Once again, when life seemed to get monotonous, we as usual decided to pack our bags for possibly (hopefully not) our last trip together. The destinations we chose this time were Ooty and Nelliampathy.
We set off on a Friday night, just prior to our last week in college, on a Toyota Innova. Our first stop was Mettupalayam, a small town in the foothills of the Nilgiris. The plan was to go up the hills to Ooty on the heritage toy train. We reached the railway station at 4 am and the train was due to leave only at 7, so we had some time to kill and we had a walk around the station. It was a surreal experience; it was like we were visiting some ghost town! The train stood there all empty… There were lights on everywhere, but no human being anywhere… It was indeed a cool experience, but our tired eyes wouldn’t let us enjoy more and we happily slept for three hours on the nice hard benches at the station…
As we woke up, just before the train was about to leave, the scene was totally different. The station was now bustling with activity. We took tickets for ourselves and crammed into the small compartment. The tickets for the 5 hour, 45 kilometer journey were just Rs. 11 ($0.2) each! The train started off in style… the music of the steam-engine was just awesome. My first time on a steam train and I was lucky enough to get the compartment right next to the engine! After a while on the plains came the real deal. The train went up the slopes with the assistance of spike-like tracks. The ride was a bit bumpy, but that only added to the fun, we weren’t really there a luxury ride either :). The view outside the window meanwhile began to change from beautiful to breathtaking. My camera clicked on and on and on; trying to capture every one of those beautiful views… but you really have to be there… you really do to enjoy it to the max!
The train made a lot of stops to fill in water and everyone of those halts seem to be planned to be on an awesome spot. There was plenty of time to wander around and enjoy the wild-beauty while the engine drank some water. After our journey through small lovely stations tastefully named “Hill grove”, “Lovedale” etc. we finally reached the first major station uphill, Conoor. Our time constraints forced us to abandon the train and continue the journey via road. When we finally reached Ooty, there was our Innova and our faithful driver, Aneesh waiting for us. It took him just one and a half hours for the climb, while it cost us five… but trust me, every second was worth it!!
Ooty seems to be a much cleaner place than it was during my last visit some five years ago. We roamed around a few of the normal tourist spots like the Botanical Gardens and Doda Betta , shopped a bit at the Tibetan market, walked around the lake and race-course and then finally on the next day bid adieu to Ooty town and headed west back to my Kerala.
Our next stop was a very little known hill-station called Nelliampathy. We didn’t even know how to get there and was a little bit apprehensive about whether it would be worth the effort… but we soon found out that all our doubts were needless. The drive up itself was challenging. The high range roads were all single lane and our driver was driving as if he was competing in a rally. :) hehe. When we finally reached there, the locals advised us to go to a place called Mānpāra. Our Innova wasn’t four-wheel drive so we had to hire a jeep.
The jeep driver asked for Rs.500 and when we protested, he said we need to pay him only if we found that the drive was worth it… well after our experience, we would have paid him double that had we had the funds ;) The ride began on a tarred road leading to an estate and once we were inside it, the roads changed to a bit muddy. The ride started to get a lot bumpier… and after a while there was no more road left! Then after a little bit more we were riding on huge stones… and after that on big rocks! It was just awesome, seemed like we were on a never ending roller-coaster ride! After around 40 minutes of this life-or-death drive we reached the foothills of our destination. One hour ago I wouldn’t have believed any vehicle could climb up to where our jeep guy was pointing to… but now I had to… this guy could make that jeep climb up anything, anywhere. He put the jeep on gear 1 and floored the pedal down to the floor… The jeep roared and roared up to maximum power and we propelled up the steep (really steep) slope. We were all screaming with joy. And at the end, as we reached the top of the world, he did a 360 degree turn for us without even bothering to brake. Just at that moment I really thought we were tumbling down to somewhere below! :). Oh boy! No words can express what we felt then.
The view from Mānpāra was awesome too. Definitely one of the best places I have ever been to. The place was quite empty too… devoid of the crowds at other tourist places. That added to the charm of the place. After spending an hour, we made our journey down. It was by now quite dark and our jeep driver, to add to thrill I suppose, drove down without the headlights turned on. We enjoyed ourselves talking about the what ifs…. what if the jeep broke down, what if the tyre got punctured, what if the petrol tank got empty… but the Mr. Jeep Guy had a solution for all that. Hehe… I became an instant fan of this guy… definitely the best driver I have ever met!!
So people… whatever happens you really have to go to Nelliampathy at least once in your life. Trust me, it is a life-changing experience! :)
The drive back home was filled with a lot of discussions and speculations on whether we would be able to continue with our series of lovely trips, now that college is getting over and we are going our different ways. We split promising that we’ll at least try our very best to make trip number 11 a reality :)
How to get there?
From Trivandrum, Ernakulam : Via NH47 upto Coimbatore. Then to Mettupalayam which is 53 kms away. The railway station should be easy to find. There is only one train a day, which leaves at 7.15 am and reaches there by 12.30
From Bangalore and North India: Take the NH209 via Mysore, Chamrajnagar, Satymangalam and then to Mettupalayam.
Come down to Coimbatore city and then on to Palakkad via NH47. Continue down via NH47, and then take a left at Alathur. Nelliampathy is around 70 kms away from Palakkad.
From Trivandrum : Go up to Thrissur and then on to Vadakkancheri on the NH47. Turn right at Mangalam to reach Nemmara then to Poothundy Dam and to Nelliampathy.