I haven’t visited many hill stations in India, apart from the easily reachable one in Himachal Pradesh from Delhi. So I was really excited about visiting Ooty, mainly because I was excited to run a marathon for the first time in my life. I had only driven on winding roads once before that and the thought of running on sloppy and slopey roads excited and scared me at the same time.
Until then I wasn’t even thinking about the mesmerizing beauty, that was Ooty. But The moment the bus stopped, one look at the view and the sound of Led Zeppelin’s Misty Mountain Hop started ringing in my ear, and that clearly was going to be my background song for the rest of the Ooty trip.
After a sip from the diabetic-inducing tea, we set out to explore Snooty Ooty, as it is infamously known due to its Raj connection. The truth is, if there’s anything close to arrogance, it’s the wee-bit of pride that locals dwell themselves in from time to time;the pride of living in such a picturesque hill station; the pride of being called the Queen of Hills; and finally, the pride of being home to a 107-year old mountain railway which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Read: Ooty’s Heritage Trail
There are two other mountain rails listed by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Kalka-Shimla rail and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway- both I have travelled on. And I can tell you this that the experience is ought to be unique on each of these routes.The slow-paced chug, the sound of whistle, the majestic view and the kind of people you meet – it’s all going to be very different from the other.Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a ride on the Nilgiris mountain railway – for which you have to book a month or two in advance. However, we took several pictures of the beautiful track and the train swinging past by.
You will experience a one too many lovely sites as we did while walking from Ooty bus station to Lawrence School at Lovedale, which is approximately at a distance of 5 kms from main Ooty town, and was our place of stay for the next few days.
The Lawrence school has a history that goes back in time. It is one of the oldest schools in India. Set up in 1858 as the Lawrence Memorial Asylum, a home for children of British soldiers, it was founded in memory of Sir Henry Lawrence. The school’s beautiful campus sprawls over 700 acres. It’s easy to get lost here – more in thought that by path.
A night before the scheduled heritage run, all the girls in the school’s dorm were chattering away, some screaming while others talking in hushed tones. I almost felt like a school girl ready to experience boarding life.
The next day, sharp at 5 am, we collected at the place of start of the run, I saw people of all ages: kids, teenagers, middle-aged, health freaks, oldies, even dogs. Every one was excited and ready to experience the run track, which I discovered was a trail that took us through beautiful, green fields and semi-broken stairs, and lushly forests. I stopped by – just so that I could absorb the view, little by little. It is easy to forget that you’re running sometimes especially, if you enjoy visiting heritage sites or exploring nature like I do.
As I approached the finishing line (which I later found that I hadn’t really walked/run all the 5 kms that I was supposed to), I felt a sense of accomplishment and feeling of satisfaction that was different from any other that I had experienced in a long time. It was a familiar feeling – a feeling of happiness that one can only feel after doing something that you really enjoy doing – no matter how immaterial. And it was a different kind of hill station experience for me. That was my misty mountain hop. Take that, Led Zeppelin.
That was my run experience. Tell me about yours?