So, my spork was deemed not to be an offensive weapon and we were allowed on the plane to Mumbai. We landed at midnight and the city lights looked amazing (flying out the next morning, we could see all the slums, which was not so great). The pilot announced that it was currently 27 degrees in Mumbai, but inside the airport the aircon was so powerful that everyone was decked out in coats, blankets and woolly hats. We had a 9 hour overnight wait for our connecting flight to Coimbatore, so we tried to make ourselves as warm as possible then settled in to a night’s shivering in plastic chairs. Mr Beet got a couple of hours’ sleep; I made friends with the local mouse population.
Our connecting flight took us to Coimbatore, which was a last-minute stand-in for when our flight to Goa was cancelled. The reason why you’ve never heard of it, is that it is quite the grimmest place I have ever been. We got our heads down to try to catch up from the night in the airport, then we shipped out first thing the next morning. And I mean first thing, the alarm was set for 3.30am, so we could catch the early morning train to Mettupulayam, where we could get the steam toy train to Ooty.
As grim as Coimbatore was, it was even grimmer at the train station at 4am. Loads of people were lying on the floor asleep and it smelled manky. But the women always look so amazing in their beautiful saris, as if they refuse to acknowledge their grubby surroundings. We got on an insect-infested train to Mettupalayam. Someone started chatting to us and told us that there were no connecting trains to Ooty, which after a 3.30am start was not what we wanted to hear. However, he had a slight whiff of scam artist about him, so we took it with a pinch of salt, and thankfully there were indeed trains to Ooty.
Mr Beet got in the first of three queues to get us some tickets. He had to guard his position at the front of the queue quite fiercely, he’d already had experience of people coming to him offering help or engaging him in conversation and then just butting in in front of him. There was a sudden flurry of activity, and we got two tickets (8 rupees / 10p each for a 5 hour journey) and a place in the queue for unreserved seats. It was just getting light, and we got a place on the train so it was all worth it. The train covers 40k in 5 hours – the steam engine is at the back and pushes rather than pulls the carriages up through tea plantations and various hill stations, stopping every so often to re-fill with water, before reaching Ooty. We saw an elephant on the way, and lots of cheeky monkeys at the train stations relieving passengers of their snacks.
Ooty is 2,200 metres above sea level, so it’s warm during the day and absolutely freezing at night. Our room was cute but completely ill-designed to cope with the temperatures. The washing facilities consisted of a tap and a bucket and we had six blankets on our bed, plus improvised hot water bottles at night.
Ooty is famous for hiking through the tea plantations, but I got ill almost immediately (due to the cold rather than the food) and so we only hiked as far as the botanical gardens. They were quite nice, and a popular spot for Indian tourists. There weren’t many Western tourists, so Mr Beet and I were quite popular and even got asked for our photos again, which we’ve kind of missed since China.
Anyway, Ooty is nice but I can’t really report back on it fully as I spent most of my time in bed with the coke-hot-water-bottle. Some more photos are available on Mr Beet’s flickr page.