After last minute delays and confusions, as usual, we used our first Uber ride and travelled to Pune Airport for free. We arrived from Pune to Bangalore just one day before we started our journey. We stayed in a friends place in JP Nagar enjoying late night chats and delicious food. Next morning we left for Madikeri. We first thought of travelling by KSRTC bus, but later chose to hire a cab as we could enjoy the beautiful road to Coorg. Coorg is name of a district which is also known as Kodagu and Madikeri (anglicized as Mercara) is headquarters of the district. Coorg is a beautiful region in southwestern Karnataka and can be reached by road from Bengaluru via Mysurur or from Mangalore. We went by Mysuru highway although bypassed the Mysuru city. It takes nearly six hours to travel from Bengaluru to Madekeri non-stop but we decided to stop at multiple places on the way and thus we reached Madekeri after nine hours. To know more about our trip, click the adjacent tabs.
I was surprised to know about a Tibetan Monastery in the southern India and more surprised to know that it is one of the largest monasteries. It is located in Bylakuppe which is a Tibetan town in Karnataka. This town emerges in a jungle, the land for which was granted by government of India to Tibetan exiles in early 60s. This town gave us a feel of a monastery in Leh. The authentic momos and thukpas we had for lunch confirmed our feelings. We were recommended to have our food at Potala restaurant at Camp-I in Bylakuppe and it was the best recommendation for the day. We entered Bylakuppe from Musuru highway and made our exit from Kushalnagara towards Madekeri.
On our way to Madikeri from Kushalnagar we saw this place called Nisargadhama. It gives you a glimpse of the beauty you are going to experience in Coorg. It is an artificial forest with a lovely entry on a photogenic hanging bridge. It is more like a garden and I would not recommend spending much time inside if you are in hurry or are planning to visit any national park in Coorg. We had a small coffee break at this place and first time tasted the tasty Coorgi coffee.
We reached Dubare Elephant Camp at 5:00 pm in the evening. Till the time we were thinking about to visit this place or not, the motorman on the boat screamed ‘Last boat, last boat’ so we hurriedly hopped in, (paid the ferry fees of 60 INR to and fro for two people) and reached the other bank of Cauvery. I was sad to see the chain clad huge animals, and more sad when I saw cute baby elephants following their parents. They were well fed, taken good care of, but freedom is something that makes anyone happy. We just saw these elephants enter their areas and that was all. However, the official website of Dubare claims that they organize elephant interactions with the tourists. Sadly, we didn’t find any maybe because we were late, except that one mahut made one elephant push a tree using the front legs as if it was climbing. It was time to go back on the other bank. Feeling sad!
Travelling towards Madikeri was a beautiful experience. The roads became greener and air became cooler as we approached Madikeri. We were in contact with our would-be hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Thimaiah to get directions to reach their property. Just before we reached Madikeri, we took a left turn to which was even more beautiful, calm and peaceful. Experiencing the cold breeze bathing us through the open windows of the car we travelled almost for five kms. As we reached the property, we found Mr. and Mrs. Thimaiah waiting for us in the porch. They showed us the way to our room but I was stuck at the veranda. And I found a place to relax in this veranda. I didn’t even bother to freshen up after this long journey; I was already very fresh experiencing this place. Breath, have coffee and relax were the only things I wished to do here for the next two days. Going to sleep and getting ready also seemed like tasks for me. I just wanted to sit in the veranda, read book, chit chat and smile to myself. But then you couldn’t miss the very tasty dinner and breakfast cooked by Mrs. Thimaiah (I liked the paputo and banana sauce at the breakfast). You also feel like taking walks in the property which Mr. Thimaiah offers to accompany you. The property is vast. It is around a 100 acres land, half of which is coffee and pepper plantations and rest is uncultivated forest area. This property also houses a private waterfall (just had to be slightly aware of leeches) and ponds. Mr. Thimaiah has extra pairs of gum boots for the visitors and those could be used to move around in the property. The rooms are built slightly away from yet facing a very beautiful valley which brings solace to your senses. A small bench is located at the edge of this valley and this was my second favourite spot after the veranda here. This property also has old cottages named Rustica which is Mr. Thimaiah’s ancestral house now converted for group stays. He has preserved and maintained the old look of this place and has exhibited some of the old utensils and items in one of the rooms. This place seems like a home for the visitors with inbuilt kitchen/pantry, two bedrooms and a dining in the veranda. This place is surrounded by the coffee drying platforms and water streams. I was surprised to see a range of pets this person has- a turkey, a turtle, a pair of pigs and two adorable dogs. One of the dogs, Auzzie/Oozy accompanied us throughout our walks in the property. Overall we were all happy to spend our time at this beautiful place. Rather than saying we visited Madikeri, I would prefer saying we visited Victorian Verandaz. The valley, the moon, the stars, the dogs, the waterfall, the food, the hospitality, the thoughtfulness, the comfort, the cleanliness and the verandaz.. We enjoyed every bit of it.
We left Victorian Verandaz to our lunch in the afternoon. We travelled to Madikeri town. It is a small town (You know what! There were just three vehicles standing outside Regional Transport Office on a working day). Rain-Tree restaurant was suggested by various travel websites to have our lunch hence we tried the place and it was wonderful experience. The food was awesome as was the ambience. They also have an outlet to buy coffee beans and powder at the restaurant. We then visited Abbey falls which is a typical touristy destination filled up with crowd. The falls are really beautiful but you can’t reach the water. You have to see the falls from a bridge built over the waterfall. I would recommend visiting it if you are interested just to see the waterfall and you are okay if you can’t really enjoy this place. We then visited the Raja’s chair which is park in middle of the town and has a valley facing west direction. This place is recommended to be visited to enjoy a magnificent sun setting in the horizon (although we went in the afternoon). The valley is beautiful and the clouds arising from the valley made it even more beautiful. We spent a long time watching the valley. Mesmerizing!! But as the evening came closer the tourists started pouring and made it crowded so we chose to move back to the town to do some local shopping. Home-made chocolates and filter coffee is what you should take back home along with the wonderful memories from Coorg. I recommend Choci-Coorg shop opposite Vasan eye care to find a range of tasty chocolates in Coorg.
We left Madikeri after another round of tasty breakfast prepared by Mrs. Thimaiah at 11:00 am. We had planned to go to Thalacauvery and then reach Kutta in the evening. Thalacauvery is another beautiful destination to visit in Coorg if you have enough time to spend travelling. It is nearly 50 kms from Madikeri and the route has curvy roads. Thalacauvery has religious significance as it is origin of the Cauvery River. It has a temple and a pond to signify its religious importance. The real fun is behind the temple. You have to climb nearly 350 stairs without your shoes/sandals to find a beautiful view in the valley facing a national park. The place was covered in fog, so much so that the temple below was not at all visible from the top and the valley on the other side was hiding like shy bride giving its glimpse. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! I kept on telling myself, I wanted to fill my lungs with this air as much as possible. The total environment was charismatic and although I couldn’t see anything because of the fog, everything seemed beautiful.
On our way from Thalacauvery to Kutta, we stopped at a lovely restaurant cum cafe for lunch. Cafe Hay shacks is located after Virajpet and before Gonikoppal. With some offbeat and reasonably priced dishes on the menu the ambience of this place was comforting. (Many homestays are also available in Virajpet and Gonikoppal, these places are also connected by KSRTC buses). With our full stomach and sleepy eye we regained our journey and woke up to see a board towards Irruppu falls after an hour. As we took the right turn, the road became smaller and greener; the air became cooler and cleaner and we were calm and quiet, observing and absorbing the nature. We parked our car at a gate and started walking in the direction of signs. The walk towards the falls is beautiful. You can reach the water and enjoy the greenery and feel the environment. These falls, situated in Bramhagiri wildlife sanctuary are just amazingly beautiful, huge yet serene. Lovely! All smiles but not fulfilled we decided to return to our car as we were the only two people left at this place and it had already started raining and we had to complete our journey to Kutta before dark ..
We had planned another homestay in Kutta. Kutta is village situated at a junction of three reserved forests. It is a very beautiful village with beautiful people. Tripthi, our host picked us at main road as her property is situated slightly in the interiors but very near to Nagarhole national park. This was a lovely place, with two cozy cottages and an outhouse for dining and relaxing. We enjoyed taking rest here however, watching the fireflies in the night was our favourite pastime. Our host served delicious and generous portions of food which we were unable to finish even once. The homemade wine we tried was amazing. Learning about the lifestyle of people and planters in Coorg is another experience this place offers. Stories of wildlife entering the village, stories of coffee planters and their day to day difficulties with access were all so inspiring that made me think of a comfortable yet cluttered city life. In spite of having good education these people chose to stay here in their village, stick to their roots and find numerous ways of earning a good living. Although they have to go through many hardships, they are happy and content staying here.
Coorg is blessed with ample water including, streams, waterfalls and has many tributaries of Cauvery. One of many such tributaries is located near Kutta where one can enjoy white water rafting. Our host at the Tamara homestay guided us to reach this place called Kodagu white water rafting, near T.Shettigeri. When we crossed T.Shettigeri and then Glenroma tea estates by Tata, we found a group registering for the white water rafting. We jumped out of the vehicle to get information from this group. I am terribly afraid of water hence it was just Akshay who was interested in the rafting. On his registration, we got to know that he had registered with another group called Adventure Karnataka but we were fine as the rates were same and the place of rafting was also same. They primarily train you for the rafting, use of the handle and teach you to float. They have trained leaders who guide every raft with utmost precision. This is a 4 kms patch of rafting. I travelled with their four-wheel drive, an old Mahindra Jeep to the spot where they were supposed to end the rafting. This spot is located amidst the Glenroma tea estates which are the only tea estates in this coffee rich region. It is a private property and not all are allowed to enter. All rafters were picked up at this spot who were happy with their adventure to go back to the meeting point.
Nagarhole National Park is just few kilometers away from Kutta town. I was surprised to see KSRTC buses in the park, these buses run from Mysuru. The gates of the park are open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm everyday and a road towards Mysuru passes through the park. The government run safari rides are available at 6:00 am and 3:00 pm except if it is raining heavily. We enjoyed the early morning safari although we could spot the herds of deer and few birds during this ride. However, the drive towards Mysuru allowed us to enjoy the forest closely. We even spotted an Elephant and wild boar. It was wonderful drive than the safari experience in this forest.