It is a wonder walk. A Walk to die for.
Well not exactly from Ooty but from Thalaikundah (on the top) to the bottom of Niligiris on the road to Masinagudi. But first I must write about Masinagudi. When take the road to Ooty from Mysore of Bangalore, first we enter in the jungle. First in Karnataka that jungle area is Bandipur Wildlife century and then we enter in Tamilnadu it is Madumalai Wildlife century. There is a bus stop in Tamilnadu to visit Madumalai wildlife century. The same highway goes to Ooty but there is another scenic shortcut. From Madumalai a road crosses the Moyar river and goes through the jungle for 6 kilometers and here comes Masinagudi village, road splits here in three branches in Masinagudi. One branch (left) goes towards Moyar village and other branch (right) goes towards Singara village and middle branch goes towards Ooty. All the branches are equally scenic and Tamilnadu bus system is excellent and you can fetch buses to either branch. In my other post I may describe more about this area.
Masinagudi is a jungle town; situated deep in the Madumalai Wildlife reserve. A very scenic town where one can look at the Blue Mountains towering as a large copje situated in the miles long swath of blue/green bush. This shortcut is extremely steep (one of the steepest in the world) and only small vehicles and mini buses can travel through it. There are about 36 hairpin bends on the road. In just 10 kilometers road climb 4000 feet and climate changes dramatically. I am describing this 10 kilometer walk but coming down from Ooty side. I have done this several time at each way. Actually I like climbing than descending because climbing is less demanding on the body in the long term.
I was writing about Masinagudi but then got strayed. So Masinagudi is a very scenic small place situated on the slopes of Niligiris. It is surrounded by miles of lush green bush. It is gaining popularity and several resorts are building here. Climate of this area is very nice. Days get a bit warmer with crisp sunshine and nights are cool. Blue Mountains are clearly visible and pollution is least. Many restaurants are on the main road and food is excellent. Resorts are pricey but still they offer best value for the money. There are many other budget hotels and bargaining for room is a way of life. Masinagudi is a happy happy place to spend some days. Jungle safaris can be arranged here with the least or no interference from Govt. officials. Maravakandi River flows in the south and west of this town. While going towards Singara this river offers very scenic picnic areas. I spend hours around the River whenever I am here.
Whenever I am staying in Masinagudy; I take this walk from the top of Niligiris mountains to the bottom. I take 10AM bus to the Ooty (but get down at Thalaikundah, that is 10 kilometers before Ooty bus stop). Thalaikundah is on the Niligiris; on the same level of Ooty. Road from here to Ooty is level and after here, road merges with main road from Mysore hence the increase of traffic; so it makes walking tasteless. But anyway walking from Thalaikundah to the bottom of Niligiris is enough for a day and still there is plenty of room to enjoy the evening in Masinagudi. In Masinagudi I love to take my evening bath in the river at the place where tunnel brings water from underground power plant.
So let’s have a hearty breakfast at one of the restaurants in Masinagudi and wait for 10AM bus. Obtaining seat is no big deal, bus gets filled up after Masinagudi. Sometimes it is transparent roof bus so one can see the views through the roof of the bus. This 10AM bus comes from Ooty at 9AM and then it goes to Singara that is 6km in the West and then returns to Masinagudi. Going to Singara and returning on the same bus is also a very scenic and pleasant journey. Bus is near empty because most passengers get down at Masinagudi. Bus enters in the bush and then some zigzag road and crosses the scenic river (same river that touches Masinagudi). After some more turns it comes very close to the Niligiri base and begins abandoned Coffee and Black pepper plantains. Abandoned — because of some serious damage by wild elephants and bison pestilence; but anyway it is their territory and they are free to roam around. Here one anticipate why these mountains are called blue mountains or Niligiri. Bluish Green color feels like flying in the air. Then bus enters in the gated area of Singara; it is a power plant establishment here. From here a walking trail leads to Sterling that lies on the main road from Mysore to Ooty via Gundlupet. Gundlupet is a very scenic place and requires a couple of posts to describe it.
So we take this bus to Singara to insure our favorite front-most right-side seat. All scenes are at the right because valley is at your right side. This way to Ooty is so scenic and no words are enough to describe it but let’s try.
So we are at this bus and it departs at 10AM, it is a punctual bus but as day passes bus times becomes erratic. Bus enters in the jungle and then it makes stop in 2 jungle villages and then crosses a river at the bottom of Niligiris and begins its brutal climb. As hairpin bends go by, air gets cooler and heavy. Terrine gets greener and greener. At about halfway there is a check post and a small village, from here tea gardens begin.
Road gains altitude very fast and wildflowers are all around. There comes just one village Kalhatti but bus makes occasional stops after check post because it is all cultivated mountains. Either tea or vegetables are growing everywhere. On each stop driver is in some serious struggle because of the steep incline of the road. Sometimes we feel bus slipping down while stopped. Finally the highest point of the road comes and then there is a 1km decline till Thalaikundah or you can get down at the highest point. I always get down at Thalaikundah because there are some restaurants serving tea and pakodas etc. Also at that stop you can have a taste and touch of Ooty like terrain.
So let’s get down at Thalaikundah. Our heads are spinning due to this brutal mountain road journey. It takes a while to gain orientation. Cool, crisp and fresh air of mountains does its magic on all our senses. In Thalaikundah, the famous lake of Ooty begins, that you can see the shallow mud filled but very green valley.
So we have a small walk and stretch ourselves and then aroma of tea wakes up the craving for tea. Aroma of tea is everywhere in Niligiri mountains and it indeed wakes up the craving for the tea. When tea is roasted in tea factories; that steam carries the transference of tea and fills all the valleys on Niligiri’s.
So we have tea and famous Tamilnadu pakodas at a small restaurant. No need to be greedy because tea and pakodas will be available at a couple of more places on the way.
So we begin our walk and let’s take the road that is climbing to the ridge. At the ridge the scenes are superb and you can see first half of the way that we are going to walk. Other half is hidden in the ravine. But views of Tamilnadu and Karnataka are great. Enjoy the scenes till your heart is full otherwise you may regret for not staying here for enough. Below you are tea and vegetable gardens and you can watch several hair pin bends on the road under you. You are a sort of standing on the ledge of a wall and looking below you.
Now we begin our walk and indeed it is not for everyone. Downhill walk is much demanding on the feet and legs because different muscles are involved when we walk down hill rather when we walk straight or uphill. Effects can be worse when you wake up next day and it may take several days to recover. I caution you if you feel any strain on your feet then rest or just fetch any bus or jeep going down hill. Take this walk slowly with plenty of stopping on the way. Do it only if you have some experience in mountain walking. Well anyway almost everyone can do this walk till halfway to the check post. And till check post this walk is most scenic.
To be continued in the next post.