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Home > City News > ‘Wotokymund’ ‘Ootacamund’ ‘Udagamandalam’ ‘Nilgiris’ – Queen of Hills is . . . Ooty !

‘Wotokymund’ ‘Ootacamund’ ‘Udagamandalam’ ‘Nilgiris’ – Queen of Hills is . . . Ooty !

Ooty Botanical Gardens. 55 acres. Established 1848. Amazing photography fieldck. Ooty sunrise. Picture postcard sightckSummer beckons us to the hills to cool ourselves and one of the hill stations lying close to Bangalore is in the neighbouring state of Tamilnadu – a five to six hour drive by road to a place called – Ooty!
The average annual temperature in Ooty is 14.4 degree centigrade, it’s a tropical humid climate place. This place, one doesn’t see fans or airconditioners, but does see a lot of room heaters!  This hill station has evolved over a period of time with a lot of names. But, currently it is officially called – ‘Udagamandalam’! Unprouncable by tourists but easily done by the local Tamil population. There are more than one ways to reach this Blue Rich Mountain capital city of Nilgiris – simply called Ooty by the colonial British,  they developed this place and ruled us – this cold places reminded them of their country back-home, the rich would enjoy the place from the tropical heat of India and the sick would come to recuperate to their good health out here. This place can be visited in the month of February – total dry weather. Otherwise this place experiences both the ‘monsoons’, if not rain – it’s always misty & foggy, which adds beauty to the place. Rainy season June – August is to be best avoided, unless you want to just stay indoors! Winter months – November – January has its own misty charm! A word of caution, if you are driving ensure you reach here before 3 -4 pm. The foggy misty roads are difficult to drive. Early mornings post 9 am is good to drive.
Roads to reach Ooty are beautiful. One has to reach Mysore from Bangalore and take the Mysore Ooty road through the picturesque Bandipur National Park & Madumalai forest santuary. Here one can drive through Gudlur to reach Ooty or drive through Masinagudi, part of Madumalai sanctuary via Kalahatty Ghats (36 hair pin steep narrow hill road) and reach Ooty in a jiffy! You save about 30 kms & time. Only, make sure your vehicle is in excellent condition & your driving skills match too. This road closes to traffic at 9 pm till the next morning sunrise because it goes through two national parks & wildlife   sanctuaries. Animals here have the first right on road crossings! Heavy  Traffic Vehicles are not allowed on the Kalahatty ghat roads, it’s only LMVs, & two-wheelers which are allowed.  One can sight a lot of wild animals on these roads – caution is advised! Carrying liquor into Ooty, or any part of Tamilnadu is prohibited. It will be confiscated. TASMAC – Tamilnadu government liquor outlets sell vague brands of liquor here & it is expensive. . . Beware! Clubs & high end restaurants serve liquor. . . Expensive again!
Ooty is well connected by road in terms of buses, taxis etc. It’s well connected by trains too – for this one has to reach Metupalayam (broadguage) near Coimbatore and shift on to Narrow Guage – ‘Nilgiri Mountain Railway’, UNESCO in 2005 has declared this site as a ‘World Heritage Site’- ‘Indian Mountain Railway System’. From Metupalayam it takes 4 hours to reach Ooty, the distance which can be covered in 45 mins to an hour by road!  This train journey will be your epic journey through tunnels, hills, ghats and beautiful scenic mountains. Bookings can be made well in advance on the Indian Railway website to avoid disappointment, there’s a lot of demand for this journey – especially during holiday season.
You can reach Ooty by road from Coimbatore passing through Metupalayam & Conoor. This was the first developed road to reach Ooty. The nearest airport to reach Ooty is at Coimbatore 100 kms away.
General Ponisia of King Vishnuvardhan of the Hoysala dynasty discovered this blue mountain place in 1117 AD and mentions the Toda tribes who used to stay here, they still live here. Ponisia called this place ‘Nila’ based on the blue hue of the region. After Tipu Sultan lost the war with the British, with the treaty of ‘Srirangapatnam’ – 1799, the British came into possession of the ‘Nilgiris’. Nilgiris were inhabited by Todas, Kotas, Badagas & Alu Kurumbas. Todas were good at rearing water buffalos, Badagas were good at farming. All these tribes mainted the eco-diversity of the region. But still Ooty was not discovered by anybody. After a failed attempt & a bad report in 1812 by Surveyor William Keys – a Surveyor & his apprentice Macmohan – the team sent by John Sullivan, He bided his time. In 1818, J.C.Whish & N.W. Kindersley, Assistant & 2nd Assistant to Collector of Coimbatore John Sullivan visited Nilgiris range of mountains & Ooty was discovered by them. They duly informed the British Collector of Coimbatore John Sullivan of their discovery.
John Sullivan with his team proceeded to the Nilgiri range of mountains and made camp at ‘Dimbatti’ – just north of ‘Kotagiri’ in 1819. A year later in the month of May laid path from ‘Sirimugai’ near ‘Mattupalayam’ to ‘Dimbhath’. The first mention of a place occurs in a letter of March 1921 to Madras Gazette by an unknown correspondent of a place, ‘Wotokymund’.
John Sullivan, the British collector from Coimbatore having a bungalow at Kotagiri, builds a stone house with co-operation of getting land from the Todas – the hill tribe during 1921-22 with a Scottish gardner called John Stone who takes care of this property with it’s gardens at Ooty. This house exists even to this day and houses the Principal of a Government college. Capt. B.S. Ward surveyed and mapped the Ooty hill. European vegetables & fruits were introduced to this region. Collector of Coimbatore, John Sullivan is credited with discovery & having the first house at Ooty. However it is ironic to note that Rev.Jacome Forico is said to have been the first European to have set foot on the Ooty soil in 1603!
After 1947, Kotagiri, Conoor & Ootacamund were developed by the Indian administration as a health retreat and a hillstation.
Sightseeing at Ooty, one can stick to the 36 Sq km town or one could go around in excursion covering surrounding places extending to the following regions …
Conoor, Kotagiri, Gudlur, Doddabetta, Pykara lake & boat house, Emerald Isle, 6th mile – movie shooting spot, Glenmorgan – tea estates & eucalyptus trees lined road, Kalahatty water falls, Ketti valley view ( Ooty – Conoor road), Mukkurti peak & national park, Madumalai National Park, Avalanche, Segur falls, Parson valley, etc, etc. For more details and planning talk to the friendly locals & contact :
Tourist Office., Wenlock Road, Ooty. Phone: 0423 – 2443977. They will also guide you in Ooty local tourist activities too. Local transportation are taxis & autos. Depending on bus travel, you will waste a lot of time. Heritage walks around Ooty are also interesting.
Local Ooty sightseeing one can start with the Botanical Garden, a 22 hectare hill property with a lot of walking. It was found in 1848. It has various plants, trees, shrubs & flowering plants which are well laid out for viewing. This place also has a 20 million year fossil tree too. This place is a delight for botanists, nature lovers & photographers. It’s open from 8 am – 6 pm. There’s a small fee for entry, camera & video usage. It’s a plastic free zone, games & playing around disturbing flora & fauna is not allowed. Ootacamund Botanical garden is situated in the heart of town. It is on the lower slopes of Doddabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiri mountain range. This was founded by William Graham McIvor with well laid out plans by Marquis of Tweedale in the year 1840. The swampy lands today are converted to a garden of Eden! Initially this garden was started to meet the vegetables & fruit requirements of the living European community. However local funding sustained it. The famous Kuranji – blue flower which blooms the Nilgiri landscape once in12 years is a sight to watch. The whole valley turns a magnificent blue! They are all over the place in season.
The next viewing point would be a huge man made lake of Ooty constructed by John Sullivan in the year 1824, the Collector of Coimbatore. Today this large lake is a recreational spot with boating. It’s banks consists of rose gardens, nurseries – of all kinds of plants including Orchids. One can see horse riding tracks, cycling tracks, deer parks dotting the landscapes. Amusement & entertainment arcades cater to tourist crowds. It covers an area of 65 acres or approximately 3.8 sq kms.
Ooty has a lot of festivals & fairs – January sees tea & tourism festival. The month May brings in activities connected to boating & flower shows, fruit & vegetable shows, summer festival & dog show. September 27, – the world tourism day is celebrated with gusto. Hindu temples celebrate their car festivals & other festivities.
Ooty is a vibrant British colonial place. It’s habited by both Christians & Hindus. One can see peace & tranquility in their living side by side – they live in harmony. One can see a lot of temples & churches. Of late influx of Muslim population can be seen with a few mosques. My friendly muslim auto driver went out of his way to show some scenic sights around Ooty after my ride in the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Hill life is hard & tourism is a major revenue earner. People here are simple & honest. Beware of tourist touts – stick to organised routes & government agencies – tour, travel or accommodation. Trust reputed business houses.
There are a lot of eating joints in Ooty. Predominantly they are all vegetarian. A word of caution, they all down their shutters early. Please have dinner early or make arrangements to store your dinner. There are lot of 100 year old schools, clubs – these are open to a selective privileged few. Ooty is as said earlier – a hillstation for relaxation & recuperation.
Shopping is here limited to eucalyptus & other aromatic oils, spices and home made chocolates. Ooty is a fun place for 2-3 days of rest or hectic sightseeing or trekking. Worth going with your family & friends. Season times please make advance reserved travel plans. There is accommodation available for every budget & pocket. One can stay at the Fernhill palace to delux 3 stars or clubs or resorts or lodges. I would say – don’t be a tourist here, be a traveller & soak up the beauty of this Blue Rich Mountains – Udagamandalam aka Ooty!

-Jagdeesh Laxman Singh
aka Jugie Singh
Text & Photography
[email protected]

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