Mudamalai Tiger Reserve, Coonoor & Ooty, India
We met the owner of the Road’s End in Coorg and he set us up with his friend in Ooty for the week. This is one thing I have noticed about the Indian culture, they love to entertain. They are all so giving and gracious it’s hard not to bother them with the continuous “thank yous.”
Our new friend met us at the local bus stop in Mudumalai and drove us to his estate in the jungle all the whilst passing wild peacocks and deer, and spotting a few elephants in the sanctuary on the way. He owned an old resort called Belmont Estates which lay on acres and acres of land. It was like being in the jungle, but very desert like. The trees were barren except for the pink blossoms on some and the vibrant bougainvilleas that stood alone scattered throughout his land. He had a bunch of animals, five dogs and eight little puppies, a cat and even wild elephants that’s charged through his land breaking down the trees with their backs. They say the one elephant you must keep your distance from is the one that wanders alone, they called them tusks because of their massive horns.
We spent the night in the Tiger Reserve visiting his friends resort, Wild Haven for some appetizers and drinks around the fire before ending the night at his estate sitting around a bonfire and sharing stories. One of the mornings we were there his helper woke us up at 4am to witness a massive wild elephant just twenty meters away from our back house! Such a crazy benefit to living in the wild.
The next morning we awoke to the smells of coffee and tea and spent the day out of the property. I did an hour long session of yoga before enjoying some delicious home cooked fish.
The last few weeks I had been struggling with new urges. I hadn’t had an urge to binge or purge in about three years and all of a sudden the thoughts were back in my mind. I only acted on it once when I was feeling really down for many different factors, but I still did it and I’m not proud of it. I decided to tune into my body and start practicing yoga again everyday. You can read more about my most recent battle in my “Death and ED” entry.
After lunch we decided to head into Ooty to spend a few nights in the Nilgiri hills. On the way out of the Tiger Reserve we saw a massive wild elephant cross the road. It was unreal seeing these creatures in their natural habitat!
What we didn’t know was our host actually owned a mansion in the hills with the spectacular views and the comfiest beds. We were blown away at the estate he owned. He had a huge house with multiple bedrooms, a massive flower garden, a bonfire area, a greenhouse and even his own temple. We arrived just as the sun was setting and watched the orange sun dip behind the glorious hills of Tamil Nadu lighting the sky many different shades of reds and oranges.
The next morning we took the train from Ooty to Coonoor for 10 rupiah each. It was a beautiful scenic train ride along the many villages and tea plantations. Be sure to sit on the right side of the train for all the good views. I had a nice chat with a couple elder men from Bangalore. They were so kind to point out all the types of trees, temples, crops and villages along the way. These hills were covered in Eucalyptus trees when they weren’t being used for tea plantations.
We arrived in Coonoor and walked through the vegetable and fruit markets. I was astounded at the architecture of this city. The colorful houses sat one on top of the other like the legos I used to play with as a kid. We had lunch at Hotel Sri Lakshmi just in the main center of town before grabbing a tuk tuk to head to Dolphin’s nose. The drive in the tuk tuk was amazing through the winding green canopies that opened up into massive panoramic views of the mountain ranges. He drove us through the tea plantations and pointed out waterfalls along the way.
Dolphin’s Nose was a viewpoint that offered sweeping views of the mountains and tea covered hills. I was more impressed with the Lady’s Back mountain that you could view from Lamb’s Rock, another stop along the way! The optical illusion of the tea plantations covering the mountains with scattered trees had me in awe. We paid 100 rupiah each ($1.50) for a ride there and back in the tuk tuk. Then took the train back just in time for sunset in the hills! Absolute incredible day!
The next day we explored Tiger Hill Dam and found more local viewpoints courtesy of our hosts’ son. These are perfect places to practice yoga or have a picnic. We visited the botanical gardens and the Nilgiri Tea Factory before hitting up the local market to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies. That night Gino cooked us up some delicious Italian cuisine and we spent our third and final night around the fire.
The next morning I had an intense hour and a half meditation practice followed by a twenty minute shavasana. I have also written about it in my Death and ED entry... I enjoyed sitting out in the rose garden before we all had a home cooked lunch together!
We went back into the jungle for the night to see the Temple Festival for their God Kali. Kali is what people call me in India because they don’t understand how to pronounce “Carly” unless they call me “Curly.” Kali is a black goddess so they always make a comment on how white my skin color is compared to the God. It offers some good humor along the way. Our friend walked us through the jungle feeding us cactus fruit and pointing out all the animal markings. We came upon the temple and I was amazed at the tents these people built. They spend four days camping around the temple to honor Kali. There was a Ferris wheel, a circus, food tents, tea tents and much much more.
The next morning we said bye to our friend, thanked him for his amazing hospitality and headed back into the hills for a few more days in and around Ooty.
One of my favorite days in Ooty was when my friend James and I hiked Doddabetta Peak. We got dropped off by a tuk tuk at the bottom of the road for 100 rupiah ($1.50) and climbed 3km through the forest near the road until we reached the market at the top of the mountain. Once we got to the top we paid 7 rupiah (10 cents) to enter into the Doddabetta Telescope where it offered 360 degree views of the beautiful landscape of Tamil Nadu.
- Local Markets in Ooty- explore the local markets for sensory overload! No joke you could walk around these markets for hours on end!
- Chocolate factories: Ooty is known for their chocolate and they are very proud of it given there’s a shop ever twenty meters. It’s actually pretty good!
James and I decided to walk through the tunnel down to the other viewpoint and continued past the fence. In a country of 1.3 billion people it’s hard to have an hour where you don’t see another soul, but for this hour long trek we didn’t see another person. We were among the huge Eucalyptus tree forests, birds, bees and all the other wild animals I didn’t want to think about as I was walking! It dumped us out near Tiger Hill Dam and we continued to walk down into town passing by some unreal viewpoints. We hiked over 16 kilometers that day and boy did my legs feel it when I sat down to watch James get his haircut.
Boys, get a haircut in India and you’ll be in for a treat. Head massage, face massage, neck cracking, ears popping, close shave and a haircut all for just 250 rupiah ($4).
The architecture and colorful villages tucked into the mountain and hillsides had me in awe the whole time I was in the Nilgiri Hills. I will definitely be back to visit Ooty in the future. There was so much incredible energy, wonderful locals, spectacular views and delicious food!
What to do:
- Doddabetta Peak- Hike through the forest near the road to the peak. Walk down through the tunnel to the lookout and keep going past the fence for a 4km trek through the eucalyptus forests back into town.- 7 rupiah (10 cents) entry for the telescope view
- Ooty lake- Walk along the train tracks even though it says no entry... it offers a nice walking track all along the lake and no one else in sight. - 13 rupiah (20 cents) entry
- Tiger Hill Dam- Reservoir/lake that offers a peaceful place to relax among the trees
- Ooty to Coonoor scenic train ride- old school train for only 10 rupiah (13 cents) with amazing views of the tea plantations along the way!
- Dolphins Nose & Lamb’s Rock- Ten rupiah entry (13 cents) each! Beautiful views!
- Nilgiri Tea Factory - 20 rupiah (30 cents) for a tour and two cups of tea!
- Botanical Garden and Rose Garden- 13 rupiah entry (20 cents)- I recommend going in Spring time to see the flowers bloom.
- Tea Plantations and Lady’s Back- take a tour via tuk tuk around Coonoor
- Catherine Falls- Coonoor
Where to stay: Try to do a homestay in Ooty as it will be the best way to experience the culture. We were lucky with our accommodation the first three nights staying at our friend’s house in the hills and when we returned for our last three nights we stayed at Queen Hill.
- Queen Hill Homestay- Super cheap and good location. Sami was so nice and greeted us with tea and coffee every morning at eight. $12 for a room per night.
- Airbnb or homestay in Ooty/Coonoor
- Wild Haven- Mudamalai Tiger Reserve
Where to eat: While staying with our friends we were fed like kings and queens. Many meals full of fresh home cooked goodness.
Junior Kupanna- Ooty- Try the fish chukka and parottas... Best parotta I’ve ever had!
Tamil Nadu and Kerala Mess- Across the street from Junior Kuppanna- Delicious omelettes, dosas and lunch time feasts!
Hotel Sri Lakshmi- Coonoor- Try the paneer tikka masala
Jungle Hut- Mudamalai Tiger Reserve- Delicious fried rice and paneer pakora
Hyderabad Biriyani House- HUGE PORTIONS! Great Biriyani and curries