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Known as Udagamandalara in Tamil, this hill station in the Nilgiri mountains near the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka was founded by the British in the early part of the 19th century to serve as the summer headČquarters of the government of Madras. Before that time it was inhabited by the Todas, a tribal people, whose remnants still live in the area and whose animist shrines can still be seen at various places. Though it stands at a height of 2268 metres amongst some of the most spectacular mountains in southern India it's not, as you might expect it to be, similar to the Himalayas since it lacks the fascinating cultures which make those mountains so interesting. Indeed' it's more a faded touch of the Raj and suffers from a bad case of over-enthusiasm on the part of the Indian tourist organisation.


There's precious little to see here as such and not a great deal to do unless you're fond of long 'walks and boating on the weed-choked lake. The whole place has a run-down feeling about it and although this isn't unusual in India you are led to expect something special when really there isnt anything. The best part of Ootacamund is the journey there along a narrow, winding and very steep mountain road which passes first through luxuriant rain forest and then through tea plantations. Having put the tourist literature into a more realistic perspective it should be said that Ooty is, nevertheless, a very pleasant and relaxing place and ideal as an escape from the heat of the lowlands. In winter and during the monsoon it can be quite cold, however, and you will need warm clothing. As far as general appearances go it's an unlikely combinČation of southern England and Australia with single storey stone cottages surrounded by twee fenced flower gardČens scattered along leafy winding lanes and with tall eucalypt stands covering the otherwise barren hill tops. Since they were introduced back in the 19th century, the eucalypts have spawned a small oil-extraction industry in the area and bottles of eucalyptus oil can be bought in many shops in the town. The other main reminders of the British perČiod are the stone churches and the huge boys' public school which sits in its own landscaped gardens at the bottom end of the lake. There's also the terraced and very English Botanical Gardens in which Government House stands on the lower slopes of Doddabetta, the highest peak in Tamilnadu. Ootacamund, although it quickly be-came the principal hill station in southr India during the Raj, was not the first in this area. As early as 1819 the British had begun to build houses at Kotagiri, 28 km from Ooty. This much smaller town still survives as a minor hill station and has a climate mid-way between that of Ooty and Coonoor.

   Ooty Navigation

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