Image credit: Ramya Sriram
Dark-leaved coffee plantations. Waterfalls cascading down hills. Pepper vines winding their way around tall trees. Misty morning walks. Smiling peaceful people.
If there's any place that's called me back again and again, it's Coorg, nestled in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. I feel like I've lived there in some previous life, picked coffee berries and chewed on home-grown betel leaves.
I've been to Coorg thrice, and I know I'm going to go there again. I jump up every time someone mentions the place - it seems to have some magnetic hold on me. Here are some experiences that I don't get tired of revisiting!
Namdroling Monastery, Bylakuppe
Namdroling Monastery. Image Credit: Rajaram Rajendran
Namdroling Monastery. Image Credit: Ramya Sriram
A visit to Bylakkuppe, a small town and Tibetan settlement off the Bangalore-Mysore highway, has become something of a ritual while visiting Coorg. Each time I visit, I'm amazed by the transition in landscape as you enter the village- you don't expect to see such a vast expanse of green. Colourful Tibetan flags flutter outside pretty cottages, and quaint Tibetan shops sell antiques, jewellery and prayer wheels. The Namdroling monastery is the largest of all the monasteries in the village, and is an imposing structure of red and gold. The lamas here are quite warm and welcoming, and have always been up for small conversation every time I've spoken to them (some even have cell phones!). Ducks, guinea fowls, sparrows and other birds wander about on the grass, unafraid of visitors.
The inside of the temple houses three enormous statues of Lord Buddha, flanked by Lord Padmasmbhava and Lord Amitayus. I don't think I've felt more humbled and at peace at any other place - I could just sit there for hours. Maybe days, if I tried.
It's quite a treat to stay in a homestay in Coorg, which are usually set amidst sprawling acres of coffee and various other plantations. Generally comes with extremely simple and smiling people, and warm home-cooked food. A walk around the estate in the morning and conversing with workers is a good way to understand the local culture.
I also find the whole process of coffee picking, drying and processing very fascinating. So much goes into your morning cuppa manna!
Coffee berries. Image credit: Ramya Sriram
Coffee being dried. Image Credit: Ramya Sriram
I've a weakness for the rains and waterfalls and everything monsoon-y. Coorg offers some pretty spectacular waterfalls tucked away in dense woods. The major one is Abbey Falls (Abbi means waterfall in Coorgi), which you can view while standing on a bridge and getting soaked in its spray. Its taller cousin, Iruppu Falls, roars 60 metres down a hill. Iruppu Falls is quite a climb, and I've encountered many an interesting insect and bird en route the waterfall. What I like best is discovering the quieter waterfalls that gurgle away in the estates, unexpectedly appearing in the midde of nowhere and disappearing into streams.
Watch out for leeches though, that can mysteriously latch on to your feet even through socks. I speak from experience!
Abbey Falls. Image Credit: Rajaram Rajendran
Coorg is a place that seems to be just made for walks and hikes. While I haven't done the Tadiandmol and other treks yet (one of my reasons to go back!), I've spent considerable time on foot in Coorg. I love how paddy fields appear out of nowhere. Some of the scenes that greet you are breathtaking.
Peace on the Kaveri river. We sat on the banks for quite some time, watching the boat glide by. Image Credit: Rajaram Rajendran
Opening the fence during a morning walk at the homestay. Image Credit: Rajaram Rajendran
Coorg was one of the first places I visited where I felt really, really 'away'. About fifteen years ago, there was hardly any cell phone signal and you had to go to Madikere town to make an uninterrupted phone call. That stay was phone-less, TV-less and Internet-less. It was one of the first places that spoke to me so much, and I felt like I was listening and responding, engaged in conversation.
Pictures from my first trip to Coorg, when it was so pristine and untouched. The second picture is of one of the cottages at Capitol Village. Images Credit: Ramya Sriram.
Perhaps that's why I keep wanting to go back - because it makes me feel so transported. Transported to a place far away from my real, everyday life, yet to a place that seems so very familiar. Perhaps a life in Coorg is a life I have once known. It's definitely one I'd like to know again.