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India: Ooty and Nilgiri Hills

Hiking and exploring the magical Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu

sunny 19 °C
View liftyrskinnyfists on SkinnyFists's travel map.


Ooty is the highest of the many hill stations in the Nilgiri region - with tea plantations, vegetable farms, entwined with gorgeous national parks, 2500+ metres above sea level.
More than a hill station, it is a big cosmopolitan town.
Education is also a big industry here - there is a huge international school, IT academy and other educational centres dotted around the place. This is perhaps interesting considering the small population of Ooty, though I'm guessing the tranquil surrounds and moderate temperatures (a cool 19 degress most of the year round) makes it an attractive place to come and study.

Journey Up the Hills

I Booked a super luxury, air-con bus from Mysore to Ooty.
After a couple of hours we started to ascend the magnificent Nilgiri hills!
After about an hour of weaving frantically, the bus attendent started handing out sick bags, of which some were made use of.
I'm accustomed to taking travel sick tablets for these buses now, so was sleepily immune.
Suddenly there was a loud "BANG", and the bus stopped.
The driver got out to inspect, then came back came back to tell us the bus was "broken" and we'd have to jump on the next available transport to the top of the hill.
Thankfully there were only about 8 passengers in total, and a public bus came along within a few minutes.
Public buses, especially in Tamil Nadu are loud festive affairs. This one had loud bangra playing and everyone on board was chatting and laughing. It was one of a few fun and sociable transports I had in the area.

Hiking Nilgiris

I booked my official guide from the Guide Office in town at... Charing Cross :-)
He was certainly a sprightly and happy guy, which was a pretty common outlook in the whole area. I guess they have plenty to smile about - thriving industries, fresh air, plenty of outdoor activities, no heat, etc.

Anyway, we hiked up through tea plantations, farms and passed through a country mosque which was having a fate and then came across a film set!
My guide explained that it wasn't a Bollywood production, but a Tamil one (spoken in Tamil language). They were filming a dance scene centering on the (very stunning) heroine of the film. There were crew everywhere, and we were allowed to observe for a bit.
During filming the background music pumped through massive speakers as the lady danced through smoke (generated by a guy sizzling hot coals on a stove out of camera shot).
It was fascinating!

Tamil film set we discovered:

Eventually we reached the peak (highest in South India):

The views from this point are outstanding! There is a telescope tower for people to view the area, and plenty of stalls, etc for the tourists.

On the way down we visited factories making two of Ooty's biggest exports - tea and.... chocolate. Both had really interesting displays, and of course sold their wares. I'm really partial to masala tea now - it's made for serving with only hot milk - like tea latte - nice natural sweet flavour - also the staple at Indian train stations.

Tea plantation, Ooty:

Journey Down the Hills

I took the "miniature" steam train down the hill to Mettapalayam.
For folks at home in Melbourne, this is kind of like a long version of Puffing Billy.
3.5 hours of gorgeous scenery in a cute (albeit cramped to the max, Indian tourist style) choochoo steam train.

On board the train:

Cruising through the forests:

It stops roughkly every 30 minutes for a tea break and for folks to stretch their legs - and believe me you need it when you're squashed in like sardines with steam pouring in the window - but I tell you, it's worth it!

Ooty really is a magical place - in terms of vibe, scenery, people and hospitality!

You can view all of my photos from Ooty and the Nilgiri Hills here

Posted by SkinnyFists 09:19 Archived in India Tagged ooty nilgiri_hills trains_india hiking_india india_film_set

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