“WTH Dude! Traveling to South India in your summer holidays? Are you nuts?”- was the common reaction from majority of my near ones when I had conveyed them my plan of traveling to Mysore (renamed as 'Mysuru' on November 1, 2014), Ooty and Kodaikanal in the month of May. For North Indians, the deep-rooted impression of summer in South India is like sitting on the summit of a notorious volcano. Even though I did explain them that my short itinerary would cover only hill stations of south, nobody seemed convinced enough. Only after reaching Bangalore I patted my back. I found Bangalore quite refreshing and certainly a great escapade from the sucking summer of Bardhaman.
I had booked a package tour of five days which included glimpses of Mysore, Ooty, Coonoor and Kodaikanal. I went for the KSTDC (Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation) tour package after a lot of pre-travel pondering. Logically, my available number of travel days and confidence of wandering in South Indian states (back in 2013) were too limited to explore those places independently. So, although I’m not much of an obedient traveler who would abide by tour manager's commands, I decided for the bondage in trip to Mysore, Oooty and Kodaikanal! Remember, this is merely an introductory post of my trip Mysore, Ooty and Kodaikanal with KSTDC. I'll pen down separate travel stories dedicated to Mysore, Ooty, Kodaikanal and a last one to review the service of Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation as a tour operator.
|A little village girl riding on a giant tusker in Madumalai National Park.|
Day 1: Departure from Badami House (Bangalore), Break at Channapatna, Breakfast at Maddur, Visit Daria Daulat, Gumbaz, Fort, Sriranganatha Swamy Temple, Visit Chamundi Temple, Lunch, Visit Mysore Palace, Visit Illuminated Brindavan Gardens & Halt at Mysore.
Day 2: Visit St. Philomena's Church, Depart from Mysore, Breakfast at Gundlupet, Arrive at Ooty (Via Bandipur & Mudumalai Sanctuary), Boating in Ooty Lake, Lunch, Enjoy the nature at Doddabetta, Visit Botanical Garden, Tamil Cultural program in Ooty Stadium (not a part of the package), Dinner and night halt at Ooty.
Day 3: Depart to Coonoor after breakfast, Visit Sim's Park (Coonoor), Lunch at Paladam, Arrive at Kodaikanal and Night halt.
Day 4: Visit Pillar Rock, Green Valley View, Coaker's Walk, Bryant's Park, Lunch, Horse riding, cycle riding, boating on Kodai Lake, Depart to Bangalore (dinner en route).
Day 5: Tour ends at Badami House (Bangalore) at an eerie hour of 4:30 AM morning.
The Mysore Palace is one of the finest work of art of Indo-Saracenic architecture blending many diverse styles like Rajput, Muslim and Gothic to give birth to a magnum opus!
Apart from being the "Cultural capital of Karnataka" Mysore (renamed as 'Mysuru' on November 1, 2014), lying at the base of Chamundi Hills, merely 140 Kilometers from Bangalore has the reputation of being Karnataka’s second largest and India’s second cleanest city. Mysore is also known as the "Palace City of India" owing to the presence of a number of palaces like Mysore Palace, Jaganmohan Palace, Jayalakshmi Palace, Lalitha Mahal etc to name a few. How Mysore got its name is also quite interesting and I’ll get back to that in my subsequent travel posts. Other tourist attractions in Mysore include Brindavan Gardens, Chamundi Hills, St Philomena’s Church, Mysore Zoo, Museums etc.
On the way from Bangalore to Mysore, it was worthwhile to give a break at Channapatna, a place famous for wooden handicrafts, statues and toys. Just about 15 kilometers away from Mysore, the ancient town of Srirangapatna is located, which has great cultural and historic significance. Places of interest in Srirangapatna include Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan (Daria Daulat) and the fort area comprising Ranganathaswamy Temple (Vishnu temple), Jumma Masjid, Lakhshminarasimhaswamy Temple etc. I’ll keep my narration very brief in this prologue as I’ll be narrating all of them in individual posts. From my very first day of the trip I resorted to local south Indian cuisines and tried to please my tongue in every possible ways.
|Although the journey along NH-212/NH-66 through Bandipur Forest area is tourists’ delight but certainly not healthy for wild creatures as there’s a handsome record of cases of fatalities of animals by speeding vehicles.|
Our bus journey from Mysore to Ooty on the second day was extremely scenic as the route passed through Bandipur and Madumalai National Parks! Bandipur National Park in Karnataka is a division of India’s biggest Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and well-known for its tiger, elephant reserve as well as protected sandalwood trees. Owing to its appealing flora and fauna and favorable location (hardly 80-90 kilometers from Mysore city) it is a major weekend tourist destination for wildlife lovers. We didn’t have the flexibility to get down and enjoy the wilderness of Bandipur, yet cherished the bus journey through the forest area, spotting myriad species of trees like Sandalwood, Rosewood, Teak, Bamboo etc and different inhabitants like elephants, spotted deer, peacocks, vultures and so on.
Although the journey along NH-212/NH-66 through Bandipur forest area is tourists’ delight but certainly not healthy for wild creatures as there’s a handsome record of cases of fatalities of animals by speeding vehicles. I would strongly suggest you to reserve a day for Bandipur National Park. You can even get there directly from Bangalore and have a forest safari in the afternoon on the very same day. If you’re traveling solo and can not afford an entire safari jeep you may at least opt for the bus safari. Oh, there is also provision for elephant rides inside the Bandipur Park!
|An elephant house in Madumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park.|
As the Karnataka state border ended, Madumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park of Tamil Nadu welcomed us. It was the first wildlife sanctuary to be established in south India and a part of Nilgiri biosphere reserve, being located on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hills in Nilgiris district. This declared tiger reserve is the residence of numerous endangered species like elephant, Bengal tiger, leopard, bison etc. The bio-diversity is quite striking in Madumalai. You’ll find tropical evergreen forest, mixed deciduous forest, moist teak forest, dry teak forest, secondary grasslands, shrubs and swamps and 'what not' in the Madumalai forest! The variety in fauna is no less remarkable. Madumalai wildlife sanctuary boasts of about 227 species of birds, 55 species of mammals, 21 species of amphibians and 50 species of fishes.
To accommodate increasing number of wildlife lovers, the forest department in charge of Madumalai National Park has built many lodges and resorts inside the forest which is indeed a good step in the promotion of wildlife tourism in the place. Like Bandipur national park, in Madumalai also you’ll get the chance of availing forest safari and elephant ride. Unlike Bandipur, Madumalai is more liberal to permit its tourists to use vehicles to explore different corners of the park. The elephant feeding camp and Kallatty Falls are among few things which you shouldn’t miss once you travel to Madumalai wildlife sanctuary. Spending a night in the Madumalai Forest, illuminated by billions of fireflies, in the months of April-May could be an experience of lifetime! Soon we were charmed by the hue of Blue Mountains and fragrance of eucalyptus as we neared Ooty, the honeymooners’ paradise, the home of flavored tea, delicious homemade chocolates and of course spices!
|We saw a herd of spotted deer in Bandipur National Park area from our moving bus.|
Ooty (Udhagamandalam), the honeymooner’s paradise in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, is situated at a modest altitude of about 7,347 feet. While you travel in Nilgiris you’ll know yourself why the name ‘blue mountains’ has been given to the mountainscape. Do not worry, I’ll tell you the reason very soon. Ooty is traveler's delight with its enormously wide range of flavored teas, homemade chocolates, spices and eucalyptus. The whole region thrives on tourism and agriculture, certainly one of the most expensive hill stations in India. Some places of tourist interest include Ooty Botanical garden, Doddabetta, Rose garden, Wax Museum, Annamalai Temple, Tea factory, Dolphin’s nose etc. Tourism in Ooty is centered around the Ooty Lake. One can boat or opt for several adventure activities around the lake.
In my humble opinion, Ooty Lake doesn’t have a clear water to boast of and the town itself is too packed with tourists to allow travelers wander about in their comfortable pace. But, do not get disheartened, nonetheless traveling to Ooty has a charm of its own and you’ll feel the difference from hill stations of north India as you explore the town on your shoes. As I was in a package tour, unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury to board the much acclaimed Nilgiri Mountain Railway which ferries you through the most beautiful landscapes of Nilgiris. You must try it on your way from Coonoor to Ooty or the vice versa. On a side note, I’ve consumed too much coffee in Nilgiris (Oops!).
|Another photo-collage from my summer trip to Mysore, Ooty and Kodaikanal.|
Kodaikanal, one of the most picturesque hill stations of south India, located in the Palani Hill range at an altitude of around 7,200 feet, is also called as ‘Princess of Hill Stations’. This popular hill station of Tamil Nadu, apart from her position on the lap of scenic western ghats has another unique thing to brag of- the Kurinji Flower, that blooms once in 12 years! Places of tourist interest in Kodaikanal are Kodai lake, Berijam lake, Coakers Walk, Bryant Park, Green valley view, Silver Cascade Waterfall, Pillar Rocks, Kurunjiandavar Temple, Lake top view etc. Riding a hired bicycle or a horse is a ‘must do’ thing around Kodai lake. At Kodaikanal I tasted local honey from mobile honey-seller. Its yummy quotient was only comparable to the local honey I had previously tasted in Dang (a tinsel town of Nepal). I found lazing around the Kodai lake is much better than deciding for the local sightseeing at Kodaikanal. Well, you got to travel and make your own opinion. This is just the beginning of my Mysore, Ooty and Kodaikanal Trip. Squeeze out some time to read my travel story on Srirangapatna.