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Wellington - Hill station of the Nilgiris
When I say Wellington, please don't go darting off to New Zealand. India has its own little Wellington. Located near the popular hill station Ooty. Although Coonoor would be the closest local town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Located in the Nilgiris, this little hill station is a quiet getaway for most folks in the state.
Natural beauty of the Blue Mountains is what you are here to see and the best way to enjoy it is via treks into the surrounding greenery. The Wellington Gymkhana Club built by the British during the Raj is the ideal place to stay. If however you just want to see the highlights instead of soaking in the atmosphere in isolation, here’s what you must not miss.
There is a small place called Beulah Farm about fifteen minutes out on Kotagiri road. This place is growing all the English Herbs that you read about in imported cookery books. It helps that the weather is like the English weather and supports the growth of these herbs. The proprietor also makes rose and passion fruit wine besides strawberry and lemon preserve. All of which come in quaint mixed sized bottles of roughly one kilo each.
SimsPark is the local botanical garden. It has its share of beautiful landscaping, old trees, fauna and noisy tourists. One of the more popular sights is the map of India made by flowers in bloom in the middle of the small artificial lake. The area is quite expansive though not as big as the botanical garden in Ooty, and it is kept clean with the threat of fines for littering. They also have a nominal entrance charge.
Suppose you are feeling a little “Chaiya Chaiya” you can take a toy train trip though the hills from Wellington station to Ooty station. If you like you can also board from Conoor station in Lower Conoor. The train stops at quaint little hill stations enroute and transports you through the fog and mist into fairy land. Especially romantic couples love the ride, where the numerous tunnels and no lights on the train offer them their own personal Love Ride!
If you want to go boating the Ooty boat club is a good choice. Paddle boats are available on an hourly basis and this is where they shot for the song “Dil Deewana” in Maine Pyar Kiya. You can also get a ride in a motor boat if you are not looking for exercise.
Variety Hall is the name of the group of shops which is a family business that caters to every conceivable need of yours. They have clothes for kids, ladies and gents; electronics for the home; gadgets for the adventurous men; gold and silver for the ladies; toys for the kids; antiques for the collector; furniture for the new home maker and just about anything that your little heart desires. They also have escort service from one shop to the next ensuring that you spend some money at almost all of their shops once you enter one of them!!
Jograj is the shop’s name in upper Coonoor where you can pick up anything to do with cloth. Be is saris for Diwali, school uniforms for kids, suits and shirts for gentlemen, curtains for the hall or carpets for the living room, it is all available here. Plus it is obtained at very reasonable rates. Also the owner has a fantastic memory as he recalled selling curtains to my mother in 1984 when she bought curtains from him in 1999.
At the market place near the Barracks you can pick up some amazing wrought iron furniture and curios. If you are patient enough you can also purchase a tea bush that can be converted into a table with a glass top. Some of the older bushes really have wonderful wood. Of course carrying it home can be an exercise in logistics.
There is a convent halfway to Ooty at a place called Ketty, the toy train stops at the station of the same name. This is the home of peti-point embroidery. For the uninitiated it is like a very fine version of cross stitch only with half stitches instead of the full cross. Did that make sense? If not just appreciate the detailed work and leave it to the experts to do the analyzing. Again you can order embroidery to be done on cloth you give them or you can just pick up the hankies and linen and saris that they have ready with them. Expensive stuff but out of this world beautiful and truly classy. Monogrammed kerchiefs are a popular buy and gift.
Unique to Wellington
Until lately it was the residence of India’s most famous soldier, Field Marshall Sam Maneksha. The man and his life are a tribute to a soldier and a parsi.