Ooty is the perfect base from where you can trek into the Nilgiri Hills. Here are some routes you could follow:
1. Ooty-Parson’s peak-Porthimund-Mukurthi National Park-Pandiar Hills-Pykara Falls-Mudumalai National Park-Ooty:
This a long trek which heads north-west from Ooty, taking you through some of the prettiest and most unspoilt parts of the Nilgiris. Parson’s peak, which towers over Parson’s Valley, can be reached on foot or by bus- it’s a three hour ride. Once you reach Parson’s Valley, however, you should begin your trek: the area’s so picturesque, it deserves every bit of time you can spend wandering through it. From Parson’s Valley, trek on to Porthimund, a village lying deep in the hills. A tent can be pitched here for the night, before you go on to Mukurthi, a well-known wildlife preserve. Dominated by the Mukurthi Peak (36 km from Ooty and so named because it resembles a human nose), the Mukurthi National Park is a dense forest, inhabited by a fascinating cross-section of Indian fauna: leopards, elephants, tigers, the highly endangered Nilgiri tahr, and the more common deer, monkeys, birds, and reptiles.
Mukurthi has a forest bungalow which, though not the height of luxury, is comfortable enough and makes an excellent base for exploring the sanctuary.
From Mukurthi, head north, through the Pandiar Hills, pitching a tent along the way for the night. The next day, you can head for the lovely Pykara Falls, along the Pykara Lake, and then work your way north to the Mudumalai National Park. One of southern India’s most important wildlife sanctuaries, Mudumalai is densely forested with bamboo, teak and sandalwood and has a large population of elephants. The park’s also home to deer, monkeys, tigers, wild boars, sloth bears, gaur, and birds.
From Mudumalai, you can trek back to Ooty, or you can take a bus- there are regular buses between the park and the city.
2. Ooty-Avalanche-Upper Bhavani-Kolaribetta-Emerald -Ooty:
A shorter and more manageable trek, this one gives you a glimpse- tantalising in itself- of the Nilgiris. Although you’ll see only the very fringe of the Mukurthi National Park along the way, there are plenty of pretty sights- a lovely lake, dense forests, and a quaintly-named village- to make this a rewarding trek. Head south-west from Ooty, past the Avalanche Dam, to the village of Avalanche, in the Avalanche Valley (nobody here was too imaginative when it came to choosing names!). Named after an `avalanche’- a landslide, really- in 1823, Avalanche is a riot of shola trees, rhododendrons, orchids, magnolias and a trout stream: absolutely lovely. You can stay for the night at the local forest department guest house, and trek south the next day to Upper Bhavani. A dam on one of the prettiest lakes in the Nilgiris, Upper Bhavani’s good for a picnic, before you pass into Mukurthi National Park and head north towards Kolaribetta. At 2,625 mt, Kolaribetta is one of the highest peaks in the Nilgiris, and a trek to the summit, while not very tiring, will reward you with an unparalleled view of the surrounding countryside. From Kolaribetta, go north-east, towards Ooty, stopping en route at the village of Emerald. Nobody seems to be very sure of why Emerald has such an unusual name- but nobody’s complaining. It’s a pretty place, and perfect for a picnic by the side of the lake. There are buses to Ooty from Emerald, so you have the option of completing the trip by bus.
Short one-day treks to Ooty’s nearest tourist attractions are also possible; these include the thickly forested area of Glenmorgan, 17 km from town and rich in eucalyptus, wattle and rhododendron plantations; and Dodabetta, the second highest peak in the Western Ghats. Dodabetta, 2,638 mt tall, towers over the surrounding hills and lies about 10 km from Ooty. The hike to the top isn’t much of a challenge, and will earn you a splendid view, as far as Coimbatore and even the Mysore plateau.
As far as clothing and other `essentials’ are concerned, remember that nights in the Nilgiris can get chilly, even during the summer, so take along light woollens for summer treks. During the winter, heavier woollens are necessary packing. On all treks, take along insect repellent, sun glasses, and a floppy hat. Bottled water and food is generally available all over the Nilgiris, so unless you’re heading deep into tribal territory, you needn’t stock up on either.
The Nilgiris Trekking Association, 31 D, Bank Road, Ooty, and the Nilgiri Wildlife and Environment Association (the NWLEA) at Mount Stewart Hills are among the best organisations from whom information on trekking in the Nilgiris can be obtained.