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We pick up from where we left off in the previous leg of this travelogue; this time our trip in the Hyundai Santa Fe takes us from Udhagamandalam (Ooty) to Pune with a few pit-stops en route

Story: Harket Suchde
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

After traipsing through southern India, from the bottom most point of Kanyakumari and through to Udhagamandalam (Ooty) in our previous leg of the journey, we continue onwards from Ooty to Pune in this edition of our Hyundai Santa Fe travel series.

The day is bright, sunny and really, really cold as we wake up at the crack of dawn to continue our journey to explore the sights and sounds of the iconic hill station that is Udhagamandalam (Ooty). As soon as we got into the car, my first call of order was to make sure the temperature was still turned up and the car was suffused with a pleasant warmth. A few pushes of buttons to adjust the temperature just right on the Santa Fe’s dual-zone automatic climate control and we set off to see what this hill station had to offer. Our first port of call? The regal Adam’s Fountain, which can be found smack in the middle of the town. The fountain dates back 125 years to 1886, when the British used to repair to the city as a summer getaway. The idea behind the construction of Adam’s Fountain was to commemorate the then governor of Ooty, and it was a public-funded project: the denizens of Ooty pooled in the money to make the statue a reality (and without the likes of Kickstarter too!).

After getting our fill of the fountain (read: being shooed away by the local traffic policeman) we headed towards the famous Ooty lake only to find that it was too early in the morning, and the lake was shut, so we moved on to the famous Botanical Gardens instead. A must-see for any nature buff, the gardens have been enthralling locals and visitors for even longer than the fountain, having been commissioned in 1848. Luckily for us, the gardens were open when we got there, and since we couldn’t very well take the Santa Fe for a drive in there without risking damage to the precious flora and fauna, we decided to hoof it instead. It was interesting to see the Ooty folk, mostly elderly people wrapped up in scarves, shawls and sweaters in the month of April, something you probably don’t get to see anywhere else in the country except the hill stations.

While Ooty has more to offer, being pressed for time meant we couldn’t stay any longer, and headed back to those meandering roads that are synonymous with hill stations and set out for our next destination. We planned on reaching Mangalore before nightfall, but instead of going straight to it, we decided to take a more aesthetically pleasant route via Kodagu (Coorg) district and Madikeri. I’m getting ahead of myself, though, because before we even got there, we had to traverse down the Nilgiri Hills, passing roads that were hedged by eucalyptus trees that were so tall that just looking at them gave me vertigo. If those trees could talk, they’d have stories from over a century ago to recount. The sheer density and volume of the foliage in the forest was almost overwhelming for a city slicker like me. I felt as if I had suddenly been transported to the woody end of the Shire in Lord of the Rings. There was a certain mystical quality about that particular spot that just lent a touch of magic to the air, fuelling your imagination and blurring the lines between perceptions of fantasy and reality.

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