Monday, 9 July 2012

A trip to Bangalore, Mysore, Coorg and Ooty.

This is about a trip that we planned just on the go. It was June…. time for monsoons in the coastal regions of India and heat in the plains. I had 2 weeks’ vacation, Hubby was returning home after his sailing and kids were just going back to school. Anyway thought if they don’t attend school in the initial week but travel to some great locations even that too is learning.. is what I kept telling myself (may be my guilty conscious speaking). Was wondering where to go?  Thought of Bangalore in Southern India, we had good 15 days at hand so also included Mysore, Coorg and Ooty. Booked hotels, arranged for a car for use while we were there and told the kids and hubby about my plans. Kids were thrilled and so was hubby dearest. He had something good to look forward to apart from seeing his family after a good four months! We were on a holiday from the 20th  to the 30th of June 2012.

We left for Bangalore from Mumbai on the 20th of June 2012. Checked in at The Park, Bangalore. First on the list was Bannerghatta National park situated 22 km south of Bangalore.  This hilly place is the home for one of the richest natural, zoological reserves. It is spread over  25,000 acres making it a major tourist attraction.
At the Park Bangalore

Bannerghetta National park

 We started at 1.30 pm from our hotel at MG Road and it took us a little over an hour to reach. We got ourselves the tickets and waited to go on a safari through the national park in a mini (safari) bus. It was for about two and a half hours. There are different zones inside the park. One for Elephants, then the lion, the tiger, bear and other animals. Since it was afternoon we found the animals resting. The kids were delighted sighting the animals. We all took pictures as we passed by or stopped when animals were right in front of our vehicle. We enjoyed the safari.
RVM Shiva Mandir

In the next section of the national park was the Butterfly Park and the zoo, it is the country's first Butterfly Park established in 2006. Both the places were amazing… saw many animals and birds as well as colourful butterflies. We got back to the hotel in the evening and relaxed there. The next day we planned to visit the RVM Shiva temple. The beauty of this temple is the large statues of Lord Ganesha and Lord Shiva. It also has the replicas of the 12 Jyotirlingas. For me this experience was certainly very fulfilling as it’s my desire to visit all the Jyotirlingas across India. We headed for the Lalbaug the botanical garden after the temple visit. It is spead over a large area and has some of the best flora and fauna. The trees are spectacular. One could easily spend an entire day here. There was the mango festival being organized at the time of our visit, we saw a good variety of mangoes and also had some fresh fruit juices. We loved walking through the serenity of the garden. Headed back to the hotel and had a amazing dinner at the Italian restaurant.

On the third day we wanted to visit the ISKON temple in Bangalore. Inaugurated in 1997 it’s one of the best I have visited so far. Loved the architecture of the temple. The experience was wow! We got back to the hotel, went for a swim with the kids. Had some fabulous snacks and mocktails while we relaxed in the colourful gazebos by the poolside.
Mysore Palace

Science Museum
Day four, we were leaving for Coorg via Mysore. The idea was to start very early reach Mysore which is about 3 hours drive from Bangalore by 11 am. We saw the Mysore palace. It is truly magnificent. We were taken away by its grandeur. While in Mysore the palace is a must see.

 We skipped the Mysore zoo as time didn’t permit and we had anyway been on a safari at the Banneghatta. We did some shopping for silk sarees and the local specialties at Mysore, Had the South Indian thali for lunch and headed for Coorg.

The drive was very picturesque. Coorg or Kodagu as it is known now, is an astonishing land in the heart of the southern Indian peninsula. This unspoilt “country of million hills”, situated on the slopes of the Western Ghats, is India' s coffee bowl. The tiny district in the state of Karnataka is the biggest producer of coffee. Madikeri or Mercara as it was known when it was once ruled by the British, is the district headquarters and situated at an elevation of 1,140m. Dotted with red-tiled bungalows, the town has an old world charm about it. The British who colonized Coorg and set up coffee plantations prior to Independence, compared Coorg to Scotland as both the places had grand and regal highlands with a sturdy mountain-dwelling race. We reached our hotel in the evening, Found the clum Mahindra Kodagu Valley resort extremely beautiful, it is amidst greenery and beautiful gardens. Loved our spacious apartment. The view from our room was was breathtaking.
The first morning we explored the hilly town of Medikeri and went to the ancient Omkareshwar shiva temple and then see the Raj Seat Raja' s Seat, which commands a view of beautiful green hills and valleys, and the Abbey falls and Talcauvery, 44 km from Madikeri, a pilgrimage center where the mighty Cauvery river takes its birth. We were back to the hotel by evening. The following day we wanted to visit the surrounding tourist attractions.

Golden Temple

 Bylekuppe near Kushalanagar is one of the largest Tibetan settlements in south India. The settlement, set up in 1960, is dotted with several monasteries and the prominent among these are the Great Gompa of Sera Je and Sera Mey and the Namdroling monastery. The Golden temple monastery  has the gold-coated Buddhist statues, they are imposing and unique, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the Tibetans. The statues are of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddha Shakyamuni and Amitayus. There are nearly 7,000 monks and nuns. Agriculture is the main occupation. Besides, they make handicrafts, carpets and incense. We shopped for the local specialities here and got mementoes back home. Then we went to the Dubare Forest  famous for its elephant training camp. It is also an ideal place for angling in the swirling waters of the Cauvery. From there we went to the Cauvery Nisargadhama.
Cauvery Nisargdhama
It is a beautiful 64-acre island formed by the river Cauvery. It can be accessed by walking across a hanging bridge. Established in 1989, the picturesque picnic spot with lush foliage of thick bamboo groves, sandalwood and teak trees has lovely river-side cottages. Elephant rides and boating are some of the other attractions. There is a deer park, children's park and orchidarium in the island. Medicinal plants are also grown. Tourists are allowed to get into water at a few shallow and safe points along the river. We all got into the water, there are also a lot of fishes in the river and kids loved feeding the rabbits. Didn’t realize that we had already spend 3 days at Coorg and it was time for us to leave for Ooty on the 27th of July. We left early morning as it was a good 8 hours drive to Ooty. We had to again go through Mysore.

The drive was beautiful we crossed through the western Ghat mountains. Two national parks the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka and the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. Then started the climb for Ooty. The roads were really winding with 36 hairpin bends. The weather was just amazing, a bit cloudy and a little drizzle here and there. We were at our hotel Club Mahindra Derby Green Resort by 3 pm. It’s a fine resort overlooking the racecourse. We checked in and left immediately for the Botanical garden.
Botanical garden. Ooty
This garden was laid out in 1847 by the Marquis of Tweedale and is spread over 22 hectares ascending the slopes on the hill at an elevation of 2,400 meters above Main Sea Level. An explicit collection of flowering tress, beautiful shrubs, and rare colored lilies are seen.  Flourishing green well maintained lawns, rare trees species a 20 million year old fossil tree, a monkey’s puzzle tree – monkeys can’t climb this tree though,  theres the Italian - style garden bordering an immense variety of flowering bushes, flowers, and plants , fern house with a vast range of ferns and orchids, a clear pool are some of the highlights of this garden.  It was a perfect evening walking through the garden and children enjoying the roll on the green carpet.
 From there we headed to the boating club where all kinds of boats were available for hire. Surrounded by lofty eucalyptus trees and shrubs the lake was a scenic delight. The lake and the boat house are a hub of entertainment for the visitors. At the boat house end, there is children's park with a toy train. Just outside the Boat house local ponies are available for jolly rides at a charge. 

We took a 4 seater paddle boat for us. We enjoyed the experience; kids were thrilled to see some ducks in the lake.  Kids also did horse riding here. Didn’t have enough time for the amusement Park so skipped it and headed for our hotel. It had started getting quite chilly outside, we put the heater on in our room and watched a movie with kids. Ordered room service and retired for the night.

Next morning, we had south Indian breakfast at a restaurant at the city centre and then visited the Rose garden and the Tea factory.  The rose garden is laid on 10 acres of land. This garden has been beautifully laid out in terraces with rose tunnels, pergolas and bowers with rose creepers. It is said to have the largest collections of roses in the country, around 3600 varieties of roses like Hybrid Tea Roses, miniature rose, Floribunda, Ramblers, roses of unusual colors like black, green to name a few  were assembled from different sources. The ‘Nila Maadam’ is located in a spot from where viewers can see the entire rose garden.  This garden is maintained by Tamil Nadu Horticulture Department. It has also received the as "Garden of Excellence" by the World Federation of Rose Societies (WFRS) in 2006.

Then we headed to the Doddabetta Peak which stands at an altitude of 2,623 meters. It is the highest point in in Ooty as well as the  best vantage point. It is 10kms from Ooty and is said to be one of the highest peak in south India.  There is a Telescope house that is run by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation to enable the tourist to get a better view of the city.

 Next on the agenda was a ride in the historic toy train for which we had reserved our seats. We were at the Ooty station well on time to take the 2 pm train. Out ticket was from Ooty to Mettupalayam, the last station but we decided to board the train at Ooty and travel till Conoor which is the 5th station from Ooty and takes a little over an hour.

Established in the early 19th century by the British as the summer headquarters of the Chennai government. The historic railway line was completed in 1899, 45 years after the first plans were drawn up. It runs from Metupalayam to Udagamandalam (Ooty), via Coonoor, in the Nilgiri Hills. The track is 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) long, and passes over 26 viaducts, and through 16 tunnels and tall girder bridges. This railway is particularly picturesque because of the surrounding rocky terrain, tea plantations, and forested hills. We had a fabulous journey till Conoor. The train stops at Connor for about 20 minutes, then the engine is changed to the steam engine. We had our car waiting for us there. After seeing the steam engine being attached to the bogies of the train we had coffee there and left to see the SIMS garden. The drive back to the hotel in Ooty was equally pleasant. We shopped for some homemade chocolates, tea, Eucalyptus oil, honey etc and had dinner at a local restaurant.  The next morning, we left for Bangalore early It was about 8 hours journey. We had our train back to Mumbai the next day. Overall a fabulous trip we loved every moment. Yes we were lucky not to get the rains at any point during our travel. Reached Mumbai on the 30th refreshed after a great holiday. 
Omkareshwar temple, Coorg

Abbey falls
White tiger at Bannerghetta National Park, Bangalore
Raja Seat, Coorg

Golden Temple, Coorg

Golden temple, Coorg

Cauvery Nisargdhama


Doddabetta peak, Ooty

Toy Train, Ooty