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Travel Tales from Nilgiris – Ooty Highlights

After a long day of travel and visiting the Tea factory in Coonoor, we slept early and woke up refreshed ,ready to take on the mountains.

The plan was to go to Dodabetta peak and other sites along the way. The  basic sights outside of Ooty. After breakfast we headed out towards Ooty, ooh-ing and aah-ing at views along every turn. More tea estates, cute bungalows and roadside fresh vegetable sellers with just pulled carrots, radishes on sale. Seriously, Ooty has to be the root vegetable capital of India! The colorful carrots, radishes, beets have never looked so inviting and fresh in India!

Carrots for sale

Doddabetta Peak
Views ofOoty below

The dark clouds parted making way for sunshine and every now and then a light drizzle added to the misty weather around us. The kids were bundled up and cosy. After about an hour from Coonoor we reached Dodabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiris. It was windy and super cold. We just had lame wind cheaters and hurriedly bought fleece caps from a hawker who made most of the opportunity by selling cold weather clothes from the trunk of his car.

Us at Doddabetta

Doddabetta peak telescope house

We almost ran from the car to a tea stall on the peak who was making brisk business on this cold windy day. We wandered around, chased the kids who kept warm by running around and even went up the tower that had the telescope to take in views below. Clouds drifted in and out revealing and hiding the Ooty city below. It was a bit like being in Switzerland minus the Alps, snow and crowds.

Cloudy misty peak

Oh, and the plump dahlias and marigolds and a host of other flowers at the top were envy inducing.

Nilgiris Tea and Chocolates
Nilgiri tea and chocolate

After an hour or so we headed back to the car and drove back towards the city stopping en-route at Niligiris tea shop for another round of tea. Kids had chocolate. It’s an experience to sit amidst tea gardens and sip hot tea. And variety of tea like masala tea, green tea, cardamom tea, even chocolate tea! We definitely OD’ed on tea and chocolate while we were here. Luckily all the walks and chasing Varun helped with keeping the weight piling on.

Pykara Lake
Boating at PykaraLake

Next stop on agenda was Pykara lake. It was cloudy but not raining hence we decided to make most of it and went boating. The kids were cold, but were thrilled about going out on the boat. there are no views here to talk about but if you want to have a boating experience while in Ooty, this is probably a better bet than Ooty lake ( which is very crowded). I didn’t like this spot as much.

Pykara Falls
pk2

Our driver recommended going to Pykara falls from here and I didn’t really have any hopes. But we went along nevertheless. This was a surprise for me. Although the monkeys here are aggressive, the falls were very beautiful. These are the kind of falls you can sit on rocks on and enjoy levels of falls all around. The water was brown due to rain run off but I really liked them. They had an earthy, down to earth quality about them without boasting about being the widest, tallest, most visited or one with most water. Arum leaves nodded in the light breeze, couples walked hand in hand to the falls and odd visitor sat by a burning log to keep warm. It was a bit slippery due to rain and moss and we had to keep an eye out on Varun to ensure he didn’t slip. We returned to tell the tale without any accidents.

By now, we were all hungry and headed to a “dhabha” or a road side eatery for lunch. It looked clean so we ordered food which to our surprise was very fresh – dal, curry, rotis and rice. We were set. We got some bhaajis or fritters from a neighboring stall as appetizer while waiting for our food to arrive. It starting pouring heavily and we contemplated sitting there over lunch and prolong it to tea to wait it out. But as if on cue, rain stopped after we had lunch and we could step out to take in more photos of the scenery in rain.

Photosession us

We left Varun in the car and wandered around to get some couple photos 😉

Nine Mile Stop
9 milepoint

Our driver prodded us to go to another “tourist” attraction on the same road -the nine mile stop. It is so-called as it is 9 miles from Ooty and is a popular spot for movie shoots. It’s an overview point. You have to climb a small hill to get to the top to the view-point but the rains made it very slick. We managed to make it to the top with Varun who as he was cold pulled his cap over his face and proclaimed he is a Spiderman. Things kids do!

Varun as spiderman

Vipul ran around taking photographs while Varun and I huddled closely to keep warm. The wind was wild on this exposed location and we were pushed by the wind. Varun and I headed down and soon Vipul and other’s joined us. Back in the car we were warm and happy.

Getting tired of the cold we headed back to our resort in Coonoor, even though there are additional attractions ( Pine Forest, Six mile stop) in this area. Back in the resort we sat by the fireplace enjoying some more hot tea while the kids played around.

eating by fireplace

Latter that night there was a bon-fire where we sat, joked and had drinks.

Wildas fire

It was another awesome day of sightseeing, great scenery and amazing company. The evening and night were spent at the resort- resting and charging for another day ahead!

As we headed to bed that night we couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful Ooty must be when the weather is better in early summer months of March and April. Sun soaked hills and valleys would be the perfect getaway – no wonder it is called the Queen of the Hills. We dozed off dreaming of the scenic vistas and great company counting our blessings for being able to enjoy this!

Travel Tales from Nilgiris – Coonor – Part 1

Wouldn’t you want to wakeup to these views day after day?

gardens

Last week we travelled on an impulse to the Nilgiris – mountain ranges at the intersection of three south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Things fell into place on the prior weekend and Wednesday morning found us onboard flight to Coimbatore – the nearest airport. Two hours later we were on a winding road amidst blue-grey tinted mountains, acres of tea gardens and smelling the fresh air laced with the heady eucalyptus.

Tea gardens

Taj Gardens

We reached the Taj resort by afternoon, rested and then in the evening headed to highland tea factory for a tour. We saw how tea is processed, sorted and packaged. The lovely ladies in the factory have to be vary of the tea dust that flies everywhere and wear scarves for protection.

Highland tea factory

Tea factory

Lady at tea factory

Filling tea in bags

It was serene and calm; not very crowded given the rainy and cold climate with the onset of monsoon. A bit like Seattle in Spring. We were not geared for the cold and had a rain jacket to keep warm. Even for Varun we didn’t have any warm clothes on hand. We made a beeline for the stores to buy some corduroys and denim pants for Varun and a couple of jackets.  They were very useful in the trip.

For four days we woke up to chilly mountain air, lightly drizzle, beautiful blooms, lakes and waterfalls and acres upon acres of rolling hills dotted with tea plantations. We took a ride in toy – train to Ooty and spent evenings by a roaring fireplace – a novelty for me in India.

Abundant flora, greenery , chirping birds everywhere and solitude if you skip the tourists hotspots. I don’t remember all these wonderful things about Nilgiris from my childhood visit though I distinctly recall the tall eucalyptus trees and the cabbage sized colorful dahlias.

The place is lovely -in fact perfect destination for early monsoon.  We went to bed early tired from the travel but with excited for the scenery to unfold in days ahead.

Stay tuned for more travel tales.

Rosella Tea and Ginger Cupcakes

Ready to eat

I know what you are saying – cupcakes? After yesterday’s post on healthy snacking? I get the irony.

Why am I doing this to you? In my defense, I ran out of green tea and reached in my tea stash for something else – vanilla chai tea, lemongrass tea, ginger-mint tea, Rosella tea…Wait a minute, I had completely forgotten about this packet of tea from Bali! It would be a perfect with some honey. So off I went to the pantry to get some hot water and sugar as there is no honey in office.

Lovely colour of rosella tea

As the tea steeped, I was charmed by its lovely red hue. The fruity flavor and the red color of the Rosella buds had me at first sip. Immediately I thought this would be perfect in a cake. A fruity pinkish-red cupcake. Weight consciousness be damned!

Tea soaking

I found a few chai-tea recipes (here and here) and earl grey recipes (here and here) but none with Rosella tea. I figured I could conjure one of my own based on these. Steeped tea, few spices to complement the fruity tea, flour, butter and eggs and we should be good to go. I wrote down the recipe that I think would work and tried this at home, making notes where I tweaked it real-time.

Ready to bake

To my amazement, it turned out  to be perfect! Light, delicate crumb, hints of warming spices and flecks of tea and Rosella buds.Except for the red color. They didn’t turn even the palest pink. Other than the vanilla cake like color, I am over the top with the taste and the texture.This is going to be my go to recipe 🙂 Oh, and the house smells heavenly while they are baking.

Ready to eat cupcake

Single cupcake

Rosella cupcakes

Tempting

Replace with any other tea you have on hand. Don’t like cinnamon and nutmeg? Replace with all spice or cardamom or even lavender. Make the recipe your own and bake them for the Office Christmas party or for school bake sale. Sophisticated enough for adults yet light and fruity for kids. They beg to be made and savored with some hot tea (or coffee).

Vipul was upset when I started making these and I decided that I will take them to work so we won’t eat the entire batch. But one bite, he begged me not to take them to work. And we are almost done with the entire batch. I promise, you wont be able to stop at one!

Rosella Tea and Ginger Cupcake Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup water + 4 bags Rosella tea
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg each
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger (fresh grated)
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup yogurt at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 175 C ( 350 F). Line the cupcake pan.

2. Heat water in a microwave for about 30- 40 seconds and let the tea bags steep in the hot water.

3. Sift and measure all the dry ingredients in a bowl ( flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg). Add ginger and mix well.

4. Cream sugar in butter in another blow till light and fluffy and then add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and yogurt and mix well.

5. Add the sugar-eggs-butter mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well ( or on medium speed of a stand mixer for couple of minutes).

6. Fill the cupcakes till they are 3/4 th full. Bake for 21 minutes.

Let cool before biting into one.

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