Mercedes-Benz GLC takes in Ooty

We’re be­hind the wheel of the lav­ish Mercedes-Benz GLC, mak­ing our way to the cap­i­tal of the Nil­giris. Fol­low us as we road trip in style from My­suru to check out Ud­haga­man­dalam (Ooty) and then head to our HQ in Pune

Car India - - CONTENTS - Story: Har­ket Suchde Pho­tog­ra­phy: Ku­nal Khadse

very­body needs a va­ca­tion once in a while. Whether you’re a sharp­suited busi­ness­man, a jeans-and-tee col­lege kid, a sari-clad sci­en­tist, or any­one who’s stuck in the daily grind re­ally. A change of scenery is al­most al­ways a great way to get cen­tred, re­lease some of that stiff­ness in your shoul­ders that comes with car­ry­ing the weight of your own per­sonal world and crys­tal­lize your thoughts. We call them get­aways for a rea­son, after all. We em­barked on one such get­away as well, head­ing to­wards the scenic beauty and calm re­pose of Ud­haga­man­dalam or Ooty, as it is more pop­u­larly known around In­dia.

Our jour­ney didn’t quite be­gin there, though, for we started from the city of My­suru. Leav­ing the com­fort of the ho­tel bed in the early hours of the morn­ing for a long day’s drive isn’t al­ways fun, but when you have the plush cabin of the Mercedes-Benz GLC to look for­ward to, the cob­webs tend to dis­pel rather quicker than usual. Climb in, set the two-zone cli­mate con­trol just so, ad­just the elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled seats for op­ti­mal reach and com­fort, en­hance the lat­ter with four-way lum­bar sup­port, and strap in. The am­bi­ent light­ing sets off a dif­fused glow that catches the beige leather and the wood ac­cents on the dash, and the sev­eninch dis­play with Garmin-pow­ered in­te­grated nav­i­ga­tion points me in the right di­rec­tion. The right di­rec­tion is, of course, Ooty and we would be tak­ing the scenic route via Masi­nagudi and the fa­mous 36 hair­pins of the My­suru-Ooty road, a 120-odd kilo­me­tre drive all told but one with many stops along the way.

It didn’t take long for us to pull over ei­ther, as just a scant few kilo­me­tres from our ho­tel was the fa­mous Cathe­dral of St Joseph and St Philom­ena. More com­monly known as St Philom­ena’s church, this mas­sive cathe­dral was built in 1936 and is modelled after the fa­mous Cologne Cathe­dral, fit­ting then that we should take a ve­hi­cle built by one of Ger­many’s big­gest car-mak­ers to go see it. The Cathe­dral’s mas­sive pres­ence, many tow­ers and neoGothic ar­chi­tec­ture all com­bine to cre­ate an im­pres­sive struc­ture and one that is only slightly marred by the fresh coat of paint it’s get­ting, which, to my eyes at least, de­tracts from the church’s rus­tic charm. Those twin spires stretch a mas­sive 175 feet into the air, mak­ing it one of the tallest churches in all of Asia. I had also read that some of the stat­ues in the church, in­clud­ing one of Mother Mary, has been draped in a tra­di­tional My­suru sari in an ef­fort to blend cul­tures. I couldn’t go in and ver­ify for my­self, though, as morn­ing mass was in ses­sion.

Hav­ing had my fill of the church’s majesty, it was time to move on. The high­way beck­oned and al­lowed me to flex the GLC’s con­sid­er­able 2.2-litre turbo-diesel mus­cle. With 170 PS and 400 Nm to tap into, the go­ing was fairly ex­pe­di­tious and soon we ar­rived at the gate to the Bandipur for­est re­serve. I had to force my­self to keep my foot off the pedal here, as, within for­est lim­its, the right of way be­longs to the many an­i­mals whose nat­u­ral habi­tat it is. And we hap­pened to spot a few of th­ese ex­otic lo­cal res­i­dents, too, be­fore we turned off to­wards Masi­nagudi, get­ting our first glimpse of the ma­jes­tic Nil­giri Hills, and headed out on to the hair­pin rid­dled road up to Ooty.

The twisties were so much fun to drive on in the GLC, es­pe­cially since I had used the Drive Se­lect tog­gle to set the SUV in Sport+ mode for max­i­mum driv­ing plea­sure. This

firmed up the sus­pen­sion, made the throt­tle more re­spon­sive, and ad­justed the shift tim­ing on the nine­speed auto ’box so that I could ex­tract all the dy­namism the SUV had to of­fer. As I was near­ing the top, a blan­ket of fog rolled in, adding this mys­ti­cal, ethe­real qual­ity to the sur­round­ings.

It was from within the folds of this mist that the GLC emerged on to the plateau at the cen­tre of which the town of Ooty is lo­cated. Be­fore en­ter­ing the hill­sta­tion proper, though, we stopped off at the fa­mous pine tree for­est here to take in the sight and dis­tinc­tively pleas­ant aroma of this thicket of tow­er­ing trees. You can even catch a glimpse of the Kam­raj Sa­gar Lake as a sliver of shim­mer­ing blue in the gaps be­tween the tree trunks.

By the time we were done tak­ing in the sights, sounds, and smells en route and had en­tered Ooty proper, it was nearly lunchtime, so I turned the GLC to­wards Have­lock Road and a res­tau­rant I had heard rave re­views of: Earl’s Se­cret. The views of­fered in this resto were sup­pos­edly a high­light and it didn’t dis­ap­point in this re­gard; nor, in fact, in terms of the de­li­cious­ness of the fare on of­fer. A sa­ti­at­ing lunch later, we were off again, our first post­meal des­ti­na­tion be­ing St Stephen’s Church. This iconic place of wor­ship is one of the old­est churches in the

Nil­giris, with its ori­gin dat­ing back all the way to the 1830s. Its light yel­low ex­te­rior and stately aes­thetic make it one of the prime at­trac­tions in Ooty.

From the church, we headed to­wards Doddabetta, which, at 8,650 feet, is the high­est peak in the Nil­giri range, lo­cated barely nine km from Ooty. This meant driv­ing through the heart of the hill sta­tion and on its nar­row roads packed as they were with in­clines and de­clines. The GLC’s silken nine-speed au­to­matic gear­box re­ally shone through. There were no jerks, loss of power or any sim­i­lar is­sues that you’d typ­i­cally face in a net­work of nar­row and un­du­lat­ing roads.

Once we reached the en­trance to Doddabetta top and left the tar­mac for a mud-rid­den path, the SUV’s 4MATIC all-wheeldrive sys­tem kicked in to en­sure that things didn’t get slip­pery on the slick sur­face. On the way up, I no­ticed a bit of move­ment and the sil­hou­ette of a bovine an­i­mal of some kind graz­ing just off the path. What I ini­tially dis­missed as a com­mon buf­falo turned out to be a full-grown In­dian Gaur! After stop­ping for some quick pictures, we high-tailed it out of there, so as not to irk the seem­ingly gen­tle giant and made our way fur­ther up. The vis­tas on of­fer from Doddabetta Peak are quite spec­tac­u­lar and we spot­ted a hill cov­ered in tea plan­ta­tions on one side.

I just had to go take a closer look and so I quickly drove to­wards what turned out to be Kot­ta­giri road and got up close to Ooty’s fa­mous tea es­tates. If you haven’t seen just how spec­tac­u­larly beau­ti­ful tea es­tates spread across the face of a val­ley are, then let me tell you they are com­pletely and ut­terly spell­bind­ing. As I sat there near the cliff, tak­ing in the view, I started to feel a lit­tle bit of a nip in the air. On climb­ing back into the GLC and after I had turned up the heat, I no­ticed the tem­per­a­ture had dropped to the high sin­gle dig­its and it was only 5.30 pm. It was in that mo­ment I re­al­ized just why Ooty was the sum­mer cap­i­tal of erst­while Madras.

How­ever, the bed I had only slightly reluc­tantly left that morn­ing was beck­on­ing, so it was back down the hill and back to My­suru. No visit to Ooty is com­plete with­out buy­ing some of the town’s fa­mous be­spoke choco­lates, so, of course, we stopped at one of the many cho­co­late stores on the way out to take back

we stopped off at the fa­mous pine tree for­est to take in the sight and dis­tinc­tively pleas­ant aroma of this thicket of tow­er­ing trees

some co­coa-flavoured me­men­toes from our visit.

It was yet an­other early morn­ing the next day, as a long drive back to Pune, the base of op­er­a­tions for Car In­dia, beck­oned. I opted for the route via Tumkur, for even though the roads are a sim­ple dual car­riage­way, the sur­face is im­mac­u­late and there are a few in­ter­est­ing spots along the way. An oddly shaped hillock caught the eye as it blot­ted out a cor­ner of the sky and be­cause the GLC is a ca­pa­ble SUV with a gen­er­ous ground clear­ance, I didn’t hes­i­tate to de­vi­ate off the high­way and into the rough stuff to go check it out. Again, the 4MATIC sys­tem kept things on the straight and nar­row and stuff that would usu­ally worry me — a large pud­dle of slush, for in­stance — was ren­dered in­signif­i­cant.

From Tumkur, we linked back up to NH 48 and be­gan pow­er­ing through the high­way again. Car­ry­ing triple-digit speeds, dart­ing past trucks and ab­so­lutely har­ing down the high­way, all the while en­sconced in the lux­ury of that sump­tu­ous cabin, with the droplets from the spo­radic rain trail­ing along the length of that mas­sive panoramic sun­roof over­head. De­spite the read­out on the trip me­ter climb­ing from 100 to 200 to 500 kilo­me­tres and be­yond, I didn’t feel any fa­tigue at all. This was helped by the fact that I once more de­vi­ated off the high­way just be­fore by­pass­ing Hubli. This time I went off to check out a wind­mill farm that caught my eye and, in the process, found an an­cient tem­ple built in the Vi­jayana­gara ar­chi­tec­tural style. No sign­boards, no name­plate, no in­for­ma­tion. Just an old, derelict tem­ple at the edge of a vil­lage. A nearly for­got­ten rem­nant of a by­gone era, just wait­ing to be re­dis­cov­ered. It is amaz­ing what hid­den trea­sures you can dis­cover across our coun­try as long as you have a thirst for ad­ven­ture and the right car that can ac­cess th­ese dif­fi­cult to reach places. We did make it to the wind­mills after all and took a breather as dusk slowly melded into the inky black of the night.

The re­main­der of the drive home was smooth, fun, and not at all ham­pered by the dark­ness, as the GLC’s LED head­lamps lit the path ahead. And de­spite the 920 km I had cov­ered that day and the con­stant flurry of ac­tiv­ity that was this trip was as a whole, I still came back in­vig­o­rated, recharged, and with a re­newed force of en­ergy. Both the va­ca­tion and the ve­hi­cle I un­der­took it in played an equal part in that, I think.

the spec­tac­u­larly beau­ti­ful tea es­tates spread across the face of a val­ley are com­pletely and ut­terly spell­bind­ing

Earl’s Se­cret is nes­tled in green­ery and of­fers de­li­cious food

The 36 hair­pins are a must-drive in In­dia

An adult male In­dian Gaur watches us with a weary eye

( Be­low) One can’t visit Ooty with­out get­ting some home­made choco­lates

( Above) Tea es­tates are an Ooty sta­ple

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.