Exploring the Hills of Southern India - Ooty

I’m currently in a small town in Japan right underneath Mt. Fuji, and I’m making some time for myself to unwind and live some normal days instead of running around so much sightseeing. Picking up my photo journals from where I left off, which was when I was still in India over a month ago!

My last photo journal was from my time exploring Kerala, India. The next place I ended up at was a town called Ooty which was nested in the hills of Southern India.

It was an adventure getting from where I was in Kochi, Kerala to Ooty, Tamil Nadu. I had to go through a couple different cities, first I had to take a train to a larger city called Coimbatore, then catch another train from Coimbatore to a smaller city lower in the hills called Mettupalayam. Luckily I had built up some confidence with using the Indian railways and managed to get on the right trains. The public transport system is intimidating here but it's very extensive and extremely affordable, $1-2 for a train ticket to another city 50-100km away!

There is a cute vintage steam train that runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty, I had tried to book a ticket beforehand but it was full and I never got off the waitlist. I walked over to the local bus terminal where I had 'booked' a bus ticket online for Ooty.

As soon as I got to the bus terminal I realized that the 'bus ticket' I booked was a scam and the bus I thought I was going to get on did not exist. The bus terminal was little more than a dirt parking lot with dozens of old buses passing through. There was no way there was an online way to book any of these buses because people just hopped on and hopped off. Even in the off chance that my bus was there somewhere, there was no way I was going to find it. The terminal was packed with dozens of local buses and signs I could not read. I attempted to use Google Translate's camera feature on some of the signs to give me some clue as to which bus to take but it wasn't recognizing any of the Hindi (Devanagari script). I would later realize that here in Tamil Nadu all the signs are written in a different writing system called Tamil script.

My proudest travel moment to date is finding the right local bus to Ooty. I realized tech wasn't going to help me at all here so I just waved at locals and said 'Ooty?', they would point in a general direction and I would board a bus, say 'Ooty?' and see if anybody on board nodded. The first 1 or 2 buses I got on, I just got stares due to being the only foreigner around. But eventually I got on a bus, uttered 'Ooty?' and a good number of people nodded. I sat down and after the bus took off the conductor came around to collect the bus fare. I was beyond relieved to see the word 'Ooty' on the receipt.

The only road to Ooty was a windy mountain road with hairpin curves and I got so carsick on the way. It was about 2-3 hours I think and I bought some chips to eat during a quick stop in the middle, thinking maybe that'll take my mind off of my nausea. I ate some and then noticed there were ants in my bag of chips. That made me want to throw up even more.

Made it to Ooty. It was actually kind of cold here, which was a nice break from the blazing heat everywhere else I had been in India.

Walking around I saw the potential that this town had to be a really beautiful place but unfortunately due to the poverty and the lack of a government sponsored garbage collection system/environmental protections there was so much trash everywhere and the river smelled like sewage. It's really eye opening and makes you appreciate the trash services and environmental protections. It can be easy to forget the impact of those things until you see what happens when they don't exist.

They had some really beautiful flowers growing at the guesthouse I was staying at. One thing about India is that it seems like everything grows and thrives here.

There was a big lake right outside of my guesthouse. It's one of the attractions in Ooty, and I walked around it a bit and saw people boating on the lake. The polluted river runs right into this lake though and the lake also had an odd smell and color to it. Again, I could see so much beauty here if there was some better system of getting rid of trash and some environmental protections put into place.

Attempted to go to the top of a local mountain to get a view of the city around sunset but it got really foggy.

My autorickshaw driver recommended that I go check out a local tea museum instead, plus there are some nice sunset views from there. So I went. The tea museum smelled AMAZING, especially in the room with all the fresh tea leaves before they were dried.

The sunset from outside the team museum was beautiful and the fog gave it a cool mystic feel. My autorickshaw driver showed me some photos he took around Ooty and I discovered that he was pretty into photography, he was a middle aged Indian (or possibly Arabic) man and he could only take photos on his small flip phone but they were really good! After the sunset he took me around some more scenic spots in Ooty before dropping me back off. It was like a private photo tour. He would stop just long enough at each place so I could take a photo and then we kept going. Unfortunately the views were mostly covered in fog but that was still super cool of him to give me a private little photo tour (he didn't ask for more money or anything like that for it).

Took this photo of another autorickshaw out of the back of my autorickshaw. I love that it says 'super star' because they were the unsung heroes of my trip in India, getting me from one place to another affordably. Although I'd usually be a bit shaken after the rides because of all the weaving through traffic.

Was able to get a non foggy view of the city on one morning after I learned that the fog usually rolls in during the afternoons.

I managed to get on the toy steam train when I was leaving Ooty, I had to buy a first class ticket because all other seats were full but even that was only about $4. I met some cool people in my cart and ended up traveling with them to my next destination because we were headed the same way.

On the way down we passed by tea plantation after tea plantation.

We also made a couple pit stops and at each one a bunch of wild monkeys would come swarm the train station. They knew they could get free snacks that way.

I traveled through Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India between December 1st - December 4th, 2019