The planning obsession has ensured that our vacations/home trips are meticulously planned, and much in advance. So the long Ugadi weekend would’ve ended up as just another long weekend, but for the wonderful disruption by B & N, who suggested that we take a mini break. After many Facebook chats and near misses, we finally zeroed in on O’land Estates. (all details are on the site – click on the individual rooms for prices)
Day 1: Though we’d heard much, we’d never actually met a 5 AM (departure) on a Saturday, so it took us an extra fifteen minutes to get fully acquainted, and get started. (route map) Though B tried his best to convince us on the merits of the thatte idli at Bidadi, we made very Amit-like (for a definition, check the text here) jokes based on the first word minus an h and finally landed up at the standard Kamat Lokaruchi. Masala dosa, idli, chow chow bath, vada and coffee later, we were on our way. Barring a tiny water purchase stop, we (I use the word loosely, B and N did all the driving!) then drove until Gundlupet before stopping at the unofficial restroom sponsor of all weekend getaways out of Bangalore – CCD. ( a pot can happen over coffee!) We entered the Bandipur National Park in a while, and after some standard deer and monkey spotting, also managed to get the elephants to pose!
36 hairpin curves later, we were in Ooty. After much googling and even 4sqing, we landed up at the Nahar Sidewalk cafe for lunch. I sensed something wrong in the menu and we soon discovered that – horror of horrors- it was all veg! But we were too hungry and the pasta we ordered turned out to be quite decent. I also happened to earn a Herbivore badge on 4sq thanks to the checkin! We had Google to thank for the chocolates from King Star Bakery, which were consumed through the trip.
The trip thus far had been very pleasant and we were wondering if we’d beaten our road trip hex. And then began our road wrestling! The route from Ooty to O’Land is curvy in real life but pretty straightforward on the map. But a couple of wrong turns after Lovedale meant that it was near 4.30 by the time we reached O’Land! The only consolations were the beautiful vista including picturesque bungalows, and the ever dropping temperature. The road on Google Maps actually ended quite a long way before the estate gate (that was a first for me) but the locals were very helpful. O’Land was quite a land’s end and looked totally awesome. We enjoyed the view from the Estate House and the tea, thoughtfully provided by Aslam. Our rooms – Hornbill House – was a tiny walk away, and we were already floored by the unique design before we even inside!
Hornbill house is spread over two floors and shares a common living room. The ground floor has a sit out while the first floor has a bathtub with a view! (though the area was facing a drought, said a notice, and guests were requested not to use it) The view also includes a waterfall, but that was on a leave of absence, courtesy the same drought!
We relaxed for a bit before heading over to the Estate House for dinner. The biryani would take a while, said Aslam, so we decided to have a simpler rice + vegetables + chicken meal, all the while admiring the quirky decor elements of the Estate House. The Bollywood lover in me had a feast! We also chatted with Sajan, the estate manager, who had himself just returned from Coorg. The night view from the Estate House was equally fantastic – lights from the isolated dwellings on the hills, and a starlit sky above.
Day 2: We just about made it in time for breakfast – Poori sabji, bread and eggs washed down with some excellent tea! There’s a little space below the courtyard level that offers a wonderful view, and that came to be our favourite eating spot. We asked Sajan for some outing options and he had two – a 40 km drive to Upper Bhavani or a 30 km drive to Coonoor. After much debate, we decided that we’d pursue the latter after lunch. We roamed around the plantation until lunch.
Lunch was the biryani we missed the previous night, and we set out to Coonoor at about 2.30. Thanks to Sajan’s precise directions, it took us just about 45 mins to get there. Splendid views all along the route. B, for some reason, got it into his head to see Wellington, a cantonment a little after Coonoor. What he specifically wanted to see was a golf course which apparently Tendulkar had visited. We never found it and B was the subject of much ridicule, though I later found that it does exist! We roamed around Coonoor hunting for a place to hang around and finally landed at the Gateway Hotel, a lovely property that has the Raj written all over it, including a hunting trophy from 1912. After a couple of beers, fish ‘n’chips and a fruit platter later, we decided to begin our journey back. Some fruit and plant shopping happened on the way. Dinner was standard fare and we watched Flight before a sound sleep!
Day 3: We decided to start our return trip immediately after breakfast – that turned out to be Rava Idli @ 9.30. Sajan was kind enough to have one of the workers get us the jackfruits we’d been eyeing since the time we’d arrived! He also gave us directions and even accompanied us for a bit. This time we didn’t get lost and made it to Ooty in just under an hour. There was much shopping to do – pickles, chocolates, spices – from Modern, which was also Sajan’s suggestion. Lunch was planned at Gundlupet, a slight detour from the Kanakpura route we’d decided to take. The Misty Rock hotel is exactly opposite the CCD we’d stopped at on Day 1, and its restaurant De Shell was our lunch stop. The unintentionally funny menu (check the image below) was the only solace while we waited and waited for our lunch to arrive. (Tip: order only meals or biryani if you’re in a hurry)
The Kanakpura route has small stretches of bad roads, and is relatively quite boring compared to the regular Mysore route. If you’re planning to take this route, prepare yourself for repeat stretches of farmland, hamlets, little towns and lakes that exist only on Google Maps. (blame the summer)
We reached in about 8.5 hours including the hour long lunch break – significantly better than Day 1. O’Land is a wonderful retreat from the concrete jungle, and the perspectives that nature provides when you allow it to, continue to amaze me. And we owe B and N one for a fantastic mini break!