Monday, April 19, 2004

Among Coffee beans and The Western Ghats

Day 1

A long weekend and it was time to plan another trip. This time we had a choice between riding to our destination or driving there. We opted for driving. This would be our first driving trip. We were more familiar with riding across the country. I wanted to visit Kodagu better known as Coorg since I had heard so much about this place and I was dying to see this place famous for beautiful people and coffee estates.

I read up Outlook traveler journals and did a lot of research on the net and finally decided that we would do Coorg no matter what. Luckily we had my husband?s colleagues coming along with us, one of whom belonged to this beautiful place. We had two guys on a Machismo. They decided to ride with us all the way. So we were seven of us , Myself , Rakesh (my hubby), Ambar, Gokul, Anjali , Mrinalini a.k.a Mini and Harini.

Harini was a native from Siddapur and she was also coming along for the weekend to visit her place and she very kindly invited us to stay with her. We were glad to have her with us since it would be easier traveling around this place with her guiding us around some part of the trip.

We started at 7:00 from Bangalore and went via Chanrayapatna, Hassan and then took a deviation from Gorur to Kushalnagar. This route is easy to follow but you must look out for the Gorur sign board towards your left to take the deviation. We almost missed it but we were back on track as soon as we realized that.

There are a couple of junctions which might confuse you while you are driving but its easy if you ask the native people the way to Kushalnagar. While driving through Gorur, we passed by the Gorur Dam which also boasted of a lake blue as the sky. It was a scenic drive as soon as we entered Kushalnagar. The temperature was quite warm and Harini told us that Kushalnagar can get very hot since it was near Mysore.

Anyways, driving past Kushalnagar, we came upon Bylekuppe where we went to visit the Namdroling monastery. It was noon by this time. This place was famous for Tibetian settlements and all you could see were monks dressed in their maroon and yellow garbs going about their daily business as usual.

The monastery is an experience by itself. The whole of the place was a kaleidescope of bright colours, warm and welcoming. It is very peaceful and I felt like sitting there and just contemplating. There were three Buddha statues made of Copper plated with gold. Inside the statues there were some holy inscriptions and other religious things pertaining to Buddhism. The main statue of Buddha was about 50ft and it was flanked by two other statues 48 ft of gurus who attained Buddhahood.

It was pretty crowded with visitors mostly from Bangalore that day since many were off on a holiday trip to Coorg. There was a new monastery being built in the compound and whole monastery was surrounded by the hostels for young monks. It was a pleasure seeing young kids in their monk's garbs running around.

The whole place was full of colourful paintings which talked about their culture and their way of life. We would have liked it better if there was someone to explain to us the meaning of the paintings. It would have given the visitors a better insight to their culture but I guess they were a closed community and were not interested in spreading the good word unless you were a Tibetian.

Anyway as we came out of the monastery we realized that we were very hungry and I was keen on having Tibetian food specially momo. We looked around and spied a small lazy restaurant known as Dhege Restaurant run by Tsiring ( meaning long life) . The day was hot and the place was not that hygenic... we literally had to wake the owner up to cook us food... LOLOL... . She was good enough to cook us some delicious beef curry and rice and momos. For the vegetarian she had some nice noodles for them. In this pic you see a group full of a good meal LOLOL. Sitting there having our food, one could not help admire the scenery outside...

Not satisfied with the food, Anjali decided to buy some chocolates and gorge on them .. she was obviously a chocoholic and the three girls went ga ga and chomp chomp on the chocs..

After having our fill we made our way to Nisargadhama where we crossed the hanging bridge and explored the forest area. This place is not very well maintained but it's a nice place for picnic . You have the option to stay at the cottages in this place too but I guess you have to book in advance. We tried our luck but could not find anything available.

You can go boating too through the meandering river. The forest was full of bamboo groves and it was a pleasure walking through them. We suddenly spotted a tree house and all seven of us decided to climb on it and it was nice to sit there and have a looky at what was going on below. I was not comfortable with the swaying house and was relieved to have come down to rest my feet at solid ground. Getting up was easy but coming down the steps was pretty scary and scared the shit out of me.. I just had to bite and smile as if I was doing the most natural thing climbing down stairs with gaping holes from so many feet above ground level.. BRRRRRR..

Then I saw kids and families alike taking elephant rides which costed some 10/- but we saw that it was a very short ride and though I was very keen on riding the elephant, I was not encouraged by Rocks and we were running out of time too. I made my way with a long face and on we continued to Siddapur passing through Harangi Reservoir and Veerabhoomi village. If you are in that area you must stay there for a night to experience the rich cultural heritage of Karnataka. We decided to try this the next time we visit this place. Harangi reservoir also is a beautiful place to visit when there is enough water.

As we were traveling to Siddapur, we were passing by the river Cauvery every now and then and the river appeared to be flowing well but the water level was low inspite of daily rains in that area. Two of our travel mates had made reservations in High Falls Holiday Home near Irupu Falls and we had to put them in a cab. Siddapur being a small town, Harini and her family was well known. At Siddapur she found a known cabbie and we bid our friends Anjali and Mini goodbye promising to meet them up the next day. Meanwhile we went back to Harini's house where we got to know her family and refreshed ourselves. It was 5:00 in the evening and there was still light. Harini wanted to take us to Orange County which was just two minutes away from her estate.

Harini knew the estate managers well since one couple were staying in their house. One of them was the General Manager and the lady was the Accounts Manager. They welcomed us with their kind hospitality greeting. The resort was 100 percent booked for Easter. We were really impressed with the resort. The place was very well maintained. We enjoyed the green surrounding us and the Tudor styled cottages were out of the world.

We visited the Antharium garden where they had the largest number of Anthariums growing there in that green house. Anthariums had export value and it was doing great business there. Just as we came out of the garden we came face to face with a flock of white geese who loved all the great attention given to them by the guests.

A few distances away we saw a preening turkey. Well I do not know what else to call the proud turkey spreading its wings and standing there as if it was the king of the world. The whole place was a coffee estate shared by seven brothers from Kerela. The Ramapuram Holiday Resorts Ltd, are traditional estate owners, who are originally from a small town called Palai in Kottayam district of Kerala. The Ramapuram family, after establishing itself in plantations, has now diversified into leisure services. The whole estate was made into a resort. Most of the coffee stems and buds which were uprooted to make way for building the layout of Orange County was used for furniture inside the cottages. That way they have utilized their crop in a very economic way.

We also visited the Ayurveda Village inside the County where the staff showed us around the different methods of workings of the Vaidyashala. The entrance was very grand and influence of Kerela Architecture. I guess its worth all the money that people pay for to spend time at this place. It?s a good place to distress yourself the expensive way. A night there in the cottages would cost you from 6500/- and above.

Made friends with the dogs which was there in Harini's home and it was a pleasure connecting with them. Knowing myself I could have spent hours and hours with Ricky and Sonu. Had a nice homely dinner which Harini's mom so kindly prepared and crashed off.

Day 1 ended with dreams of Buddha and the beautiful monastery.