Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trip to Coonor

This is a story I heard when I was young. There was this man his son and a donkey who were wanting go on a trip to the neighboring town. After much planning they all set out one behind the other. On the way they met a mendicant who stopped them and told the father “It’s very unfair on your part to make the young boy walk all the way – instead you should make him ride the donkey”. The old man thought for a while and let the boy ride. As they reached the next village a crowd gathered and the head man said “young man how can you ride the donkey when your father struggles to walk”. Hearing this advice, the boy quickly got down and let his father ride the donkey. Little further they stopped at a village shindig and were met by a soothsayer who had a totally different take on the method of transportation and said, "all of you must be barmy to have a donkey and not make use of it". So both the father and son rode the donkey for a while to be met by a stranger to be told that they were very cruel and had no consideration for the poor animal. So the last leg of their journey was made carrying the donkey.

When we decided to visit Shankar and Girija at Coonor it was only two of us and I thought going by a Volvo bus would be the best. It departs at 10 PM and reaches by 6 AM –it’s very comfortable, cheap and above all the journey is at night and one doesn’t lose a day travelling. When I was firming up the mode of transport Sunder called up to say that he and Saroja would also be interested in joining. I went back to the drawing board and offered many options to Sunder and in the final analysis we found that Volvo was the best option. I went to a nearby KSRTC franchise and booked four tickets to Coonor and back. Courtesy demanded I inform the Shankars’ about our plan and I rang up. They literally flew of the handle and said Volvo will not do as there are no taxis in Coonor and it would become very difficult for six of us to travel in their Honda City. After a few calls up and down, I went back to KSRTC and cancelled the ticket which I had booked only 15 minutes back. The girl at the counter thought I was completely batty. Some more deliberations and we decide to go by a taxi. I called up Mr. Satya who promised to send a new Travera. In the ensuing period we were visited by Shyam, Nair and Freddie on different days and advised to travel by own car.

Finally we left Bangalore at 0445 hours on 20 Aug 2010 from Jalvayu Towers in my Linea Emotion. There are a number of advantages in leaving town early. Roads devoid of traffic, no pollution and the freshness of early morning. We reached Kamath restaurant which is located on the left side at 0545 hours. We were the first customers and the staff bestowed upon us total attention. We were treated to steaming hot mude idli a specialty of Tulunadu.

Cooked in banana leaf

A treat

The leaves of ‘Mundevu Kedige’ is woven together and made into containers and idli batter is poured into it to prepare Mude-a menu in the Tulunadu plate. We also had excellent Ragi Dosa and proceeded on our next leg.

The drive through Bandipur and Madumalai forest is always full of anticipation and the eerie silence adds to the overall mystery. Ladies at the back insisted that we drive very slow and catch glimpses of any wildlife that may cross our path. Driving slow was in total contradiction to the overall strategic directive which had been jointly issued by Sunder and Shankar – “Make it to Coonor not later than 1200 hours” cannot keep the beer waiting. Under these conflicting requirements I had to choose a speed which met both the objectives. We were lucky to sight - bison, boar, elephant, deer and peacock.

Regular Sight

Many on the way

National Bird

The elephant is on the top - with Sunder and Saroja

The entire journey is so full of greenery, never ending range of hills and winding roads, it makes the task of driving so much more interesting and relaxing. Having lived in cities all our life, we have totally lost touch with nature and its immense beauty. In addition to nature’s bounty, Saroja kept us engrossed throughout with her anecdotes, Jokes and songs which made the journey look even shorter.

Without any further delay we reached the newly built bungalow of Shankar and Girija. They have built a picture perfect house in a record time of 8 months and moved into the house in February 2010. The gated colony is located on Coonor – Kothagiri Road. The colony is laid out within a tea plantation and overlooks a beautiful valley and a range of hills at a distance.

Admiral's Abode

Front View

Distant View

The village below

They have two lovely Dalmatians, mother Lara and daughter Polki. The dogs were used to living in huge bungalows in Lutyens' Delhi and the expanse of Command House in Port Blair. When Shankars retired from the navy they decided to shift to Coonor and build a house with lot of open space for the dogs to run around. They have done an excellent job. The dogs love the surroundings and often take off into the estate to chase wild boars, barking deer and rabbits.

The Shankars decided the design and interiors. They have created a house which is warm and cozy and one gets a feeling of quiet and calm. An excellent place to relax and reflect on life, read books, write, listen to jazz which streams endlessly from their study, indulge in barbeque at night and finally settle down to enjoy the aroma and taste of single malt. Bravo Zulu to Shankar and Girija.

Snitch in his den

With Lara and Polki

The dinning area

Gir preparing lunch

Lovely drawing room

Hills with their ample supply of fresh air and soothing surroundings helps to get back on your feet in no time. You feel energetic and full of life – long walks and treks are a way of life in the hills. An excellent lunch, siesta and thereafter a dinner at the Wellington Gymkhana Club ended our day. We sat outside absorbing the night view. The cloud cover would clear all of a sudden and the villages in the valley would come alive with their shining light. For a city dweller it’s a fascinating experience. Being one with nature for a long time, I suspect that people in the hills are different from us – healthier, calm and composed, all their actions are slow and steady, and they have more time, trusting and level-headed.
Next day was spent in visiting Ooty.

Ready to hit the town

Last day of our stay

Shankars took us to two excellent shoe shop ‘Splendid Leather’ and ‘Skins’. I ended up buying two pairs of shoes and wifey dear a leather bag at very reasonable price. I recommend anybody going to Ooty to visit these shops and buy a piece of leather. Incidentally all the shops in ooty display ‘Home Made Chocolates’ sign board – I have a strange feeling that there is a factory quietly making chocolates in bulk and selling it under the name of HMC. If you know where to buy, it’s worth every rupee. Of course you have to buy tea and oils such as Eucalyptus, Lemon grass for fragrance and Gaultheria for body pains and aches. We spent a quiet evening at home absorbing some more of Coonor.

Next morning after a heavy breakfast we thanked the Shankars for a lovely stay and bid goodbye, promising to come back soon and for a longer duration.


  1. Really great pics and I love the description of your drive down. I can't believe that you saw bisons, boars, elephants, deer, peacocks in addition to the two wild dogs (L+P)!
    The house looks lovely!

  2. Thanks.Tell Kari also to read.We had a great time.Sold on the house.

  3. london singh! excellent blog post. i like how you begin with a little fable :) fantastic pictures. london singh, tussi national geographic photographer ho? and thanks for the caution about the elephant on left. phew! nearly missed that one :D. house looks beautiful and you all look dapper! :)
    miss you all!!

  4. Dear Ks, Unfortunately this house has no panty hose LOL. - LS

  5. Ooty home made chocolates were first made by King Star bakery. They were expert chololatiers and had a loyal following. You will find the shop next to Dominoes pizza. It is a nondescript shop, they haven't changed anything since the early 1900's. This is the original Ooty Chocolate. rest of the gang are just opportunists trying to cash in King Star's fame.