Revisiting Coonoor 16/06/2010

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.

The  journey  from  Mettupalayam to  Coonoor  through the ghat section  was quite exciting but  and  as we neared Hotel Gateway, where we had booked for our stay, I noticed how much this little  hill station  had changed—the unruly traffic resembled that of any bustling town  with vehicles of all kinds whizzing past us  and  pedestrians trying to squeeze themselves in between to cross the road unmindful of the risk involved.  The  chaotic  scene appeared  really frightening! But once we entered the hotel the whole atmosphere appeared to have transformed itself with nature taking over. To our  right  were   tall  Jacaranda trees spreading  themselves on one corner of the  sprawling lawn   and flower beds of  all hues and shades alongside it. A huge Cherry Blossom  tree, its bright  Bougainvillea   flowers forming a canopy of   rich magenta  appeared  to greet the  guests to the hotel.  I came to know  later from Mr.Muralidharan,   Manager-Operations  that  the flower beds near the Jacaranda have flowers such as  Dahlias, Dwarf Marigold, Zinnia, Carnations, Gerba, Daisies and Birds of Paradise, Pansy, Statice, Dianthus, Chrysanthemum and Candy Top among others.
Kodanadu View Point - nature's beauty at its best

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 way to Dolphin Nose

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.

Catherine Waterfalls

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.

Taj Gateway Hotel - a night view

n.meera raghavendra rao


6 thoughts on “Revisiting Coonoor 16/06/2010

  1. Prof.V.N.K.Kumar

    Your description was so graphic that the photos seemed redundant. One could have visualised the scenario even without the photos. You write so beautifully that any reader can experience vicariously all your emotions of childlike wonder and awe when encountering raw nature. Thanks for this write-up.

  2. Prof. V. Raghavan

    On our earlier visits to Coonoor, we have been through many of the places that Meera Rao describes, including a stay in Wellington.

    In the beginning of May this year, I did something quite different in Coonoor. I stayed with the owner of the largest tea gardens in Coonoor in their home perched on top of the highest peak (same height as Ooty). The sloping tea gardens surrounding the bungalow on all sides offered a magnificent view of Upper Coonoor. We had nice trekking paths from the house. The landlady is adept in gardening and cooking. When I visited the Coonoor Club with the family, I found that Sharada Subramoni was a good bridge player too. The family belongs to the Paduga tribe, coming originally from Karnataka after the fall of the Vijayanagar empire. At breakfast on the first morning, it transpired out that their nephew is married to the niece of our friend in Alwarpet!

    Lazing around in their drawing room, I read through Shoba Narayan’s book Monsoon Diary. This book is recommended for reading.

  3. Jyothi

    Enjoyed your thoughts on your recent trip to Coonoor, as it took me back to my school days at St. Joseph’s .I was searching for pics on Lamb’s Rock, but couldn’t find it. We lived at Aruvankadu Estate (Cordite Factory)in the late 1970s and I have been making regular trips, ever since , I stayed at a Tea Estate at Gudalur, 2008. You have clicked some great views..felt quite nostalgic…

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