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Welcome to Coorg aka Kodagu


Tripoto.com
Duration: 3 Days

Some memories are best left unperturbed floating in a feel-good bubble that you don't want to dissect with the "when, where, what, why" conundrum. That is probably the reason why I can't bring myself to blog about my travels immediately after I return home despite having a vivid account of it playing on loop on my mental screen. Months pass by and I just observe the passage of time. Sometimes they stretch into years. Then, I feel guilty of not having recorded some of the best moments of my journey as they begin to recede to the inaccessible layers of my mind. The urgency of the situation - the frantic attempt to gather all that remains in a massive sweep, brings me back to my photo journals. Whatever I mine out of them get condensed into a blog post with wistful flavors. This is going to be one such write-up.


DAY 1
Photos of Madikeri, Karnataka, India 1/1 by rysha hamza

Last November, Azal, Sammy and I took a short vacation in Coorg or Kodagu - the land of the valiant Kodavas. The place had been on our bucket list right from the very beginning of our courtship but for some reason we deferred it for about three years in spite of living in Bangalore during that period. The first time I visited Coorg was when I was in the twelfth standard. The untainted magic of school days lent a particular charm to my memory of this coffee haven. With the word 'Coorg', my mind would quickly conjure up images of wet forests, Buddhist monasteries and a bunch of uniform-clad teenagers on the brink of breaking free. However, my second trip changed everything. Now the only thing I can think of when I hear 'Coorg' is the insidious flavors of the rich and dark Pandi curry (authentic Coorgi pork) infused with the tangy notes of Coorgi vinegar derived from Gambooge/Malabar Tamarind locally called the Kachampuli or Kodampuli.

Photos of  1/1 by rysha hamza

Coorg is roughly a five hour drive from Calicut, my hometown. We started a little after six in the morning and entered Madikeri/Mercara before noon. For the first night, our stay was booked via airbnb at Beans and Blossom Estate stay, a tastefully designed hideout in the heart of a privately owned coffee and pepper plantation in Napoklu, about 20 km from Madikeri. After checking in, we headed out for lunch at Tiger Tiger - a family run restaurant serving the best local food in town. An array of authentic dishes were laid out before us in no time - Akki roti (chapati made from rice flour), Paputtu (steamed rice cake inebriated with milk and garnished with coconut), Kadamputtu (steamed rice balls), Pandi curry and Chicken cutlets. The Kodava cuisine, a beautiful amalgamation of locally sourced ingredients like wild fruits, bamboo shoots and wild meat, is tightly bound to its geographic and cultural roots. Rice is the main crop cultivated in the area and therefore, forms the foundation of most dishes. The distinct flavors take us back to the history of this indigenous tribe that still carries ceremonial knives.

Photos of Kushalnagar, Karnataka, India 1/3 by rysha hamza
Photos of Kushalnagar, Karnataka, India 2/3 by rysha hamza
Photos of Kushalnagar, Karnataka, India 3/3 by rysha hamza

Delightfully satiated, we drove down to Kaveri Nisargadhama to unwind in the company of nature. A river island near Kushalnagar, it has beautiful hiking trails punctuated by tree houses, deer parks, boating facilities, hanging bridges and rivulets enshrouded by dense forest land. It is a popular picnic spot for tourists especially those traveling in large groups. Another prominent attraction for those visiting this part of Karnataka is the Golden Temple or the Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe, the second largest Tibetan settlement in India after Dharamshala. Elaborately ornamented, the temple is a grandiose structure that houses colossal statues of Guru Rinpoche, Buddha Sakyamuni and Amitayus. The walls are adorned with colorful mural paintings depicting images of Gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The monastery is home to about five thousand monks who play a key role in the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. On reaching the walkway leading to the temple, we were attacked by wasps. Azal got stung by one as he tried to get it out of my hair. Throbbing with pain he returned to the jeep to get some first aid. I caught a quick glimpse of the temple insides before heading back.

Photos of Napoklu, Karnataka, India 1/1 by rysha hamza

It was dusk when we reached our abode for the night. We got acquainted with our host Bopanna who promised to take us on a plantation trail the morning after. Thrilled by the novel settings, Sammy gamboled around the cottage as we sipped some Coorgi coffee by the warmth of the fire flaming right into the chilly night. For dinner, we were served generous portions of chilly pork, rice, dal, chapati, cabbage sabzi, salad and bananas. After a good night's rest, we woke up refreshed to take on the challenges of the day. We had a trek planned for the second half. Bopanna took us on a tour of the estate, giving us an insight into the technicalities of coffee cultivation and the day to day life of a planter revolving around this cash crop - growing it, tending to it and savoring it many times a day. A sumptuous breakfast followed.

Photos of  1/2 by rysha hamza
Photos of  2/2 by rysha hamza

Our next destination was King's cottage located in Kakkabe at the foothills of Tadiandamol, the highest peak in Kodagu district. Beset in the embrace of a lovely garden, the cottages overlooked the swaying reaches of the paddy fields below with the foggy mountains playing sentry to the picturesque setting. Coffee beans evenly spread out on the concreted courtyard got roasted in the unsparing heat of the tropical sun.

DAY 2
Photos of Tadiandamol, Yevakapadi, Karnataka, India 1/3 by rysha hamza
Photos of Tadiandamol, Yevakapadi, Karnataka, India 2/3 by rysha hamza
Photos of Tadiandamol, Yevakapadi, Karnataka, India 3/3 by rysha hamza

Being a trekking enthusiast, Azal wanted to hike to the top of the mountain and revel in the mesmerizing views from up above. I fell prey to his infectious spirits, nodding a yes to the adventure unbeknownst of what lay ahead of me. We lunched at a roadside shack called The Five Star Thattukada run by local Muslims who spoke Malayalam with a heavy Kodava influence. With close proximity to the Kerala border, the intermingling of cultures was visibly evident in the area. 

Before setting out on the trek, we visited the Nalknad Palace, which served as the final refuge of the last of the Haleri Kings of Kodagu before he was deposed by the British. With secret chambers and paling artworks decorating the walls and ceilings, the palace was a relic of the bygone era.

Photos of Nalknad Palace, Nalknad Palace Road, Yevakapadi, Karnataka, India 1/1 by rysha hamza

We started the trek a little after two in the afternoon, hoping to be back by sun down. At the outset, I was geared up for the challenge but as time went by, the uphill trek began to take a toll on my weak calf muscles. I was heaving and panting as my body blatantly refused to catch up with the thrill of conquering a goddamn mountain. My heart felt like it was being stumped down by the weight of the entire universe. I was at a point of no return; all that I could do was hurl philosophical abuse at my husband who tricked me into this futile sport of inflicting self-torture simply to appease the ego. Pardon me, but the pain was so mind numbing that the higher meaning of this relentless pursuit escaped the limits of my comprehension :/ However, we completed the trek successfully and returned to sanity before nightfall. Being up there among the clouds wasn't too bad after all. Lesson learnt: it's more about pushing your limits than conquering the mountain.

When we got to our cottage, Sammy was up from her midday siesta and looking forward to her biggest joy in life - food. We took her around the fields before dinner which comprised of a full meal similar to the one at Beans and Blossom. But this time we opted for chicken instead of pork. We retired to our beds soon after for a well-deserved break from the draining activities of the day. 

DAY 3

After a wholesome breakfast, we vacated our room and drove to Madikeri to visit the Abbey Falls. The magnificence of the waterfall was amplified by the greenery around it. Sammy was bemused by the vibe of the place but not the unsolicited attention bestowed upon her. Our trip was coming to a close and what better way there was to end it than with a generous helping of Pandi curry and its accompaniments from Tiger Tiger! Once again, we relished the inimitable blend of spice and meat, and licked our plates clean before bidding adieu to the exotic land of the Kodavas.

Photos of Abbi Falls, Hebbettageri, Karnataka, India 1/1 by rysha hamza
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