Sunday, 6 April 2014

Ooty and the Nilgiri Hills

Ooty (Ootamacund) also known as Udagamandalam in the local language, Tamil. It is situated in the Nilgiri Hills  at over 7,000 feet in Southern India. It is a bustling small town of Indian scruffiness, temples and in its outskirts it has charming parks and gardens and large bungalows which were built in the time of the Raj, when it was established as the summer headquarters of the Madras Government (now Chennai). In the early 19 century. It is famous for its narrow gauge mountain railway which ascends from the coast. There have been changes since my last visit here more than 40 years ago. Then it consisted of just two carriages and a steam engine, this has now given away to 6 carriages and a Diesel engine. It is a hair raising ride. Embankments and bridges drop away from the edge of the rail without rails, or walls. 

I ascended the Nilgiris on a bus from the plains on its west. The bus driver gave a master class in driving skills up through the numerous hairpin bends. His deft handling and judgment was a a pleasure to observe as I sat behind him.

Ooty is also referred to as the "Queen of the Hill Stations", and also "Blue Heaven", owing to the blue haze, which rises from the blue gum trees (eucalyptus). There is the remains of a racecourse, there also used to be a pack of hounds used for hunting.

A Brit brought some tea seeds from China in the 1830's. This has resulted in the only significant local industry, tea growing, which is a major employer and export business for India. The tea is mainly green, which is crushed, torn and curled by machine and then chopped, to end up in tea bags. I managed to acquire some choice first flush, single estate, hand selected, white tea on a visit to an estate.

Probably as a reaction to supermarket packaged and plastic wrapped food in the UK that I love to wander around local markets, which also allow local enterprise. To choose ones own food, in the UK one is not allowed to touch, and inspect in spite of the "choice" mantra, there is not real choice.

Looking west after ascending the Nilgiri Hills

A car had just crashed on the corner in the foreground, brake failure. 

One of the massive tea processing machines

Yet another 70 pence vegetarian thali

One of my favourite trees, whose night time aroma I remember from living in Lusaka, 
The jacaranda which has a most attractive colour

View of a tea estate plantation

One of the old steam trains used on the Mountain Railway from the coast

A lovely, friendly fruit and vegetable retailer near to my hotel

Railway sign for Ooty

Ooty Market

This is the bus I left on with the door taped open. When I am reincarnated
I want to come back to India as a health and safety officer in order to make
A fortune taking bribes.

View from the train window of eucalyptus trees

Ooty perched on the side of a hill. Lovely painted houses

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