Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Blue Hill’s Wonder Town – Coonoor !

John Sullivan, Collector of Coimbatore discovered the most beautiful second highest place (1850 mtrs above sea level – first being Ooty) located at the head of the Hulikal Ravine in the Niligiri range of hills called ‘Coonoor’ in May 1819. He fell in love with this place and promptly came back three weeks later with his French Naturalist ‘Jean Baptiste Louis Claude Theodore Leschenault de la Tour’ to make settlement plans and build an English bungalow. This place was among the hill tribes of the ‘Danayakas’ and ‘Todas’.
There’s less frost at Coonoor, the altitude is just right! This place was recommended as a place of rejuvenation to British Troops who were sick and missed the English weather. Coonoor was the best tourist destination among the British in the 19th century.
The railway line in the earlier days culminated at Metupalayam from Madras (Chennai). People commuted from Metupalayam to Coonoor on horse back and foot. By 1897 the railway line extended to Coonoor and finally reached Ooty by 1908. This exists even to this day and is called the ‘Nilgiris Mountain Railway’ – a UNESCO declared Heritage Site! Metupalayam is 46 kms from Coonoor and Coimbatore the foothill city is 75 kms. The alternate road to Coonoor is through Kotagiri.
Coonoor provides a panoramic view of the Nilgiri Hills and is known for its production of tea. It’s a great spot for trekkers, bird watchers & botanists – haven of wild flowers! Photographer’s heaven!  It has a population of about fifty thousand people, it’s a taluk and municipality in the Nilgiri Dist. of Tamilnadu. The economy depends on tourism & tea. It is the headquarters of Southern Indian Planters Association – UPASI. Best season to visit is April -May. As long as it is not raining this place is great. Check weather before you head to this place.
Defence establishment like ‘MRA’ – Madras Regimental Center (Oldest Infantry Regiment dating back to 1750s under the British & Indian army and ‘DSSC’ – Defence Services Staff College for Army, Navy, Airforce & other civil defence services are situated here. It was established in 1947. It’s at a Cantt. area called Wellington.
Pasteurs Institute established in 1907 is located here at Sim’s park. It manufactures vaccinations for rabies. Fruits & Flowers research stations apart from tea are progressive here. Education here was originally modelled for the British boarding schools giving way to the Indian schooling system. Sim’s park is 12 hectares with more than 1000 plant species – a not to be missed place with a children’s play area and a boating pond. Annual fruit show happens every year in the month of May. J.D.Sim, the Secretary of Madras Club established this park in 1874.
Coonoor Club a 5 acre 1885 established social club is right across. Please note ‘Members Only’ – lovely preserved tradition still alive. Wellington Gymkhana Club – a golf club is another beautiful club open to members only. Coonoor town is divided into Upper Coonoor & Lower Coonoor.
Coonoor is a favorite haunt of all filmmakers – English, David Lean (Passage to India and Heat & Dust), Hindi – Shahrukh Khan’s (Chaiya Chaiya song). Regional languages – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam filmmakers throng to this locale for its natural beauty.
Sightseeing at Coonoor include natural mountain scenic places viz., Dolphins Nose, Lambs Rock. Waterfalls like Catherine & Laws. One could visit the Tipu Sultan’s Droog fort too. There are beautiful churches alongside temples and mosques too. Eating joints are modest and shut early and open late. It’s a simple sleepy town. The cuisine is generally South Indian. There are a few restaurants around Bedford circle on the way to Sim’s Park. Taj’s Gateway hotel is the only luxury hotel. Alcohol is not allowed from out of state, one might lose it at border checking. . . sad state of quality & brands are available at the government liquor stores. There are a lot of home-stays, farm-stays, guest houses to suit every budget. Resorts are on outskirts of Coonoor. Own transport is advisable. Local autos & taxis are available too. Bangalore to Coonoor is a 6 hour drive of 290 kms though Mysore, Bandipur, Masinagudi & Ooty. The drive through Coimbatore would be longer as the distance is about 425 kms. Coonoor is well connected by railway and roadways. The nearest  airport & railway station is Coimbatore which is 75 kms of hill terrain road. It’s better to spend two nights to fulfill a rejuvenated holiday. Ooty which is 21 kms can be clubbed with the holiday.
Combining Mysore – the city of palaces, National Wildlife Parks – Bandipur & Masinagudi, Ooty, Coonoor etc one would need atleast 4-5 night and would be tiring. Mountain air is said to be best for your body & soul! Cheers to a rejuvenated holiday.

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

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