A Series of Very Fortunate Events: Our Unforgettable Trip to Coorg

Tripoto
21st Oct 2015

It Begins Here

If you catch the 10.30 bus from the Satellite bus stand in Bangalore you will cover 224 km in five hours and reach Coorg at around 3 in the morning. It sounds a bit early and it was early. Nine of us stood stranded at Kushalnagar beside the Mysore Madikeri Highway. By the time we realized that the bus we just got down from was going to Madikeri through our destination – the Nisargadhama Forest Resort, it had already vanished. The resort We negotiated with a couple of sleepy auto drivers who agreed to take us to the resort at a price that we suspected was nowhere near the actual rate. It was a short ride and when we reached the place the gates were firmly locked. Without consulting each other we all started shouting for the guard. He came, he declined, and he was sweet talked into unlocking the small gate.

The rafting and riding did not go as planned. The day was extremely hot and the queue was long. By the time we crossed the river to the elephants it was already closed. However we did not miss much as the elephants only stomp around a small portion of a grassy land. Then it was another 45 minutes drive to Bylakuppe.The rafting and riding did not go as planned. The day was extremely hot and the queue was long. By the time we crossed the river to the elephants it was already closed. However we did not miss much as the elephants only stomp around a small portion of a grassy land. Then it was another 45 minutes drive to Bylakuppe.


Photo of Nisargadhama, Kodagu, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder

We entered. All the shops were closed; there was nobody around except our own shadows cast by the bright vapor lamps half hidden by the fleeting fog. We sat around near the entrance of the hanging bridge over the Cauvery River.We entered. All the shops were closed; there was nobody around except our own shadows cast by the bright vapor lamps half hidden by the fleeting fog. We sat around near the entrance of the hanging bridge over the Cauvery River.

Photo of Nisargadhama, Kodagu, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Nisargadhama, Kodagu, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder

At 3.30 in the morning the place was deserted. All we could hear was the sound of the ever flowing river. The gates of the bridge were not locked. We hesitated a little and crossed over. We knew there was a jungle on the other side of the bridge but we did not expect what we saw. It was unbelievably dark. We were trying to locate the office. Quite understandably, nobody was picking up the landline number that we had. There was a small light flickering in the darkness. We walked in single file towards it. It proved to be a lamppost in front of a closed cottage. By this time we were a little scared especially because the friend who was in charge of this trip was happily muttering about the dietary freedom of hungry cheetahs and lonely bears in natural surroundings. Then we discovered a restaurant with its lights on. The kitchen was closed but there was an open eating area with chairs upturned on the table. There were benches around the yard and two cages with birds and rabbits. We sat there, talked a little. But slowly the magic of the jungle at the night time began to have its hold on us. The fear was gone.

We experienced something that we, little people from the city, never knew existed. The jungle is never silent. It has its own voices, its own music that you can only hear when you truly try. Suddenly the jungle stopped being a menacing, hostile entity and began to offer comfort and warmth. And as we sat beside the river, waiting for the sun to rise we realized that this was going to be a wonderful trip.

Morning in the Jungle

Photo of Nisargadhama, Kodagu, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder

At 6.30 a man came and took us to our dorm. One must to book ones rooms before you come as the resort does not encourage spot booking. You can even get a tree-house. Also one can just visit the forest. The price of the ticket is just Rs. 10 or so.

The room was nothing luxurious. There were rows of squeaky iron beds with pillows and thin blankets and small fans were attached to the walls. The washrooms were clean. We told each other that the windows were netted because of mosquitoes and imagined a thin green snake slithering desolately on the window ledge unable to get in. The dorm had a covered veranda. We spent most of the early morning sitting there and chatting while the river flowed gently near us. The jungle was beautiful. Some of the tree trunks had animals painted on them without harming the tree itself. The resort has its own elephant rides, boating and visitors can feed deer. We did not opt for them. For breakfast we had coffee, wonderful fruit juice and other delicacies in the market just beside the jungle. The market, we later discovered, sold wooden toys, homemade chocolates and wine, spices and coffee. These are the specialties of Coorg. We packed a lot of it for home. Today we had plans to go to Dubare Elephant Camp (over Cauvery River, Coorg, 12 km from Nisargadhama) for rafting and elephant ride. Then we would visit the Namdroling Monastery at Bylakuppe (Mysore, 44 km from Dubare).

Photo of Dubare Elephant Camp,Rafting, Karadigodu, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Dubare Elephant Camp,Rafting, Karadigodu, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Dubare Elephant Camp,Rafting, Karadigodu, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
The rafting and riding did not go as planned. The day was extremely hot and the queue was long. By the time we crossed the river to the elephants it was already closed. However we did not miss much as the elephants only stomp around a small portion of a grassy land. Then it was another 45 minutes drive to Bylakuppe.The rafting and riding did not go as planned. The day was extremely hot and the queue was long. By the time we crossed the river to the elephants it was already closed. However we did not miss much as the elephants only stomp around a small portion of a grassy land. Then it was another 45 minutes drive to Bylakuppe.

Bylakuppe: the Little Tibet

The Monastery, the largest teaching centre of one of the oldest Schools of Tibetan Buddhism in India has more than 5000 monks and nuns. It has richly decorated buildings dedicated to different Buddhist Gods and Goddesses. It also has a religious college and a hospital. The stories depicted in the frescoes were unfamiliar and there were not many motifs of the iconography of the divine figures that we could recognize. It was like looking at an already known story written in a different language where only the names can be recognized. The Padmasabhava Buddhist Vihara or the Golden Temple has the golden statues of the Padmasambhava Buddha or Guru Rinpoche and the Amitayu Buddhas. The afternoon prayer session was going on when we entered after leaving our shoes with the caretaker. The humming of the chant was accompanied by the rhythmic beating of a large gong. The Buddha shone with the light seeping in through high glass windows. And with a multitude of visitors from all over the World, we just stood there.

Photo of Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder

The young novices were sitting in rows facing the senior teachers. Suddenly we realized that these little boys were more like the students in normal schools waiting for the last class of the day to end. Two boys put their shaven heads together whispering and giggling. One boy surreptitiously took a swig from a bottle hidden in his robe. The bottle looked suspiciously like that of a soft drink. Another sat there with dreamy eyes and a small smile on his lips. And there were the usual first benchers who were pouring over their books and listening to the chant. We felt that the Monastery was actually not a distant thing. It was a home to somebody. After we collected our shoes we walked around the corner to reach the outer wall that was lined with prayer wheels. It was nearly evening and while we were touching the wheels to make them roll and making wishes in our hearts, the monks were burning Eucalyptus leaves to ward off insects. The whole place was filled with sweet smell of burnt leaves. It was time to go.

On our way back to the main gate we mistakenly went inside the restricted area of the living quarters of the monks and were very politely chased out.

Photo of Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder

There is a market in front of the Monastery. We had authentic Tibetan food and wonderful coffee. The market also has a good collection of Tibetan junk jewelries.

The Falls and the Fried Fish

Next day we went to the Mallalli Falls (Coorg, 47 km from Nisargadhama). We planned to bath. So we dressed accordingly and wore rubber sandals or floaters. Who knew there would be some 200 steps of uneven shapes, size and height? That was 400 steps up and down wearing slippery shoes. But the view of the falls from above and the natural forest around us was breathtaking.

Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Mallalli Water Falls, Kumaralli, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder

The falls itself was crowded but we managed to find a small pool of water. We had genuine fun. Only there were a number of very poisonous looking spiders hidden under the hanging boulder just beside us. While coming back we stopped at a home stay and were very kindly given a room to change into dry clothes. We went to a restaurant to have dinner. We had wonderful fresh river fish and heavenly pork curry. The local vegetarian cuisine is also good but we would endorse non-veg items any day. Do carry lots of water bottles for this part of your travel.The falls itself was crowded but we managed to find a small pool of water. We had genuine fun. Only there were a number of very poisonous looking spiders hidden under the hanging boulder just beside us. While coming back we stopped at a home stay and were very kindly given a room to change into dry clothes. We went to a restaurant to have dinner. We had wonderful fresh river fish and heavenly pork curry. The local vegetarian cuisine is also good but we would endorse non-veg items any day. Do carry lots of water bottles for this part of your travel.

The Finale

We were leaving for Bangalore that night. The bus was scheduled at 11.30 p.m. We shopped, packed, had yet another round of fried fish, curry and fruit juice and were ready to leave by 10. We went back to Kushalnagar bus stop. It was extremely cold and we put on all the shirts and t-shirts we were carrying for none of us packed sweaters or jackets. Suddenly a thick fog came down obscuring everything except the burning headlights of the passing cars. We waited.

Photo of Kushalnagar, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder
Photo of Kushalnagar, Karnataka, India by Sritama Halder

Our moods were changing from good to sour to extremely impolite. The bus came at 2.30 a.m. just before we were about to slaughter each other. The curtains of the windows smelt terrible, most of the seats refused to recline but the blessing called sleep can solve every misery in the world. We slept through the chilly night on our way back to Bangalore.

Image courtesy: Kaza Ghosh and Arnab Adhikary

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