Saturday, 10 June 2017

Genesis : The Story Of My First Trip.




"Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport"
-Unknown.

Everyone has that one awakening moment that shapes their life and the choices they make from there onwards. For me, this happened in the December of 2014. At that time I did not realize that this would be the start of something that I would grow to love. I somehow managed to convince my parents to let me travel to Mysore and Ooty in my college break. The plan was to take a government-run trip that would start at Bangalore. Three days and two nights! I couldn’t be more thrilled. It was the first time I was travelling alone. I would not call it a solo travel because technically speaking I was on a bus with fifty other strangers but yeah, it was going to be one of the most relaxing and memorable journeys. Obviously, no story was complete without some very huge twists and turns but we will come to that later.

The Karnataka government (KSTDC) operates tours and travels from the Badami House in Bangalore. They trip usually start at 6.30 am. While in Bangalore, I was under the instructions to stay with my relatives who lived a good 30 km away from Badami House. I know right! I left before the crack of dawn at 5 am in the local Bangalore bus praying to reach safely to my destination. Soon after I reached the trip began. My seat was next to an old man from Kolkata travelling with his wife and son who was pursuing his Ph.D. in Chemistry (What!?).  The old man was friendly, chatty and one with a lot of wisdom.





The itinerary for the first day included travelling to Mysore from Bangalore which was a 3hour smooth ride.  I had heard about the beautiful gardens and palaces of Mysore. I was a big fan of visiting old Palaces and learning about the history of the kingdoms that once ruled great empires. Our first stop was at the magnificent St. Philomena’s Church. It was built in 1936 in Neo-Gothic architecture inspired by the famous Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The twin spires of the church are 53 m in height and they resemble the spires of the Patrick's Church in New York City.


The main tourist attraction of Mysore, the Mysore Palace was the most beautiful and majestic palace I have ever seen. The Bangalore Palace has the more modern touch to it. The palace in Gujarat is royal as well but this one was a clear winner. It had four grand entrances, the interiors transported me to a historical world altogether.


Mysore also hosts the Tipu Sultan’s empire which is now left in ruins after the invasion. His summer palace still stands in Bangalore. After some much needed South Indian lunch, we dedicated the afternoon to exploring the great Mysore zoo. It was extremely entreating. The zoo is very well maintained and it is a must visit for animal lovers and families with children! It exhibits a variety of animals and birds.


Just before the sunset, we made our way to the beautiful Brindavan Gardens of Mysore. It is ranked in the top ten gardens in India. Our hotel was located in the heart of the Brindavan gardens. Life could not get more perfect than this. I watched the sunset as the beautiful fountain lights were turned on. The hotel served us with dinner and we called it a night as we were extremely exhausted from the bus travel through the day.





Early in the morning after heavy breakfast, we set course for Ooty. It was going to be a long journey up the mountains. We visited the temple in Nanjangunda in the morning. It was a typical vintage South Indian temple. The forest route to Ooty up the Nilgiri Mountains was beautiful. We were in Tamil Nadu territory! We stopped at a roadside tea shop to enjoy some hot tea and pakodas in the chilling December winter of Ooty. The forest route was very pleasant covered with Eucalyptus trees. We spotted elephants and some deer before we finally arrived in Ooty. Our hotel in Ooty was the most adorable place I have ever seen. I am not kidding. The small hotel run by the government was once the quarters for soldiers of the Mysore king for his winter palace in Ooty. After checking in and getting some lunch we went for boating. It was a fun experience. Beautiful landscapes surrounded us as we moved through the cold waters of the hill station.




Our hotel in Ooty was surrounded by hills and valley with beautiful flowers from all over the world. Coonoor is an army base camp just above Ooty which has the Dodabetta peak, the highest mountain peak in the Nilgiri Hills standing tall at 2,600m. The view was breath-taking. All of Ooty could be seen from the viewpoint.


We settled in for the cold night, bundled up in blankets and surviving on hot tea. The next morning we visited Sim’s botanical park in Ooty. It had an amazing variety of fern houses, butterfly house, trees of various species and I was simply delighted with the whole botany exposure. We began our journey back to Bangalore. We faced a four-hour delay on one of the sharp turns on our way down from the mountain roads because a huge truck had stopped in the middle, blocking the path of our travel bus. Obviously, this was the middle of nowhere and there was no mechanic or tools. Finally, we did make it back safe and sound to Bangalore.



Personally, it was a life changing experience. Travelling with total strangers all of who were curious as to why a tall girl was traveling alone. I guess they assumed my story was like that of Kangana from Queen (I could be for all they know!). I managed to interact with them, share stories, explore two beautiful places and collected memories to last me a lifetime. It was after this wonderful experience that I realized how travelling was relaxing, therapeutic and liberating for me. This trip was where it all began.

TOP FOUR TIPS FOR MYSORE-OOTY TRIP:

1. If you are going in December (winter) carry sweaters/jackets, socks, gloves. It was very cold and if it rains the temperature drops are crazy.

2. The road from Ooty to Mysore is uphill and can give you motion sickness so stay prepared with a plastic bag, anti-emetic tablet etc.
3.Both Mysore and Ooty have a lot of travel-friendly shopping. 
VERY IMPORTANT: Only buy items from government store (inside Mysore Palace area). My friend was sold fake sandalwood in-scents, I bought fakeEucalyptuss oil from very genuine looking shops. Ooty chocolates are fine. They are delicious. Be sure to try some!

4.Mysore Palace has a lot of tourists so be careful with your belongings, also remember to plan your day well so you can visit the zoo in the morning, palace after that and reach in time for the gardens as you will not benefit if you reach the gardens after sunset. They are away from the city. Also, the local bus for the garden is very crowded on public holidays. Just get yourself a taxi. I did not have a pleasant experience on my recent trip to Mysore.

CHECK OUT MY MYSORE-OOTY VLOG





So now you know what you have to do! Take that trip you keep dreaming about. Where is it that you want to go? Is it with your friends, your partner or your family? Make that bucket list trip a reality. This brings us to the end of this blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences. Leave your thoughts and comments below. Do not forget to follow and subscribe. Thank you!

Disclaimer: All the photos and videos, the stories in this blog post are mine. The songs in the video have been credited at the end of the video to respective singers.

Acknowledgments: The main photo of the view of Ooty from inside the hotel is not mine. It was taken by my sister Sonali Khetia. (She did not allow me to use it so I stole it through a screenshot because it is too beautiful to not be put to good use.)

She went on the same trip with two of our mutual friends two years later. Yes, that is me inspiring travelers right there. Hehe. Bye

Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.


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