In the last holiday season – considering Diwali to New Year’s – we went to the Nilgiris twice. Thrice, if you acknowledge that the holiday/festival season starts in August in India. Why this munificence in our custom? Simply because sometimes, a place makes you want to keep going back. Like the song that you want to keep playing all day, sometimes even in your head when all is quite in the night.
Right, so now that we’ve got the attempt at poetry and mood out of the way, the more prosaic reason is that The Missus loves the place. That is not to say I’m not. Far from it. The one reason we like it is because the once you wrap your head around the fact that there is not much to do in the Nilgiris, it is the perfect place. To laze that is. All that jazz about fresh air and similar enticements aside, there is a lot to be said for the benefits of doing nothing. Though the best way to appreciate the Nilgiris is simply by ignoring all signs to the various points and walking around. I understand that that is not exactly in the lazing territory, but it can be if you have no particular aim than knowing what is around the corner.
If staying closer to town is your thing, then try Neemrana Hotels’ Wallwood Garden. On the main Coonoor Kothagiri road, this is an old colonial bungalow converted to a hotel. Though, the folks who will run the place will make you feel like you’re in a homestay. They do not have a regular fixed menu, and you’ll need to let them know if you’re eating in before hand. And once you taste the food, you’ll insist on dining in. The food is to die for. The rooms are named after the trees found in the Nilgiris and the rooms with the best view are in the bungalow proper. The bungalow is pretty close to the Sim’s park. Which is an advantage if you are an early riser. That way you can beat the tourist hordes that come in. The park early in the morning is a nice place for a leisurely stroll.
If on the other hand, isolation is your thing, then head over to Red Hill Estate. This is about 28 kms from Ooty near the Emerald & Avalanche dams. Though to really appreciate the isolation you should travel during school and college exam periods. Feb to mid-March is recommended. This is an old tea estate that lets out place to stay. It is on the expensive side at INR 5000 for a couple all inclusive. However the view is to die for. Your hosts, the Vijaykumars, are very helpful and will arrange for walks within their property. Red Hill is pretty much at the edge of the Nilgiris – or rather cultivated Nilgiris – and a short distance away is the Mukurthi National park. It is also near a lot of forest areas, and it would be advisable to get permits to go in here before you get to Red Hill. If you let the kind folks at Red Hill know early on, they’ll help you out too. For short walks around the estate, you’ll be hard pressed to shake off your buddy for the stay, Moby, the resident mutt. Don’t be afraid of his boisterous welcome, for he really is quite friendly.
However, if you’re looking to base this as your centre of discovering the Nilgiris, then this might be a little out of the way. 28 kms can be quite a distance in the hills. But then if you have all the time in the world, then this is the exactly what the doctor ordered.