Sterling – Achievers Unconference Retreat
An amazing event setup by Sterling that had the most accomplished and experienced travel bloggers. I was very excited on received a call from Mr. Peshwa, CMO of Sterling Holidays briefing me about the event. The next step involved discussing with Mr.Kiruba Shankar, Business Blogger who was program managing the event. I received the schedule few days before the journey and could not control my happiness. With just 2-3 hrs sleep on the previous days, I set out for a journey that lots of activities lined up.
This trip had so many activities lined up for 3-days that putting it all in one blog may not be justified. I will be putting up multiple blog and give references to help in navigating.
Meeting Fellow Travelers
The event had 8-10 people coming from different places – Bangalore (4), Hyderabad (1) and Chennai (4). Journey started with from Bangalore International Airport where 4 of us boarded the flight. We landed in Coimbatore and met with 5 other bloggers. After exchanging pleasantries, it was time for meals at breakfast at legendary Annaporna Hotel, Coimbatore.
Breakfast at Annpoorna
An iconic place is Coimbatore that has been around from before Independence time. A place that’s famous for its homemade filter coffee, Rava Onion Dosa and Kheera Vada. We ordered for multiple dishes like Masala Dosa, Mini-Tiffin & Poori other than the famous dishes. The dosas were not as soft as we find at Bangalore, but they tasted good with the chutneys. Filter coffee was pretty good but its best to take it without sugar and added little portion to savour the flavor of coffee.
En Route to Sterling Ooty
The drive started with all trying to talk to each other and acquaint ourselves to each other. After the ice-breaker seasons, all of us were chatting away on various travel experiences. We were accompanied by Mr. Richard, from Sterling Team who had tremendous local knowledge.
Palm Fruit Shop
This was the first stop during the 2.5hrs journey to Ooti. A road-side palm-fruit seller caught our attention and in moment, everyone were out from the bus. The vendor showed amazing skills in chopping off the top shell of palm-fruit and removing the fruit. Along with the fruit, the vendor would add little bit of Palm juice and served in a well-crafted palm leaf. Everyone enjoyed the fruit and some of them also took 2-3 serving.
KMS Tea & Tea
The drive to Ooty was not going to be easy as it involved a steep unhill ride of 20-25 kms via Coonoor. But as one crossed Mettupalyam and heads towards Coonoor, one can spot a crowded tea shop by name ‘KMS Tea & Tea’. The person makes some amazing tea and tasty Raw Banana Bajji (‘Vallakka Bajji’ in tamil). Taste of the tea was perfect and very refreshing.
The place is presented next to a deep valley and one can also see some beautiful mountain ranges.
We all were driving in a 13-seater Tempo Traveller that was compact was hill-ride. While crossing Connoor, we notice few drops of rain on the vehicle. To avoid taking risk, the luggage on top was packed with sheet to avoid getting drenched.
Sterling Fern Hills at Ooty
After traveling for 2.5hrs, we reached destination that would be my home for next 2 days. But before we could head to the room, there were few surprises for all of us.
Kota Community is one of the tribe’s in Ooty that has some of its traditional music still alive among people. Few folks from the community were assembled at entrance and started playing as soon as we reached. The music was very soothing, and we all watched their performance with amazement.
We were then welcomed by a lady who put a small ‘Tika’ or ‘Tilak’ on our forehead. There were 2 more folks standing next to the lady who gave a traditional drink.
The room allocated was just amazing as it was very spacious 1BHK house and had a great view of the valley. The room had a living area with dining table, sofa and tv. Bedroom had a study table, large queens’ bed, cupboard and a window to view the valley from inside. The restroom looks very clean and had all the standard toilette items, shower, hot/cold water, shampoos and more.
There was a small kitchen section that had microwave grill for those who want to warm something. Some of the standard items like Tea-bags, sugar, coffee powder, glasses were kept.
The room I got was probably the corner-most in the hotel. View of the valley was just spectacular and photographable.
Best view of the room and the hotel changes dramatically in the morning with/without the fog.
Traditional South Indian Meals
The best way to welcome a guest at Sterling would be to serve a traditional Tamilnadu meal. This is exactly what the Sterling team had arranged for guests. Chef Ankur and his team managed to serve us some of the best South Indian Chettinad style meals. There were plenty of Subzi, Sambar, Rice baths, sweets, paapad, pickles and more. I relished the flavors of every dish.
Sterling Fern Hill management is ready to do prepare same for any guests visiting the property. But the only criteria are that they need to have at least 10-15 guests dining in.
I was very excited to go for a walk around the complete property. To start off they showed us around the dining restaurant, coffee shop, bar section, conference hall and meeting rooms.
There were wonderful artifacts from local tribes in Ooty. And if one is very curious about history and wants to know about the ruler, family, a special spin-wheel helps in getting the info.
The gardeners at Sterling Fern Hill at Ooty have won plenty of awards year on year. They grow more than 30 varieties of flowers and maintain them very well.
Hotel also has a gym that suits for all the travellers, that want to have a relaxed experience.
This section is present to the right side of the property and has some amazing activities for children and adult. Some of the activities include Snooker, Carrom, Table Tennis, Fooseball, Story books and more. The staff also helps kids who are curious to learn some artwork.
Rock Climbing has been setup to the right of the building that has activity area.
Just outside the activity area, the trees have multiple ropes that’s been hung up. One can enjoy crossing the ‘Burma Bridge’ and other rope sports. They are currently in the process of getting the zipline ready. This will allow guests to enjoy the view of valley along with the top shot of resort.
All Star Nights
This was one of the special activities organized in the lawn area just outside the multi-cuisine restaurant. The star-studded night saw some of the amazing performance by individual working in Sterling Fern Hill.
We saw some amazing dance performance by the enthusiastic artists. These artists are part of the Housekeeping, Front-office team at the resort. The dancers performed to tunes of some of the latest hits from Hindi, Tamil and Telugu songs. I enjoyed the performance and almost felt like going up on stage to join the performance.
There was a magician up on stage for a brief period who showed some amazing skills with cards and many other proper. Though the evening was very chilly, it was fun to be entertained. There was a born fire setup to warm-up when needed.
I should mention few words about the MC for the evening who was very entertaining. As part of the first activity, he made us all shout out ‘Scobie Doobie Doo’ in one breath. The best phase of the evening was when he made all the guests to stand-up and taught some dance steps. I can still recollect some of the steps like fixing bulb, fixing tube-light, opening/closing tap. There were more steps – crushing cigarette bud on ground, flying kite and more.
Dinner by Bon Fire
While performance was happening, we also got to taste some of the BBQs being made by Chefs. If that was not all, we all got to taste some nice Biryanis and desserts. The food was just perfect and sumptuous for dinner.
Final Thoughts on Day
An eventful day finally came to an end and everyone were ready to crash to the bed. Even though the body was aching, there was excitement in the mind. As per the schedule we were supposed to start of Day-2 with trek to a local reserve forest at around 5.30am.
The day started off with many apprehensions as activities were only documented. But as the day progress, it became clear that this trip was going to be fun learning experience. Sterling Holidays team did an excellent job assembling some of the best and most enthusiastic lot. Everyone shared positive vibes and focussed on having fun. The drive from Coimbatore to Ooty was just amazing and acted as a good ice-breaker. I loved the hospitality and all the arrangement made at Sterling Fern Hills at Ooty. Looking forward to having a great experience in the next 2 days.
Sterling Fern Hill – Ooty