Holiday – Check
Extra long drive up a winding, motion sickness, puke inducing mountain road – Check
Beautiful tea plantation at the top of said mountain – Check
Ahhhh yes, it must have been my birthday.
To be fair, most tea plantations are to be found up a hill/mountain so you could argue that I’m making poor, holiday destination choices BUT I didn’t plan this holiday – it was the H, as a birthday treat.
Ooty the hill station (short for Ootacamund and also known as Udhagamandalam) is at 2200m/9000ft above sea level. That’s like Mexico City. Does that sound like a hill to you? Surely that’s a mountain. When does a hill become a mountain? Of course I had to Google it. This is why it can take so long to write a post…so easily distracted.
So anyway, there’s no universally accepted definition of a mountain. From what I can gather it depends purely on what someone decides to call it…either a hill or mountain.
Ooty is called the Queen of the hill stations. The Nilgiri Hills are lush and green and the trees go on forever. It rained while we were there and it was misty, but it was beautiful nevertheless.
We visited a tea plantation…of course we did. I bloody love a tea plantation. If you stop and think about it, it’s such an artificial landscape; elderly tea bushes that have been primped and pruned for years to look like the most comfortable, pillowy soft, bright green duvet covering the hillside. It’s so peaceful and it’s like a double gin and tonic for the soul. Plus you see cool stuff. We saw a bison, yes an honest to God bison. Who knew you could find bison up a mountain?
Bos Gaurus – it even has a name like a boss. It sounds like something out of Asterix and Obelix, or as the Little Sis said like a character from Star Wars. Look at this bad boy…or girl. I didn’t get close enough to check the details.
Apparently they mooch about unmolested because they don’t eat the tea bushes.
I bought tea…and a teapot…I can’t help iiiiit! If there’d been a fridge magnet I’d have had one of those too.
The tea from the Glendale Tea Estate had this on the box – FGTFOP. It’s a leaf grade. This is the most entertaining one I’ve come across so far. Can you guess what it stands for? What do you think it should stand for? The Northern Teaist ,who blogs here and who is my go to font of tea knowledge and I have already played this game. I had to Google the answer. Answers on a postcard…or just at the bottom will do.
I also ate a deep fried tea leaf; a tea leaf bhaji…it didn’t really taste of anything, just crispy batter.
Another reason to go up a mountain in India is to visit the small gauge railways. There are 5 in India – they’re on the H’s list of things to do. We’ve been to the ones in Matheran, Shimla and Darjeeling. This was the last one on his list…They are a tourist attraction but they’re also very well used public transport. You can’t just rock up and get a ticket, you need to book in advance. Hurrah for online booking systems. They’re cosy, they’re not super comfy but for a few stops they’re a nice way to see the countryside. We got off at Coonoor where the diesel engine was swapped for one of the old steam engines. I’m not a train aficionado by any means but the little steam engine was AWESOME. I filmed it coming out of the sidings. I filmed it backing up to the carriages. I filmed it being hitched up and then pulling out of the station. I was the the train spotter standing at the end of the platform waving at the train as it went past…tooting it’s steam whistle.
I apologise to family and friends that had their message inboxes inundated with train video clips. You are spared a video clip because I have to pay to include video on my posts. But you can have a photo.
Ooty was cold. Well it was cold for someone that hasn’t lived in the proper cold for 10 years. I was almost prepared. I had a denim jacket, a fleece and some technical trousers…for 3 nights. It’s clear I’ve lost the ability to make sense of a temperature reading, as though it’s some complicated algebraic equation. I look at it and think ‘ahhh yes, let me put another pair of shorts in my suitcase’. You would think I might have learnt my lesson after the one jumper nonsense at New Year. We did have a working fireplace in our hotel room which was lovely, very romantic. But it did mean we smelt like we’d been camping in close proximity to a bonfire…Eau de smoke and paraffin; the preferred accelerant of the chap who set our fire each night. It also meant that by the time we got to Goa ALL our clothes had been slow smoked and we had a whiff of the charcoal burner about us…even on the beach.
I didn’t think that Ooty was that well preserved as a hill station, although there was a lot of renovation going on of the heritage structures, but it was a really bustling, busy town. Whilst it may not be as pristine as some of the other hill stations we’ve been to it’s definitely not a living museum which is great. I think that sometimes heritage towns can become stuck in their historical status and that seems to be the only thing they ‘do’. One thing that caught my attention was the amount of schools there were. All sorts of schools; public, private, international, kindergartens, colleges….loads. That means lots of kids. Now whether these are Ooty kids or kids coming in from outside, kids means a thriving community and that is a very good thing. It was lovely to see. It was also particularly entertaining seeing all the different school uniforms.
All in all it was a good visit and as I mentioned earlier we then took our smokey selves to the beach for a few days. And the winding road? Winding roads always seem easier on the way down, that and several episodes of Desert Island discs and a nap saw me to the airport without too much stomach turmoil.
This post’s title…yeah the title is because ever since we decided we were going to go to Ooty I’ve had the Name Game song in my head, which if applied to Ooty goes like this:
Ooty Ooty, bo-booty
Yup, see what I mean.