● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


26th to 28th April

Leg 20 – Mysore to Ooty
Distance – 140kms
Time – 4 hours
Average Speed – 35km/h
Road – Two lane highway into national park. Minor road with great surface through the centre of the park, across the state boundary. More national park road then 36 hairpin bends over 10kms, climbing 2200 metres up to Ooty.

With only 140 kilometres to cover, it sounds like a short and easy leg, but th
e last part is probably the toughest test for the bike so far. We left Mysore on the highway south, which looking at the map, should be a good road all the way. As ever, a surprise lay ahead. The nice road surface turned right at 90 degrees, and the signs to Ooty pointed straight ahead (actually there were no signs – the tuk tuk drivers are our signposts!) down an older looking road. After a couple of kilometres, the surface got even worse and we were reduced to 30km/h as we zigzagged along avoiding potholes and rocks. It continued like this for over an hour, and then to our surprise, we entered the national park. We found ourselves driving through the Nagarahole national park, home to tigers and elephants, feeling a little exposed to say the least! The scenery was amazing – no tigers, but we did see some deer. One national park made way for another, and then a signpost which shaved 20kms off our expected distance for the day. The ‘back road’ to Ooty is shorter but steeper. The final 10kms is the main climb, over around 2000m we estimated. It was a great ride, the scenery was stunning and the bike coped well considering it’s load. It was only over the last couple of kms where we had to pause for a few minutes for it to cool (with the help of some water from a stream!) We needn’t have bothered stopping as within 5 minutes the heavens opened and we got our second drenching of the trip. Sheltering in a petrol station for 30 minutes was a waste of time, the rain showed no sign of stopping. We ploughed on and found a hotel just around the corner – we’d have taken anything to get out of the rain, but this place looked nice enough and was within our budget too.

Udhagmandalam (or Ooty!) is South Indias most famous hill station, established by the British in the early 19th century as the summer headquarters of the then Madras government and memorably nicknamed ‘Snooty Ooty’

The rain stopped just after we checked in. Too late though, despite covering our backpacks with every plastic bag we could find, everything was soaked through and we found ourselves
decorating our room with wet clothes, ala a Chinese laundry. Starving as usual, at least we were able to head out for lunch. Ooty has developed largely around tourism and as a result was home to some quite nice and fairly fancy restaurants. The place we found for Thali lunch offered seating outside on a terrace and even tables adorned with pretty red and white check tablecloths – more in keeping with your local Italian. It was packed with well heeled (and well fed) Indian families and seemed a good bet; as usual we managed just half a meal each before rolling out of the door.

Although primarily known for it’s tea plantations, Ooty is also famous for it’s homemade chocolates. Virtually every shop in the town centre was a gift shop offering a huge selection of sweet treats and needless to say we had to sample the local delicacy! What we tried was good, not quite Bolivian standards but nice enough for us to gorge our way through half a kilo or so…the thali lunch long since forgotten!

It turns out that our comfortable Ooty hotel was also very “Indian”. Again, we were rudely awaken at 7am by the Chai man. If you don’t personally answer the door, the man continues to bang the door down until you do so. To the seller and indeed every being in India, it is inconceivable that anyone could dislike a cup of freshly brewed chai. Half an hour later and typically just as we’d nodded off we re
ceived another knock on the door, this time about the hot water…like we had any intention of showering at such an ungodly hour. Precisely ten minutes later, a third very excitable man could be heard banging frantically on every door down the corridor…”Hot water coming, hot water coming!!!”. We were not amused and the poor man took the brunt of Ady’s wrath.

Like most other hill stations we’d visited, aside from tacky family-oriented attractions, there wasn’t a huge amount to see in Ooty itself. The town was home to a famous racecourse and it would have been great to see a meet as the season was underway. Alas, it wasn’t to be and we entertained ourselves by riding up to the Dodda Betta viewpoint at 2633 meters, the highest point in South India. It turned out to be more of a bad theme park, getting in the way of the magnificent views, but was still worth seeing. We also dropped by a tea plantation and a nearby chocolate factory.

A massive man-made lake was a centre point to the town and featured every conceivable type of pleasure boat – small motorboats giving guided tours, rowing boats and pedalos. Overcoming our fear of family attractions, we paid an entry fee to allow us onto the fringes of the lake, hoping to hire a rowing boat and at least spend the afternoon on the water. Oh no…as we approached the boat house we noticed a very large and extremely infuriating sign prohibiting “Self Rowing”. It seemed that each rowing boat included it’s own rower, and the tourist was expected to sit patiently and be guided around the lake!! Incredible! Point blank refusing to pay a man to have all the fun and row us around and then no doubt expect a huge tip from us, we stormed off. The icing on the cake came in the form of an extremely rude and ignorant man who shoved his camera phone in Sam’s face and took a photo. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time this had happened, but this guy picked the wrong candidate for his (not so) candid shot – we let rip and he didn’t know what had hit him!

The weather was starting to turn and the clouds were looking threatening. We stopped at the Rose Garden on the way home, a multi-terraced lawn of supposedly every species of rose. Not known for our appreciation of roses we were nonetheless disappointed to see rows upon rows of wilting, withering flowers. The other strollers didn’t seem to notice, perhaps it was too much to expect given the climate and altitude and I’m sure the gardener wasn’t a member of the RHS. We cheered ourselves up with more chocolates and returned to the hotel, to find no less than a note requesting us to move rooms!! Apparently there was something wrong with our bathroom. The slanging match that ensued downstairs after we refused to move made us believe that another large group had just arrived and we were in the way. Later that evening, a woman barged into our room and seemed quite taken aback to see us there, Sam in her undies practicing yoga! Thank **** we were leaving the next day!

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