I set out to Coonoor along with my husband on a holiday a little reluctantly because this hill station didn’t impress me during our first visit almost four decades ago. Also memories of visiting Sims Park one afternoon were still fresh in my mind. Even as we were taking a stroll around the Park I looked around and to my dismay found not a single soul besides the two of us. The whole place looked eerie and sinister and when we remembered our friends forewarning us of pick pockets lurking in corners, it added to our fears. We quickened our steps towards the exit without looking back till we reached the safety of our hotel which was a few minutes walk from the Park.
Our room overlooked the distant Western Ghats and the town of Coonoor nestled in their midst.
Undertaking a tour of Sims Park (named after its founder) after a lapse of four decades was a pleasant experience. We could walk leisurely albeit themilling crowds and feast ourselves on the riot of colours the flowers presented. I thought a botanist would appreciate the numerous variety of flowering plants and trees collected from different parts of the world. I recollected our tour of the world famous Butchart Garden in Vancouever (named after its founder) which had a collection of species from all over the world. When I asked why there was nothing from India, I was told the weather conditions of Vancouever were not conducive to the growth of tropical plants.
On the drive to Dolphin’s Nose as you ascend through a thick growth of Pine trees on one side and a view of distant hills on the other you feel you are in another world where nature reigns supreme. It was an exhilarating experience which reminded me of our drive through Sherwood Forest in Melbourne,which we had visited some years ago. The only thing we missed was feeding the bright red Rosellas on the way.
We took a brief trip to Ooty through Wellington where contingents of Army and Air force are based, reaching the 18 kilometre distance in an hour. We visited Dodda betta (big hill in Kannada), the highest point in Ooty and since the mid day sun was scorching we couldn’t spend much time here. The distinct change we observed was Todas who were present during our last visit decades ago were conspicuously absent, so was the pristine beauty of the place which seemed to acquire a lot of artificiality and commercialism with all kinds of hawkers around. Also one had to purchase a ticket to enter this tourist spot.
We made a dash to the Botanical Gardens on the eve of the 113th.Flower Show and found hectic activity was going on for the ensuing three day event. I clicked a few pictures of the highlights—a giant flower vase decorated with thousands of choicest flowers standing majestically in the midst of a green background and a white Duck with touches of red and green on its beak and hood. It appeared as though it would start waddling on its short legs any moment to greet the visitors. There was also a model of Toda House in front of which there was a sales counter of local products manned by women.
Revisiting Coonoor was certainly a pleasant experience with our stay at Gateway contributing to it in great measure. Even on a sunny or a warm day we could spend the whole day on the sprawling lawns under the shade of trees reading and talking to the guests and their young children. It was heartening to see some of them who were accompanied by their elderly parents engaging themselves in various activities. The boys reveled in playing cricket, the younger children skated enthusiastically on toy ducks and my husband appeared to be the only person to have seized a bicycle standing in the corner of the lawn and ventured to successfully ride on it unmindful of the amused onlookers! There were Yoga sessions in the evening and a game of Tambola by the camp fire during the weekend. To top it all was the delicious food, (we wished we had a larger appetite to do justice to it ) added to it was the service and warmth exuded by the staff of the Taj Gateway which made our stay unforgettable.
n.meera raghavendra rao