On this trip, we want to see more of southern India. For the railway fan that gives the opportunity to travel up to Ooty in the Nilgiri mountains on India’s only cog railway. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was built by the British between 1899 and 1908 using the system designed by the Swiss engineer Nikolaus Riggenbach. The rack and pinion section climbing 1’326 meters from Mettupalayam to Coonor is still operated with steam engines of Swiss Locomotive Works design. You have to get up early to catch the only train of the day that leaves at 7:10 am. Excited vacationers crowd the platform and storm the small coaches of this meter gauge line. Morning mists stick mystically to the forests covering the steeply rising mountainsides. The engine huffs and puffs as it pushes the carriages over many viaducts and through tunnels. Every now and then, it takes a break to take on water, get oiled and build up new steam. Our engine only needs one minor repair on the fly, so we cover the 28 km to Coonor in just over 4 hours – 7km/h! For the rest of the trip to Ooty a diesel engine takes over and travels the remaining 18 km in just one hour. The NMR is part of the UNESCO World Heritage system.
The gallery on this side only gives a small selection of my NMR pictures. Full collection avaylable on By NMR to Ooty
During British rule Ooty – at 2’400 m – served as summer retreat. Nowadays people sweltering in the heat of Bangalore, Madras or Madurai come here to get a break from the heat in their cities. We enjoy the beautiful botanical garden and visit the St.Stevens church.
The drive to the Avalanche Forest (eco) Reserve takes us through undulating hill country and along big reservoirs that help to water the plains. Extensive vegetable plantations cover the valleys and give way to tea plantations on steeper and higher hillsides. We even pass some of the blue Kurinji or Neelkurinji shrubs that are in bloom. They only blossom every 12 years and give the Nilgiri’s the name ‘blue mountains’. Once inside the Reserve we climb through the ‘Broccoli’ forest, pass a cute little Shiva temple and reach the end of the road at another lake. There and along the road, we have some fun with the monkeys that are just waiting for the tourists to feed them. Even the rare black langur is graciously posing for me to get his portrait taken. Next to the Reserve, we stop at a settlement of tribal mountain people that still stick to their traditional way of living and their own religious rituals.