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IN PICS: Why Coonoor is a picture-perfect paradise

May 07, 2014 17:28 IST

IN PICS: Why Coonoor is a picture-perfect paradise

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Anita Rao Kashi

Away from the blaring horns and puffs of choking fumes that characterise Ooty today, Coonoor is a haven for the stressed mind, says Anita Rao Kashi.

One of the most enduring tunes from my childhood is the lilting and haunting melody The Hills Are Alive sung by Julie Andrews from the iconic film Sound of Music.

Beautiful mountains and lovely valleys perhaps made the song that much more memorable. Come summer and the shooting mercury brings to mind tall mountain peaks and cool breezes bring a fresh crispness that is the stuff of hallucinations that begins to play mind tricks in the work station. And on its heels, the haunting tune begins a slow rendition.

Desperate to get the tune out of my head, I headed out to Coonoor, which rests in the shadow of Ooty, both physically and metaphorically.

Charming with vestiges of the Colonial era still intact, Coonoor is a bit like Ooty where stunning scenery is concerned, but it is vastly different in that it has not been overcome by crass commercialisation and is not overrun by crowds.

In my book, these are two huge plus points.

The difference comes home all the more starkly since the drive from Bangalore mandatorily takes one past Ooty to reach Coonoor.

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Photographs: Anita Rao Kashi

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Narrow roads chock a block with vehicles, blaring horns and puffs of choking fumes characterise Ooty but once past this, it’s all lovely curving roads, a row of misty mountains in the distance, lush greenery on either side, rolling tea estates and little villages with houses in many hues hugging the slopes and pretty names like Lovedale and Wellington.

The centre of town, with a noisy bus stand, a pretty railway station and colonial era buildings, is a bit chaotic, but once you are past that and into Upper Coonoor, where many of the hotels are located, the noise dies down and the pace is languorous.

It is easy to spend time in Coonoor, taking long walks or treks amidst the rolling tea estates and forested areas. But there are things to see as well.

At the heart of Coonoor’s existence is Sim’s Park, a feast of flora offset with pretty structures and ponds. More than 130 years old, the park was rumoured to have been laid with plants and trees imported from all over the world.

Certainly, many of the towering teak and mahogany trees seem to bear testimony to this. A walk in the park is going to be a chilly affair, so cover up to keep warm and enjoy the place. 

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Photographs: Anita Rao Kashi

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Outside of town, there are plenty more places for walks and treks, or just picnics.

Places to visit include Dolphin’s Nose (10 km), so called because the viewpoint is shaped like a dolphin’s nose.

The drive here is among the most fantastic ones, with the road hugging the mountain side, shaded by thick trees or opening out to provide fantastic views of valleys and rolling carpets of tea estates.

It is a popular picnic spot; on a clear day, the Catherine Falls which falls from the nose, is visible. 

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Photographs: Anita Rao Kashi

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Also worth seeing is Lamb’s Rock (8 km) which boasts of fantastic views of the hills and vales around while the Law’s Falls (7 km), another waterfall, is located on Mettupalayam Road.

Take a brief break from nature to visit the Droog Fort (15 km), the ruins of which are believed to have been built by Tipu Sultan, though getting to the ruins itself could involve more communing with nature in the form of a 3-km trek!

To round things off, a visit to the Kodanad viewpoint near Kotagiri (19 km) is a must.

It is here that the magnificence of the Nilgiris comes home in all its splendour -- mist and cloud-wrapped mountain ranges with trickling streams, winding river below and an all-pervading calmness.

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Photographs: Anita Rao Kashi

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To end the trip, take a train ride on the Nilgiris Mountain Rail, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the train runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty, the stretch from Coonoor to Ooty is spectacular, starting with the ancient station building.

The journey provides a moving montage of scenery and glimpses of life in the mountains, giving rise to its own music; no wonder then that the music track from Sound of Music is back in full force, an apt accompaniment to the scenic vistas in front of me.  

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Photographs: Anita Rao Kashi

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Fact file

Coonoor is in the Niligiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu. It is about 290 km from Bangalore while the nearest airport is at Coimbatore (70 km).

Where to stay:

The Gateway (Church Road, http://www.thegatewayhotels.com/churchroadcoonoor/overview.aspx; 0423 2225400), Acres Wild Farmstay (http://www.acres-wild.com; +91 9443232621) and Wallwood Garden (http://wallwood-garden.neemranahotels.com; 0423 2230584).

Packages: 3D/2N packages for two people are available from approximately Rs 12000.


Photographs: Anita Rao Kashi

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