Red Hills Nature Resort: A review
Ootacamund or Ooty in India, the famed hill station of yesteryears was the must visit destination for everyone's itinerary if they were visiting southern part of India. The lush green tea gardens, the exquisite hilly landscapes, gardens full of rich flora, year round good weather and a popular Bollywood shooting location, Ooty was a celebrated superstar of its day. But with time, everything changes and so did Ooty. It had to pay a price for its fame as more and more tourists flocked its hills. To capitalize on this business opportunity number of hotels, shops etc. cropped up. Ruthless commercialization and rising competition from other nearby destinations such as Coorg, Munnar, Kodaikanal made many travelers including us consciously avoid Ooty. Yet there are always people who prefer purity, quietude and satisfaction over dilution, restlessness and greed. And they create places which echo their spirit and soul. Mr. Vijay Kumar is one such person and in this blog we will walk you through our experience of visiting a place he owns - Red Hills Nature Resort. A place that lured us to visiting Ooty, apart from the toy train.
As we stepped down from the toy train at Ooty station (read our blog on journey of the toy train) a vehicle was waiting for us to escort us to our place of stay in Ooty. While we opted to take the toy train from Coimbatore, you can book taxi from coimbatore to ooty to reach the resort directly in convenience. We opened the window of the car in excitement as we started towards our destination to absorb some beautiful views but were discouraged soon by the exceedingly cold weather. We rode on the criss-cross curvy roads for about an hour. Red Hills is at a distance of 25 kilometres from Ooty railway station but the drive to Red hills is quiet picturesque as one goes through beautiful valleys of Nilgiris. Nilgiris literally mean blue mountains and are part of western ghats, a hill range across #Karnataka , Kerala and western Tamil Nadu states of India. On our way to Red Hills, the driver showed us carrot and potato plantations. We had to stop the car when we saw the first glimpse of a lake. We were on the bridge between 2 lakes - Avalanche and Emerald Lake; and the location was just too good to savor from the car. After clicking few pictures, we moved on to the property which is situated on a hill at the end of a steep rugged road at a height of 7000 feet above sea level. Who knew the bridge we stopped at was not even a trailer to the movie we were going to see. It was barely a movie poster.
We were just dumbstruck once we reached the resort. Red Hills Nature resort is surrounded by tea gardens and overlooks a vast valley and Emerald Lake. The views were just so amazing that all the tiredness of the 5 hour toy train journey and another hour in car just whooshed away in seconds. We were greeted by Mr. Vijay Kumar and family who were very welcoming and charming. Red Hills Nature resort is more like a boutique hotel or a lavish homestay. The entrance leads to Mr. Vijay's bungalow which is some 150 years old and is supposedly built in the British era (1875 to be precise). Surrounding the bungalow are 7 cottages nestled in nature, each with magnificent view of the lake. They have many verandahs in front of main bungalow, around dining and around every cottage. They also have a small little temple in the middle of lush green lawns in one corner of the property.
Our room was at one quiet end of the property. The room was very spacious and featured a rustic design with a fireplace, an outdoor seating area and a big bathroom with a tub. The old age interiors with yellow lights felt as if we were living in a museum with modern luxuries. The room was so cosy that we got up only when the staff called us for lunch.
The dining area at Red Hills Nature Resort was simply beautiful with leather couches, walls decorated with huge paintings and artifacts, a magazine counter and a fireplace. The elegant colonial era architecture, nature inspired earthy shades, warm wooden interiors and colorful hanging lamps shouted out aloud that Mr. Vijay was definitely a man of exquisite taste. The buffet style meal was made fresh using the vegetables grown organically in their own farm. Mrs. Kumar is an excellent cook; we gorged on the home-cooked food like pigs. We were soon greeted by Kaira and Mika, a German shepherd and a Golden retriever, who were very charming and hyper-excited to meet us. As we played with our two new friends, Mr. Kumar assisted us in planning our activities during the stay. As per his suggestions, we decided to go for cycling in the evening, a small trek down to the lake early next morning and a hike up the Red hills to the top-most point of the estate after breakfast next day.
In the evening, we rode our cycles both up and down the slope on the narrow roads surrounding the tea estates of Red hills. The area is sparsely populated with very few houses in sight though we could see some people working in the tea estates. We also happened to ride through a dense forest and thickets for a while which was a bit scary given there was no other sign of any humans and we were scared any wild animal might be offended by our presence. The roads offered a wonderful views of the Emerald Lake reflecting bright blue colored water. The lake curves around slanted banks but we realised rains this year have been less leaving a brown border around the lake as if the lake is framed.
It started getting cold in the evening and we sat on the leather sofas sipping hot white tea in front of the fireplace of dining room chatting with Mr. and Mrs. Kumar and two other guests - also Mr. Vijay and his daughter. Mr. Vijay studied in Ooty and is now settled in US. Mr. & Mrs. Kumar were the most hospitable hosts and told us all that we wanted to know about the life up there in Red Hills, the estate and the tea industry. It was fascinating to know that Mr. Kumar's forefathers had migrated to Ooty few hundred years ago from Rajasthan and lived in a nearby village called Ithlar. Willie Collins was an Englishman who fell in love with this area and built a house here in 1875. He called it Red hills as he was from Red hills, England. In 1937, Mr. Kumar's father bought this house from Willie's daughter and they have lived here since. Out of 250 acres of tea estate owned by the family which is like an entire hill, Mr. Vijay owns around 70 acres. They also owned a tea factory here. Times changed and with it a lot changed. On one hand the landscape in front of Red hills changed dramatically due to dams built in the region and on another hand personal tragedies stuck Mr. Kumar's family. A fire accident burnt the tea factory down and sad demise of Mr. Kumar's mother in 1990 changed things. Mr. & Mrs. Kumar's children went abroad for higher studies and left the couple alone in a huge property. That is when they decided to invite guests and have some company, meet new people and have some extra work to keep them busy. They have preserved most of the original bungalow and built few colonial themed cottages around it to create Red Hills nature resort. After a mouth-watering dinner, a few attempts to capture the Milky Way and a little bit of roaming around their farms; we called it a day.
It was still semi-dark as we moved in torch light early in the morning towards the main porch of the Red Hills Nature Resort. Sitting on the chair, we witnessed a spectacular sunrise. We were then escorted by a local guide down the hill for a trek to the lake. We headed for the trail across the road descending down the hill and then entered a cluster of trees on either side of the small trail that headed straight into the forest. It was kind of scary and thrilling at the same time. The trail sometimes disappeared and the grass patches covered our way. After half an hour of walk, the trees were left behind and we were on the rocks near to the lake. Throughout the march down the lake our guide helped us spot red langurs, a few birds and some rare trees growing around. We could see the hill behind us that we were to climb post breakfast. It was too cold and breezy down at the lake. The water was calm and emerald blue in color- that’s how it should have got its name. There was no one down there except the three of us and we indulged in capturing the beauty through our lenses. Sitting there for a while and enjoying the peace and solitude was the most refreshing part of the trip.
After scrumptious breakfast back in the resort, we were ready for a hike up the Red hills. Mr. Vijay (the guest) and his daughter, couple of local guides and us started slowly up the mountain for the 3 hour long hike. This peak is the 4th tallest peak in the Nilgiris. The uphill trek had steep ascent in the beginning and was exhaustive to the core. The forest now gave way to random grasses and bushes. We were starting to give up when we looked back and couldn't believe what we saw. It wasn't the view this time that left us dumbstruck but Kaira and Mika - the 2 lovely dogs were running towards us with all excitement. We were so happy to see them and they were our only inspiration to reach the summit. The view from the top was mesmerizing. We were able to see the Avalanche and Emerald dam, a vast expanse of tea estate and a few barren mountains. The beauty of the nature spread out in front of us, with clouds touching us, gave us goose bumps against our sweaty skin. We knew nobody is going to bother much about the three-hour long path we took, the challenges we faced and the flickering hope that we had once lost- it’s the destination that we are interested in. We forgot how tired we were, almost instantly. We sat there, in silence, lost in the vast expanse of splendor, capturing as much beauty as we could in our camera and in our hearts. With much reluctance, we trekked downhill which felt quite easy.
Back in our rooms we took a quick shower, had lunch and faced the most difficult part – Goodbyes. In just a day Red hills had captivated our minds and hearts. Our romantic soul was ready to leave everything behind and get imprisoned here. While the natural beauty is without a doubt the highlight of the place, life chosen by Mr. & Mrs. Kumar inspired us. We always thought that we wanted to travel the world to know different cultures and meet different people. We never knew it was possible to have different cultures and people come to you. It was difficult to fathom everything we had seen, learned, experienced here and so it was difficult to let go. But we sure do wish to visit Red Hills again someday and would wholeheartedly recommend this place to anyone. So if you are staying away from Ooty, you know you are missing something special and if you are visiting Ooty, you now know the one place worth visiting in Ooty.
Below video perfectly summarizes the amazing beautiful views from top of Red Hills.
The resort also provides other activities such as visit to Toda village which is one of the few remaining areas where native tribals still live, visit to dams, fishing, camping etc. To visit Red Hills Nature Resort, you can contact Mr. Vijay on +91 944 2254 755 or visit redhillnatureresort.com. To and fro transportation from Ooty or Coimbatore can be arranged by Mr. Vijay on payment basis. You can also get in touch with us for any guidance.
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Note that all the views expressed above are our own based on our experience and not influenced by the property in any way.