Virgin forests, lush green valleys, breathtaking coffee and spice plantations make Coorg an exotic location for the tourists seeking natural scenic spots and challenging treks
Mit, my husband usually spends his time watching cricket or sleeping. Had I not taken the initiative of planning our honeymoon of travelling somewhere, both of us would have ended doing what he calls his favourite pastime!
Now the question was where do we go? All that Mit and I desired was a break from the cacophony of city life. We hail from Assam, the very beautiful land in Northeast India, but due to our profession we are based in Delhi. So, as usual I was given the responsibility to decide on the place. Honeymoon is that period of time which everyone wants to make memorable. My love for hill stations once again made me run to the hills, and this time it was Coorg or Kodagu, a magical non-crowded hill station.
We left from Guwahati on 25th October to Bangalore at 5 in the afternoon. It took hardly three and half hour, and we were there in Bangalore. Reaching the bus stand from the airport, we booked our Coorg tickets for the next day early morning bus at 7. The hill station is well connected with the cities like Mysore, Bangalore and Mangalore. So, hitting the destination is not a difficult task at all.
It was already 9 pm and we were yet to find a decent hotel. We decided to stay in Majestic, near the Kempegowda bus stand. We found a hotel in our budget, Hotel Prasanth. It was fairly good. The waiter was kind enough to get some biriyani from outside at 10.30 pm as the hotel restaurant had already closed. Considering our regular routine of sleeping at 12-12.30 midnight, we slept early that day by 11.30.
The next day on 26th we started early. We had to catch the bus from Mysore Satellite bus stand, a distance of 15 minutes by auto. And sharp at 7, we set out for Coorg. After a three-hour drive, the bus halted at Kamat Yatri Nivas somewhere on Mysore road near ChennaPatna for breakfast. Built with stone pillars and thatched roofs; surrounded by landscaped gardens and papaya trees; traditionally attired waiters to welcome you, the ambience may convince you to stay on a bit longer after your meal. The restaurant is known for its lip smacking ethnic food from different regions of Karnataka. We ordered idli-sambar and vada. And I must admit, it was the best sambar ever I have tasted till date.
We could hear our bus honk, which meant it was time we bid adieu to Kamat and continue our journey to Coorg. I could see the sun shining bright through the bus window. A few hours later the light suddenly dimed, and eventually disappeared completely. I felt drops of water pelting me and sliding down my face. It was a light drizzle. I had always loved the idea of experiencing the enigma of an ethereal place that flirts with clouds and rain.
After a smooth three more hours drive, we reached Madikeri town in Coorg. Our hotel room was booked three month before as the online travel site ‘Make my trip’ was offering great discounts. Out hotel, ‘Madikeri Heritage’ was just a few minutes walk from the bus stand. Before moving to the hotel, we enquired about the sightseeing tours at the tourism office under Ministry of Karnataka Tourism located next to the bus stand. The two-day sightseeing in a private cab was for Rs 2400. Since we had our return flight from Bangalore to Guwahati on 29th, we insisted them to start with the sightseeing schedule at 2pm from the very day itself, just after we finish our lunch. We were super excited to explore the calm and quiet land of hills.
The hotel was as good as it was mentioned in the online booking site. The entire staffs were courteous and helpful. The entire property was beautifully done with extensive carved and painted wood. The in-house boutique was stocked with their local made and fairly priced Coorg honey, spices and coffee boxes. It also had a restaurant where they serve buffets and delicious traditional meals. Our room was in the second floor. The room was huge and gorgeous with marble flooring and beautifully painted walls. The beds were comfortable and the bathroom was clean.
After a scrumptious meal in the hotel we got ready to explore Coorg. The cab driver was a nice gentleman, aged around 45. He gave us the list of places we would be going for the day, and the rest to be covered the next day.
Our day started with Abbey Falls, Coorg’s most popular waterfall. There was a signboard by the authorities not to be adventurous and go down near the falls. They recommended all the tourists to enjoy the falls from a distance. Right in front of the falls was a hanging bridge which was very shaky but provided us a perfect place for a photo session. As we exit the falls, I tried the Coorg coffee and banana fritters at the tea stall near the entrance gate to Abbey falls. Mit, a hardcore tea lover opted for tea.
After our snacks, we went to see the Rajas’ tombs or the tombs of Dodda Virarjendra and Lingarajendra II that are in the Islamic style with the domes in center and turrets at the angles. We had a great view of the town from the tombs.
Our next destination was Talakaveri- the birth place of River Kaveri, located 44 km from Madikeri, on the slopes of Brahmagiri Hill. The temperature was increasing with the day progressing. There was zero visibility, and was bitterly cold. Unlike many other religious places in our country which are flooded with plastics and other wastes, Talakaveri turned out to be extremely clean. It is mainly a Hindu pilgrimage spot with a temple dedicated to Lord Agastheeswara, which denotes the link between Kavery and Sage Agasthya, and a man-made water tank. People who were on a religious visit to the place seemed to ignore the cold completely as they took dips in the cold water and joined the yagnas performed by the priests in the temple. Since we couldn’t bear the cold any longer, we left the place after clicking some pictures.
On our way from Talakaveri, the driver took us to a Government shop that deals in Coorg made eatables. We couldn’t resist ourselves from buying the local wines which came in attractive bottles. We also bought the very famous Coorg coffee and honey. It was already 6 by then. Our driver suggested ending the day’s trip with the visit to Omkareshwar temple. The temple was built by the Lingarajendra II to repent for his sin of killing an innocent Hindu priest called Brahmin, for political reasons in1820 in the combination of Catholic, Keralite, Gothic and Islamic styles of Architecture keeping in mind the secular nature of his people. The window bars in the temple was an interesting element to note as each bar was made of “Panchaloha” — a secret art of making temple idols using five metals of gold, silver, brass, iron and copper, with copper as the main constituent.
Thus the Omkareshwar temple visit ended our day’s trip. We were tired and exhausted. The driver dropped us at our hotel and asked us to get ready by 9 am, the next day. After taking a little rest, we ordered our dinner.
Mit, unlike me is a disciplined person, while I am officially known as a lazy fellow among friends and family. No wonder, Mit has to wake me up everyday for office or else I would have never reached office on time. The regular attempt of Mit waking me up ever since our relationship started continued in Coorg as well! Somehow, with great effort I managed to wake up in the misty morning. I peeped through the window to see the weather. Aah! To my relief there was the sun smiling. We ordered our breakfast and quickly got ready to explore the rest of the places. Being a nature lover, I was very much excited to visit the coffee and spice plantations as promised by the driver.
By 9.30 we set out for the second day’s sightseeing. It started with the visit to the coffee and spice plantations. On our way, the driver stopped near a small waterfall. What Mit and I assumed to be a waterfall was not a fall exactly. The driver explained that this water was the clogged water of severe rainfall during monsoon. We couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful formation of nature.
Finally we were in the estate perfumed with the subtly intoxicating aroma of coffee and spice. We strolled through the plantations. The estate was blooming with plantations of coffee, pepper, cardamoms and many other spices. It was the first time I saw cardamom bushes. After spending around half an hour in the estate, we left for our next destination, Kaveri Nisargadhama, an island formed by the river Kaveri and is 64 acres of ideal setting for a great picnic spot. A peaceful area with greeneries everywhere, there’s a beautiful hanging bridge connected to the island. We spent some time relaxing at a solitary spot and watched the serene river flow past us.
I was excited to know when would we be going to Dubare, also known as ‘Elephant Camp’ as we were told by the local people that one gets to scrub the elephants and feed them too apart from elephant ride. Seeing my curiosity, the driver asked me to gear up for the fun as we were going to Dubare next. Dubare was pretty crowded with college goers, tourists, and school picnics. The river was in full glory and we could see several small islands and trees submerged under water.
We were taken by a boat to the other side of the island. I was very disappointed as there were no elephants due to increasing poaching activities in the island off late. We spent some time sipping coffee and tasting Kerala cakes. We had to take a ferry again to cross the island. Just near the parking lot, we saw people riding horses. Mit could make out from my expression my urge to go for horse riding. We thoroughly enjoyed the horse riding session and clicked some great pictures.
The next destination was Bylekuppe, one of the largest Tibetan settlements in south India. We were taken to the Golden Temple, the seat of the Panchen Lama. The gold-coated three Buddhist statues in the monastery reflected the rich cultural heritage of the Tibetans.
Now it was time to go for some historical visit. Historical monuments never fail to amaze us. Coorg too has a story of its own. We were taken to Madikeri or Mercara Fort, situated in the centre of the town, on top of a small hill. Relatively less explored by tourists, this place seems to be holding on to the idyllic times of the past. Two life-size elephants made of mortar, caught our eyes on entering the Fort.
Ancient chronicles record that the fort was built by King Muddu Raja of the Haleri Dynasty in the late 16th century. He also built a palace inside the fort, that now houses the offices of the Deputy Commissioner. Both the palace and fort was built of mud. Later it was captured by Tipu Sultan, a Mysore king in the 17th century and reconstructed the fort in granite naming it as Jafarabad. However, again in 1790, Doddavira Rajendra took charge of it. Eventually, the fort was governed by two more leaders – the British and Lingarajendra Wodeyar II who re-built the fort between 1812 and 1814. Later in the18th century, British has taken control over the fort and in their possession built a church in Gothic style with colour stained glasses within the premises, which is now hosting a museum. The museum, run by the state archaeology department, gave us an insight into the rich history of Kodagu. There was a stone idol of Tirthankara dating back to 12th century AD, Palmyra Manuscripts, armoury of medieval period of India and some collection of Bronze artifacts. What amazed me the most was the small cabin that housed the articles used General Cariappa, the first Commander-in-Chief of an independent Indian Army on 15 January, 1949. The other buildings inside the fort include the Mahatma Gandhi Public Library, the Kote Maha Ganapathi temple and the district prison.
We were told by our driver that there is one last destination left; i.e. the Raja’s seat. He said that the place is considered as the best place in Coorg to enjoy the splendid sunset. Earlier, the kings used to sit for the valley and sunset views. We took a walk in the beautiful garden. Kids were having a great time with the toy train rides, and the musical fountain was surely a mood lifter.
As the sightseeing came to an end, the driver dropped us back to our hotel. We thanked him for the lovely time. I was all soaked up in nature and wanted to spend few more days.
After a little rest, we went out to the bus stand to book our tickets for Mysore the next day morning as we thought we had some time to see at least one place. We decided upon the Mysore Palace.
The palace no wonder was grand, but pretty crowded. Moreover, after having enjoyed the blissful weather of Coorg, we couldn’t love Mysore. It was hot, sultry and stuffy. The only thing I enjoyed in Mysore was the elephant ride, which I missed in Coorg.
It was around 5, we took an auto to the bus stand. A Volvo bus to Bangalore was about to leave. We quickly bought our tickets and finally set out for Bangalore. In the whole three-hour journey to Bangalore, I couldn’t help but keep talking to Mit how deeply I had fallen for this quaint little town.
The article first appeared on Northeast Trailblazer/Indside Fact