We had been planning a visit to Coorg since the time we shifted to Bangalore 3 years back. Coorg was to us a beautiful collage of blue mountains clad in mist, shimmering waterfalls and rolling coffee estates. Finally, this March (2013) we decided that we had enough of pining and gawking at others' pictures on Facebook. Time we visited the region ourselves! Besides, Bangalore had turned too hot and we wanted a respite from it. My parents were also visiting and we thought the cool climes of Coorg shall be the best getaway from the city for a weekend.
We booked our stay at Honey Valley Estates for 2 nights and made a crisp itinerary. This time, the husband played the role of the researcher as I was too busy with office work. A number of prominent tourist sights had to be left out as it would have been quite hectic and tiresome to cover all of them within a span of two and a half days. Especially as we had our 17 month old tyke and my sister's 15 month old son with us - the little guys needed to space out as well. We wanted to have a leisurely view of what Coorg had to offer us and take in its beauty, than run around from one place to another. Anyways, we could always come back for another trip!
So, we did not visit the Dubare Elephant Camp, Talacauvery and Nisargadhama this time.
Our itinerary read:
Day 1. Bangalore – Hassan –Bylakuppe – Honey Valley (Coorg homestay)
Day 2. Honey Valley – Madikeri - Abbe Falls – Honey Valley
Day 3. Honey Valley – Virajpet – Gonikoppa – Nagarhole – Hunsur - Bangalore
Early morning saw us trooping out of Bangalore at a steady speed (thanks to my parents) and having a sumptuous breakfast under a grove of trees by the road side on the Bangalore-Mangalore highway. The restaurant had an interesting name of Shark Food Court. I don’t think there was any sign of water in the area, let alone the ocean.
Our first stop on the itinerary was the Tibetan settlement at Bylakuppe, near Kushal Nagar. I have written about Bylakuppe at length in a previous post. The serene beauty of the Buddhas made us linger in Namdroling Monastery for quite some time.
It was around 3.00 pm that we left Bylakuppe and made our way towards Madikeri. A few kilometers onward and we found ourselves ascending the hills of Coorg. Hills (and lakes) have always been my weakness and the winding roads thrilled me to bits. Finally, we were breathing in the fresh mountain air and letting the wind muss up our hair. Pure pleasure!
Dark green-leaved coffee estates, interspersed with trees entwined by pepper vines, accompanied us on both sides of the road. Traditionally attired Kodavas crossed our paths, lending a glimpse into their rich cultural heritage. Valleys of paddy fields, some harvested and others not, made a beautiful picture in the afternoon sun. I could not have enough of this beautiful district!
Finally, we entered Madikeri and were greeted by the sight of a statue in the memory of the Kodava braveheart, Field Marshall Kariappa. The hill-town seemed to be a thriving commercial centre and we observed scores of hoardings with names of homestays on them. Although the aroma of spices and coffee emanating from the shops tempted us a lot, we decided not to stop in Madikeri and stuck resolutely to our itinerary. Besides, it was getting dark and we planned to reach our homestay before daylight became really scarce.
We took the route as specified by the homestay owners and immensely enjoyed the entire 35 km journey from Madikeri to Honey Valley Estates. There were quaint bungalows and cottages by the side of the road, each house maintaining an immaculate garden. Rows of colourful, flowering potted plants decorated these homes. My parents, both avid gardeners, noted with pleasure that even the humblest of abodes had a cheerful little garden. They said that it reflected the beautiful minds of these simple Kodava tribes. I chose to believe them.
Some adventures along the way (read: wrong roads) caused delay in reaching our homestay. It was almost 7.00 pm when we stepped into the Jeep sent by Honey Valley to collect us from Kabinakkad. The homestay turned out to be located in a totally unexpected and remote part of the world, up on top of a steep hill, and it deserves a separate post of its own. Stay tuned.
We were too tired to stay up for too long and after a hot dinner, collapsed on our beds and slept soundly. Loud, melodious chirping of birds awoke us up early the next morning. I can’t remember the last time I had woken up to such a musical cacophony of birds. The estate looked all the more enthralling, drenched in the morning sunlight.
We could see people staying in the estate starting out on treks after breakfast but we kept that for another time. Madikeri was a long way off, as we had realized the previous evening and hence decided to start early from the homestay. The journey towards Madikeri proved to be increasingly scenic and we caught sight of beautiful species of birds and varieties of fruit-laden trees along the way.
Madikeri turned out to be a shoppers’ delight and we packed a number of shopping bags with the bounty Coorg had to offer us – bottles of jam, honey, therapeutic oils, freshly ground strong coffee and a range of spices. Another post on that coming up soon!
After the shopping expedition, we were starved for some traditional Kodava cuisine and on the recommendation of a coffee shop owner we visited a restaurant serving just that. I think we ended up ordering almost all of the items listed under Traditional Cuisine and enjoyed every dish tremendously. As a matter of fact, the famed pork curry of Coorg – the Pandi curry, delighted us so much that we tried replicating it back home and quite achieved success.
View of Madikeri
The next stop on our itinerary was Abbe Falls. We mostly followed directions from passersby till we came to sign-boards proclaiming the same. It was another picturesque long drive along mountain routes to the falls. I think we saw people alight from tourist sight-seeing buses around 1 km from the falls, as buses were not allowed from that point (maybe). I am sure it must have been quite a walk for the people. The sun was quite strong and it is not easy to walk along such uphill and downhill tracks.
Our car was allowed to park near the gate of the road leading to Abbe falls. We were told that we shall have to walk approximately 1 km to the falls, a somewhat arduous but not quite difficult task. My parents voted to stay back as their knees were not in great shape. Sis, the husband, the babies and I trundled along the steps towards the falls. There was quite a crowd near the falls but thankfully we could still manage some good shots. Not surprisingly, given the time of the year, the waterfall was not in its full force. We learnt that it was a popular film shooting spot and a number of Hindi and regional films were shot there. There was a hanging bridge over the falls and it was packed with hordes of tourists clicking pictures with their phone cameras, with the waterfall as their back drop. It’s a wonder that the bridge remained intact.
Finally, we managed to detach ourselves from the melee and returned to where my parents were waiting for us. All of us had glasses of refreshing buttermilk from a vendor near the gate and boarded the car for our return journey to the homestay.
Once again, we lost our way amidst the hills and made it to Honey Valley at quite a late hour. Exhausted, we repeated our previous day’s performance – had dinner and crashed onto the beds.
The next morning, the husband, the brat and I ventured out a little way off the homestay towards a natural stream and enjoyed a few tranquil moments in the middle of nature. After a delicious Kodava breakfast consisting of Kadambattu (round balls of steamed rice flour) and a lentil curry, we bid adieu to our wonderful stay at Honey Valley and began our return journey to Bangalore. But we had planned a detour, one that made us pass through Nagarhole Wildlife Sanctuary.
Once more, we found ourselves winding through endless vistas of coffee estates and barren paddy fields. We had a hurried lunch at Gonikoppa as the gates to Nagarhole Wildlife Sanctuary closed at 6.00 pm. We reached the gates at 3.00 pm and entered the sanctuary after quick prayers of seeing some good wildlife. It was with heightened senses that we scoured every bush and tree for signs of wild animals and birds. We were not to be disappointed and during that 2 and a half hour drive, we managed to catch sight of several Malabar Giant Squirrels, spotted deer (some at touching distance), langurs, a fierce bison and even a huge lone tusker by the side of the road. Except the one animal we always expect to see – the elusive tiger. Never mind, there is always a next time.
Spotted deer family
The lone tusker
So, that ended all the items on our itinerary and we felt a bit sad at leaving the beautiful district of Coorg behind. Those two and a half days would always remain special in my mind as perhaps that’s the last trip I had with my sis and her son before she leaves for the US. Anyways, there will definitely be another trip to the region – there is so much more to see!
Have you been to Coorg as well? What were the sights you enjoyed the most? Do let us know and maybe next time we shall cover those as well!