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Showing posts with label places to visit in Coorg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label places to visit in Coorg. Show all posts

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Coorg Chronicles (Part 2)

Continued from Here..........

The next morning, I woke up to the sounds of chirping sparrows and gushing water. It had been raining heavily throughout the night and small stream were running down the hillside. Though the downpour had reduced to a light drizzle, there were hardly any folks to be seen on the lone road visible from the hotel window. The sparrows were happily playing in the small pools of water that had formed in the hotel courtyard. A mild sense of nostalgia started to grip me while I was watching them. Once an integral part of my growing years in Rourkela, one hardly encounters these winged friends in Bangalore. I sat by the window side for almost an hour lapping up the sights and sounds of nature. Coorg during the monsoon can only be described as virgin nature at its' pristine best.

As I walked into the hotel dining hall for breakfast, a lone waiter greeted me and took my order. As the guests were few, they had not served buffet. Within 10 mins, the soft idlis and crisp vada had arrived at my table, accompanied by tea and warm water (a nice thing given the cold conditions). The food was delicious. After ordering for breakfast to be brought into the room for my husband and son, I retreated to our room and settled down by the window once again. Somehow hill stations give me that idyllic feeling of time having stopped in its tracks and make me reluctant to allow any kind of intervention into my blissful state. So, no newspaper and no TV is my rule during such vacations.

It was almost 10:30 by the time all of us had freshened up and had eaten breakfast. We then proceeded towards our first tourist destination of the day, the much famed Abby falls. It was around 9 kms from the hotel and it did not take us long to reach there. The drive was short but beautiful with mist covered hills and valleys keeping us engrossed throughout. But due to the light drizzle we were reluctant to step out of the car for clicking pics. At one point we came to a forked road, the left one leading to Abby falls and the right one taking off to the picturesque Mandarpatti hills. As we had decided to skip the latter ( our Innova would not travel on the narrow roads leading to the spot ), we proceeded on the left road and reached the point leading to the falls. As expected it was thronging with visitors who had come to watch the falls in its full glory. A long descend on the broken stone steps took us to the place. The fall does not have a great height but still it is spectacular. A hanging bridge is built across the water and this was the most preferred stop for amateur photographers. Spending a few minutes near the gushing waters, we started back on the steep climb. This is the tough part and can be quite painful for elder folks.

Back into the comfort of our vehicle, we decided to wind up with a visit to the Madikeri fort and Raja's seat. Though Talakaveri (the birth place of Cauvery river) is considered one of the most important places to visit while in Coorg, we decided to give it a miss as there was a minor landslide 2 days back. Also, it had rained heavily in the intervening night which made it still riskier. The adventure bug in me kept nagging on but I silenced it with some stern reasoning.

The Madikeri fort is located very near to the center of the town. A Ganesh temple, a Church turned museum, and two life size elephants were all we could see. The main building (palace) was closed. Sadly, it is not well maintained and I was kind of disappointed. Next stop was Raja's seat, a garden that offers a spectacular view of vast green lands and mist clad mountains. It is said that the kings of Kodagu used to frequent this spot with their consorts to watch the sunrise/sunset. Quite a nice spot but the best time to come here is the winters when the gardens are in full bloom. The toy train ride ( at Rs 10/- per person ) is an added attraction for the kids and other people who refuse to grow up.

It was almost lunchtime and we wanted to grab a table at good restaurant before it became too crowded, Our driver (who was well acquainted with the place) suggested a place called 'East End Hotel' which is located very near to the Thimmiaih Circle. It was almost 1 as we walked in and the place had just started to fill up. The service was good and they also gave some complimentary curry with the white rice. But it is the 'chilli'-fied items and the 'Coorg Chicken curry' that one needs to try at this place. Mind-blowing good. Another attraction of this place is the awesome selection of wine/hard drinks they have. Though both of us do not drink, the crowd at the bar bore testimony to the fact that this place was a huge hit with people who love their poison.

After the nice lunch, we retired to our room and took a short nap. Feeling refreshed after a late afternoon shower and some tea, we proceeded to the Omkareshwara temple . Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this is a unique temple built in the Islamic style. It has a small mandap surrounded by a sparse corridor. In front of the main shrine/temple, there is a small fish pond with a smaller shrine in the middle. There were a few ducks too but as it was almost dark, they had started to doze off.

By the time we started from the temple, it had started raining heavily. But we could not return to our hotel without completing the sacred ritual of shopping for spices, home made chocolate and the other exotic stuff that one usually finds at hill stations. Our very knowledgeable driver duly guided us to a shop call Coorg Greens which was stocked with all kinds of spices and nuts. Though one finds a plethora of spice shops in Madikeri market, this one was crowded than usual. I picked up some biryani spices , saffron, honey, coorg cofffee, raisins and nuts. There was the dry fruit jam that caught my fancy and I took one of those too. Another item which caught my attention was the hand made soap in different flavours. I loved the smell of the one with 'Goat milk' and bought half a dozen of those too.

It was then time for the home-made chocolates and we did not have to look far for those. There was a very good chocolate boutique called 'Choci Coorg' upstairs. Though a little on the expensive side, they had a good collection and I must say that these chocolate tasted even better than the ones we have had from Ooty or Munnar.

The shopping had made us a little tired and we wanted some coffee to refresh ourselves. Our driver took us to this small place called 'Hotel Neel Sagar' which is located on the Madikeri Main Road.  We ordered for the Coorg special coffee (which was priced at Rs 25) along with a butter masala dosa. The coffee turned out to be delicious but the dosa was pretty average. But service was quick even with a good number of tables being occupied.

We decided to laze about in our hotel room for the rest of the evening as it was raining quite heavily. But the rains had stopped by 9 pm and we decided to head towards 'East End Hotel' once again for dinner. However it was a disappointment this time around. With so much liquor flowing , the place resembled and smelled like a bar rather than a restaurant. Deciding against having dinner there itself, we got a parcel and returned to the hotel room. The 'Chili chicken' was quite good. Watching TV after dinner, it was almost 11:30 by the time we hit the sack.

We woke up to a bright and sunny morning the next day. After a quick shower, we went for the breakfast. The hotel staff had prepared a buffet and everything was as delicious as the previous day. Although they had revised the menu and I missed those crispy vadas, the delectable set dosa more than made up for it. It was almost 9:45 when we started from the hotel. We lapped up the sights of this beautiful place for the last time as we raced towards Bangalore. A no-break journey ensured that we had reached the outskirts of Bangalore by 1:30 pm but the traffic ( thanks to Ramzan shopping being in full swing ) ensured that we could not reach home before almost 4 pm. A sense of relief washed over me as I unlocked the door. After all, don't they say 'Home is where the heart is'.

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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