Every year, when Bangalore turns into a hot mess, we put on our visors and visit Ooty, for easy Nilgiri breeze and difficult golf courses at Ootacamund Gymkhana Club.
This year, between tee and tea, we were introduced to Behind Bars, a new venture that takes Ooty tourists away from, well, tourists, a quick escape facilitated by the basis of their business – cycles.
Ooty locals Poojitha Daradhalli (heritage resort owner), Anita Nanjappa (colonial walk tour guide) and Shobana Chandrashekar (café owner) conceptualised these cycling tours so you can pedal away from droves of picnicking families at Commercial Road – especially if one of them is yours. Sign up and these ladies will have you cycling though tunnels and woods, up green mounds and down beautiful valleys that open up to rewarding sights. The largest tour group consists of six people, and the cost includes the cycle, all safety gear and refreshments for the course of the excursion.
Sign up and these ladies will have you cycling though tunnels and woods, up green mounds and down beautiful valleys that open up to rewarding sights.
Ooty isn’t the easiest terrain to cycle around, especially if you are in holiday mode, which is why most of Behind Bars’ circuits feature large stretches going downhill. On the few occasions that you have to cycle uphill, Poojitha transitions from tour guide to life coach: “If you make the effort now, you will reap the benefits later.” It’s also a great way to burn calories from the Ooty mandatory chocolate binge at Jai’s King Star.
For our ride we geared up for a 14-kilometer trip going through three British era tunnels, stopping at an ancient Toda Temple to view the intricately designed outer sanctuary and winding up near the Lawrence School in Lovedale. And this is where the bell rings.
On this route you can expect to pedal past antiquated railway stations, ride along misty cabbage patches with a view of a Badaga settlement in the valley, and listen to stories about how Ootacamund featured in love letters written by young British officers who summer-ed here.
Behind Bars’ other tours with similar distances include a ride into the woods near Glen Morgan, just short of the overcrowded Pykara Lake; and a visit to a eucalyptus oil factory. “For more seasoned cyclists we’re working on a 40 kilometer stretch that goes all the way past Kodanad up to Dodabetta. It’s an extremely scenic route and we’ll be riding past Dr Jayalalithaa’s massive tea plantations too,” beams Poojitha. A-mma gonna try that on my next trip back to Ooty.
Getting there: Book a tour with Behind Bars Bicycle Tours through their Facebook page or call 08908547283. The average cost of a trip with full gear and refreshments is approximately Rs 1,700. Pack your own sunscreen.
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