Friday, September 25, 2009

Enchanting Avalanche and Ooty

Feb 27th - March 1st, 2009
I have always wondered why people go to same tourist place again and again, but here I was planning another trip to Ooty (A place I have been on nearly 10 occasions), this time with my close friends, my only consolation was in trying to believe we were actually going to Avalanche and Red hills and not exactly to Ooty. It is also a different matter that when friends especially men only travel, the place or destination looses its significance more often than not, in comparison to the experience and events of the journey. We were 5 of us (Mahesh, Mark, Deepak, Bennish and I) and decided that Toyota Innova would be the vehicle we will hire due to the comfort aspects from our previous travel experiences.

We planned a rare travel in the night, started the journey from ‘Gangothri’ where we spent a good hour or two making sure we had the right ‘spirits’ before venturing to the fun and surprises of a largely unplanned travel by our standards.
We left Bangalore by around 11 PM and stopped close to Maddur for another ‘session’ just for the heck of it. When we reached Gundlupet by around 3:30 AM and realized that we were not allowed to climb the ghat session in the night, so we halted there till around 5 AM, resting in the verandah of a hotel which had been closed for the day.

The early morning drive was a unique experience with the mist and freshness adding beauty to the magnificent scenery of the Nilgiris, the queen of hills. The morning fog was so thick that at times we had visibility of only a few meters. We faintly remember stopping at a Mallu chai shop for a good 20-30 minutes.

We reached 10th mile, a tourist place famous for shooting movies, at the dawn of a beautiful day, and climbed the small hill to witness the fantastic view of the surrounding hills, this place is usually crowded but thanks to the odd time there was hardly anyone else there, and that actually, was a great sensation to be all alone in a very famous place, surrounded by only peace and the mesmerizing hills.

We had booked our stay in Mayura Sudarshan, KTDC hotel, close to Fern hills, this place is isolated with a beautiful garden and being on top of a hill provides a fantastic view. The hotel actually looks like a miniature version of a grand bungalow, probably due to the low height of the roof. The placel though is quite ordinary in the quality of the rooms and the service, nothing great but good enough for a comfortable stay, with exquisite surroundings and astounding view.

The 26 km drive along the Upper Bhavani route to Avalanche, is beautiful with the shola trees, diverse plantations, tranquility beyond comparison. Avalanche, a beautiful village derives its name from an avalanche or landslide in 1823, and is a very quite place famous for the splendid lake and Dam located here.

The actual location of the lake is very easy to miss, there is small gate with a few guest houses on one side, and small stream on the other with a bridge, right in the middle of what looks like nowhere, and the guard here will not allow you inside to see the lake, as you need permission, but one or two hundred rupee notes to the guard without too much talk, will ensure your entrance. To the Guards’ credit though he was not allowing women who were single due to security reasons, a foreign lady who had traveled alone on a bike being one of the unfortunate sufferer.

The Avalanche Lake looks everything what we expected it to be, pristine, mesmerizing and the water, crystal clear, reflecting the rays to fashion flashes of silver streaks, amid the colorful pebbles at the bottom.

The bluish hue of the lake making it shine like a blue diamond expanse (I could not help but remember the ‘Heart of the Ocean’ diamond from the movie Titanic) as it reflects the soft sun rays.

The path that leads to the lake is equally enchanting, surrounded by beautiful shola trees along a small stream with visible fishes, which joins the lake, and also few unique slender trees with wonderfully drooping leaves.

One can easily get lost in realm of this paradise with the surrounding green hills embracing the lake as though to protect its absolute beauty from the exasperating crowds of the outside world.

This is also an ideal place for a drink or two, unfortunately none of us remembered to take the ‘liquid parcels’ from the car, so we compensated by taking off in the opposite direction of the lake to the wilderness, to see the mouth of a 30 kilometer tunnel, with water cascading down to form a small stream, after taking the necessary things from the car.

This place strewn with large stones amongst the wilderness provided the necessary shade and more importantly, the ambiance for quenching our thirst and much needed break to renew our fervor.

The next place we visited was the Emerald Dam and lake, true to its name the place is attractive and calm, peace and calm are not the words you can associate with the modern commercialized Ooty but somehow this place has escaped the encroaching steps of the numerous visitors. The water has receded to a large extent providing large a lake bed, and enough shade from the Trees to sit comfortably and have a good meal, which we did although it was almost time for evening snacks.

This place does not have anything you can remotely call a hotel and I remember our good friend Mahesh had to drive back quite a distance to get us what can be termed as a basic meal, the fish being the exception. By the time we reached back to Ooty town it was around 5:30 and we went to the lake and ended playing dashing cars and other casual games which was really fun mainly because of our high ‘spirits’. We retired to the hotel by 8 PM and after a ‘high level discussion’ had dinner from the hotel itself, which was probably not the best idea as the food was quite ordinary.

The next day morning we decided to checkout some places near Coonoor, we actually wanted to travel in the narrow gauge train but somehow the timing never suited our travel plans. We ended up just sitting in the car, letting out driver take us to places in our wish list, which we realized was a big mistake as he took us to places of his choice rather then ours or should I say where he was comfortable to drive even taking the longest routes possible.
We could not complain much though as we had the privilege of seeing and visiting some incredible stretches of tea plantations, which literally pulled us to their midst to get lost for few precious moments and enrich in the feeling of peacefulness and mental privacy.

We also visited the infamous ‘Suicide Point’ though I should say we enjoyed the walk to this place more then the actual view from the point.

It is quite a long walk through what I believe is a private plantation, with breathtaking views, one of the places also becoming our resting place to recharge our exhausting bodies and mind.

We returned to Ooty by noon, and decided to go near the lake again to do the much needed shopping of a few small things but considered specialties of the place, like the carrots, chocolates, tea powder/leaves and of course all kinds of oil for all the ailments you can think of. We brought the carrots and unfading flower bunch from the lake front and on our way back we did buy a lot of things from the Sagar Super Market, whose owner I was familiar with thanks to the numerous visits I had to the place with my brother, we got 20% discount because of my acquaintance. I would recommend this place to visitors along with Venus Super Market for some genuine merchandise and reasonable pricing.

We reached Bangalore by around 9 PM,seeing some deers on the way, still having a feeling we will go to this place again. Few places are like that, captivating and mesmerizing, embedded in the deepest of memories prompting occasional impulses to travel to this place for its tranquility and to some extent, relish the memories of the past visits.
It is no wonder that many use the word enchanting to describe this place, I could not agree with them more.