Every time I think of Coonoor, a charming little town in the Nilgiris, a cloudful of beautiful memories floats by. A few years ago, we spent a long weekend there.
We reached Coimbatore in the early hours of the morning, after an overnight train journey by the Kanyakumari Express from Bangalore. Hurriedly gulping down some breakfast and tea, we took an auto to the bus stand. State Government buses to Ooty via Coonoor departed from here at regular intervals. Pretty soon, we boarded one of these buses, ready for a 4-hour ride. The last segment of this bus journey was a very picturesque one through the mountains, passing numerous hairpin bends. The bus driver drove very fast and we spotted him looking away from the road on several occasions, making us very nervous. We tried hard to find out what he was distracted by – turned out that he was busy choosing the music that he wanted to play next. Definitely not music to our ears! With our hearts in our mouths, we prayed at every hairpin bend. As we neared our destination, beautiful tall trees beckoned us to the lovely hill station, Coonoor.
Hopping into an auto, we headed to the Coonoor Club, where we planned to stay for the next couple of days. Located very close to Sim’s Park, this place was very comfortable. After a great lunch, we set off to explore Coonoor by car.
Our first destination was the Ralliah Dam. We drove through tea estates, passing several small villages on the way. Women in these villages wore a unique type of headgear. As we approached the dam, a few fallen trees blocked the way, but our guide skillfully moved these aside. There were awesome views all around!! The first view of the dam and its surroundings was spectacular. The Ralliah Dam is a small reservoir, with calm water – a picture of absolute serenity. The foundation stone of Ralliah dam was laid in 1938, and it was inaugurated in 1941. It is surrounded by lush green meadows. In the distance, buffaloes grazed. We walked along the dam and then sat by the water, completely immersed in the tranquil surroundings.
We had to tear ourselves away from the peaceful environs of the dam to visit Beulah Farm. Beulah farm had a wide variety of herbs, fruits and flowers. The owner welcomed us, and very soon, a jam-tasting session followed :). There were 7 varieties of jam, made from plants grown at the farm. Our instant favourite was the “rhubarb” jam. One big bottle, please 🙂 (Our order was placed). The wine-tasting session was next. However, we chose to explore the farm instead. We were taken on a very interesting tour through the farm. We were introduced to a wide variety of plants – Rhubarb, Lemongrass, Chive, Rosemary, Lavender, Strawberry, Bayleaf, Tulsi, Mint, Peppino, Avocado, Pear, Plum, Peach, Mom-in-law’s Tongue (take a guess about its appearance 🙂 ), Dancing Fuschia, Orchid, Roses of every colour (even black and green! ), JetPlane Cactus (this one bore a striking resemblance to a jetplane)……. LOOOOONG LIST already, and there were many more. WHEW!! We did not know some of these even existed! Jimmy, the owner’s dog, dozed away while we explored every nook and corner. As our visit was coming to an end, he woke up and we introduced ourselves :). At the entrance to the farm, is a rock, named Moby Dick – no prizes for guessing the origin of the name. Well, must say – it definitely resembled a whale! We had a whale of a time at Beulah Farm:)!!
Cuppa chai? Next halt – the Tea factory. Inside the factory, we were shown the various stages of manufacturing tea, and the elaborate machinery that is used for the process. Do you know: 4 kg of tea leaves generate 1 kg of tea. A couple of cups of chai, and some photo sessions in the tea estate followed. From here, we had a great view of a Golf Club and people playing cricket in the valley. It is said that a single tea plant lasts for a hundred years!!! Well, after hundred years, you can only plant another tea plant there since the soil turns acidic. Silver oak trees are grown in the midst of tea estates to act as sponges for mopping excess water. The tea plant requires very little water, but the water supply has to be continuous and thus, requires a slope. (Source of our fact file – our guide and the employees in the tea factory)
After a splendid drive through Coonoor, we took a leisurely stroll in Coonoor’s Botanical Garden, Sim’s Park, observing some interesting botanical specimens like the “bat flower” on our way.
Tons of buses connected various parts of Coonoor at a down-to-earth price of Rs 2 per ride per person. We took a bus downtown. The roads were extremely narrow, and very steep. It was interesting to see the techniques employed by the bus drivers on these slopes, when buses came face to face on bends. We were quite nervous initially, but soon, got the hang of things, and took it easy :). Downtown, we explored a few shops, had dinner at SreeLaxmi restaurant, and headed back to Coonoor Club. This was the first of several meals we would enjoy at SreeLaxmi restaurant.
A beautiful hike, and our rendezvous with clouds, in the next post, Cool Coonoor: A Cloudful of Memories (Part II).