Sunday, 14 November 2010

The toy train From Ooty

Is this one of the great railway journeys of the world?

Yes, a thousand times yes. It is crammed with the romance I wanted from Ooty - the narrow gauge track, the little carriages, the population carrying ENORMOUS bags and parcels, the jingle of bracelets - it's all here.

Ooty station buffet smells delicious and I buy some snacks - I think they are masala vadai, but I'm not sure.

The journey down has some very precipitous drops on one side and the view of the hills and down the valleys is spectacular - villages, tea plantations, tall forest and waterfalls. We pass through little stations called Loveday and Ketti, over high viaducts, slowly and very noisily making our way down. At Wellington there is a brief stop and chai-wallahs rush forward calling "chai, chai, chai" followed by others selling snacks.

At Coonoor there is a longer stop while the diesel is taken off and the steam engine is coupled up.

And then we set off again, the steam puffing, the whistle that long forgotten sound, and the rack & pinion cranking away.

It's a magnificent journey, the hills begin to tower over us and at points waterfalls cascade over the tops and hurtle downward, rushing beneath us as we cross some extremely high viaducts.

The flowers and plants change as we move lower, the flowers higher up are brightly coloured and plentiful, purple gentian (I think) and oranges and pinks. As we get towards the plains the flowers start to decrease and are replaced with greenery and palms. Small yellow butterflies flit about and dragonflies reappear.

And as the heat of the plains becomes more apparent, the tops of the hill are shrouded in cloud and disappear, like Brigadoon.

Even the Indian passengers are marvelling at the spectacle and taking pictures, EVEN people at level crossings take pictures and this is a daily working service, not a heritage preservation project.

At Mettupalayam our friendly taxi driver arrives having driven down to meet us - apparently he has to do an errand in Coimbatore so is going to drive us there - and he has brought our bags which given the smallness of the train was a real blessing.

The hotel is relatively modern and comfortable, and Coimbatore is hugely noisy after the relative peace of the hills. Back in the heat of the lowlands we will need the aircon tonight after the fires and extra blankets of the last few nights.

Dinner is a ghee roast dosa and a paneer masala for S - both really good, change from £3 inc. drinks!

Then S falls into a hole in the road so it's out with the savlon and plasters! I'm glad I brought a 1st aid kit...

Tomorrow we have a transfer booked to Cochin, our hotel is booked too and the landlady apparently does cooking courses. Oh yes!

Onwards to the coast


1 comment:

  1. Hi Emma,I've been on that train. It is totally amazing, the only negative point was all the passsengers chucking their plastic cups out the windows en masse. I also remember staying in a guesthouse that offered a laundry service.So we prepared our backpack of dirty clothes to be washed, stupidly forgetting to take out the swiss army knife. When the bag was returned the following day, a cunning thief had replaced the knife with a very poor imitation. At least they had the decency to replace strangely Indian.


    (PS:Don'tunderstand how to say it's me Jess, but Fred has a google email account so I am him, catch my drift?)