Friday, 7 March 2014

Four things to do on a weekend in the Nilgiris.

The Nilgiris or the Blue Mountains have a laid back magic for which you need time to revel in the magic but if you're short on time here are my four suggestions which give you an opportunity to re connect with nature and discover an appreciation for the simple things.

Wake up early and listen to the birdsong and identify the local flora.
Step out in the morning and give yourself a sensory workout.
Breathe in the fresh air scented with eucalyptus and pine. Most people in the Nilgiris are proud of their gardens so try and identify the local flora. There are perennials like the Geraniums, Azalea, Agapanthus lily, Hydrangea, Camellia to name a few. 
The seasonals to look out for are the Jacaranda trees which turn the hillsides misty purple in March - April and the Poinsettia put on a great show from December - March.
There is the Kurinji flower which grows wild on the hillsides and bloom once in twelve years turning entire hillsides purple. They are expected to bloom next in 2018 between July and December.
If the birdsong doesn't wake you up then listen to the birdsong while you sip your morning cuppa.You will be delighted by the antics of the busy little birds.March to April you may find nests and fledglings like this Bulbul in its nest.
You might come across Gaur or Bison grazing in the tea estates, please don't approach them, watch them from a good hundred feet or more because they are wild and can be unpredictable especially if there are calves.  

Take a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Do some part of the 26 kilometers the Nilgiri passenger covers from Ooty to Mettupalayam. Travelling through 208 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. The entire journey will take you close to five hours if you are going uphill from Mettupalayam to Ooty and three and a half hours if you are travelling down hill from Ooty to Mettupalayam.
There are ten stations on the journey not including Mettupalayam and Ooty and they are Kallar where the rack rail begins. Adderly , Hillgrove, Runneymede, Kateri Road Station, Coonoor which is the main intermediate station and the top end of the rack rail. The locomotive is noramlly changed here. Wellington Station, Aruvankadu, Ketti , Lovedale and finally Ooty.
 The shortest distance would be Ooty to Lovedale from where one can take a bus back to Ooty or else make a day trip to Coonoor and take in the sights there, Sims park, Lambs Rock and Dolphin's Nose.

Buy Local
Local brands are worth looking out for and sampling when you are in the Nilgiris.
Last Forest is a brand promoted by Keystone Foundation in Kotagiri. They have a wide range of products on offer - spices, honey, soaps and balms to name a few. They have their own shop in Bedford, Coonoor called The Green Shop.
 Grey's Hill  for the most delicious jams, chutneys and preserves made with seasonal produce such as billberry and plum.
Acres Wild for cheese.Date and walnut cake and Shortbread from Green Acres in Ketti.
You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to tea. Local brands are Korakundah, Chamraj,Glendale to name a few.
All these brands are available at Modern Stores near Assembly Rooms in Ooty and Bakers Junction, Bedford in Coonoor.
Modern Stores has an impressive selection of chocolates which you must indulge in.

Dine at Shinkows
For all those studying in the boarding schools in Ooty, Shinkows is an institution. Forty years back it was the only restaurant in town and eating at Shinkows was a treat. Its good wholesome food, don't expect the regular Indian Chinese.
The decor in the Zodiac room hasn't changed nor the menu. Chilly Chicken is still 13A and you are still handed a little pad and pen to note down your order from the menu which has a number for every dish.
Hand your order list to the waiter and he'll confirm your order, rattling off the names of dishes just looking at the numbers. 

Have you visited the Nilgiris? What would your recommendations be for a short break in the Blue Mountains?

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