A trip down the blue hills... Part One

Ideally a travelogue should be written immediately after a journey, when the impressions are fresh and memories are still crystal clear. So why am I writing about a journey we undertook in the month of May? A bit of perversity on my part, that's all. When the weather is hot, I like remembering green, green fields. So now when Thiruvananthapuram has finally decided that it should get its fair share of this year's monsoon, I am thinking of cloudless skies and a cool and dry clime! :)

You've all probably heard of the Nilgiri "Toy" train that runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty. DH set his sights on riding this train very early this year. And the foresight proved extremely essential because it is a very coveted ticket and we couldn't grab first class tickets (waitlisted) and barely got the second class ones. There are only 3 reserved compartments and a single unreserved one, so you can guess the competition! We opted to hire a car to go up as the up-train takes more than 5 hours to reach Ooty while the down-train takes 3.5 hours.

 So there we were, tired after the long walks in the Botanical Garden, waiting in the picturesquely old-fashioned train station for the train to start at 2 pm...

...when the train pulled in. The journey from Ooty to Coonoor is accomplished by a prosaic diesel engine...

Here you can see for yourself why we were fortunate to have reservations, look at the jam in front of the last (unreserved) compartment!

We soon forgot the general squalor that Ooty town has become and set off along one side of the artificial lake and had wonderful views to look at...

The slow chugging was ideal to take pics of the train as it took the curves...

Believe me, that is just one of the scores of turning pics that DH took from his side of the train and each time the train took a left curve, he made ME take a pic from the other side! 

At first the kids were jumping from one side to the other to see everything. Then they settled down to enjoy things in a relaxed manner.

Yeah, nothing like a lolly to calm people down! :)

We passed four or five stations, including Lovedale and Wellington before reaching Coonoor, where the real star of the show arrived, here she is....!



...thar' she blows!!!!

Really, what's it with men and vehicles? I thought that Ani would be the one excited about steam engines because he is a huge Thomas the Engine fan and draws them all the time. Nope, turns out his brother and father were equally excited and jumped out to watch the engine being attached to the train while I sat stolidly in my seat, blowing on my hot tea and musing about mere men. :) This next picture is for all mechanically minded people among my readers!

Yes, for some reason best known to experts, the front end of the engine was connected to the train, which means the engine went down the incline backwards. From Coonoor the train gained a new gait. The rack and pinion system made itself evident in the jerking motion the train acquired thence. So we waved bye-bye to the clock-tower in Coonoor and went on our merry, jerking way.

From Coonoor, the landscape too changed. Till then it had been mostly tea estates, buildings and orderly eucalyptus plantations. But now the carefully manicured plantations appeared more infrequently, the vegetation ran wild...

I really enjoyed this part of the journey because wild flowers were rampant at the sides of the track and I wish we could have stopped to take pictures - most of what I have are only blurs...

I got the picture above because I belatedly got the idea of trying to take pics of the flowers turning backwards in my seat! If only...(sigh)!

And quite inexplicably, some time later, the lights in the compartment were turned on!

Oh oh, this I didn't foresee!

What, I didn't foresee tunnels in a hill track? No, I simply did not foresee that a lot of shrieking and howling wild animals would erupt in the train once it reached the tunnel! 

It looked like the above in the train while the most horrendous high-pitched screaming and shouting was going on. I had to close my ears and try (ineffectively) to shush two of our own family members who seemed to have morphed into wolves all of a sudden!

I think I'll leave you all to enjoy my discomfiture (through all 16 tunnels) today. The second leg of the journey needs another post altogether!


  1. Good one. Expecting the second part...

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