Ooty Trek is a trek in which every hour on the clock a new vista opens up. Picture this: on the trek you run through Scottish like meadows, dark eucalyptus groves, acres and acres of perfectly pruned tea gardens, views from the summit where the eyes stretch far beyond the Bandipur forests to Kerala. And when you thought that the trek has shown you all, the descent through the deciduous forest to Mudumalai surpasses all your expectations – the trail winds down through a mixed forest before entering the darker forests, clear streams run through the forest, wild elephants roam on the slopes and near the end you pop out of a Bamboo forest that is so dark that at places sunlight never touches the floor.
For a weekend trek near Bangalore, the Ooty Scottish trail is almost perfect. It is just perfect for a family getaway or a trek with friends and companion. Trekkers of any age can go for this trek and enjoy the natural scenic beauty of the ‘Queen of Hills’!
Author: Sandhya UC
Note: The Ooty Scottish trail requires an overnight’s camping at Kokkal, a small village near Sholur 14 kilometres away on the Ooty Gudalur road
How to reach Sholur, the trek base:
Take the night bus out of Bangalore to Ooty. As your bus crosses Pykara, prepare to get off at Sholur, an uninhabited village 14 kms short of Ooty.
The trek starts right off the highway, past the pond with wild ducks and starts to climb gently skirting around a few administrative offices.
The scenery immediately opens out to your first view of the meadows. Ten minutes later spot the first of the picket fences that take you through a private sheep farming land. Cross the dirt track and head out on the wide trail that rises towards the meadows. As you climb out of the trail vast stretches of green meadows studded with clumps of green trees roll out in your view stretching for miles until they meet the blue mountains of the Nilgiris. In between pretty farm houses dot the landscape completing the Scottish setting.
The trail takes a long U-turn and heads towards a small cluster of huts of Thalaikunda. The meadows still stretch in every direction. Half hour later break for a while at a sudden explosion of forest on your right. Skirt around the outer edges of the forest and descend to a large farm. Across the farm, a little distance away the road to Kokkal snakes through the hills.
Past the farm, the trail veers to the right and climbs gently to the tribal settlement of Thalaikunda. Walk through the row of huts, and at the last hut take a sharp left around the fence towards the eucalyptus grove. Even before you enter the grove the faint smell of eucalyptus permeates in the air.
The shade of the grove is welcome from the long walk in the sun – though the cool Ooty air hardly makes you feel it. The trail gradually descends through the grove until you get to a cross road on the trail. At the crossroad take the trail on your right and ascend gently until you reach a tiny hillock.
The scenery changes to the natural Shola forests — the landscape covered with small tree like shrubs. From the top of the hillock the trail descend down magically into rows of tea plantations.
Acres and acres of rolling hills covered by neatly planted tea garden – the greenery so soothing and refreshing that it takes time to for your eye to get used to the new setting. Adding to the magic silver oak trees sprout through the tea gardens their tender leaves glistening in the sun.
As you get to the road, spot the forest worker’s quarters on your left and a road passing through the plantations in between. Take the muddy trail that runs between the tea estates opposite the quarters. Spot the BBTC (Bombay Burma trading corporation) and Denzel Estate board on the road and you’ll know that you are on the right track.
Walk on the tarred road for about half an hour until you spot a small river running to your right, a hundred feet or so below you. Cut across the tea gardens and take the mud road that runs in the opposite direction.
On your left spot a small dam which the locals call the check dam. Descend to the lower part of the dam and cross a small wooden bridge that runs across it. The path is a bit slippery so hold on to the rails. Cross the dam, turn right and walk along the canal that emerges out of the dam. The walk along the canal is for about kilometre and almost always under the shade of trees.
Look for a tiny village perched high on the hills on the left – the villagers call it Netaji Nagar.
Continue to follow the path along the canal. Cross the bridge towards the end of the canal and the trail switches to the left cutting through a Christian cemetery. Colourful farmlands with a variety of crops swoop down for a fair distance. Cut through the farmland and continue on the trail that gradually ascends to the tribal village of Kakanji on your right.
Cross the village and continue through the grasslands till you spot a pink and green house — the Geethalaya. This house is signals the start of Kokkal village. Follow the alley next to Geethalaya and descend to the main market street of Kokkal village.
This is a good spot to take a break for lunch at one of the small eateries of Kokkal. Kokkal has some lovely camping grounds just out of the village on the way to Thiruveri betta. They belong to friendly villagers – so talk to them first. Most oblige. A parting gift or a small fee is an ideal way to repay the hospitality.
Set up camp and attempt Thiruveri summit for the sunset or hike up to it to see a sunrise over the Nilgiris. Both are exciting and it is hard to choose one from the other.
Trek to the Thiruveri summit
At Kokkal bus stop, cross the road and head upwards on the cemented path till you reach the Ayyanar Kovil on your left in the village of Doobakandi (it is an extension of Kokkal). Just after you cross the last of the settlements on your left, look for an abandoned stone quarry. Cross the quarry and take a sharp left on the rocky path that continues further.
There is no marked trail here and you need to find your way over the rocks to the top. The summit offers panoramic views of the Porthmand mountain ranges all the way up to Mudumalai, Bandipur national forest and Kerala. It is a sight that lingers for long. Almost three thousand feet below are the villages of Bokkapura and Masinagudi – your destination after tomo rrow’s trek.
From the summit take the same path that you took on your way up. An alternative route to go down to Kokkal is to descend via the south-west face of the hill.
Day 02: Kokkal to Bokkapura. Trek 7 kms. Time: 4½ hours.
Wrap up camp and descend back to Kokkal village until you get to the bus stop. Head back on the road that goes past a Kannada speaking village Kannarimuku. At the start of the village, just before the road takes a turn to the left, a dirt road leads off the road leading towards the open end of the valley. Take the dirt road with tea plantations lining either side of it. On your right the summit of Thiruveri betta soars above you.
The tea plantations gradually give way to a mixed forest and the dirt track narrows to a broad trail hugging the true left of the valley (to you it would appear the right of the valley). The trail descends rapidly through a series of switch backs getting into a thick deciduous forest. The vegetation is dense and sometimes the trail wet.
In the spring and autumn the tress shed to leave the trail covered with a layer of fallen leaves to tread on. At the other times the trail is mostly in the shades of trees and green. Losing height rapidly the trail suddenly emerges at a stream in the fold of the mountain.
A cement bridge spans the stream. The whole place under the cover of giant trees is just the right spot to take a break. The water is clean and cool.
Continue on the trail now emerging on the other side of the valley. This is elephant country and elephant dung line the trail. It is common to spot wild elephants on the trail or on the slopes above the trail. So keep a sharp lookout for them.
The trail moves further towards the open edge of the valley, making a wide traverse over the Bokkapura village. After the wide traverse, the trail dips rapidly in a series of switch backs to enter a dark bamboo forest. The bamboos sway in the wind, their stems making an eerie creaking sound.
Another stream meets the trail at the heart of the bamboo forest. The water clear and clean feeds the Bokappura village. The trail continues to the edge of the bamboo forest emerging suddenly out of the darkness to the edges of Bokappura and civilization. Resorts line the dirt track that comes up to meet the trail.
Bokappura is a small village more famous for its temple deity. A small bus stop has busses every hour to Masanagudi, the next larger village. The road to Masanagudi cuts through the Mudumalai forest reserve. From Masanagudi it is easy to get a bus to Theppakadu, the elephant camp of the Mudumalai forest reserve. Theppakadu is on the Ooty Mysore national highway 67 and getting a bus to Mysore is not too difficult. From Mysore there are regular bus services to Bangalore. It takes 6 hours to get to Bangalore from Masanagudi.
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.
What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.
How much should my bag weigh?
“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.
One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.
How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.
Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.
Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.
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