Read this Wellington and Ooty travelogue written by traveler Shrey Srivastava. He shares his experience of spending time in the beautiful Nilgiri Hills.
Last year, in December, I embarked on a memorable journey to Wellington, Tamil Nadu, a defense Cantonment nestled amidst the picturesque Nilgiri Hills. This scenic region is home to India’s oldest military educational institution, the Defense Services Staff College (DSSC), which has a rich legacy of producing exceptional military leaders. The institution, once commanded by the legendary Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw, plays a pivotal role in training major and lieutenant colonel-rank officers from all three wings to be well-versed in the ever-evolving trends and technologies of the defense and civil sectors. The DSSC focuses on cultivating creative and analytical thinking skills, essential for efficient judgment and decision-making while promoting seamless coordination among different defense-armed wings. Furthermore, it imparts training to officers from around 30 other countries, making it an internationally recognized hub of military education.
With my cousin serving in the Indian Army, I was fortunate to visit Wellington and witness firsthand the discipline and dedication exhibited by the officers at DSSC. I had the privilege of exploring the entire Wellington area and also visiting the nearby charming town of Ooty, which promised adventures amidst breathtaking landscapes.
My journey commenced in Coimbatore, where I visited the GeDee Naidu Car Museum. Named after G. D. Naidu, known as the “Edison of India,” this museum houses a splendid collection of vintage cars from prestigious brands such as Austin-Healey, Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Porsche, BMW, and many others. The captivating displays and insightful information left me enthralled.
Moving forward, I set my sights on the magnificent Adiyogi statue of the Isha Foundation, a colossal 34-meter-tall steel sculpture of Lord Shiva. This remarkable creation, managed by the Isha Foundation, stood as the “Largest Bust Sculpture” in the world, leaving me in awe of its grandeur and intricate design.
As I embarked on the drive towards Wellington, the Nilgiri Mountains cast their spell on the surroundings, creating an enchanting yet unpredictable experience. The night journey, accompanied by heavy rains and fleeting clouds, required cautious driving due to sudden changes in visibility.
Reaching Wellington, I stayed with my cousin, a Major in the Indian Army, who was pursuing further military education at DSSC. The next seven days were filled with thrilling adventures amidst the hills and dense forests, known for their diverse wildlife, including leopards, bison, elephants, and bears.
My exploration of Wellington commenced with a visit to the Arjun Officers’ Mess, offering a picturesque view of the mountains. This delightful place, renovated from a Student Officers’ Mess, provided officers and their families with modern amenities and a comfortable setting to relax and bond.
Venturing to Ooty, I dined at some of the finest restaurants, such as the Earl’s Secret and Mindescape. The journey to Mindescape, through dark and cloudy roads, added an adventurous touch to the visit. At Earl’s Secret, nestled within King’s Cliff, I experienced the grandeur of a century-old British mansion, now transformed into a charming hotel with a curated menu and splendid decor.
One of the highlights of my trip was the barbecue on the shores of Avalanche Lake, a secluded spot surrounded by wild forest.
Back in Wellington, I cooked for my cousin’s family, enjoying the serene garden outside their army residence. As the daytime activities continued, I collected bark scraps from trees along with him and my Nephew, immersing myself in the natural beauty of the area. Collecting wood and preparing dinner over a bonfire made the experience even more enjoyable.
During my stay, my cousin graciously took me to the prestigious Wellington Gymkhana Club, established in 1873 by the British to offer recreation to the garrison stationed at Wellington. The club now caters to officers of the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as overseas officers studying at DSSC and the Madras Regiment. Surrounded by dense forests and an impressive golf course, the club provided a unique and memorable experience.
On New Year’s Eve, the club hosted a grand dinner, complete with an array of delicious cuisines and lively entertainment. The joyous atmosphere and the spirit of celebration were infectious, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the festivities.
Beyond the luxuries of the club, the true essence of the Nilgiris revealed itself during my explorations in the region. The lush greenery, misty mountains, and serene lakes left me in awe of nature’s beauty. As I visited the Chamraj tea estate, I was captivated by the sprawling tea gardens that adorned the hills like a green carpet.
Throughout my seven-day adventure in Wellington and Ooty, I felt a profound sense of connection with nature and history. From the disciplined ambiance of the Defense Services Staff College to the tranquil moments at the Wellington Gymkhana Club and the exciting escapades in Ooty, every aspect of the trip etched unforgettable memories in my heart.
As my journey came to an end, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to witness the magic of the Nilgiris and the prestige of the military institution. The trip had been an enriching and soul-stirring experience, leaving me with a renewed appreciation for the dedication and sacrifices of the armed forces.
As I bid farewell to Wellington and Ooty, I carried with me the memories of mist-covered mountains, lush tea estates, and the warm camaraderie of military life. The Nilgiris had woven their charm around me, and I knew that this exclusive and life-changing trip would forever hold a special place in my heart.
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