10 February 2015

Train hopping: Ooty to Mettupalayam

Having reached Ooty from Mettupalayam on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, I decided to take the returning train back to Mettupalayam. I had a waitlisted ticket and as usual all the reserved coaches were full. However, I learnt that the waitlisted tickets would be given priority for the Unreserved coach. I had two hours to kill on the station. The station got deserted between the trains except for the ever growing number of people queuing for the unreserved coach. I derived some satisfaction from the fact that I was the second person in that long queue. Meanwhile another queue came up at the far end of the platform, this caused me some anxiety. However, the RPF personnel reassured me that it was the queue for seats only till Coonoor where standing room is also allowed. The train when it arrived was mobbed by this huge bunch of tourists but the presence of the RPF personnel created some order. I managed to get a window seat, but unlike the train from Mettuplayam it had seating in the form of a bus. The passengers were an eclectic mix: Software professionals from Bangalore, an engineer couple from Germany, a journalist from Belgium, and sitting beside me a Vietnamese-American. This person, I learnt, earned his money playing backgammon on the internet! There were tea garden workers going to Coonoor and a railway official from Coimbatore traveling with his family. Soon the compartment was choc a bloc with people and resembled a Tamil Nadu State Transport bus. Soon cameras of all shapes and sizes were out. Some tourists dangerously lunged out of the window to click the photograph of the locomotive pushing the train. At Coonoor, some order returned to the coach. All the standing passengers disembarked creating a much required breathing space. The scenery from Coonoor to Mettupalayam changed dramatically ... uninhabited tropical rain forests. The train offers spectacular views of the the valleys, hills and the waterfalls, right out of the Thomas Engine series. I was quite tired having been riding trains since the previous night. I slept off for a while and and when I woke up it was Hillgrove. A tea break and an opportunity to stretch the legs. From here there is the steep downhill course to Kallar and the train did it in half the time it took to climb up the same stretch. Soon, we were at Mettupalayam, at the end of the metre gauge track and in the lap of modernity.
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