Referred to as the Scotland of India by the British, the Coorg district in Karnataka with its eternal misty atmosphere, lush green landscape and dak bungalows within coffee plantations, can be an ideal setting for a Victorian era murder mystery. It is a popular weekend getaway near Bangalore and offers plenty for nature lovers, adventure seekers and those looking for peace and solitude in a picturesque setting.
We visited Coorg in the month of September, a time when the monsoons embellish the beauty of this verdant landscape. Coorg district doesn’t have its own railway station or airport but its main town Madikeri is well connected by road from other major cities of Karnataka. We had arrived in Bangalore from Delhi and the 260 km taxi ride from Bangalore to Madikeri was a lovely journey. Smooth roads lined by dense vegetation on either side, clouds hovering above, a cool breeze and intermittent spells of rain splashing down on the windshield worked like a charm to rejuvenate our tired minds and bodies from the grinds of everyday life. Hills, coffee and spice plantations, dense forests, small waterfalls, paddy fields were like nature's markers during our journey.
We were staying at Club Mahindra Madikeri, a beautiful property setup within a coffee plantation. The resort built in traditional Kodagu style architecture has luxurious apartments, and facilities like three restaurants, two swimming pools, a gym, a spa complex, a lobby lounge and bar. During our stay, we divided our time in going for long walks through the plantation and forest surrounding the property, feasting on the excellent buffet served at Green Cardamom restaurant, pampering ourselves at the spa with aromatherapy and Swedish massages, and water therapy in the swimming pool. As if part of nature’s schedule, there was always a spell of heavy rainfall in the evening around 4-5 pm. The rain creates a dreamy atmosphere with the natural light slowly dissolving into the mist blanket and electric lights starting to switch on around the resort. As the rain darkens the shades of green and flows down the stone pathways of the resort, the cicadas and frogs all sing in unison in nature’s symphony. It was the perfect setting to read a 19th century murder mystery with a mug of that smooth Arabica coffee grown in Coorg.
Coffee, cardamom and pepper are the main products coming out of the Coorg region. Situated at an altitude of 3500 ft. above sea level, the cooler climate, fertile land and the shade provided by the forests covering the hills provide the ideal environment for growth of coffee. Arabica and Robusta are two main varieties of coffee grown in this region. Arabica is the premium coffee variety known for its delicate aromatic flavours, while Robusta is the stronger, bitter variety due to its higher caffeine content. Robusta coffee plants are comparatively easier to grow, have a higher yield and a longer lifetime as the higher caffeine content acts as strong insecticide and anti-microbial agent. All specialty coffees in the world are exclusively Arabica while our instant coffees and espresso shots are exclusively Robusta or blends of Arabica and Robusta.
The hills, coffee plantations and the pleasant weather, all provide opportunity to explore the region and its attractions through hiking and cycling. Located around 6 km from Madikeri is the beautiful Abby Falls which was gushing with the monsoon flow during our visit. We could hear the sound of the waterfall from the main road entrance from where one has to do a short downhill trek through a small but thickly forested area of coffee bushes and tall trees to reach the waterfall. There is a hanging bridge across the gorge in front of the falls which was shaking with the tremors of the water cascading from a height of 70 feet. Standing on the bridge, one gets completely drenched in the splash so protect that camera lens.
Around 35 km from Madikeri is the peaceful area of Bylakkupe which is the second largest Tibetan settlement in India after Dharamshala. This area has several monasteries, residential complexes for monks and a university. The main attraction here is the Golden Buddha Temple or Namdroling Monastery. The huge temple complex with an ornate tower houses 40 feet high gilded statues of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddha Sakyamuni and Amitayus. The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The silence, the candles and incense sticks create a serene atmosphere worth staying in for a while. There is a nice garden in the complex with beautiful flowers and guinea fowls moving around.
On the last day of our stay at Coorg, we visited Talacauvery, which is the origin of river Cauvery. Situated on the Brahmgiri hill, this place is around 48 km from Madikeri. The place has a temple complex dedicated to Goddess Cauvery and a small kund or natural tank from where the river is believed to originate as a spring and goes underground. It resurfaces again at Bhagmandala, 9 km from Talcauvery, where it meets the rivers Kannike and Sujyothi at Triveni Sangam. The place offers a spectacular view of the green slopes of the surrounding hills covered with terrace farms.
For a better vantage point, I climbed the steep 407 steps from the temple to the top of the Brahmagiri hill from where you get panoramic views of the surroundings. As it happens every time a holiday comes to an end, standing on that hill amidst the floating clouds at once made me happy and sad. But it was a great few days exploring yet another beautiful region in Incredible India and I hope to return some day again in the future.