The toy train from Ooty meandered through leafy forests of eucalyptus and pine trees punctuated with gurgling streams, sashayed down the sunlit valleys carpeted by lush green tea gardens of varying hues and stopped intermittently at forlorn stations, Lovedale, Ketti, Aravankadu and Wellington. The train finally disgorged the merry making crowd on a joy ride for the day-long trip to Coonoor.
Four of us with our bags stuffed ourselves into an auto-rickshaw for going to Coonoor Club. The auto left behind the chaotic bus stand and busy market areas of lower Coonoor and set out to clamber up a steep slope for upper ridges of the town. We soon hit the Sim's Park on Wellington Road and a short drive through a narrow lane brought us into the club lawns.
We were a member's guest at the club and were booked into the family suite (Rs.3446/- including breakfast for four and all taxes). The lady at the reception was very helpful with friendly guidance about the facilities. The check-in formalities were completed quickly. Later she also issued books from the club library for us to read during our stay. But the room bearer would not budge to carry our bags, which we heaved to our suite located at the rear end.
The family suite was a grand affair with a spacious lounge complete with couches and a large dining table, a large bedroom with a king size double-bed annexed with a smaller room with two single beds and a toilet of royal size accessible from both the rooms. The best part was a cozy lawn next to the room awash with the balmy morning sun overlooking the hills and the cottages perched on them.
Coonoor Club, established in 1885 AD charms one with its old world regalities of wooden dancing floor with a stage (now used as badminton court and for club functions), a library, a smallish dining hall and a large bar with wooden floor and card tables. The spacious environs of the club also comprise a tennis court and a sprawling garden derelict of good upkeep.
The bar gets a little crowded in the evening by the regulars visiting the club for a drink and playing cards in groups. The food served for the guests was nothing to write home about…we tried various options, simple North Indian fare of dal, alu-gobi, alu-mattar, mutton rogan josh, paneer butter masala to more ambitious continental cuisine of chicken steaks etc. They were just shoddy attempts to stir up something edible without much concern or care!
The service staff attitude was consciously distinctive about the regular members and stray gusts like us by meting out the treatment for lesser mortals. I have experienced much superior service even in government run tourist lodges across the country. While the location and facilities could position Coonoor Club to the top notch, the current goings on could only spell decadence!