Bengaluru to Coonoor: No tourist rush
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Those who saw the 2015 Bollywood hit, Kapoor & Sons, and marvelled at the charms of British-style cottages and tea estates that formed the backdrop, should note that Coonoor might be headed for trouble. Or so I argued with a friend who is an old hand at location-scouting. I was nervous that scores of tourists would be booking “film inspired holidays”, and, in turn, wearing out the relaxed atmosphere of a town that I love—clearly, I’m no fan of a destination becoming a cinematic muse. Two years after the film’s release, we finally decided to check on Coonoor and see how it had fared. A quick weekend trip seemed ideal.
The 7-hour drive from Bengaluru was picture-postcard perfect after we crossed Mysuru; till then, the route is continuously inhabited. The wooded company of Bandipur forest and the cool climes of the Nilgiri hills were just the swathes of non-urbanized green that one needs on a holiday. It all felt delightfully remote until we hit Ooty, not perhaps the most suitable hill-station getaway for someone who craves solitude. Fortunately, Coonoor is 21km ahead of the intensely packed town. “No wonder Kapoor & Sons camped there,” I sneered.
We decided to steer clear of the thriving town centre and headed straight to Lamb’s Rock, 8km away, via a forest-fringed road. Our hotel De Rock, a four-room cosy set-up, was located on a hill just above it. Deep jungles in myriad shades of green rolled from where we stood, merging with the sprawling Coimbatore plains in the distance. When I asked Charles, the owner of De Rock, about the repercussions of the film shooting, he laughed. “There is plenty of elbow room even now.” I felt a tad better.
It was the first few days of the monsoon and layers of grey clouds were stacked on top of each other. It would have been heretical not to stroll in Sim’s Park. Established in 1874 as a pleasure resort, the park slowly developed into a botanical garden. Early mornings and evenings are crowded with regular joggers and walkers. In the afternoon, we had the entire park pretty much to ourselves. It was lush, curvilinear in every direction and filled with a marvellous palette of colours, with hundreds of flowers in bloom in early June. We deposited our weary selves on a bench and gazed at the wonderful lack of frenzied snack shops in a public park.
The day ended at the Green Shop, an initiative of the Keystone Foundation, which sources organic honey, paintings, pottery and herbal oils from the local Kurumba tribe. Returning to De Rock with armloads of honey and oils, we settled in, watching the Coimbatore lights blinking in the distance till our eyelids could no longer bear the weight of sleep.
It was the moss-like tea plantations in Kapoor & Sons that infused the film with that easy-going “au naturale” character. The next morning, we were off to the town’s most famous tea estate, Highland, to check if it would be, as I suspected, teeming with tourists. The half-a-century-old factory is the only one that allows visitors in for short trips to see the “clings and clangs” of tea-making.
There were only a handful of tourists. My friend’s silence and wry smile said it all.
On our way back, she broke her silence and confessed. My location-unearthing friend had been as apprehensive as I had been about what we would find. As we drove back on the near traffic-less roads, we breathed a sigh of relief that the town was still divinely out of sync with movies.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @supsonthemove.