We decided to spend Christmas in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu. The hills were popular amongst the British at the beginning of the 20th century to escape the heat down below. At about 2300m above sea level it is considerably cooler. We caught a coach from Mysore, the second half of the journey was the long winding road up the hill and was very pretty, lots of tea plantations are grown there.
We got to Ooty and got a rickshaw like always to our hotel, and this time an actual proper hotel! It was even higher up and away from the busy and what a view
We were greeted with tea and cake and sat in the lovely garden taking it all in.
Olly's Auntie was very kind and gave us some money for Christmas and we decided to spend it on a nice hotel for two nights to have a lovely and luxurious Christmas away from home, so thank you very much. Our room had a log fire, a big tv, and a thick duvet perfect to enjoy some Christmas movies, well Django Unchained and James Bond were on the tv channels, however we didn't actually finish watching either of them because we got so bloody fed up of all the adverts! All the same the hotel and the location didn't disappoint. The hotel was called Sherlock and the whole place had a very stately and Holmesian feel to it. In fact the small hotel was once a private villa built at the turn of the century to house some rich British folk escaping from the heat of the coast. Set back in swathes of epic green pine forest it was the picturesque tea plantation hill station many go to Ooty to seek out and end up finding the bustling market centre leaving disappointed.
Obviously whilst travelling you're always trying to get in touch with foreign culture at every opportunity, on Christmas Day however, it was our mission to find a slice of British culture in the Western Ghats famed for its Raj era heritage. The centre of town, for example is known as Charing Cross. The church and government buildings displaying classic Raj era architecture also emenated the colonial charm many seek in Ooty.
Unfortunately our hotel did not serve alcohol and in fact the whole of Tamil Nadu whilst not prohibited any more, still has high taxation and restrictions on alcohol. In fitting with our desire to seek out the British culture in Ooty we took it upon our selves to find some booze for Christmas! So we wandered down the hill to the centre of town to hunt down some alcohol...to no avail, or so we thought for a while because every shop we went to, which only seemed to sell oils and chocolate, told us to go to the next shop. We would ask at the next shop and they would say no but they do sell it at the next shop. This went on for a little while until we realised that no shop was going to sell it. We have discovered in India that if you ask someone a question they will never ever say they don't know, they would rather give you completely the wrong information. Anyway we went into a bar, and it's the bars that sell the alcohol funnily enough! They are dingy and it feels dodgy when you ask for some alcohol because they wrap it up in newspaper for you. However we found out the wine was actually a foul tasting port... Nonetheless we finally got our booze and experienced the seedy underworld of an Indian hill station on Christmas day hurrah!
We were also lucky enough to have Turkey on Christmas Day, although not quite a Xmas roast, the roasted turkey came with veg and cheese on toast, it certainly was a welcome break from curry and felt suitably Christmassy. We also took a horse ride on Christmas morning instead of the usual walk in the park.
After 2 nights at Sherlock we descended in to Ooty town and back to the budget digs we were much more used to at a guesthouse down on the Ooty lake. We took a walk to the beautiful sounding 'lake house' and were greeted by what can only be described as the Indian equivalent of Blackpool pier. Crowds of families crammed in to run down amusement arcades and shoddy looking 'rides'. This was where our journey through the British influence in Ooty came to an end... It was impossible to picture the lake as anything other than a run down, painfully tacky Indian pleasure park.
Ooty was cold, very cold and although the respite from the heat was welcome we'd decided that 3 days of the hills was plenty and it was time to move on to the fabled state of Kerala. Merry Christmas. (On January 25th).