'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
Udhagamandalam is the name given to a small town in the northern Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu. Thankfully, the name has been shortened to Ooty. Ooty has been known as ‘the Queen of the Blue Mountains’ and is
the source for adventure this month. Ooty is far off the standard tourist track and is one of three hill stations the British developed, for their own unique tastes, over 160 years ago. Ooty became a place to escape the heat of the plains below. Lakes were
created and places given names suggesting central England, even the forests were cut to more resemble the homeland. Of course, this was so very long ago and now, Ooty is India. India with tea plantations and thick forest, but with less hustle and bustle than
most places. Here are unique tribal people including the Todas, Badagas, Kotas, Kurumbas, and Irulas and a seldom-visited park named Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. Mudumalai joins the better-known Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary. Ooty is the terminus of the famous
Mettupalayam to Ooty narrow gauge railway, the Blue Mountain Railway.
When I think of traveling in India, I often romanticize about the rail system. The journey, by rail, across the plains and up into the Nilgiri Hills is one of the most exciting passages. I visited there so long ago now, the memory of the visit a haze in my
mind resembling the view out across the simmering plains from Mukurti Peak. I had met a very interesting student when I visited the Taj Mahal. Through the long hot day, watching the shadows work their magic on the Taj Mahal, we struck up a plan to escape the
heat into the Nilgiri Hills. We traveled south. I was interested in experiencing the life of the sadhus and riding the trains. We arrived in Ooty and trekked through the hills living off of the good will of others. I tried chewing the betel during this epic
adventure. Time passed and we returned to Ooty. I was thin, tired, and have not touched betel since. I am not much of a sadhus, but I do remember the warm, smiling people I encountered along the way.
The train up into the Nilgiri Hills and the treks or day hikes into the forests and along the plantations is perhaps the most uniquely India adventure I can describe. Though the mountains here are not as high as with other trekking opportunities, the hills
tend to be steep and endless, not easy. There are rivers and waterfalls to cool the air. There is an elephant training school here as well. The best season to visit is April through June. Longer treks now require special permits inquire in advance. High summer
is now upon us in Montana, as the ticking heat of the day rises, I look up into the mountains here, and my mind drifts back to those Nilgiri Hills, the train, and betel. Take the time to travel and adventure, and when you do take your time.
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