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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Coorg Chronicles (Part 1)

With the last weekend being a long one (thanks to the Ramzan celebrations), we could finally make the much awaited trip to Coorg which is also touted as the Scotland of India. Ever since we moved to Bangalore, we had been planning for this trip but somehow it always got cancelled the at the eleventh hour. 'Monsoon is not the best time to visit Coorg', warned some folks but this time we were determined to go ahead. Since it was on a short notice, we had to call up quite a few hotels before we could finally book a room. So, if you are planning to make a trip during the peak season (October to April), do make the hotel reservations fairly in advance.

Coming back to the trip, we started off from Marathahalli around 7:45 in the morning. With no major traffic hassles (it was a Saturday) except at Kengiri, we moved out of the city at around 9 am. This is a wonderful stretch dotted with a whole spectrum of eateries, ranging from the more popular ones like CCD, Adigas, A2B, Kamat to lesser known ones. We made the first stop at a Kamat joint. Though it was crowded, the service was fairly quick and we were done with breakfast in 20 mins flat. Starting off once again, the first major town that we came across was Channapatna, also known as the 'land of toys' . Shops selling a whole range of wooden artifacts, toys and lacquer items were lined up on both sides of the road. Most prominent were the rows of wooden rocking horses which reminded me of the old Bollywood number 'Lakdi ki kathi, kathi pe Ghoda....Ghode ke dum pe jo mara hathoda.....dauda dauda Ghoda dum uthake dauda'. While I would have loved to take a closer look at the wares displayed, there was a lot of distance to be covered and hence I dropped the idea.

Next to capture our attention were huge fields of sugarcane crops. It signaled the arrival of 'The Land of Sugar', Mandya, one among the more prosperous cities of Karnataka. It boasts of a govt medical college and one of the top engineering colleges of Karnataka. Quite a developed city with good roads, it is quite impressive at first glance. With sugar factories located in Mandya, one can make out the distinct smell of molasses while travelling through certain stretches of the city.

Mysore was the next major city on the map but we took a bypass to avoid the city traffic which would be quite high around noon. After covering a bad stretch of road, we passed through the fringes of Infosys Mysore Campus, undoubtedly one the major landmarks of the city. Leaving behind the limits of Mysore, we were greeted with vast acres of land on which short shrub like plants were being cultivated. We also encountered a few bullock carts laden with the yellowing leaves of those plants. After a few wild guesses ranging from radish to oil seeds, a google search finally revealed it to be 'Tobacco'. Little wonder, we were crossing the tobacco growing town of Periyapatna. This area is also famous for growing 'sweet corn' which has turned around many a farmers' lives.

Finally we entered Kodagu or Coorg district. The first place that we visited was the Namdroling Monastery, more commonly known as the Golden temple. Home to more than 5000 monks living in exile, it houses huge idols of Buddha ( in different avatars ) and colorful Tibetan painting depicting mythological creatures. It was the time for afternoon prayers I suppose ( around 1:15 pm ) as there were lots of monks chanting prayers and a huge gong/drum going on. A beautiful sight that I will remember for a long time.

Covering the entire premises of the monastery can be quite tiring and in our case it whetted up quite an appetite. We decided to stop at the next decent-looking hotel that comes on the way. Thankfully we did not have to wait for more than 10 minutes as Hotel President came looming. It looked hygienic and on entering it, we quickly got a table. Though the waiter was quick to take our order, it was quite sometime before the food arrived on out table. But it was quite good, far better than what we had expected. Most restaurants at hill stations serve notoriously bad food as they do not have to worry about customer retention. This was an exception.

After a hearty meal consisting of dal, rice, butter chicken and naan, we proceeded to the next destination. The Cauvery Nisargadhama is a beautiful but ill-maintained tourist spot. An island formed by the tributaries of river Cauvery, it is accessible by a hanging bridge. Quite a peaceful spot with the sounds of gushing water and chirping birds, it lacks directions. Though it has a rabbit enclosure, a parrot enclosure, a deer park and even an elephant ride, we were only able to make out the first two. The heavy rains had made it kind of slippery and one had to tread with care. Also the fear of reptiles, given the tall grass along the trials, kept us from exploring more.

Starting on the final leg of our journey, it started getting cooler and cloudier as we climbed the sloping roads leading to Madikeri. The roads took us through numerous sandalwood and coffee plantations. The roads are in surprisingly good condition given the copious amount of rain that this place receives. Finally we reached the Thimmaiah circle, an important junction of the town of Madikeri.

Taking a turn to the left, it took us another 3 kms to finally reach our hotel. Located in the midst of greenery, Sri Venketeshwara Residency is a hotel that I would highly recommend to anyone traveling to this place with their own conveyance. Clean, well kept, courteous staff and decently priced, they were gracious enough to accept our reservation over the phone without any advance. The package included free breakfast (served at 7:45 am), which was really good. The room service is fast but a little irregular as they were a little short on cooks. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items are included in the menu. However running hot water is available only from 7 pm to 11 am, which is something they could improve on I felt. Though we reached around 4:30 in the evening, we had to wait till 7:30 for a shower.

Tired with the journey, we decided to relax for the rest of the evening. Though the floor was bare, the room had a small LED TV with most channels available (which is a big thing when you just want to sit back and relax). The bed was neatly made and comfortable.  The view from the room was amazing with undulating green fields and forests all around. With evening descending, a mist started to envelope the place adding to its already charming beauty. After a quite dinner ( thanks to the room service ) around 9 pm, we hit the sack within an hour and we fast asleep.

More to come................

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