A Holiday In The Blue Mountains.
by Eva Bell
Flower Display at the Show.
Ooty was a pleasant get-away this summer – an escape from the sweltering heat of the plains. The month of May was festival time in Ooty. The 114th Flower Show was a special attraction, and was held between 14th to 17th May, 2010. The town was jam packed with tourists and traffic, and negotiating one’s way through the crowds was itself a bit of a hassle.
| Toda Temple |
| Raj Bhavan || Ooty Lake |
The Botanical Garden with its terraced layout, its lush lawns and colourful display of flowers, was breath taking. What a variety of roses, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums, bird of paradise and the lot! The Bonsai section with its miniature exhibits made interesting viewing.
The highlights of the show were the replica of the Secretariat Building in flowers, a giant white chicken made of chrysanthemums, and a tall vase designed with red carnations and white roses.
The garden extends over 22 hectares and is built on a slope. It is about 2400 metres above sea level. At the highest part is the Italian Garden which is the most attractive part. It was originally laid out by Italian prisoners of World War I, who were sent to Ooty. The man who converted this ‘part forest-part swamp’ area into a beautiful garden was Mr. McIvor of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. He was specially commissioned for the job in 1848. Later, under John Sullivan Collector of Coimbatore, the garden blossomed into an oasis of beauty and tranquility.
Beyond the garden and at a higher level is Raj Bhavan, the summer residence of the Governor of Tamilnadu. With special permission, some of us were able to tour the building and walk through its manicured garden.
The Toda settlement is a little distance away. But except for a Toda temple, their typical huts have vanished to give way to proper houses. The women don’t wear their special costumes anymore. Neither is their hair styled into traditional ringlets.
The Ooty Lake is another place to visit. A trip across the lake in a motor boat, gives one a scenic view of the greenery on its banks. Row boats and pedal boats are available for the adventurous. A ride on the toy train however, was a rip off as it lasted for just five minutes.
The Rose Garden had held its annual show just a few days earlier. Though some of the flowers had faded, the exhibits of an elephant fashioned from roses, and a light house, were still standing tall. This Rose garden was the first of its kind in the South, and spreads over six acres, on the slopes of the Elk Hills. It has about 17,000 rose plants. From here, one looks down into the valley on a typical hill station scenario – clusters of houses built into the hillsides, with smoke spirally upwards from their chimneys. A picture of tranquility!
The Museum, the Thread garden and Stone House were also on the tourist agenda. Home made chocolates, spices, and eucalyptus oil were available on sale everywhere.
Ooty is the queen of hill stations and is the capital of the Niligiris. (Blue Mountains) It is well connected by luxury buses from the plains.
The nearest airport is at Coimbatore. Buses and taxis ply the 105 miles between Ooty and Coimbatore. Trains run up to Mettupalayam, from where there are taxis or buses to the top. Unfortunately the Blue Mountain (narrow gauge) Express does not function anymore except between Conoor and Ooty. The name of the town too has changed to Udagamandalam.
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