This week, The Musafir Stories speaks to Ayush Kumar, solo traveller and photographer as he takes us to the hill town of Coonoor in Tamil Nadu!
Today's destination: Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
Nearest Airport: Coimbatore International Airport - CJB
Nearest Railway Station: Coonoor Railway Station (ONR)
Prerequisites - N/A
Packing - Pack warm clothes, depending on the time of the year
Time of the year - Summers (March to May) and winters (October to February) are ideal time to visit
Length of the itinerary: 3-5 days
Ayush takes us to the quaint little hill town of Coonoor on the podcast today - we begin the journey on the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nilgiri Mountain Railway or popularly known as the toy train.
The train runs from Mettupalayam to Udhagamandalam or Ooty, making stops at several beautiful stations, including Coonoor. Make sure to book the tickets well in advance as the demand is very high during the tourist season! The toy train runs 3 times a day between Ooty and Mettupalayam, and is one of the steepest lines that is run on a narrow gauge rail line supported on a rack and pinion mechanism.
The journey takes about 5 hours, and is one of the few lines that still runs on a steam engine (for a part of the journey). Other stations in the journey include Runnymede, Ketti, Hillgrove, Lovedale and Wellington. The railway line has also been featured in a number of popular movies including the SRK/Mailaika song “Chaiyya Chaiyya” and Kamal Hasan/Sridevi starrer Sadma.
The Nilgiri biosphere is also an ecological hotspot that is teeming with wildlife and hundreds of species of flora and fauna. The western ghat formation is believed to be at least 150million years old, making this a significant part of the Indian subcontinent.
After enjoying the train ride, Ayush covers off the touristy places in Coonoor including Sim’s Park, Lamb’s Rock and Dolphin’s nose to get a view of the beautiful Catherine Waterfalls.
As you are visiting these spots, make sure to visit tea estates in the vicinity like Glen Morgan, Homedale, Glen Mark, Highfield tea estate, Guernsey Tea factory etc
Other places Ayush explores include Tiger Hills and the cemetery, Wellington, Kotagiri among some of the other places.
From a local cuisine perspective, make sure to check out Ramachandra restaurant (hotel) for some mouthwatering local dishes. Cafes include Cafe Diem, La Belle Vie, Bird house cafe, Crown bakery, Indian Bakery, Ayush shares his experience being stung by a honey bee as well as the trip to the nearby town of Wellington!
Wellington is popular as the HQ of the Madras Regiment and its famous alumni include Field Marshall KM Cariappa. The trip also includes a visit to the Defence college, Wellington Lake and the Wellington Station. Other points of interest in the vicinity include Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Bandipur Tiger reserve and Kotagiri.
Ayush’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/soul.traveller.kumar/
Ayush’s previous episodes:
Bhubaneshwar - https://open.spotify.com/episode/3j9rNyQ9FUVrJJoSD4tcDP?si=6528696138dc4a01
Puri - https://open.spotify.com/episode/2qlot1VdxOHoUsQhxGYPTc?si=50710e9bb1c44d43
BBC Documentary on Indian Railways: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoQO9ggzC4&list=PLwOyHkOUH9wKRF46cU7Pzxc4U1eE0RPst
The Musafir Stories on Audible:
Ooty - The Queen of Hills!
Image Credit - Ayush Kumar
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