Over the years Ooty has metamorphosed, as with any paradise, into a bustling small town. The town centre is filled with shops, hotels and various eateries. Unlike other hill stations in the region, Ooty finds lots of attention leading to an increase number of people in this touristy landscape. The redeeming features of this part of the town are the Botanical Gardens, the Ooty Lake and Government Rose Garden which houses more than 20,000 varieties of rose. The Madras Race Club has a huge racetrack which sits as the centrepiece of the city.
The old world charm
As soon as you climb a couple of kilometers above the central valley though, you enter the quiet, green, forested country lanes with their quaint houses, colossal mansions and ample, archaic bungalows. You could walk through the woods to neighbouring hills. These are dotted with old and traditional boarding schools.
Many luxurious resorts and farms have mushroomed in the hills surrounding Ooty offering stays that range from decadent to cramped to lush with nature. The aged colonial bungalows boast of ‘teleporting chimneys’ which take you back to the era of sahibs** drinking whiskey in bow-ties on horseback while strutting to the admiration of exquisite mem-sahibs**!
The real beauty of this place however, is unravelled when you step into the wilderness that surrounds and abounds. The Nil-giris translates to the Blue Hills; and when seen in the distance, appear to be shrouded in a blue-ish tinge. This probably comes from the widespread violet Kurinji flowers which bloom precociously every 12 years.
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its seven national parks and wildlife sanctuaries encompasses this place. There are approx. 8 major lakes which are accessible from Ooty; most are drivable, some hike-able. The river Pykara and the lake formed by damming it lie within the Mukurthi National Park and are breath-taking. Only 25-odd vehicular passes are issued per day, so better be pro-active! And wouldn’t you wanna visit lakes called Emerald and Avalanche?
**Sahib/Mem-Sahib: Literally translated to Sir/Madam. Colloquially referring to Sir, Master —used especially among the native inhabitants of colonial India when addressing or speaking of a European of some social or official status.