Ooty to Gudalur – An Easy Descent
There are two roads out of Ooty: one has 31 hairpin turns and some of the steepest grades in India, the other one does not. We accidentally took the second road, and I don’t regret it at all. The thing about going downhill on a bike (at least for me, not for the Tour-de-Francers) is that it can be just as slow as going uphill. On very steep grades, especially when the roads are not well paved, a bump taken at speed will send you right over the handle bars.
Thus, the lack of disappointment when I realized that we had bypassed the 31 hairpin turns (each of which is numbered and marked with signs giving the number for an undertaker, see Sam and Sheena’s pics here). Instead, we had a steady downhill through Eucalyptus and Bay trees, coffee and tea plantations, with some spectacular views over the plains.
When we arrived at our hotel – Gouri Farms – a farmstay in the small town of Gudalur, reception did not seem to be staffed. The only people we saw (as opposed to dogs, turkeys, and cows) were two children, both with impeccable English. The two boys informed us that one was a guest and the other lived on the property. The host-child did not know where his parents were, nor was he able to show our hot and sweaty selves to a room. However, he did compliment our bicycles, as did his guest friend: “I also think the cycles are lovely.”
We did eventually found our way to a room and spent two lovely nights on the farm, one of the most peaceful and well-appointed places we have stayed. (Peaceful despite the fact that the local temple was having a drum-pounding, steady-chanting, crowd-attracting festival our first night). The property is owned by an Indian couple who lived in Westchester, NY for many years before settling back in India, where they opened a hospital for local tribespeople.
We were lucky enough to be on the farm for the few days when the coffee trees were in bloom, and the fragrance was beautiful, heady and sweet.