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Coonoor: The Jewel of India’s Nilgiri Hills

Words & Photography: Sugato Tripathy

“Let’s go to Ooty!” screamed Arvitha, my office colleague and friend, evidently excited about the upcoming weekend. An unofficial brainstorming session was underway at the office café between four of us. “It’s too commercialized,” said Ajay of Tamil Nadu’s Queen of Hills Stations. “Has anyone heard of Coonoor?”

Rangaswamy Pillar_Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India_Sugato Tripathy

Just 20 kms from Ooty, nestled amidst the magnificent Nilgiri Hills, the quaint little hill station of Coonoor seemed the ideal choice for a short but scenic weekend getaway.

Tea Plantations

Tea Gardens 2_Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India_Sugato Tripathy

As we rumbled along the serpentine roads, Coonoor started filling our car glass windows with green gorgeousness. Vast tracts of verdant tea plantations cropped up on either side with hanging veil of mist finding solace within the perfectly manicured tea bushes. We took a lungful of clean, crisp air as we walked through these “beverage terrains” under the canopy of clouds.

Seeing all of us lost in our thoughts and the atmosphere, our guide was quick to remind us of our visit to the nearby tea factory. For an entry ticket priced at INR 5 (~USD0.07), we got enlightened about the entire manufacturing process starting from plucking, withering, rolling, fermentation, firing, sorting and finally packing of different types of tea – green, black and white. Not a bad deal!

Sim’s Park

Purple bloom - Sim's Park_Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India_Sugato Tripathy

Boasting of more than 1,000 species of flowers, this park is a mecca for nature lovers. Established in 1874, it is spread across an area of 12ha making it one of the biggest parks in Tamil Nadu. With terraced flower beds, varieties of trees, shrubs, creepers and several plant species from all over the world, it is a botanist’s delight.

Be it the pretty yellow colored Peruvian Lily, the suave Purple Verbenas or the blood red Zinnia, with temperate climate throughout the year, the park is a blooming paradise. Tiled pathways, arched bridges over waterways, delicately manicured rose gardens and a small lake with boating facilities add to the charm of the place.

Lamb’s Rock

Visitors on Lamb Rock_Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India_Sugato Tripathy

Aren’t we sometimes tempted to float in the clouds when we look at the fluffy balls of white cotton in varied shapes and sizes from our airplane window? Imagination runs wild as our mind tries to give semblance to the shapes of these floating wonders.

The same feeling is evoked approximately 8 km from Coonoor, at Lamb’s Rock, named after Captain Lamb who was instrumental in making a pathway to this point during the British era. With a white blanket of clouds beneath your feet  and the view of the surrounding Nilgiris and viridian plans, standing on the edge of the rock with a sheer drop of more than 800 ft will make you feel on top of the world (a la Titanic!).

Dolphin’s Nose

Dolphin's Nose_Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India_Sugato Tripathy

As the name suggests, this is an enormous rock protrusion in the shape of a dolphin’s nose, perched at 1,000 ft above sea level and almost always covered in mist. A popular picnic spot for tourists, it has deep ravines on either side, with a view of the beautiful Catherine Falls.

Kodanad View Point

Kodanad View Point_Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India_Sugato Tripathy

An hour’s drive from Coonoor took us to the small, quiet unassuming town of Kotagiri. A small winding road from the town led to one of the most spectacular view points in our trip. Rugged peaks intermingling with pastures of varied greens, a silver streak emanating from nowhere (Catherine Falls) and the sacred protruding rock called as Rangaswamy Pillar (400 ft) are the main components in this untrammeled vista from Kodanad. There is something therapeutic about a great view. We stood transfixed soaking in the panorama and the cool breeze.

A colorful small hamlet near Kotagiri_Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India_Sugato Tripathy

Be it the aroma of freshly brewed tea from the gardens, the chance to see myriad colors of flowers at Sim’s Park or the panoramic view of Nilgiri peaks from Kodanad View point, Coonoor is impossible to describe in phrases that aren’t clichés – breathtaking, enchanting and unforgettable.

GETTING THERE Direct bus services (13 hrs) are available from Bengaluru operated by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation. A hired cab service will be a faster option (8 hrs) and will charge anywhere between Rs 6000 to 10000 depending on the car type.

AirAsia has daily flights to Bengaluru from various domestic and international destinations. Coonoor is approximately 300 kms from Bengaluru. For flight info and fares, visit airasia.com.

An ex-banker hailing from the beautiful city of Bhubaneswar, Sugato Tripathy is currently a b-school professor, travel writer and amateur photographer. His idea of nirvana is to vegetate on the beach or wander aimlessly in the mountains. Check out his photo essays at www.tripography.in.

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