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Avoid all the tourist buses for a start. They are wretched rattle traps which will leave you exhausted at the end of the trip. Most of the drivers have entered into a conspiricy to fleece the passengers in several ways conniving with various other crooks. One amazing scam is to stop half way on the road to Coonoor ten miles away at a "view point" overlooking the Ketti valley (the second largest in the world). The tiny diversion down a dip off the main road offers no better view than the main road itself which is freely available whereas you pay for the "privilege" of standing twenty feet below the main road! Don't go there, just clamber back to the main road.
Then there is the matter of food. The driver will invariably stop at a filthy dump for refreshments. Avoid these place and bring your own sandwiches and drinks or water. Hire a taxi and make sure you and the driver first agree on the fare charged per hour or half day or whatever.
When you enter the Botanical Gardens, try to go right to the top, out of the garden and onto a grassy knoll. Here you will find the remnants of the ancient mysterious tribe called the Todas. They live in dome shaped houses with a narrow tube-like entrance. More interesting is the fact that they practice polyandry (a woman has at least three husbands) which seems to be the logical way to go. The Todas are paid to live in 'reservations' like the native Indians in the USA. Their origins are not clear though the idea that they were descended from Greek settlers does not seem to have any valid proof. Prince Peter of Greece came here in the first half of the last century to study them but went back no whit the wiser. They do seem very unusual as they are tall with dark piercing eyes, quite unlike other tribals. Many of them have deserted the reservations and merged with the locals speaking their language though they have their own dialect...in fact rumour has it that the town Ooty got its name from a Toda word, not a Tamil one (how they will hate to admit this). Apparently the first European on reaching the plateau asked his guide to ask a Toda where the town was and he answered it was a stone's throw away which sounded like Ootacamund, hence the name.
Get to see some of the palaces, many of which have been turned into hotels. The Mysore Palace,the Bobbili and the Hyderabad ones to name a few. Go to a eucalyptus factory and see how they distil and make the oil from leaves taken from the Eucalyptus Globulus.
Try to visit one or two of the old schools which have huge grounds and are run on international standards. Visit the Government Arts Collegs, part of which was the first European house, built by the Collector called 'Stone house"
Go to the horse races.
Climb hills surrounding the town...don't worry there are no scorpions or other horrid surprises in the bushes as it is too cold for them. The highest hill (second highest in south India) is Dodhabetta (meaning Big Hill) which gives panoramic views of the grassy Wenlock Downs and looking in the opposite direction, you can see Coonoor and in the distance the Drooge hill on which Tipu Sultan built a fort and from which he threw his enemies to fall to their deaths 5000 feet below. There are now para gliding facilities there, the wind giving plenty of updrafts.
Incidentally there are ruins of old gold mines in some of the hills around Coonoor, as the saying goes, "There's gold in them thar hills!" That's something you will have to look for yourself. Hint: In one of the old tea estates in Coonoor.
NILGIRIS IN WINTER
Ooty is a great place to be in January if you like a bit of chilness. The ground fogs, frosty shrubs, sleepy willows and misty days make it very romantic indeed. The afternoon sun will sooth you and relax your nerves as it shines through a cloud-shrouded sky. The evening mist will thrill you by its chill as it greets you in earnest. At night the shrap-frost will bite you gently and awken your nerves to its primal senses. In the morning the dew laiden winter flowers and the heaving ground-grass will welcome you to the lazy-day ahead.
What more can you ask for. Perhaps great sceneries and view points like Dolpine nose where you will be amazed by the great hights with wide open space and sumptuous sceneries. You can see the hazy Catherine falls at a distance as it tumbles down the great boulders on the mountain face.
The cloulds will play hide and seek as they pass you by nonchalantly. At places like in Kodanadu view point you will be able to touch them at times and if you are lucky you will actualy stand above the cloud layer as if flying above them. What a scene that is.
May be a relaxing peddle-boating in a sleepy lake surronded by spoted deer and squrils in among the great oaks and pine forest. Take a childish trip by the toy train around the lake which will take you through the pine forest. May be ride a pony along the lakes if you fancy one.
A trip down to Avalanche will greet you with a serene little spot known as Silent valley with a beautiful lake and views. Pykara dam has wonderful vistas when you stand on top of it.
Mist and clouds drapped Ketti valley is a delightful view especially in winter-mornings when it takes rather a mysteious and forlorn outlook as no one around in the cold mornings.
Ooty to Coonoor train trip is a must. This little lazy train is a world heritage mountain rail and the sceneires it provides along the way are a sight to behold indeed. It will take you through pristine rain forests, meticulously manicured tea gardens which are lush and lemon green from a distance hugging the landscape like a carpet on the floor, wild streams and raviens running down the countless number of bridges the train has to negotiate, Children will relish dark, gloomy and cold tunnels which punctuate the track at every few kilometers by counting them all the way.
Great train journey indeed which will linger in your memory for a long time to come.