Highlights: Journey in Heritage train, Conversation with police, Botanical Garden, Dodda betta, Shooting Madu.
Day 3 began with leisure. Everyone catching up with pending sleep and getting ready leisurely. We had 2-2 cups of Masala tea and did some shopping at Mayur teas- home made chocolates, tea powders, Oils and creams etc. All five of us put together made a purchase exceeding Rs 3000.
Few minutes past 8 AM we left, thanking the owners for their hospitality. First objective was to try the heritage train which shuttles between Mettupalyam and Udagamandalam, via Coonoor. The end to end journey one way takes more than 4 hours and we had two challenges: One-the car. If we had a driver along. We could have asked him to drive the car to destination while we travel in train. But having opted for self drive, we couldn’t do car and train journey together. Either I had forgo the experience of travelling in heritage train or come back after train journey to collect the car. Second challenge was time- 4 hours in train, another few hours to get the car would mean we'll have to skip lots of other places.
Hence we didn’t have time to enjoy end to end journey from Mettupalyam to Ootakamund, so opted for a part journey, from Coonoor to Ooty. Train was to start at 10.45 from Coonoor- so we split into 2 teams-one would go to Ooty, park the car and come back, while other team would get tickets, pack breakfast and keep the other team informed on timing and other happenings.
Myself and Devi drove to Ooty-found some place and parked the car. There wasn’t much traffic and 17 kms could be covered in 30 mins flat. It was 9.10 when we parked the car. Had 90 mins to get back to Coonoor railway station. I wasn’t sure how much time a bus would take, so checked a cabbie how much he would take to drop us at Coonoor. I had thought Rs 200-300 would be reasonable, but cabbie started at Rs 600 and came down till 450, which I knew was too much. We left it and walked little further where we got into an express bus heading towards Coimbattur. I’m glad we decided not to opt for cab, because for 8+8 16 bucks (2 tickets) we could reach back Coonoor by 10 am. (in case return journey took time, plan B was to board the heritage train at a later station, say Wellington)
Train was late by 15 mins. It had a diesel engine and not steam one, as I had expected it to be. First class tickets were overpriced at Rs 75 while normal tickets were just Rs 3. Nothing so special about first class, except that it is at the front of the train and seats are spacious (since only 4 people occupy a row instead of 6 in normal coach). Coonoor-Ooty stretch had very few number of tunnels and bridges, while Mettupalyam-Coonoor sector would have got much more of them.
Journey was good. Nice scenery outside and an energetic crowd inside-yelling, shouting, clicking snaps. The trip lasted for an hour and ended at Ooty station by noon. Raveesh bought some books and photos here and we came out. Now I had to go and get the car-I’d not noted the name of the area where I’d parked it-all I knew was that it is somewhere close to Coonoor road. Took an auto and managed to locate the car. While driving back to railway station to pick up others, police directed us through a slightly longer and jam packed route. As I was inching ahead, suddenly saw the Scorpio which I’d rented last year for Wayanad trip. [read more]
Next stop was at Botanical Garden-which was overcrowded on a Sundar afternoon. Finding parking space was tough-took 15 mins of time. One of the most expensive places to park at a fee of Rs 45 for a car. A vast garden, which I’d seen decades ago in a family trip, was revisited. Shortage of time and rains made us exit this place soon and we were soon heading towards Dodda Betta, stopping for a light drive in refreshment on the way. Dodda betta area was flooded with vehicles and we’d to park few kms away and walk. View was nice and weather was pleasant. We helped ourselves with fresh carrots, raw mangoes, baked ground nuts and more. A telescope view point showed us a distant village in Coonoor.
We left Dodda betta, reached Ooty and started driving towards Mysore, not forgetting to fuel up (saves 2 rs per litre). There were no khakhi+white clad traffic police in Ooty-regular all khaki clad police were regulating traffic and were very helpful in guiding us in the right direction. However one police man on the outskirts of the city was an exception.
We’d reached the junction where we had two options- go straight to take the regular highway to Mysore via Gudalur or take right and travel through Kalhatti ghat (through which we’d come). We wanted to try the Gudalur route and just to be sure we thought of cross checking with the police again. What happened next deserves a mention.
One of us (to the police): Sir this road goes to Mysore?
Police: Pull over
We: Why sir?
Police: Driver, come here.
I get out and go there, one more person accompanies me.
Police: Where do you want to go?
Police: Tell me in which gear you’ll drive.
Me: There’re 5+1 gears in the car-I’ll drive in the most appropriate gear.
Police: No. Tell me which gear you’ll drive
Me: how can I specify any single gear? It depends on the driving condition
Police: Listen, don’t argue-you should drive in first or second gear only.
Me: ok sir. We can go?
Police: Give something.
We: what? Why?
Police: (hesitantly) registration
We: What registration? How much?
Police: Give something-say 50 Rs
At this point we went back to the car to tell others that this police officer is demanding Rs 50 bribe and were contemplating what next to do. By this time this officer got busy with other cars and lost interest in answering our questions (like what registration fee he is referring to). We got into the car and drove off.
We’d thought that was end of our trip, but we came across few more interesting places- Shooting madu-an open hill with a very nice view and green cover-where lots of movies were reportedly shot. Horse ride here costs Rs 100 for a quick ride till the peak and back. Jeeps are also available to take you for a round. I made an attempt to take photo of carrots stacked nicely for sale and the lady manning that stack of carrot literally attempted to snatch my camera- I didn’t understand what she said, but basically she was upset that I was taking photo of her carrots without paying her anything. I managed to walk away as she continued her dialogues-little did she know that I’ve enough zoom to capture her carrots from a distance. We stopped for few minutes at another view point and a reservoir. Pykara Boat house was also on the way, but it was exactly 6PM, closing time that is, when we spotted the signboard showing how to go to the boat house.
Road was good and by dinner time we’d reached Gundlupet. Hotels would have closed by the time we make it to Mysore, so we went to an Udupi hotel for dinner. Reached Mysore few hours later and spent 20 minutes circling the outer ring road, struggling to find an exit to Bangalore. If we’d entered the city we could have made it faster (we could have even seen Mysore palace illuminated).
Reached Bangalore few hours past midnight, ending a memorable trip. Fiesta didn't give any trouble during the trip and gave an economy of about 16+ kmpl (diesel)
Places missed/Could have been covered: Droog Fort, Pykara Boat House, Visit to tea factory, Pasteur Institute.