It's been four months since we had our last trip. And all of us were desperately looking for a break from hectic daily life. In last one year we visited beaches and jungles, and with mercury soaring high, this time definitely it had to be some hill station.
Its been little over 3 years in Bangalore but never went to Coorg, the Scotland of Karnataka, the land of coffee, spices and serene greenery. To soak into the magic of Coorg one needs to stay there for four nights. But all we could manage is two nights stay as extended weekend.
There are plenty of fabulous resorts and hotels in Coorg and some awesome estates where one can enjoy the excitement of plantation stay. But after our luxurious vacation at Goa earlier this year the budget had to be tight so we decided to book a home stay and make Madikeri (district capital) as our base. We chose Madikeri Misty Homestay after reading reviews in Trip Advisor as always. Called the owner Mr Jacob and transferred the money for booking.
Day 1 (10th May)
My plan was to start as early as 5 am from home otherwise usual Bangalore traffic would screw all our plans. But started late by 45 minutes yet managed to cross city limits within 6.30. It was same old Bangalore-Mysore Highway with its endless speed breakers, nothing special to mention or enjoy about. We stopped at Righto Food Hub between Mandaya and Srirangapatna . This is food court where you get outlets of several food brands. We enjoyed delicious South Indian breakfast in Up-South with hot cup of coffees and then continued our journey.
After crossing Srirangapatna there was a big round about. The straight road leads to Mysore but we took a right turn towards KRS Dam road (look out for this sign, it can be confusing). This stretch of road is very bad till it touches Mysore-Mangalore highway. Narrow single lane road full of potholes and heavily loaded trucks spoils the mood.
But once we hit the Mangalore-Mysore road things improved drastically. Four lane highway was real fun to drive but there were lot of trucks and maneuvering was a bit challenging but otherwise the road was very good; I managed to maintain a speed between 80-100. After the Tyre burst incident during out last trip I was reserved to cross 100.
Bylakuppe is the second largest Tibetan settlement in India (largest being Dharmasala , Himachal Pradesh ; HQ of Tibetan Govt. in exile and home of His Holiness Dalai Lama).
This was a long pending destination. I wanted to see how thousands of people living in a foreign land and dreaming of going back to their holy country. Please keep in mind, last two generations of these Tibetans never seen Tibet yet they want to keep the flame alive.
We visited the monastery which has three gigantic status of Buddha , Padmasambhava and Amitabha. All 58 to 60 feet's long and Gold plated. Buddha preached for simple life and we are building large Gold plated status of him! I was wondering how many hungry kids could have been fed with that money!
We sat in the prayer hall for some time and then had a stroll across rest of the monastery. There are lots of Tibetan eateries around and we had our lunch in one of those before proceeding to Madikeri.
From this time onwards the road was splendid! Not just the quality of road but the greeneries and colorful flowers all along was so refreshing for eyes. As we approached Coorg the winding road was passing through Coffee and spice plantations and ghat sections.
There were too many curves, which required tight control on the steering and pedals. We reached Madikeri town at 3 PM and took left turn to continue on Mysore-Mangalore highway, our homestay was on the outskirts of Madikeri.
After some 3 KMs drive on the twisting ghat roads we were able to locate Madikeri Misty View Homestay which is on the lap of the hill. The private approach road from the main road is quite steep. I believe earlier it was stairs and the owners cemented it later to allow cars to reach their place. This road was so steep my car was struggling a lot to pull even in first gear and I could smell burning of the engine oil!
The landlady welcomed us and soon we checked in to our room. The deluxe room was spacious with a view of the hills and highway from the big window. The bathroom was clean and fitted with a tub. They have a common sitting area from where one can have 180-degree view of the hills. Overall we found this is a value for money place to stay if you are going with family or alone. For party animals it could be disappointing option.
After a small nap we decided to go to Raja's Seat; one of the very popular tourist attractions in Madikeri. This time I was not feeling like to drive and took auto. Raja Seat gives a wide and nice view of the hill range and valley. Raja ( King) of Madikeri used to see spectacular sunset from this place.
Now there is a public park and viewing gallery from where one can sit and enjoy the sunset. But this place was crowded like anything and chaotic. Frankly speaking, it was not very enjoyable time for me. There is a small toy train next to the park but the ride was not good. If you do not have kids, do not bother to waste your time and money here.
After this we had stroll around the Madikeri town and bought some home made famous Coorg chocolates. Evening walk though hill station has its own charm specially if you are visiting after long time.
We returned to our home-stay and they arranged chairs on the terrace. We sat there for some time and enjoyed our drink under the sky. It was dark, cold and windy; sounds of trucks on highway were breaking the silence of night. We felt relaxed and peaceful.
After dinner we called it a day and went to bed. There was hell lot of thunderstorm and lightning outside and the environment was surreal, almost like a scene from a horror movie; yet we had a very nice and peaceful sleep.
Day 2 (11th May)
Our day started with very good Kodava breakfast. The homestay provided traditional rice balls ( Kodambuttu), spicy curry and upma. Kodambuttus were just finger licking good!
After our breakfast we proceeded for Dubare elephant camp. It was already 9 am and we had to reach there before 10.30 otherwise the main attraction of elephant bathing would be over.
Dubare is around 30 KMs before Madikeri if you are coming from Bangalore. I had to go back towards Kushalnagar through the same road we travelled yesterday. There is a roundabout before 2-3 KMs of Kushalnagar from which I took right towards SH91 and continued for 3 more KMs. After that a narrow bad stretch of 1.5 KM took us to the bank of River Kaveri. The elephant camp is on the other side of the river, which needs to be crossed in rafts. We took one of those rafts to reach the other side. I have some experience of rowing, but the fellow travellers were just throwing their oars like anything and without any coordination. So our raft was not moving to proper direction when the boatman came to rescue. But it was fun, that's what holidays meant to be, right?
The place was very much crowded and we had to wait in the queue to get the elephant ride. But before that we bathe the elephants in river. Mahouts (the trainers) bring them to the river where one can splash water on the elephants (and get splashed by them too!) . It was a fun time especially for the kids.
The elephant ride was nothing extra ordinary. We were in queue for more than 40 minutes but the ride lasted for just 5 minutes. They just take a turn of small radius and your ride is over.
That day was very hot and sunny and we decided to sit by the river for time. Sitting on the rock next to the river under the tree shade; dipping our feet was very relaxing. Many people were taking bath and kids were playing in water.
Dubare seemed to be a fun place but a bit more crowded. Well that's expected right? Holiday destinations of worlds second largest populated country is ought to be crowded.
One of our friend suggested about "The Coorg Cuisine" which is a good place to taste authentic Kodagu food. After coming back from Dubare we stopped at this place ( few yards from Madikeri Police Station) and enjoyed traditional food. Akki Roti ( Rice flour bread), Chicken curry and spicy mutton fry were finger licking good and their fresh lime water with Coorg honey was so relaxing ! Besides the food I liked the décor and old time charm of this place. Highly recommended if you are looking for some authentic local cuisine in Madikeri ( but expect queue and delay in service during seasons and weekends ).
After lunch we decided to go to Abbey Falls , few kilometers from down town. Once we crossed the Madikeri city limits the road became challenging. The pitch was not bad , but it was very narrow with thick vegetation on both sides and too many curves. Plus there were some nasty declines, pushing the speed above 50+ in second gear without even pressing the fuel injection. If you are driving on this road please stay focused and be watchful; you will need to have tight control on steering and swift reflex for braking. There was lot of vehicles coming from other direction to make it even more challenging.
After parking the car we had to walk through a private estate to reach Abbey falls. The view was good but I was disappointed to see the pile of plastic bottles and packets thrown by people into the stream! Don't know what else need to be done to educate people and make them to respect nature! We spent some time there and then returned to our homestay.
After a short nap we sat in the terrace and savored hot coffee and onion pakodas. Day light was dimming slowly and temperature was dropping; there was a natural freshness in air making us forget about our regular hectic life.
We stood under the star lit sky for hours while enjoying our drinks. It was so relaxing!
Our homestay served diner at our room (which we had to order in the morning itself). The food was good; especially the famous pork curry of Coorg. We called it a day after dinner, as all of us were very tired.
Day 3 (12th May)
After a very peaceful sleep we woke up in the morning as the homestay served breakfast at our room. They provided plenty of food and we made sure this keeps us fuelled for next few hours. The plan is to have lunch after crossing Srirangapatna as there are plenty of good hotels on Mysore-Bangalore highway.
We had breakfast, took shower, packed our stuffs and bid adieu to Madikeri Misty View. It was a very pleasant stay indeed.
Coorg is famous for its spices, home made wines and chocolates so on our way back we stopped at the market to buy some of those stuffs.
The return leg was though the same beautiful road and I enjoyed a lot again. I can drive on such roads for hours without getting tired!
There were lots of farmers selling fresh mangoes at Nagawala. We stopped at one of those stalls and tasted from samples. They had 4 -5 types of mangoes and one of those tasted like Himsagar; the one we get back home at Kolkata. I do not quite like the taste of mangoes we get in Bangalore, so filled up the remaining space of my cars boot. Summer of a Bong is blunt without good, juicy mangoes !
We reached Srirangapatna by 2 PM but were not feeling very hungry and continued our journey till Mudugere. In KFC we had a quick bite and proceeded for Bangalore.
By this time the traffic was increasing and we encountered jams as we were crossing the small towns. But as soon as we crossed Ramnagara the car was stuck in "infamous" weekend return traffic of Bangalore-Mysore highway. Huge number of cars piled up and we were moving in inches, I was feeling like driving on some busy Bangalore road during peak office hours!
This continued till I hit the NICE road. After that I was driving at full throttle and we reached Electronic City in no time. Another hour of drive took us home.
The trip came to an end but we were now refreshed and recharged for our hectic life. This tour was like a detox session for our mind and soul.
We came back with resolution of going back, because it needs more than two nights stay to enjoy the magic of Coorg. May be will go to some other part of remote Coorg and stay in some Coffee or Spice plantation and soak the nature!
Distance Covered: 673 KM
Fuel consumed: 33.64 liters ( Shell V-Power)
Mileage : 20.0059453 KM/Lt