16-Aug-2014: We woke up late in the morning. It was very cold. We got ready quickly and went for breakfast. It was usual and we took our time as we were not in hurry. Today’s plan was to cover Coonoor . It is another famous hill station in Nilgiris, around 18 km from Ooty. It is bit lower in altitude, but is equally beautiful. One of the main reasons for selecting Coonoor for our trip was to travel on the world famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which we were going to take from Ooty to Coonoor. It is part of World heritage site and it runs from the plains to its last destination Ooty, but were only going to board the Ooty-Coonoor route. The day before, I had inquired at the resorts reception about the timings and all and came to know the first train starts at 9:00 am, which was too early for us and the next scheduled time was 12:15 pm. The Ooty station was around 1.5 km from the resort. The plan was to go to Coonoor from Ooty by train, in the meantime our driver would reach Coonoor station by road and then pick us at the station, then we would do sightseeing in Coonoor and will return to Ooty by cab only.
So we had enough time on our hand. We went around the resort a bit to have a look. Also took many pics with Ar. Just outside our room, there was a small garden. Ar played there a lot. Then we decided to move on. There was still lot of time for the train departure, so we had decided to use the time for quick shopping. We wanted to buy few things for family and relatives and so asked the driver to take us to some good shopping place. He took us to a super market for the tourists and there we got most of things we wanted. I even bought a good picture book of Ooty and surroundings, which while leaving the resort, forgot in the room only 😦 .
It was almost 11:20 am now and we decided to go to the station to book the tickets. I had thought that we were reaching well in advance for the booking. But when we reached there we saw a very long queue. This was due to the long weekend crowd, which had descended on Ooty. There we came to know that the tickets are almost sold out. We were not aware that these tickets are also available for booking online, else we would have booked them well in advance. The counter was still closed as it opens just half an hour before the scheduled time of train and looking at the queue it seemed almost impossible that we would get tickets. There was a guy hanging out there, telling people that just opposite the station you can get the tickets from some agent. So I asked G to have a look, while I stood in the queue, but by the time she went the 12:15 pm tickets were sold out. By this time the counter had opened and within few minutes, the tickets got sold out here too 😦 . We cursed our luck and felt very bad. This was the last train for us, the next one would be very late, also it looked difficult to get the return train from Coonoor, due to low availability of tickets and also we would hardly have any time to see Coonoor. The last train from Coonoor to Ooty was at 4:30 pm.
As we had no other option but to travel to Coonoor by cab, we called up the driver and he picked us up. We were still feeling sad about missing the train journey, which incidentally would have been Ar’s first train travel, but the road route is still very good, the ghat section passes through jungles of Nilgiri trees. The weather was great, it was raining a bit. Ar had gone to sleep, but we enjoyed the ride. We did lot of video shooting of the route. We reached Coonoor in 30 minutes and first went to look out for hotel, to get something for Ar’s lunch. We packed Dosa for Ar and then decided to go to Coonoor station to check for availability of tickets for train going to Ooty at 4:30 pm. Actually it was already 1:00 pm when we reached Coonoor and it would have given us very little time to see Coonoor if we have to catch 4:30 pm train, but my mind was not resting to know that we would be missing one of the main attractions of the trip. At the station we came to know that we might get the tickets, but the counter opens only 30 mins before the train schedule. So we decided to leave this to luck and went ahead to see Coonoor .
Our first point was Kim’s park , which was established during British times. The park is a botanical garden and has many different species of trees. It’s a great experience to move around the park with so much to see. One thing I liked about this park is that it has been developed on the natural slope of the mountain. Then we went to see another tea garden and estate. After we reached top of the hill, where the garden was, we could see many tea gardens far across, overlooking the mountains. What a sight. There is a small , but very good garden on the top, but it was closed the time we were there. But we were able to have glimpses of it from outside. Then we decided to visit other attractions like Dolphin point etc. By this time thought of taking the train was out of our mind. Now we were on the road to reach these points and we saw some traffic there on route. We had been in traffic at many places at Ooty and Coonoor due to narrow roads and ever increasing vehicles cause the bottle necks. But usually it got cleared in some time. It had been 15 minutes and we were still on the same spot. Then few guys who were coming from the other side told that there is heavy traffic jam and you may take 2+ hours to reach the points. We thought this is the day, nothing is going to go right for us :(. Reluctantly we decided to take U turn.
We were thinking of returning to Ooty, but decided to just have a look at the Coonoor station to see if we can get the train. We were not hopeful, but decided to give it a shot anyway. When we reached the station, there was already a medium sized queue on ticket counter. G was not very hopeful, but I thought that anyways this day is almost a washout, so why not just wait in the queue and see what happens. The counter was still closed, so G and Ar were still sitting in the cab. At 4:00 pm the counter opened and I called G to check if someone ahead in the queue can buy 2 tickets for us, in case by the time I reach the counter they are sold out. After much persuasion, G was able to convince one girl ,who was in a group to buy tickets for us. They were mid-way in the queue , from where I was standing. She got the tickets for us and I left the queue. Finally luck shined on us that day and we were all set for the ride 🙂 . The tickets which we had got were for general compartment and that too for standing. But we didn’t mind much as at least we go the tickets and we were on our way on this historic train.
We then boarded the train and were standing in the aisle of the compartment. The girl who had got tickets for us had got a seat somehow, but then she offered it to G seeing that she was carrying Ar. It was really a nice gesture. The train was yet to start and people were still boarding it. There was hardly any place now in train, still people kept coming. As G was seating next to door, the place near the door soon got crowded. People standing like me had hardly any place to keep our foot. Then the train started, first it goes back few meters and then it moves forward. The train passes through middle of the mountain, along narrow ridges, over many bridges, through various tunnels and stops at few small stations mid-way. The route is scenic and the ride is great. The ride is quite comfortable. G and Ar were not much comfortable due to crowd, I though while standing enjoyed the ride very much. I shot almost the whole journey. We reached Ooty station at around 5:45 pm. Train ride to remember forever.
Our driver was waiting outside the station for us. We started back to resort and were there by 6:00 pm. Today was a mix day for us, we had few misses, but we also got what we wanted. We were also bit tired, so didn’t dwell out much. We had early dinner and went to sleep. After yesterday’s experience, even though I wanted to lite the fire place, I avoided that urge :).