Tuesday, February 03, 2004

ooty travelogue

It came as a surprise when Raja's call came out of the blue asking about me joining him to a weekend trip to Ooty. The StorageTek team had planned for the trip & a guy had dropped out. So I am to be the replacement. Agreed happily as I'd nothing worthwhile to do that weekend.

As planned, we 19 guys started off from AdventNet at 6:30 pm by van, courtesy our very own aasthana taxi service, PKS. It was such professional planning, all credit to the StorageTek guys, we saw things going precisely according to plan through out the trip. Reached Central & had our dinner at the Refreshment Stall there. Dosa, Idli, Pongal & Vada amply substituted with P S Vijay's home-made idlis & thayir saadham with ooruga. So nice of him to have brought that.

Trooped on then to the Nilgiri Express. As was my general habit, checked the reservation chart for any fairer sex entries. Surprise of surprises, horror of horrors, there was a bevy of some 10 -15 college girls of age group 18-20 listed, that too next to our own coupe! Just couldn't believe my eyes. Joy knew no bounds as the immeasurable possibilities of such a fun filled journey started slowly sinking into everyone of us.

We did have fun commenting on the girls, Kamal & Krishna making the most of it. But then the girls must have felt the heat & were so offended that they moved out quickly to a farther coupe down the carriage :-( It was some disappointment allright, but that never got the boyz' spiritz down. Ji had brought 6 packs of cards (courtesy Singapore Airlines) and 8 of us started playing Rumme while the rest played Ass. Dilip was in high spirits as we got treated with some pleasant flute music. He played the flute for almost all of the 2 days. I tried playing it knowing too well that its a futile excercise. Not even a hiss came out of it. It definitley requires some talent & discipline to play that damned reed!

The card game slowed and came to an end as guys one by one began to sleep. As with any such journeys, there was beer masked in Pepsi 2 litre bottles being guzzled out. Some guys opted for the 'hot' rum to the 'cold' beer. And, we did have the customary rub with the TTE for smoking. As the night progressed, it began to progressively get cool and I blamed myself for not bringing a blanket. The windows of Southern Railway coaches refusing to close fully made matters a bit worse as the cool wind attacked mercilessly on the uncovered feet & face. Atleast I should have taken an upper berth.

As Salem & Tirrupur passed by, the guys started waking up. 4:30 am, we were at Coimbatore junction. After a photo sesion & a tea break, we started off in a 20 seater, a Swaraj Mazda, to Ooty. Lucky us, the girls were on their van too, just next to us. The guys had already gathered info regarding them - they too were on a 2 day trip to Ooty and they will be returning by the same Cheran Express we were to get back on. Ooty, here we come!!

With all our baggages packed on top of the van, it was an eventless climb, with cine music on & we 'singing' along. Reached 'Hare Rama, Hare Krishna', where Sathish had booked 5 nice cottages for us. The guys got their first disappointment - the hotel was 'Pure Vegeterian'! Soon their fears were allayed as the hotel's arrangement was to bring non-veg food cooked from outside.

After settling in, we were to have our breakfast & start our sight seeing tour. Breakfast was a lovely affair as we 3, Sathish, Raja & myself gouged somewhere inbetween 20-30 idlis, 10 vadas & 5-6 dosas altogether. We did keep the bearers occupied, didn't we?!

Our first place of visit was the pine forest. This has come in many a movie, recently in 'Dil', where 'un samayal araiyil...' was filmed. Compared to Kodai's pines, the earth was very much slippery and it lacked the fallen leaves which formed a soft carpet there. Next was a cine shooting spot too, just a lush green grassy slope, where the hero/heroine dance with 50 odd dance artistes in all our movies. It offered a spectacular view of the dense trees on one side and the city at the other. From there, to Pykara dam and falls. There was no water being released from the dam and so we had to satisfy ourselves with a very small 'falls'.

The boat house was our next stop. While some preferred the lazy motor boat option, I opted for the rusty paddle boat. Paired along with Ji, we talked about our college lives, work experiences & family. After an exhaustive 30 minutes of paddling which covered almost three-fourths of the man-made lake, we found ourselves sweating even in that somewhat chilly weather.

It was 3:30-4:00 pm by now and our stomachs had started craving for food. From the boat house to Coonoor bazar where we were to eat our late lunch. We decided to have a tiffin instead, (so that we can have a go at the buffet, that night) and it was Dosa/Puri this time. Compared to the morning, we 3 kept it 'light' this time though.

The next place of visit was Glenmorgan. Had heard about the steep winch but just didn't expect it to be that steep! Haa, it WAS steep and boy, wouldn't we have loved a journey in it! Sadly, it was under the control of TNEB and we weren't given permission :-( The view from the Glenmorgan cliff was too nice to describe.

It was window shopping time then, as we were allowed to roam the Charing Cross Hotel's small bazar where stores sold tea, home made chocolates, spices, oils, sweaters, toys, handicrafts and what not. The biggest purchase I made was a free monkey cap lent by Subbu! In between all these, a strange fancy caught the StorageTek guys - that of snapping Raja smoking a cigarette. It continued all for the 1-1/2 days. We did succeed in taking 2 pics of him with a cigarette to his mouth.

The exhaustive first day tour came to an end as we reached our cottages again. After the guys had settled down for a round of drinks, it was dinner time soon. The buffet was good though it didn't have much of a variety. The camp fire was the last item for the day. Kept thinking of the Kodai campfire which was a long drawn out affair, trying to burn the moist wood with litres of diesel, fighting the smoke from the eyes. But this time around, it went too smooth - the logs caught fire and everything ended in 30 minutes. Hey, weren't we supposed to sing & dance around? Hmm, sadly we didn't. May be makkal were a bit tired & wanted to sleep - badly.

Back to our cottages & playing cards again. Finally sleep caught up with us.

Day two, after a breakfast of masal dosas, (this time they didn't show us the idlis first!), many had trouble with their stomachs. A little late start than of the day before, but that didn't dampen our trip to Dodabetta. Its the highest peak in the Nilgiris, at around 2600 m, a little more than a quarter of Mount Everest's. It was sort of a failure, as I badly wanted misty clouds floating around. That sure would have made Dodabetta interesting.

>From Dodabetta to the Botanical Gardens. We did have jolly good time with snap after snap of ourselves before every kind of vegetation found over there. A few included having girls in the background too. Raja came up with the novel idea of playing 'bums'. A poor fella was chosen and we did have a go on his butt! Luckily, the plan to find more unlucky guys fizzled out.

It was lunch time again, and this time around we didn't want to miss a full non-veg lunch. We had a real lunch and of the three tables, our table topped with a bill of 1600 bucks! Our girls of the train too arrived to lunch in the same restaurant and we had a bonus treat for the eyes (which had gone so tired taking in all the bountiful nature) too ;-)

>From there, it was to Dolphin's Nose. On the way, a stop in a huge Tea Garden, supposedly of 230 acres (or was it 2300??) and belonging to the erstwhile Mumbai star Mumtaz. Nothing much about it as we were then taken to an estate shop where the goods were said to be cheap. Tea in various flavors, spices, 'home made' chocolates & oils again.

Dolphin's nose was a let down sort of. It was just another bend in the road. It too offered a panoramic view of the hills. The girls' van was here too, but they came as we started off.

It was the end of the tour, as we started climbing down. One last stop at the Coonoor market where we shopped for fruits and rusk. It was a fun ride down to the plains as guys were invited to dance in turns. Soon we were in Coimbatore, having dinner at one of the many Annapoorna's.

We weren't as lucky this time as the girls had another compartment. A sleepy ride back to Chennai by the Cheran Express, thinking of the week & work ahead...

(Aug 26, 2003)