Sterling Fern Hill Ooty – Hidden Paradise in South India
This is my second blog in the series of blog on Sterling – Achievers Unconference Retreat. As I was writing the first article, I felt that it would not be possible to do justice by writing one blog. So, I decided to write more article and share more info that will benefit traveller.
Day-1 at the beautiful Sterling Fern Hill Ooty property was memorable. It set the expectation very high for the next 2 days. Every activity for the day was scheduled but did we execute all of them to the dot. Well, not as the enchanting surrounding of nature just took over at time. Let me share more thoughts instead of keeping one guessing.
Morning view of Sterling Fern Hills at Ooty
The first activity planned for the day was the visit to Cairn Hill Echo Awareness Centre. We were scheduled to leave by 6pm and this meant that the alarm had to go off by 5.30am. There was no problem with that as the excitement made the sleep to go away.
As I got ready and stepped out of my room, I got to witness something totally amazing. I could see the sky being completely lit up and it looked spectacular. The hues of blue, violet, purple, yellow made the valley look so beautiful. I could not hold myself from taking multiple pictures.
What made it more interesting was the time when I started walked toward the main-building. The hues in the sky kept changing and I could spot new colors in the sky. It was almost the time for the radiant sun to come out. This only meant that it was time for taking more pictures. I must say that one would feel tempted to innumerable pictures as color in sky changes minute by minute.
Cairn Echo Awareness Center
Few of us got up on the bus and headed to the Cairn Echo Awareness Center that also had a reserve forest. The place wealth of flora and fauna spread across 10,000 hectares. I was told that one can get a glimpse of other side of Ooty from one of the peaks.
As we started walking inside the Cairns Echo Awareness Center, I could see dense cover of trees. Walking a little further, brings one to the check-post from where one can enter only with permission.
Post that spot, we were amidst the dense jungle and were guided by Mr. Sharan Acharya from Sterling team. It was a mini-trek up the mountain that covered with blanket of trees. The place is famous for Bison, Leopard but we were not expecting any in the route that we were taking. Walk across the dense was scary at time as most of the time we could only see green-cover. Sunlight was coming through few of the leaves and making its presence.
View Point at Cairn Reserve Forest
After 20-30 minutes of trek for nearly 1-2 kms, we reached a spot that had Iron-Post. One had to take the steps on the iron-post that took us much higher. I took the rusty steps and reached the top of the view-point.
This is one place that any traveller visiting Ooty should go to. If you are unable to get the right contact to guide, just contact Sterling and they will guide you.
Spotting Wild Bison
While we were trekking back to the base-camp to board our bus, we were discussing about spotting wildlife. Just as we were speaking, we noticed a Wild Bison chewing away some of the grass at 50mts away. The immediate reaction was to capture the moment in a video and take multiple pictures. Bison was busy eating away and did not get bothered by our presence.
The forest officials say that spotting Bison is common, but I still think that one needs to be lucky to spot anything in the wild.
Special Breakfast Spread
After an exhilarating trek, it was time to head back to Sterling Fern Hills. As soon as we arrived, there was a surprise in store. We had an amazingly setup table for all of us to enjoy an amazing breakfast.
The highlight of the breakfast was the Puttu, Idli varieties (Kancheepuram & normal) and Dosas. Non-vegetarians got a taste of the Quail eggs. We also enjoyed some of the health Carrot juice, Orange juice and Smoothies. Chef and his team had live counters and made sure that everything served was fresh. I enjoyed the sumptuous breakfast that helped regain my lost strength after morning trek.
LOVEDALE Railways Station
This one of the few railways station across the world that’s been listed under UNESCO World Heritage Site. A notable tourist attraction, it is one of the stations of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, built in 1908. It is one of the halts for the historic Ooty passenger.
This beautiful railway stations are located at an elevation of 2,211 metres (7,254 ft).
Chamraj Tea Estate
The next activity planned for the day was the visit to Chamraj Tea Estate. Its undoubtedly one of the biggest Tea Estate in the valley and the second largest tea-exporter. The estate has been around for many years and have been maintained very well. This zone is restricted to outsider and one can go inside if you have a permission.
It was amazing drive across the meandering roads in the coffee estate. The narrow roads meant that the vehicle had to drive very carefully. Some of the bend were so sharp that vehicles had to take reverse multiple times and adjust to drive up.
The drive led us to the beautiful Helipad at the Chamraj Tea Estate. Helipad was located on a hill-top that was large, and the view of the valley was awesome. I could see multiple mountains and like always was able to take multiple pictures.
We also enjoyed conversation regarding ‘Sterling Time-Share Membership’ from Mrs.Vimla Doraisamy. And this was followed by lunch on top of the Heli-pad. We enjoyed items like Veg Roll, Sandwich, Samosa, Vada-pav, Brownie, Kova Peda along with juices.
While heading back, we stopped over at a shop inside the estate to buy some of the famous tea-powders.
Presentation by Travelers
The unconference retreat had a very important activity planned for the benefit for everyone. Each of us were given different topics that we had to present to the audience. It was like one of the TEDx style presentation. This happened across Day-1 & Day-2. This was a great activity that enabled each us to share our thoughts and learn. Let share info regarding some of the talks and mentioned the speaker’s names.
Day – 1: Speakers & Topics
- Chendil Kumar: Humour in Travel
- Nikhil Choudhary: Health Benefits of Holidaying
- Caroline Radhakrishnan: Food & Travel
Day – 2: Speakers & Topics
- Indu Divya: Turning Travel Experiences into Powerful Storytelling
- Ami Bhat: Safety during Travel
- Pravin Shekar: Smart Ways to Juggle Work & Travel
- Venkatrangan: The Beauty of Slow Travelling
- Nameesh: Successful Travel Blogging Strategies
- Harinath: Insights from 22 years in the travel industry
- Jugdish Ahuja: Smart Ways to Finance Your Travel
Mr. Peshwa – CMO of Sterling Speaks
Apart from the talk by fellow travelers, we also had Mr. Peshwa Acharya share info about Sterling Holiday. It was great to hear about the good thought that Sterling has been doing over the past 3-4 years.
- Nearly 33 Sterling Resorts across the country have been completely or partially refurbished.
- New team has been put at every resort that will enable new energy to flow through the resort.
- Sterling is looking to revive the ‘Time Share Membership’ by highlighting the changes. The plan is to highlight the benefits of taking long-terms memberships instead of visiting just one or two.
- Highlighted the new theme in Sterling asking travellers to ‘Holiday Differently’. Travelers gets to experience some of the local aspect that would give an enriching experience.
- Mr. Peshwa Acharya was kind enough to spend enough time with all of us over and take inputs. This shows the commitment of a Holiday brand to connect to the travellers.
Badagas and Kota Tribes over Dinner
After a hectic day, we all had special surprise planned over dinner. This time around, it was an opportunity to meet select group of people form Kota and Badaga tribes. Surprisingly, we had all male representatives from Badaga community and all female from Kota community.
One of the Badaga community members was also kind enough to share more info about the tribe. He was telling about the profession and lifestyle followed by the community. All men were wearing traditional Badaga outfit that had lungi and shawl with special borders. The men also performed traditional dance famous in their community.
Kota community ladies were also very happy to share info about their lifestyle and food habits. They were telling about the importance of diary in every aspect of the food. The ladies came along with their children and were kind enough to get photograph clicked.
While we were interacting with individuals from both the tribes, we enjoyed the elaborate dinner. Some of the popular dishes served included Kottu Parotta, BBQs, Mushroom grill, Biryani and Apple Jelabi.
Closing Thoughts for Day-2
The second day was even more jam-packed compared to the first day. But this day gave me and my fellow travellers a lot of memories that will be cherished. The visit to Cairn Reserve Forest, Chamraj Tea Estate Heli Pad and musical performance by Tribes will be cherished. Knowledge sharing season by travellers on various topics was also refreshing and enlightening. A beautifully planned day that went smoothly and I enjoyed every moment in the day.
Sterling Fern Hill – Ooty