Ooty was my destination upon leaving the leafy paradise of Wayanad.
My “no frills” bus journey deposited me in the centre of a bustling hill station with brightly coloured buildings. Higher still than Wayanad, the air away from direct sunlight had a strong goose-pimpling effect which presaged nights on the cold side of chilly.
Rant warning: I had booked the Country Tavern, a period property boasting outdoor bonfires and an on-site restaurant. On arrival, I was greeted by a very young man who turned out to be the property manager. Saying he spoke basic English is to err on the side of generosity. He asked me if I had a reservation. I had booked through Airbnb and had received confirmation emails so he should have known I’d booked. What followed was from the genre horror-comedy:
He ran around making a room ready and gave me the keys. It was lovely, except for:
- Cobwebs and dust everywhere
- Stains on pillowcase and duvet
- Bloodstain on duvet
- Scrumpled-up newspaper in the bathroom
- No heating
- Wi-Fi didn’t work in the room
- No towel or toiletries provided
I raised the issue of a lacking towel and this was brought along with some soap. His ability to communicate was so limited I realised a complaint would be futile. I really wish I weren’t so British and had kicked up a huge fuss.
He then said I needed to pay 13400INRfor the room. This was considerably more than the amount of 10500INR which Airbnb had quoted me so I refused to pay a penny more. I also thought I’dvpaid online but was too tired to question it. They had no card machine so I went to an ATM, returned and paid with cash.
I shall cut a long story short: I was double-charged and had to spend time recouping losses that wouldn’t have been called to my attention had I not checked my credit card statement carefully. Almost everything about the place was a disgrace and I encourage you to avoid it like the plague should you ever find yourself in Ooty.
Rant over. Despite my accommodation-incited rage, my experience in Ooty was not all bad. I met some lovely Karnatakans from Bangalore who had booked into Fawlty Tavern too. To my surprise, they seemed neutral-to-positive about the place so I can only assume not all the rooms were as unhygienic as mine.
They had arranged for a bonfire and outdoor meal on the premises and we dined well as conversation flowed (along with a little beer) around the flame-bellied fire-pit.
TripAdvisor told me that Ooty lake and the botanical gardens were worth exploring so, having rented a 125cc motorbike, I sped (fairly slowly) off to the lake. Whilst the sun was out and a morning row on the lake looked appealing, I was told I was not allowed to row the rental boats myself but, instead, had to pay someone to row for me. The idea, as a former university rower, of sitting still and being rowed slowly around the lake at an inflated price was not overly attractive. So I left again.
I hoped for better luck at the Botanical Gardens. A large garden built into the hillside on various terraces made for a wonderful setting and, from a distance, the gardens were pleasing to the eye. Sadly, the whingeing is going to continue, however, for, as I started strolling among the flower beds I noticed rotting blooms, rusty barbed wire, grafittied gazebos. It was devastating to see such evident erstwhile beauty going to seed (quite literally).
Increasingly exasperated by my Ootyly uninspiring activities thus far, I decided to get Ooty of there. Coonoor, a neighbouring hill station, had a nice little golf course, if Google was to be believed. I donned my “Club de Golf de Uruguay” shirt (the only acceptable golfing attire in my bag) and fired up the motorbike.
27 minutes later I was standing in an Indian army base. I had failed to notice, during my research, that the golf club was on the land of the Wellington barracks!
Despite being a members-only club, a polite smile and promise not to hack up chunks of their course was sufficient to make a policy exception (after all, it’s not everyday you get a Uruguayan golfer showing up!)
Most memorable from the round will forever be walking right through the centre of the barracks at the turn (after 9 holes), me in my blue shirt and pink shorts with a caddy in tow and everybody else wearing smart, green army uniforms. So as not to appear rude, I said a cheerful “Good afternoon, sir!” to all that I passed, which did nothing to dispel the looks of surprise that my presence seemed to be causing.
The other amusing memory will be this sign on the fourth tee:
After a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, the previous disappointments of Ooty but a distant memory, I returned to my house of horrors passing, en route, a gentleman who needed a few lessons in proverbs…
On my last day in Ooty, in a sunnier mood than I had been in my first day, I paid 15INR (25 cents) for the 4-hour train ride to Coimbatore on the famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Whilst wonderfully nostalgic, the carriages of the steam train had clearly been designed to carry Frodo and Sam to Mordor so sitting was a near impossibility.
Nevertheless, looking out of the window was temporary anaesthetic for the pain of crushed knees. (I ceded my seat 90mins into the journey to an old lady who got aboard, so my knees got a reprieve.)
As we descended into the valley below, where Coimbatore lay, glinting in the sunlight, like some half-buried precious stone, the heat rose up to meet us, wrapping us in an unwanted, overfamiliar, sweaty embrace.
We made one stop other than to collect passengers; this to refill with water. As the engine sat drinking deeply and belching clouds of appreciative stream into the cloudless sky, the passengers disembarked to stretch legs and buy snacks. And, in the words of Descartes: “Snacks can be shared, therefore monkeys exist.” (I’m not sure that was verbatim, so don’t quote me on it….)
I took a great video out of the window but, on watching the playback, I realised that I changed the orientation of my phone about 10 times. The end result is disorientating in the extreme so I will spare you the headspin.
I arrived in Coimbatore, strolled past a herd of goats queuing for a rail ticket, and headed to my hotel. To await the next instalment of my blog.