Sunday, February 11, 2024

Coonoor - Devoid of flat land

Morning view
An interesting morning view

estled in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, Coonoor is a picturesque municipality. My introduction to this location came in the context of Rabi's vaccine. This vaccine was manufactured by the esteemed Pasteur Institute, which was inaugurated in 1907. Notably, the institute is recognized for its production of various vaccines, including DPT.


Originally established as a European settlement in 1834, Coonoor underwent a period of demographic stasis. Even after being declared a municipality in 1866, the population remained modest at 1,500. However, a gradual increase ensued, reaching 8,500 by 1901; then to 46,000 by 2011. During this period, Ooty (formerly known as Ootacamund) gained popularity, leading to the construction of new roads like the Old Mettupalayam road in 1833, linking Ooty with rail facilities at Mettupalayam. In 1871, a more gently sloping route was constructed.

The Nilgiri Railway Company initiated the project to connect Coonoor to the rail network in 1899, although the company itself did not witness its completion due to subsequent liquidation. The Madras Railway took charge, and later, the decision was made to extend the rail line to Ooty.

For an extended period, my desire to travel via scenic Nilgiri Mountain Railway didn't happen due to a number of reasons. On a previous trip to Ooty, I deviated from the usual route, choosing the Mannarkkad- Manjoor- Ooty road instead of the more conventional Coonoor-Mettupalaym-Ooty route. This time, there was a family wedding just outside Coimbatore in Mettupalayam road; leading to a new plan - attend the wedding, visit Coonoor and proceed to Ooty, and then return to Mannarkkad via Mulli.

On the morning of the wedding, we set out early, around seven, taking Mannarkkad- Attapadi- Anaikatti- Coimbatore road. This scenic route, particularly the stretch from Aanamooly to the Mukkali check post, is really good. Mukkali, serving as the gateway to Silent Valley, is the place where one has to get down to explore Silent Valley National Park. Due to time constraints, we refrained from extended stops, making only a brief pause at the Attapadi viewpoint. After the wedding, around noon, we picked up my aunt and started our journey to Coonoor. The next main town on the way was Mettupalayam. From here Coonoor is some 34 kilometers away.


Still a few kilometers shy of reaching the city, the road maintains its pleasant quality. This route, linking Gudalur, Ooty, and Coonoor to Coimbatore city, is consistently bustling with traffic. A nominal fee is required for entry into the Nilgiris district for outside vehicles. Since mine was registered in Karnataka, payment is mandatory. It's worth noting that Coonoor lacks straight or flat roads/lands; instead, its thoroughfares are characterized by frequent curves and slopes, with some being notably narrow. Our accommodation was at 'YMCA Wyoming', it took some time to locate this place. In fact we crossed the bus stand twice before finally reaching here. Hotel is a good old colonial building. 

WMCA Wyoming - An old colonial building

After settling to the room, I came down with Divya and took a walk around the hotel; there was a slight rain. Mom and her sister was tired and they stayed in the room itself. It was a nice place to explore, we walked towards the road and then followed its curves and finally reached a small outlet which sells homemade waffles and other items. We went in and ordered some. There were some 3-4 tables; one was occupied by a couple and another one by owner's daughter. She is concentrated on completing her homework on that Saturday afternoon. It took some more time for our items to come. It's still raining and there is no expectation that, it will stop anytime soon especially as we were in July - monsoon time. So we just opened the big umbrella and walked further down in that deserted road. There was no destination in mind. Sometimes, just walking itself is more than enough; if there is rain then its better.

Night was cold but not unbearable. On next day morning we woke up early; came down and stretched hand in the courtyard. It was a nice view. After breakfast we checked out and moved towards our first destination - Sim's park.

Sim's park

At Sim's park

Named after J.D. Sims, the then Secretary to the Government, and Major Murray collaborated to transform an existing park into a planned botanical garden, Situated in the northern part of the city, near Pasteur Institute, this expansive park covers 12 hectares of land. Boasting a diverse collection of plant species this is a well maintained park. The Department of Horticulture annually organizes a fruit and vegetable show within the park.

Tea Factory

Exploring the high ranges always involves a visit to a coffee or tree plantation. We came across this tea factory while searching for a tea plantation to visit. Although the factory itself was undergoing renovation, the staff showed the inner workings of the machinery. Adjacent to it, there was a eucalyptus factory that which churn out the oil. We purchased some locally grown tea, chocolates and other items and strolled through the lush plantation. The serene ambiance made me wish for more time, perhaps an early morning leisure walk, but it was time to go. We slowly walked back towards the car, ready to start our next adventure – lunch :) It took a bit of time, but we eventually found a charming Kerala restaurant.

By the way, there are numerous tea estates in the area, and quite a few offer accommodation options. While the cost of staying within these estates may be higher than lodging outside, it provides some unique experience like residing amidst the beauty of a tea plantation.

Inside Tea Factory
Dolphin's nose

As the saying goes, "the journey is better than the destination," this statement proved correct for us on this occasion. The drive itself was captivating, dotted with numerous viewpoints along the roadside. Unfortunately, when we reached Dolphin's Nose, the thick fog obscured almost everything, limiting the visibility to a great extent.

Lamb's rock

Proceeding from Dolphin's Nose, we ventured towards Lamb's Rock. Although the fog had cleared, the scenic offerings were somewhat limited. Subsequently, we started our return journey, heading back to Coonoor town, and from there, we continued our journey to towards Ooty.


1, History of Coonoor - Clean Coonoor
2, Coimbatore City to Coonoor is under 60kms. 

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