The International Writers Magazine: India
Hill Country Lovedale
Marianne de Nazareth
The name sounds like it’s out of some old Mills and Boon romance, but there is a place named Lovedale in South India, which was founded by the British in 1812. It is still comparatively unspoilt and a veritable Shangri-la
With its lush green tea gardens and the vale relatively free from unplanned and unchecked urbanization like Ooty is today. We had decided to take a couple of days break in a resort named Hill Country, Lovedale. So hopping into a Volvo bus in Bangalore, we made the overnight trip which brought us into the Ooty central bus stand by 8am. Arrange with Gope the resort manager to be collected from the bus stand and in the blink of an eye you are transported from dirty and crowded Ooty to idyllic picturesque Lovedale, where the clouds come down to greet you.
The resort is built across a couple of acres and its USP is the breath taking view of the vale of Lovedale. Take a dekko at the pictures and you can see it’s a trip worth the effort of taking since it’s definitely a matter of a few years that it will turn into the nightmare Ooty has become. Tea estates stretch into the distance interspersed with little villages which look like Lego toys, with their orange tiled roof’s and white walls bunched together. George Koshy the owner of the resort chose well all of twelve years ago, when he came to Lovedale to start the resort. And the resort wears its age lightly with its impeccable gardens and spanking fresh interiors of the rooms.
|| So early in the morning woken by a chirpy Bulbul near the window we hurriedly pulled on our warm clothes and rushed out camera in hand to capture the arrival of the Toy Train which chugs past the resort. Lovedale is chilly at any time of the year, so socks and a warm cardigan or shawl is mandatory wear to enjoy the bracing air.
We breathed lungs full of pure Lovedale air as we sat out on a projection in Hill County, waiting for the train to arrive. Soon the evocative ‘coo- cooeee’ of the train resounded through the valley and the little bright blue train chugged into view, snaking down the hill and across a little distance to disappear into a tunnel carved into a huge rock. “The train goes under our resort,” said Gope the restaurant manager and its true because whenever it did pass the resort during the day and we were indoors, the delightful chugs did seem to be a little bit louder!
Ask for local delicacies in the restaurant. The chefs being local, their Badaguru Koi Udaka ( Badaga Chicken Curry) and steamed rice, finished with Tuppathittu (Banana Pancakes) are a must have. Those who find spicy food hard to handle, a variety of cuisines including regular continental soups and bakes are on order. In the cold, we always ordered their delicious Sweet Corn/Chicken soup with freshly cut celery added straight from the garden. A plate of fresh cut fruit always finished my meal, leaving me replete and completely indulged.
A number of guests at the resort had come in for the weekend to participate in the 152nd Founders Day Celebrations at the Lawrence School. We curiously took a drive to the school and were stunned by the beauty of the mellow brick building obviously built by the British. The Head Masters house was picture book perfect right down to the hedgerows which were hand trimmed by loving maalis (gardeners) trained for generations from the Raj era. Children in steel grey suits with red blouses ran around busily and proud parents made idle chit chat waiting for the celebrations to commence. The Alumni associations of these schools are warm and loving and always stretch helping hands across the miles to help fellow alumni, as can be seen in other schools in India.
You can visit a tea garden, ride the UNESCO heritage toy train, go boating in the lake in Ooty, visit the botanical Sims Park in Coonoor while you stay at Hill Country. Shopaholics can shop all they want for tea, spices, warm clothes and of course home made chocolates which the Nilgiris are famed for. I particularly always buy Citronella or Lemon Grass oil which is rather expensive, to carry back with me to Bangalore. It is available only in Ooty and is the only organic pest control I have found against Bangalore’s blood sucking mosquito menace.
Hill Country was the perfect holiday after a long time. With Climate Change making most of India quite unbearable during the summer months including Bangalore, the chill mountain air was a refreshing relief. And, check out the creative talent of the room service boy with your towels. You will never have seen anything quite like it in any other resort, anywhere in the country.
© Marianne de Nazareth May 17th 2010
Fellow with UNFCCC & UNEP
Former Asst Editor- The Deccan Herald
Adjunct faculty St. Joseph's College.