest checkpost in Masinagudi before 7 pm as they close the road to traffic, but at 6.30 pm we were still navigating the craters which form the road between Gundlupet and Bandipur. I gave up hopes of taking the Kalhatti ghat route and settled down to go via Gudalur. We stopped at
Pugmark restaurant for freshning up.

It was just getting dark when we crossed the gates into Bandipur forest reserve, as we were driving up the initial curves, we suddenly spotted a huge dog crossing the road right in front of us, then it suddenly struck us that it was too large for a dog, I braked and then got a better look, it was a leopard, it ambled across the road and sat down on the other side looking back the way it had come, suddenly out of the bushes ran a smaller version and it scooted past it's mom into the forest, the bigger leopard still sat looking back, then an idiotic cabbie in an indica came hooting behind me and the magical moment was gone, the leopard just vanished into the jungle. Our first sighting in many years of driving through these roads.

Came to the Mudumalai checkpost and the guards there told me the Kalhatti route was still open I could make it if I was there before 8 pm. At 7.45 pm we were driving past the raised barrier and soon hit the hairpin curves.
9 PM saw us having dinner at Ooty, I called up the hotel and asked for directions to get there. 9.30 pm we were on the road to Kotagiri. This is the road we take to visit Doddabetta peak and the Tea Museum. Traffic was nil on this excellent road and we were at Stone House Retreat at 10 pm.

We were shown the old cottage with bathrooms which were the size of a conventional living room and then we were shown the new building next door which was chic. We chose chic over contemporary though at an additional cost. Now for some pictures:

Nahar Stone House Retreat
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View of the room
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The Bathroom
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Restaurant
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Saturday 21 March

A leisurely start to the morning hearing birds chirping, went out to the balcony to check out the view. A grand view it was, tea gardens on all sides with a church standing tall in the town.

Would love to stay here
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The Town Church
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The restaurant only serves vegetarian fare which is undoubtedly delicious, the staff is warm and cheerful and give you time and space. I enquired about some off beat destinations which I could explore in half a day and I was told to drive out to a place called Kodanad Viewpoint and another small dam called the Ralliah dam near Wellington.

Kodanad is about 15 kms away from Kotagiri on the Kotagiri-Mettupalyam road, again the road is in excellent shape and the scenery without a doubt, is worth dying for.
The place has peaceful surroundings and did not have the usual hordes of tourists.

Enroute Kodanad
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Sloping terraces of Tea
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Optra by the Tea
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We spent some time looking into the hills and then decided to try out the next place.

...Contd.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 20:51   #2
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Hey Hari, a well deserved break after a long time for you. Very nice travelogue so far. look forward to rest of the travelogue.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 20:56   #3
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Beutifull begining with some really nice exquisite pics. Wish you had the time to capture the leopard in your camera. Neverthless eagerly waiting for more to come.

P.S. The hotel looks nice, especially the bathrooms are very well kept. How much did you pay for the room?
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Old 23rd March 2009, 20:59   #4
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..Continuation

Kodanad Viewpoint
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Group Housing anybody?
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The other place suggested to us was the Ralliah Dam which is off Wellington, one needs to take the Kotagiri-Coonoor road and enter the military area in Wellington, there are no signboards and one has to ask for directions, we found a cheery gent who was taking his relatives to the same place in his 800 who offered to lead the way, we followed him up a hill
and suddenly he went off road, stopped the car came up to me and said, 'You can leave your car here and walk up rest of the way', I was like, "what about you? " he says, " I'm a local, I can drive my car till there". Grrr, now ego's are pricked, I say, "I'm sure I can make it if your car can", cheery gent smiles and says so be it and takes off scraping the underside of the
800 badly, I follow more sedately, but the path upwards worsens and my car starts scraping the underside badly, cheery gent's car is ahead with front wheels spinning trying to gain traction, I wait till he manages to clear that bit and stop and walk ahead to inspect the terrain further ahead, just a couple of really bad stretches and we are almost there, I found
a place where I could reverse the car and park it without causing a roadblock and we set off on foot for the next hundred yards or so.

The dam is really a small check dam built by the British in the pre independance era, it's catchment area is where Coonoor town gets it's drinking water from. The place is absolutely silent and one can easily make out that it is not a place frequented often.

The Stone dating back to 1941
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Ralliah Dam
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The reservoir
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The Dam with the overflow vents
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Cheery gent meets me on top of the dam apologising for not telling me about the bad road, I in turn apologise for having a 'mine is bigger than yours' attitude, we smile and exchange introductions. He gives me a brief history of the place as I have mentioned above. He then bids goodbye and leaves.

Wife and I decide to walk around the reservoir in a pine forest surrounding it. It is beautiful, different bird tunes waft through the air and it seems timeless.
Path through the forest
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Inside the forest
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We decide to head back after a while and as we are walking back we hear branches shaking and twigs breaking and suddenly a monstrous head appears from the thick vegetation- Bison!!

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We are breathless, we stare at it hardly breathing and he just gives us a cursory glance and resumes his foraging, we beat a hasty retreat as we hear more of them in the forest. Back to the car to find a couple of monkeys who are fascinated by the Optra and are playing all over it, I unlock using the remote and the resulting chirp scares them away.
Some pictures of the road to Ralliah:

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We drive to Wellington past the Staff College set among distinct military neatness and have lunch in an empty restaurant.



...Contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 23rd March 2009 at 21:04.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 21:15   #5
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@hari - waiting for more - seems quite interesting.

With regards to "The Road to Ralliah" : Seems like you have given Khan_Sultan an idea for his next 4x4.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 21:16   #6
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Post lunch at 4 pm we decide to drive out to Ooty town for some chocolate shopping, we take the Coonoor-Ooty road which is choc o bloc with traffic as usual, on entering Ooty we drive up to the Rose Garden which is pretty neatly maintained, the only drawback is there are no roses, not even a teeny weeny one. I click some photos nevertheless

Rose garden
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and we head back into a chaotic Saturday evening crowd at Charing Cross.
Since we had time to kill and nothing better to do, we decided to take a boat ride in the dirty Ooty lake

Ooty Lake
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Dusk over the lake
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Walk up and down the street and find ourselves in Modern Confectioners and Departmental Stores, wife buys a horde of assorted chocolates and discover on our return to Bangalore that we have not picked them up from the counter. In fact the guy has cheated us as he has taken the money and given us the rest of our shopping minus the chocolates and in the computerised bill he has shown that the amount pertaining to the chocolates has been returned. Lesson : Check the bill and the goods while shopping.

Charing Cross at Night
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We decide to head back to Kotagiri for dinner and have another lovely night drive to Kotagiri. Have a sumptous dinner and realize that we are completely exhausted. We go to bed regretting that the holiday is all but over.

Sunday 22 March

I open one bleary eye to check the time and it is 8 am, I jump off the bed and wake my wife, she's like what flight have you gotta catch, just relax dude. I walk out to clean the car and am back in my room an hour later starving, we set off for breakfast and eat like we've not seen food since our childhood. A leisurely shower and then it is time to pack, I spend
some time looking around the hotel and asking about discounts if we come in a group, during billing it is discovered that the hotel's card machine is not working, so we enquire about the nearest ATM and ask a guy from the hotel to accompany us and we settle the hotel bills by the ATM.

Drive back to Ooty, it is a very scenic drive, we had missed it because although we had driven twice in the same route it was only after dark. Stopped for some photography on the way

Kotagiri-Ooty Road
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and we were at Ooty by 12 noon. Filled up petrol at the BP pump at the entrance of town and headed back to Bangalore.

An uneventful drive back till Mysore where we wanted to stop for lunch, again at 4.30 PM, we had heard of this place called 'Mylary Hotel' in Mysore which was supposed to be famous for dosas, we went around asking and finally found this tiny place with just 5 tables that can seat about 10 people, the Dosas were different, but I must say our Bengaluru's Vidhyarthi
Bhavan Dosas can run circles round these.

Back on the highway it was the normal Sunday traffic with a couple of Schumacher wannabes let loose on a busy highway. Stopped to meet up with my brother's family who were on the way back to Bangalore from their farm in Maddur and we had a family reunion of sorts at the coffee day outlet.

Reached home by 10 PM after dinner and the odometer read 730 kms.
Another lovely holiday comes to an end, am already looking forward to the next one, damn!! Holidays are so addictive

Regards,
Hari.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 21:44   #7
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Hari, that was a heck of a travelogue. I envy you!
Spotting a panther on the road is indeed a rare sight.
Your Optra sure looks good. I hope the monkeys did not leave any telltale marks on it.
Nice pics. Some of those of the casuarina forest remind me of the Vizag-Bhimili road. Keep 'em coming.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 21:58   #8
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@ Khan Sultan
Thanks Khan Bhai, it was indeed a welcome break

@Deky,
Thanks Deky, I could not take pics of the leopard as it was dark and I did not have enough time to pull out my camera,
the room cost us 3000/- per night with complimentary breakfast.

@ Vnabhi,
Thanks friend, no the monkeys did not scratch the car.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 22:43   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskywalker View Post

Walk up and down the street and find ourselves in Modern Confectioners and Departmental Stores, wife buys a horde of assorted chocolates and discover on our return to Bangalore that we have not picked them up from the counter. In fact the guy has cheated us as he has taken the money and given us the rest of our shopping minus the chocolates and in the computerised bill he has shown that the amount pertaining to the chocolates has been returned. Lesson : Check the bill and the goods while shopping.
sob... sob...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskywalker View Post
and have another lovely night drive to Kotagiri.
To add, the roads are awesome too. I have done this route n number of times and love it every bit till Mtplym theme park.

Awesome pictures Bro. Looks like you did some off roading too huh.

Cheers,
Jai
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Old 23rd March 2009, 23:05   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskywalker View Post
... and asking about discounts if we come in a group...
So what were your findings and when are we heading there for a TBHP drive?

Really nice travelogue.
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Old 24th March 2009, 00:06   #11
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Nice travelogue Hari Bhai. You are still welcome to our place whenever time permits
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Old 24th March 2009, 01:25   #12
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Excellent write up, Hari. Very nice pics too.
There's something fascinating about Ooty /Coonoor. The way the British controlled things and maintained them amazes me. I remember going to a garden,and faintly remember the name 'Rose Garden' (way back in 1990). There were a lot more plants, and definitely lots of rose plants.
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Old 24th March 2009, 08:04   #13
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Hari, wonderful piece of travelogue and needless to say, breathtaking pics !!

So, How was your experience driving in Segur Ghat in darkness? Must be great isnt it?
Hope you enjoyed the scenic drive from Charring Cross to Kotagiri. I went till Dodabetta, think it would have been better till Kotagiri.

Abhi
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Old 24th March 2009, 08:18   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskywalker View Post
...it was a leopard, it ambled across the road and sat down on the other side looking back the way it had come, suddenly out of the bushes ran a smaller version and it scooted past it's mom into the forest, the bigger leopard still sat looking back, then an idiotic cabbie in an indica came hooting behind me and the magical moment was gone, the leopard just vanished into the jungle. Our first sighting in many years of driving through these roads.
That's what happens. They are always in hurry, want even those wild animals to give way for those guys...

But on the brighter side, you spotted a leopard. That's great. I think the timing really matters. I hear from people crossing this stretch around dawn able to spot some wild animals. Good.

So now, this is what the SMS exchanges with our shiny iKon is it
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Old 24th March 2009, 09:36   #15
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Good report and photos, Lukeskywalker. I have never been to Kotagiri but desperately want to go there!
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