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Start to a new decade 2020 with Coorg

I am a person who believes that efficiency and productivity increases when there are short breaks in between work. It is rightly said : "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". For working professionals, I'll take some liberty to modify this quote slightly - "All work and no vacation makes Mr.Jack a dull performer". For me, the rule is - Work, Save, Travel & Repeat.

Courtesy:

www.pinterest.com

This New year's eve I was working, so no plans were made for 31st and 1st. Co-incidentally, both me and my husband (& travel partner) had time-offs on 2nd and 3rd, followed by weekend. We actually got a 4 day long weekend to plan for New Year celebrations. This year we made a combined resolution that hereafter whenever we get such breaks from work, we will try and explore as much of India as possible. As both of us love to travel, we started with our search for destination near Bangalore, which narrowed down to Coorg - the Scotland of India.

Also known as

Kodagu

, it is a small district in Karnataka and a hill station in Western Ghats, classified as reserved forest area. The best time to visit Coorg is from September to March because of its pleasant weather. But it all depends on what you expect from your visit. End of monsoon might be a good time to visit when the rainfall has subsided and winter is on its way. Though the locals claim that the weather is same throughout the year, its better to avoid summer months if you cannot bear much of heat.

My younger cousin, studying in Class 10, felt like enlightening me with some history of Coorg before I visit the place. It happened to be a chapter in CBSE syllabus. (Follow the link for reading the chapter -

http://www.ncert.nic.in/ncerts/l/jeff107.pdf

). People in Coorg are believed to have Greeks and Arabs as predecessors. Therefore, their customs, traditions and hospitality are somewhat different from that followed in other parts of Karnataka.

So after all the gyaan sharing, we were all set to explore Coorg. We had booked a 2N/3D package with

Skyway International Tours

which included transfer by car and stay with Breakfast.

Day 1 : Thursday

We left from Bangalore on 2nd Jan at 7.15 am. Our driver Bhaiya Mr. Manju was right on time to pick us up. As it was a working day, we started early to avoid the Bangalore traffic at peak morning hours. On the way, we took halt at Shashi Tatthe Idli (somewhere near Bidadi) for breakfast. Our driver bhaiya insisted us on having Tatthe idli here. Apparently, it is very famous in the vicinity that even famous politicians and industrialists come all the way to have breakfast here. And yes, from my personal experience too, it was just yummy and also, the place seemed to be moderately hygienic. Highly recommended. Then the next halt was at sugarcane juice center. Somewhere near Mysore, you can see huge fields of sugarcanes and we got to relish freshly squeezed juice in one such field. After a long journey, as soon as you enter Ghat region of Coorg district, the forest reserve area starts with beautiful flowers, coffee and spice plantations along the road side. You can feel the temperature drop and the view of so many trees and plants is just soothing for a plant-lover like me. The greenery is a delight to one's eyes.

By 2.15 pm, we had reached our hotel

Abbydhama Estate Stay

, Madikeri. After check-in and lunch, at 3.30 pm, our jeep was ready for Mandalpatti View point. It is a 22 kms ride through Ghat area one way and believe me, it was a breathtaking experience, which felt like a roller coaster ride. The jeep ride costs Rs.1500 irrespective of number of people. The jeep will drop you at the entry gate where you need to pay Rs.25 per head for entry into the hilltop. You need to climb the hill for 5-10 mins more to reach the view point. At the top, you get a nice panoramic view of the green mountains of Western Ghats, though didn't turn out as expected for us. It was too hot to sit and relax. We just took few pictures and imagined how beautiful the place looks in monsoon and early winters. Mandalpatti means Market of Clouds or Mist. Locals said that in early winter, it is so misty that one feels like sitting amongst the clouds and in monsoon, it is lush green but roads are in worst condition. Overall, the journey up to the hilltop was more enjoyable than the view point. Note : It is recommended not to attempt this with your private vehicle to avoid accidents as locals know the road well. Also, it is a source of income for many of them too. We also saw many people with private vehicles returning half way as they didn't want to take the risk ahead or went out of fuel.

Duration of visit : 30 mins - 1 hour

By 5.45 pm, we were back to our hotel. We spent the evening exploring our hotel which is itself a coffee and spice plantation estate. The estate is beautifully landscaped with plenty of flowers and not just coffee. Our room had amazing view of forest from the balcony too. We had a hot cup of coffee and aloo bhajiyas enjoying the cold weather and greenery. Tip : Once in a while, do experience such beauty of nature. A fresh punch of air does more wonders than a drink😉.

Later in the night, defeated my husband in a TT game (This was the best part of the day!!!😁) and enjoyed the victory dinner.

Day 2 : Friday

Next day, Coorg sight seeing was the plan. We started at 9.30 am for Abbey Falls which was 3 kms from our hotel. After 5 mins walk though the coffee plantation, you can hear the mesmerizing sound of waterfall. Though the flow was not very impressive, it was still very scenic and peaceful. In monsoon, the water flow is very high with louder roars. Just can't imagine how beautiful the falls are during monsoons. There was a small bridge connecting the present view point to the hill on the other side of the stream. People would cross this bridge and go down to have some fun in the water. But it is broken now due to 2018 landslide. If you are visiting this in the morning before 10 am, you can have good time to experience the beauty and take a lot of great pictures. Once the crowd starts pouring in, it will get difficult as the place is pretty small. Another plus point is the walk through the plantation.

Duration of visit : 20-30 mins

Next we went to Omkareshwar temple, which is located within the Madikeri town. It is a small Shiv temple, having unusual architecture unlike other temples in South India. It has a feel of Islamic architecture. It is believed that the king who build this temple had brought the Lingam from Kashi and installed here to complete his penance for killing a brahmin. There is a small water tank inside the temple premises with a small mandap. Kids from local schools were enjoying watching fishes and turtles in the water tank. (We forgot our phones in the car, so don't have any photo from here😒)

Duration of visit : 15-30 mins

Pic courtesy :

travel.siliconindia.com

The next stop was Plantation tour. Our driver bhaiya knew a place which was a private plantation estate and they offer tour at charge of Rs.200 per person. The care taker of the estate took us through the plantation, explaining various varieties of spices and different types of coffee cultivated. Few to name were Robusta coffee, Arabica coffee, Pepper vines, vanilla vines, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamon, Bird eye chillies (3rd spiciest chilly in the world), Teak wood, Silver Oak wood, etc. He also explained us how the coffee beans are extracted and processed. India exports nearly 80% of the coffee production while 71% production is from Karnataka. Not sure how reliable the information is, but as per him, CCD uses 100% Coorg coffee as the founder was very close to this place. Coffee cultivation is a task of patient farmer as the lifecycle of coffee plant is time consuming. A coffee plant has a life span of about 120 years out of which it needs to be pruned thrice, once every 40 years. The plant starts bearing flowers after around 5-6 years which smells exactly like jasmine. These flowers then mature to become small green berries. These berries then take a year to ripe and turn dark red. This coloration means the berry is ready to be harvested. The berries are then harvested one by one and the pulp is separated from the seed within. This seed is the coffee bean, but now it is green. It is roasted till it turns into aromatic brown coffee. These beans are then blended and powdered for use. The pulp which is separated at the first stage is used again as fertilizer. If the coffee beans are crushed without roasting then it is used as Green coffee - a new trend in the fitness world. To end the tour, we got to taste their home production coffee, which was blended using the same proportion as in CCD coffee. It was worth visiting. Note : 90% Coorg forest cover is coffee plantation. But you can see tall trees planted as coffee needs little sunlight and cold and moist climate. Therefore, tall growing trees having wide foliage spread are planted to not allow much of sunlight to fall on coffee plants and maintain temperature.

Duration of visit : 30-45 mins

Then next we went to Madikeri fort. Honestly, this should no more be in the sight seeing list. Fort is turned into DC office and court, so actually you just get to visit a really small room converted into museum and take a picture with elephant scupltures. We had already visited Hampi in October, so even the museum was nothing different. Total waste of time for us. Not recommended.

Duration of visit : 20 mins

Then we had planned to have lunch at Club Mahindra Resort. My husband wanted to visit their property and check out the amenities and recreational activities they promise to provide. It is amazing and worth the cost. The property itself makes you fall in love with the place. Food was awesome, Pool area, Adventure activities area, everything was amazing. If you are not on budget trip, Club Mahindra resort can be considered as an option. Good place to spend a day within the resort and relax.

Apart from coffee and spices, Coorg is also famous for homemade wine (tastes more like fermented fruit syrup), chocolates (claims to sustain without melting in Mumbai's temperatures) and banana leaf fibre cloth. But beware of fraudsters, who sell duplicate items. Only shop at Government approved stores. Our driver bhaiya had already warned us not to buy any stuff from local shops. Post lunch he took us to Government approved store to get good quality products. The banana leaf sarees or shirts are quite expensive and not much of variety can be seen. But its difficult to resist yourself from not buying one. Spices, dried black raisins, soaked blackberries and coffee were ones which we found to be of really good quality than what we get in cities.

Then we went to last sight seeing spot of the day - Raja's Seat. By this time, we were actually tired and sleepy due to heat and heavy lunch (the main reason). But what caught our eye was this garden - simple and small with numerous varieties of flowers - Pansy, Dianthus, Salvia, Gerbera, Petunia, Roses, Shoe-flower and many many more. The story about the existence of this garden goes as the Kings of Kodagu would visit this place with their queens to watch sunset and relax, therefore named Raja's Seat. There is a view point too. Fountains were not operational and the garden was been worked upon by gardeners. Many of the plants were just planted. Best time to visit is in the evening to view sunset and when the atmosphere is cool. We went around 4.30 pm and it was very hot, so we didn't spend much of the time here.

Duration of visit : around 1 hour (if visited in the evening)

Rest of the evening we were too exhausted to do anything, so just returned back to our hotel and had a sound sleep for sometime. As the previous evening, we had some coffee and fries enjoying the beautiful nature. Dinner was at the hotel, followed by a walk within the estate.

Note : If you have time on day 1 to complete Madikeri sight seeing, you can choose to visit Baghamandala and Talacauvery, which is around 50-60 kms away from Coorg. If you're a person who doesn't want to miss out on any place, you can cover this on day 2 and evening go for Mandalpatti instead of day 1. But like us, if you want to relax then its better to skip it.

Day 3 - Saturday

We did early check-out at around 7.30 am to leave Coorg with amazing memories. On the way back, we were going to visit Dubare Elephant Camp. This is a forest camp set up in Kushalnagar where the wild elephants are trained for interactive sessions with tourists. There were around 10-12 elephants including two cute baby elephants. It is open only for few hours during the day - 9.30 am to 11 am and 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm. Most of the crowd visit this camp during the morning hours when the elephants are brought on the bank of Kaveri river for bathing. Ferries will take you to the other side of the river where the camp is. There you can buy separate ticket for interactive activities like bathing, feeding, riding. Unfortunately, interactive activities were closed on the day of our visit. We just got to touch the elephants and click few pictures.

Duration of the visit : 1 hour (interactive activities might take more time which is not included here)

Next we were suppose to visit Nisargdhama, which is a forest park in Kushalnagar. You can enjoy a nature walk along with adventure activities. We skipped this, so no idea how actually it is.

Last and the most important stop of this trip was Namdroling Monastery a.k.a Golden temple. It is also known as Bylakuppe Monastery as it is located in Bylakuppe in Kodagu district. This is actually a teaching center for Tibetan Buddhism. There is a huge temple along with two small temples, hostel, school and hospital for Monks. Must visit place as the beauty tranquilizes you to forget all the stress and relax. There is a huge 60 ft gold plated statue of Lord Buddha along with two more statues (can't recollect their names😢). Beautiful architecture, spiritual ambiance wins your heart as soon as you step inside the main temple. There is also a replica of Palyul Monastery of Tibet within the premise. You can also buy souvenirs from the two shops run by the monastery itself.

The only grief that I felt was as a tourist, we need to understand that it is a place of worship and meditation. When there are several signboards put up for maintaining silence, we need to abide by it while entering the temples. There was so much of chaos created by the tourists that it seemed like a fish market. And the whole chaos was for clicking selfies with the statues inside the temple. There was no restriction on photography inside, but it can also be done silently without causing any disturbances to the monks meditating in the same hall.

That was it. We stopped for lunch and snacks in between our return journey. By 7.30 pm, we were at our home in Bangalore with lots of memories and fully recharged to get back to routine.

I hope you like the post. Let me know if you did or not by commenting below. And if you like it, please do share and subscribe to get notifications about future posts.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!!!

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