Travel Blog – Ooty: The Queen of Hill stations Part 2

IMG_20180719_141835They say the best time to visit Ooty is in the summer months for pleasant climate and in the winter months to experience the cold. We chose a rather off-season time to visit but even yet, Ooty is quite the charmer during the monsoon. We divided our visit into two days of sight-seeing. On the first day, we decided to explore the outer areas of the region and on the second we would visit the areas closer by.

We started with a quick brunch before heading out to Pykara Lake for an exciting afternoon boating. The ride to Pykara took us around 30 minutes by bus. I’m not going to lie, I was freezing. The cold climate along with the wind-chill of the monsoon months made Ooty a bit cold for my liking. But the views that greeted us from the lake made it all worth it. For a fee of 100rs per person, we hired a motorboat that took us for a 20 minute ride on the lake. Once I got over the initial “chill” I began to enjoy myself. The views of the surrounding forest were spectacular. The boat ride got over soon and we quickly moved onto the next spot for the day.

 

Ooty is beautiful at every turn and is truly heaven on earth. Next up on our trip was the Pykara Waterfalls. The trek down to the waterfalls took us through wooded areas and along the side of the river. Coming from a city, I could not believe that a place could be so green and so beautiful.  In total, it took us around twenty minutes to reach the bottom of the trail.  There were many people walking along side us so it wasn’t isolated.  The falls are open to tourists from 8:00am to 5:00pm every day of the week and is free to enter. We must have spent fifteen minutes or so admiring the scenic beauty of the place before heading back up the trail since it started to rain.  20180719_142731

 

The good thing about Ooty, is that all the places to visit are close to each other. The next point on our list was “Shooting Point”. A picturesque meadow set on a small but steep hillock. Here, regular movies and photo-shoots take place thus giving it the name. The climb up to the summit was tedious as the rain has turned the mud into slush making it difficult to walk without slipping. All I could imagine were the models and actresses who also have to make this climb up whenever there is a shoot and if they could do it then so could I! From the top we had a 360 uninterrupted view of the surrounding landscape for miles around. It truly was a sight to behold! Once again, we couldn’t stay long because it started to rain a bit and we decided it was better to be back down before the rain started, than get caught in it.

 

Capture1

Panaroma from the top of “Shooting Point”

By now the cold started to eat into me and as soon as we were down on the road we treated ourselves to a hot cup of tea. One can never know the true beauty of a warm beverage until one is freezing. We stopped for a late lunch before heading back to the villa where a bonfire was set up before dinner.

20180719_202624

After a late dinner and an exhausting day I headed to bed excited for what the next day would bring.

Read my blog on Day 1 and 3 in Ooty here –

Ooty: The Queen of Hill Stations Part 1

Ooty: The Queen of Hill Stations Part 3

Advertisements

Travel Blog – Ooty: The Queen of Hill Stations Part 1

 

I hardly travel. The last vacation I took was in 2013 where I visited the state of Rajasthan on a guided tour with my college. Since then I had always wanted to visit another place but never got the time until now. Ooty has always been on my bucket list. The picturesque landscape, the cold weather and the tea plantations made me want to visit for a really long time so when a couple of friends and I planned a trip early this year I couldn’t contain my excitement.

The town of Ooty, also known as Ootacamund or Udagamandalam is situated in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu at an elevation of 2,240m above sea level. Because of its elevation the town experiences a pleasant to cold climate all year round which makes it a popular tourist destination during the summer months. The nearest city is Coimbatore which is about 86km away.

Mumbai to Coimbatore

Mumbai to Coimbatore. Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

We set out from Mumbai on Monday, 16th of July. Traveling from one side of the country to the other it was going to be a long ride. In total, the journey took us approximately 32 hours and we pulled into Coimbatore around eight in the morning on Wednesday, 18th of July. If you plan on going to Coimbatore from Mumbai, I wouldn’t recommend taking the train if you don’t like staying in one place for a long time. Take a flight, it’s faster and cheaper if you book early enough. And if you do take the train then make sure you carry enough entertainment with you. Fortunately for us, our compartment was quite empty and for most of the journey we had it all to ourselves.


Train travel across India is a beauty in itself. Each state has its own unique geographical characteristics and one can’t help but fall in love with the view it offers. The train we took, the Coimbatore Express, took us across the state of Maharashtra into the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana until finally, we entered Tamil Nadu.

20180718_062405

Sunrises over the countryside

Coming from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu was very new, very colorful and very exciting. We stopped over at a local restaurant for breakfast before heading up to Ooty. The drive up the Nilgiris took us around three hours. We soon left the heat and bustle of the city behind us as we started the never ending climb up the mountain range. With hair-pin bends and blind turns at every corner and with trucks, buses and smaller cars moving up and down the trip is not for the faint-hearted. But it is beautiful and was worth every second.

Capture

IMG_20180718_101928344_HDR

We were still some 40 minutes away from Ooty and decided to halt for a bit on the way in Coonoor. After being cooped up in a train and then in a mini bus all the way, we wanted to stretch our legs and bit and go for a little stroll. What better place to do this than Sim’s Park? Laid out in 1874, the botanical garden is home to a number of flowers and trees both exotic and native. Spread over 12 hectares and on a terraced slope it really was a walk.

20180718_114833

 

After spending an hour or so in Coonoor we continued up towards Ooty refreshed and re-energized. We reached Ooty in the late afternoon and after a quick lunch we headed to our villa. Set atop a hill, we were greeted by spectacular views of the valley and the rest of the town beneath us. We unloaded our luggage and headed to our rooms to relax for a bit before heading into the main market area to stock up on warm clothes (Ooty being colder than we expected) and a few groceries.

20180718_125654

View from the villa

I loved walking around in the marketplace. It is something which was so different from what I’m used to and time would fly. It was soon dark and we headed

IMG-20180718-WA0035

back to the villa for dinner. After a hearty meal and a movie we called it a night and went to bed.

And so was my first day in Ooty.

Read more about my stay here :

Travel Blog – Ooty: The Queen of Hill stations Part 2

Books that shaped my childhood

blur-book-browse-256546

I have always been surrounded by books and have been reading since I was a child. When you are a child the things that you are exposed to influence you in some way or the other. And I’m sure whatever I was exposed to as a child has had some say in the kind of adult I am today. I recently wrote on why I started reading and these are the books that have influenced me or greatly inspired me as I grew up.

Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.

ENID-BLYTON-FAMOUS-FIVE

The first book I read was one of the stories from The Famous Five series and I loved it so much I brought it home with  me to show my parents. The next thing I knew, over the next few months I had acquired the entire series, getting one whenever I could. I loved the fact that children could go on adventures on their own with no adult supervision and my friends and I would imagine us going on such adventures at home. I’d always want to know what “ginger beer” tasted like or what it felt like lying down on a “mound of heather”. George was my favorite character. Her “tomboyish” personality made me feel quite comfortable since I wasn’t a very girly as a kid. Also, she had a dog!

Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl and The Twins at St. Clare’s

I remember receiving the entire series as a Christmas present one year. The stories were amusing and would keep me in splits.  Keeping with a recurring theme in Blyton’s book, the main characters go to boarding school which made me want to go to one badly! Thank goodness my parents never took me seriously on that one though no matter how much I asked them. What I liked about these is that both were written from a girls point of view and I could relate to them in a way.

C. S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia

the-chronicles-of-narnia-cs-lewis

One of my all time favorites, we had a chapter from The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe in English class. Later on, in 2005 they released the movie and after that I was hooked. Soon after the second movie came out we bought the entire box set. I loved the fantasy setting, the family -friendship-love themes and Aslan! Still waiting for more movies from the series though.

There were many other books that I’d read as a child like Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew, a few of Franklin W. Dixon’s Hardy boys and Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries. For birthdays I remember receiving a few of the classics that were rewritten for children. And so started my journey through the literary world.

Have you read any of the books I mentioned above? Which books did you read as a child that you loved?

 

Why I started reading.

beverage-books-caffeine-904616

I think the first time I read a full length novel was when I was ten or maybe eleven. It was a free period in class and a classmate had brought one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books to show a few of us. I had never read one of her books before and was very curious because a few of my other friends already had. After reading a few pages I soon found myself unable to put the book down and spent the rest of the day sneaking a few minutes during class to read a few pages. My speed-reading came as a surprise as I completed the entire book within school hours but still borrowed the book to show my parents when I went back home. My eyes had been opened to the new and forever love of reading back then.

I have always been surrounded by books of all sorts. Be it short children’s stories or large collections of encyclopedias and reference books, since I was a child I have been exposed to them all. And it seemed odd to me that nobody else loved reading as much as I did. I would look forward to the weekly “library” period at school just so I could pick out my next book and would actually spend the time reading instead of talking and joking around with the others. My love for reading is what brought on my love for writing. It is what made me start this blog in the first place!

There are so many people out there who do not understand or like reading. There are children who would rather watch TV or play with a toy than pick up a book and read and this has grown at an alarming rate ever since smart-phones were introduced. I always get either weird looks or questions when I tell people why I love to read. I guess its mainly because its rare? If given the choice to either watch a movie or read the book the movie is based on, most would chose the former. Why? It takes less effort, it gets over sooner and you know the basic plot. But wouldn’t it be better to have the entire thing play in your mind as you read it? Also, if the “plot” is what you want to know, most producers leave most of the book out when adapting the screenplay because it’s too hard to shoot or because it doesn’t go in the direction they want it to.

Reading has many advantages. It improves your vocabulary, it teaches you about topics you would never have learnt of before, it broadens your mind to new things, it increasing brain-cell productivity and creativity. Reading transports you to a new place every time you open a new book. It teaches you history, geography and the beauty of language. What more can a person ask for in life?

It’s sad that this passion of mine, this hobby seems to be dying out because people are too busy with their day to day life. Too busy to take a few minutes away and pick up a book and experience the marvel of the written word. Teach your kids to read and trust me, they will never be bored again for the rest of their lives.

Book Review: The Tournament – Matthew Reilly

the-tournament

In later life, Elizabeth would rarely lose at chess. And on the far more dangerous chessboard of her life- at court in London and on the high seas against the House of Castille – she never lost.

 I had visited a friend a few months ago and in due course of conversation she handed me The Tournament by Matthew Reilly. I love historical fiction and soon found myself borrowing the book to read.

The year is 1546 and the young Princess Elizabeth is third in line to the throne. After a sudden burst of plague in England, she is taken to Constantinople by her tutor Roger Ascham to attend a chess tournament hosted by the Sultan. What follows is an exciting tale of murder, mystery and above all, chess.

The balance between the two major plot-lines ties up beautifully and there isn’t a moment when the reader can loose focus. On one side, we have the chess tournament where players from around the world compete against each other for the title of the “best player in the world” and on the other, we have the investigation of the murder of a cardinal. All together it makes a brilliant historical thriller. The tournament scenes keep you at the edge of your seat and the whole investigation keeps you hoping our main characters make it out alive.

Though it starts a little slow, The Tournament gains pace as you progress through the pages and is guaranteed to keep you hooked until the last page.

My copy is 410 pages long and ends with a short interview with the author. It also has a map of the city of Constantinople and of the Sultan’s palace. It is an easy read for any type of reader. The book does contain some strong adult themes (sexual and abuse) so I wouldn’t recommend it for young readers as it may cause some distress.

So what is real? Did Princess Elizabeth really travel to the Ottoman Empire in her childhood? As far as being historically accurate, The Tournament is purely fiction. Apart from a few of the major historical characters mentioned in the book who did exist in the past, everything else is pure imagination and is meant for our enjoyment.

The Tournament is a great read and has introduced me to the works of Matthew Reilly. I can’t wait to read more.

About the Author

Matthew Reilly is an internationally bestselling author who’s books have been published in more than twenty languages and sold nearly five million copies worldwide. His works include Contest, Temple, Area 7 and Hover Car Racer among others.

 

 

 

Book Review: Fall of Giants (Part 1 of the Century Trilogy) – Ken Follett

51J-+9MBKUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

AN EPIC OF LOVE, HATRED, WAR AND REVOLUTION.

Five families are brought together through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for votes for women. FALL OF GIANTS combines richly developed historical detail with fast-moving action and powerful emotion to deliver this absorbing narrative. 

Fall of Giants is the first book in the Century Trilogy written by Ken Follett. Set between 1911 and 1924, it follows the lives of five families through the shattering events of the early century. I love historical fiction. The events that took place in the past century have changed the course of history and of mankind forever. I remember learning about the First World War in high school. Never did any event in history captivate me as much as it did. Ken Follett has once again proven himself as a master in writing and this book only increased my interest in the subject. He has written the events in such detail, you will find yourself googling places and events to help you along the book. 

FALL OF GIANTS will captivate you and amaze you. There are many instances in the book where you will find yourself gasping in horror, crying in disbelief and sighing in despair. It is a book that will take you to the Battle of Somme, on a walk through London demanding for votes for women and onto the streets of Russia during the Revolution. It is a history lesson in itself and you will never want to put the book down. The book will take you from the trenches in France to the poor neighbourhoods in Russia, from London’s high society to the White House. Every page leaves you wanting more. 

Each character relates the story through their point of view and in many situations two or more characters experience the same events. This way we get to know both the sides of the story. The book follows the storyline in a beautiful manner. Every character is somehow connected to the other and there is never a dull moment as there is never any chance for the plot to fall through. 

The book puts every thing revolving around WW1 in perspective. It makes it easy to understand even though it is a work of fiction. Ken Follett has tried to include every single possible explaination regarding the historical events of the time. There are many true historical characters and most of the events are not that much of fiction.

Being almost a thousand pages long( yes you read that right) Fall of Giants is a heavy read. My copy has 852 pages to be exact and that is not including the introductory pages of the book. The initial pages list down all the characters you will come across and how each are related. This comes in handy when you forget who’s who mid-way, and who can blame you? It is an epic read. I wouldn’t recommend for novice readers though, the sheer size of the book would scare anyone new away.  

 If you love history, this book is for you. If you love the early 20th century then this book is for you. Basically, if you have a passion for the past Fall of Giants should be on your reading list.

About the Author

Ken Follett is an award winning English author. Most notably known for his works in Thriller and Historical Fiction, many of his books are bestsellers worldwide.

 

Book Review: The Sunlight Plane – Damini Kane

31ob-MidpWL._BO1,204,203,200_

When Tharush meets Aakash his life changes forever. His new friend has scars and the truth behind it ties them in a secret that could slowly consume them both. 

The Sunlight Plane is the first novel by budding author Damini Kane. She has taken the day to day lives of a rich suburban family and put it down into a story that brings out many of the unseen problems that take place behind closed doors.

Told from the viewpoint of nine-year old Tharush, The Sunlight Plane isn’t your typical “growing up” story. It isn’t a happy story, it is the harsh truth that so many of us choose to ignore. It is the story of a nine year old whose world changes when he meets another nine-year old from a different background. It is a story of pure friendship between two boys who couldn’t have been more different and yet who are so similar in what they choose to face together. Tharush leads a happy protected life under the watchful eyes of his parents. Aakash on the other hand, knows perfectly how the world really is and is fully aware about how hard life can get. Beautifully written, each page blends into the next easily and is able to keep the reader hooked. The raw emotion on the pages draws the reader to the main characters.

Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around two boys, Tharush and Aakash. Tharush is a quiet kid who would rather spend the afternoon playing with his toy planes and making up imaginary stories than go out to mix with the other children of Reyna Heights. Aakash is the mysterious new kid in the upscale building and one summer afternoon the two form an unlikely friendship. As the months go by, both boys learn about the other and the secrets they carry along with them. When Tharush finds out about Aakash’s bruises he is torn between helping his friend and staying loyal to him and this toxic secret stays between them until its almost too late.

Midway through I got so consumed by the plot. I really wanted it to end well and it did. But not in the way you’d expect. The suspense is thrilling. The language is beautiful.

What has really drawn me to the book is the underlying story, things that we all know about but would rather not talk about. In the span of 311 pages, Damini has brought so many social issues to our focus. There are a bunch of serious topics like bullying and abuse that none of us would like to even think about, that we would want to forget. It is a reminder that things like these go on and most of the time right under our noses. And when it’s told from the viewpoint of a nine-year old she makes it really easy for us the understand the seriousness of it. Through the eyes of a child we see reality.

The Sunlight Plane has the makings of a bestseller and I would definitely recommend this to everybody.

About the Author

Damini Kane is a 23 year old author from Mumbai, India. She is one of the winners of the nation-wide talent hunt in the writing category and was named as one of “Campus Diaries 25 under 25”. Having an interest in writing since childhood, Damini has written numerous poems and stories over the years. She is currently doing her MA in Migration Studies from the University of Sussex.