Tuesday, March 02, 2010
So, when the question of deciding where to go for our anniversary came up, I did not have to think twice - Devashola and Mango tree cottage, it was. The only disappointment was that the train service from Mettupalayam to Ooty had been suspended due to the recent landslides in the Nilgiris and even the direct road from the plains to Coonoor had been washed away. We were informed that we would have to go via Kotagiri, adding another twenty to thirty kms to the journey. But that is putting the cart before the horse.
I rang up Renukaradhya who is listed as the contact for the Devashola Estates. He is based in Bangalore and has set up a pretty impressive website for the place, complete with photographs and details. To tell you the truth, I was a bit sceptical about the place, going by the way it had been hyped on the website. Especially the accompanying photos of the bison grazing peacefully in the tea gardens, looking like domestic animals. The options available were the Palaniappa Cottage, which is the Manager's Bungalow located right at the entrance to the estate, the Sultana Cottage near the Estate office, at the lower most level of the place, Bison Valley which was a dormitory kind of accommodation and finally, Mango Tree Cottage which was the erstwhile Director's Bungalow, strategically located at the highest accessible part of the estate. The tiled cottage that you see in the middle of the photo below is the Mango tree Cottage and the barren looking area just below it is where tea has just been re-planted.
The Mango tree Cottage is listed as one of the oldest in the Nilgiris - about 150 years old. It has two bedrooms, both of which have their bathrooms and toilets. THere is a spacious double bed in one of the rooms while the other has has a queen/king sized bed and two other normal sized beds in an alcove by the side. It can comfortably accommodate six to eight people and is ideal for two families. They charge you Rs.2500/- per couple per night or Rs.5000/- for the whole cottage. This is inclusive of all meals and tea / coffee, prepared by the caretaker, Murugan. The Palaniappa and Sultana Cottages are slightly cheaper but then, the view from the Mango Tree alone makes it worth the money spent ! So, there we were having fixed the deal and having transferred the money to the account specified by them and I was left with the fear that perhaps, I was being taken for a royal ride ! We boarded the Nilgiri express from Chennai and reached Mettupalayam after a comfortable night, at around six in the morning. We could see steam rising from the nearby shed of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway but unfortunately the service was not on and they were not sure when it would be restarted with the tracks and bridges having suffered extensively.
Our taxi was waiting - you just need to cross the tracks to reach the car park and we were off. Mettupalayam was quiet and peaceful in the early morning light but it had changed totally from the one-horse town that I remembered from my childhood. It was then known only for being the gateway to the Nilgiris but I suppose it has picked up since. We quickly took the road to Kotagiri and I could see the changes that uncontrolled tourism was having on the place - I am pretty sure that it is only a matter of time before it goes the way that Ooty has. I was last here in the early nineties when it was hardly more than a village and it came as a bit of a shock to see the commercial establishments on either side of the road, most of them being lodges or hotels.
Monday, March 01, 2010
It is not often that we travel to a place so quickly again - I can't remember any other that I have gone back to so fast, except maybe Kappad and even that I am not sure if it was twice in less than two months. That just goes to show how smitten we - Anu and myself - were by Devashola and the Mango Tree cottage ! We were there in January for our anniversary and again this weekend, in the company of Biju, Anu and Saachi. To say that we like the place is an understatement - as Anu put it, of the places in India that we have visited, we would rate it next to Bison Wells in Kodaikanal. Perhaps even higher ! The place is totally removed from the crowds and accompanying noise, the views are glorious, you are the only visitors in around 700 acres of space, Murugan cooks up some fantastic meals and you have the entire place to yourself - what more could you ask for ? We are talking about the homestay at the Palaniappa and Sultana Estates of the Devashola Plantations, which is about 25kms away from Coonoor in the Nilgiris.
I read about this place first when we were looking for a place to visit with KC and family, last October, when we were planning our regular trip together. I had almost decided on the place when we had to change our plans due to the fact that Swathi would not be able to stand the strain of the car journey from Bangalore over the winding Sigur ghats. We settled on a homestay in Iruppu on that occasion but Devashola had been on my mind since then and I was just waiting for an opportunity to go to the place.