2k15 was coming to an end and back to back long weekends were calling out to us when we decided to take our last trip of the year to Coorg.
Coorg (officially known as the Kodagu district) is around 250 km from Bangalore. With its natural splendour and exotic scenic environment, Coorg has a special place among the hill stations in India. Its picturesque locales, alluring mountains and verdant coffee plantations provide what we might call, an icing on the cake. Nestled among the lush greeneries of the Western Ghats, the district offers a luxurious vacation period to its guests. Coorg is praised as the ‘Scotland of India’ and also renowned as ‘Kashmir of the South’ due to its majestic beauty and cool ambience at an altitude in the range of 3500 ft. above sea level.
We had booked our car one month prior, to avoid rush during the peak season. As I am a newbie driver, we avoided travelling at night and set out for our destination at 5 A.M. on a chilly Friday morning. Our homestay called Devine Spark was in the middle of a coffee plantation, situated at 10 minutes’ drive from Chettali and 20 minutes’ drive from Medikeri. We reached the place at 11.30 A.M. It was a very charming stay, surrounded by coffee plantation and greenery.
Day 1: Abbey Falls and Raja’s Seat
We decided to visit the nearby places, as it was already past noon. We downloaded the offline map of Coorg to aid navigation which proved to be very useful.
The very first place we went was Abbey Falls. My excitement died after seeing a sea of people at the falls. That was our first encounter with disappointment on our much awaited trip. We realized that visiting a tourist hotspot on a long weekend was going to be a mix of boons and banes. The Falls were properly fenced and there was no way to actually enter the water, something that we really wanted to do. Though there was a hanging bridge that could have provided a great view of the falls but unfortunately, it was closed. With a heavy heart, we clicked a few pictures like everybody else and headed out as there wasn’t much to do there.
Our next stop was Raja’s seat in the town of Medikeri.
We reached just in time to ensure a nice secluded spot to enjoy the sunset. As the sun was setting, temperature dropped and we could feel the chill in the air. It was a very soothing experience and that was the first time when I appreciated the beauty of Coorg. The place had a great view of the massive mountains and the beautiful valley. We relaxed for an hour there, watched birds going back to their nests and took back with us the serene beauty of the place.
Day 2: Mandalpatti
The trend of waking up late continued the next day and it was past noon before we headed out for our one and only stop for the day, Mandalpatti.
Mandalpatti is around 30 km from the town of Medikeri. The roads were slightly sloppier than we expected and we had to stop twice because of car trouble. We got help from fellow travellers and somehow reached the parking space at Mandalpatti. Jeeps run between the parking space to the foot of the hills and charge around a thousand bucks for the round trip. That small patch that we travelled by jeep was very rocky and quite dangerous to drive on. I would strongly advise everybody to not take their personal vehicles and rely on jeep driver’s professional skills rather than your own driving skills, however good they might be. Mandalpatti is a group of small hills and not just one big hill top, like we had assumed it to be. We bought tickets at the foot of the hills and climbed to the top.
“The most beautiful places are at the end of really bad roads”, the place fits this bill quite correctly. The view of never ending hills and adjoining valleys was absolutely overwhelming, slightly ruined by the blazing hot sun. Our driver had given us half an hour to spend at the place after which he would start the fro journey back; and it was almost the limit of that time when the sun started to go down and wind got to speed. We chose to ignore the noble words of our driver for a little more time and spent as much time as we could in that chilly speedy wind. It was almost an hour when our driver couldn’t keep calm anymore and we finally decided to get going.
On our way downhill, we found a small bridge over a stream and halted for half an hour there to chill out. It was getting dark and we decided to hurry on our way back. I was just hoping that just like we had, our car would have relaxed too and won’t give us any trouble on the way back. But alas, it had some other plans for us. It hadn’t been any more than a km that it suddenly stopped on a steep turn and was simply just not ready to start again.
We were stuck there for quite some time before a helpful driver jump started the car for us. From there, it was a roller coaster ride for us. I will not go into the details of what happened but at the end of the day we had to abandon our rented car in a garage located in Medikeri and take a cab back to our home stay. We agreed on arranging for an alternate cab for the last day, as we didn’t want the breakdown of our car to be a setback point in our trip.
Day 3: Dubare elephant camp and Namdroling monastery (Bylakuppe)
Our helpful caretakers at homestay arranged for a cab for half a day that would take us to Dubare and Namdroling. We managed to break the trend of getting up late every morning and were ready to say goodbye to our hosts at 9 A.M. Having spent a memorable time at their house, we thanked them for a convenient stay and left for Dubare Elephant Camp.
We reached there within an hour and were excited to see that the camp was on the banks of the Kaveri River. Apparently, a lot of people were interested in watching baby elephants take their morning bath and so it was a bit crowded. We decided to cross the river not in a boat, but by ourselves. It was the high point of our trip and we were thoroughly enjoying the experience. Though the river wasn’t much deep but we had to take every little step with care and slowly made our way to the middle of the river. We then took a head bath in the cold waters of Kaveri and also splashed it on each other, before getting seated on a rock. I felt a subtle calm sitting on the rocks, with water surrounding me everywhere. We put our feet in the water and closed our eyes, shutting out all noises around us and simply relaxed. Owing to the time constraint that we had, we changed our wet clothes after sometime and left for Namdroling.
In the midst of all the coffee and forest is a surprising little Tibetan settlement in the form of Bylakuppe. Around 40 km southwards of Madikeri, the Namdroling monastery is located in Bylakuppe. It is built on the land donated to the Tibetan refugees by the Government of India. First thing that I noticed when we reached the Monastery was ‘Mommos’. It was altogether a different world. I could see hundreds of monks around me. We soaked in the serene environment quickly. The enormous gold-coated idols of Buddha left us speechless. We did not spend much time at the Monastery as it was time for us to catch our bus back to Bangalore. But whatever little time we spent there was enough to appreciate the architecture of the place. There were a lot of small handicraft shops around selling shawls, artefacts and costumes on the way out which let us get souvenirs for friends and family.
There are some holidays that make a lasting impression and leave you wanting more, for me Coorg was one of them. Dense teak wooded forests, lush green valleys and undulated challenging mountain ranges make it an exquisite location for the tourist seeking natural scenic spots and challenging treks. So what are you waiting for, pack your bags and Get-Set-Go!!
Magical Editing Credits – Aditi Daima