Friday, December 9, 2011

Visit to Coorg

Looong overdue…
A holiday in the midst of forests and coffee plantations, hills, no electricity, mobile and internet connectivity, was just the perfect setting for a relaxing break. This was a trip planned long ago, but got postponed for different reasons. The search for home stays in Coorg began, and we finally zeroed in on “Bethel”, a home stay situated in the Brahmagiri forests, about 20-25 Kms from Kutta.
Six of us set out on a Wednesday morning around 8 AM from Bangalore. Our first stop for breakfast was at Kamat Lokaruchi, 60 km from Bangalore on Mysore road. Breakfast was kadubu, Maddur vada, and tea. We drove on along Mysore road, managed to follow directions given by Rakesh from Bethel home stay, bypassing the city and getting onto the outer ring road. A right before Columbia Asia hospital, through some very bad roads, a left before Coorg Cafe, eventually led us to Hunsur. More bad roads, past the Hunsur bus stand, and a left near a Bharath Petroleum bunk put us on the road to Kutta.  We stopped to eat our packed puliodarai, chips, and curd rice for lunch.
We drove past the Nagarhole Wildlife Sanctuary and were very eager to spot animals, especially elephants. The protocol to be followed throughout was “No music, no plastic, no stopping and no food”. For a while, we did not spot anything interesting, other than small birds. And then, came the groups of spotted deer. Some of them had such a cute and innocent impression, that we just couldn’t stop admiring them. We managed to take a few photographs from our car. We did not see any elephants, but were happy for having seen so many deer. We continued our drive, enjoying the beautiful scenic mountains.

Deer at NagarHole Wildlife Sanctuary

We reached Kutta where we were supposed to meet the driver Khader, who had come to direct us to Bethel. The home stay is about 45 minutes drive from Kutta, in the midst of coffee plantations. We passed by Iruppu falls, and stopped to take a quick glimpse. The last few kilometers to Bethel was a dirt track through coffee plantations part reclaimed by the forest. A rough ride (but fun for the drivers).
We finally reached Bethel around 4 PM, and were welcomed by our friendly host Rakesh. The first thing we were told was that there is no electricity and mobile signals, in our cottages. This was a little disappointing for a few, who are so used to the comforts that come with electricity and technology. We decided to take advantage of the remoteness, and enjoy the holiday with just nature as our companion. After all, the whole idea was to relax and be away from technology and the hustle bustle of city life.
One of the best things about this place was the food – tasty, good, and had a great variety. Every time we returned from a trek or any outing, we were welcomed with lime juice (unlimited), to make us feel refreshed.
Day 1 – we walked down to a stream nearby in the evening, after having tea and pakodas. The water was clear and clean, and we sat down to give our legs some free “pedicure”. Our Katcheri session started with some Tirupugazh songs by Amma and Latha perima, and a few bhajans by Prabha. While the ladies got busy singing, the men started their photography session.

Stream near homestay

We walked up back to our cottages, and got ready to sit by the camp fire. We were served lime juice, and some sumptuous starters like peanuts with onion, paneer pakodas and salad (slices of carrot, cucumber, beetroot, onions and radish). The dinner menu was even bigger – chapati, delicious side dishes like paneer mutter, aloo capsicum, rice, sambar, rasam and payasam.
How can we not have adventure in the middle of the jungles? We did not know that there was a “bekku” (Cat) waiting to enter our cottage to get some food. The main cottage had some gaps on top and in some sides, which made it convenient for the cat. We started eating in the dark (no lights, only solar lanterns), only to be disturbed by the cat’s sounds. The cat went in and out of the cottage and one bedroom, not a pleasant experience especially in the dark. We were told later that the cat only comes in search of food, and there is no need to worry. All subsequent dinners were moved from inside the cottage to a sit out to keep bekku out of our home.
Day 2 – started with enthusiasm, as some of us set out at 6 AM to capture the beauty of the sunrise from atop the machan. We then had breakfast, which was again well laid out – aloo paratha, pickle, curd, toast, and puliogare (ok, I can imagine your eyes getting bigger and your mouths watering).
We left for Irupu Falls, which is on the way to Kutta. This place is very famous and has an interesting reference to the Ramayana. It is said that when Rama and Lakshmana were going in search of Sita, Rama asked Lakshmana to fetch him water to drink. Lakshmana then shot an arrow into the Brahmagiri hills, and created the Lakshmana Tirtha river. Irupu Falls is said to be part of that river. The scenery was spectacular and the walk up to the waterfalls was beautiful. However, there were leeches on the path to the falls and several of us suffered leech bites.The Brahmagiri forest is host to some rich flora and fauna, and this was evident on the route to the waterfalls. The photography enthusiasts in our group seized the opportunity to show their skills. We also visited the Rameshwara temple situated next to the falls.
Iruppu falls 

Day 3 – Our agenda for the day was to go to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, at Tolpati and the Tirunelli temple, which also has reference to the Ramayana. We drove down to Wayanad, which is in Kerala, and is about 30 km from Kutta. We were very excited and looked forward to the safari. We were accompanied by a “spotter” who joined us. The first animal we saw was a pair of wild dogs. We were told by the spotter that these are very dangerous and usually attack humans. We then saw some barking deer and spotted deer. And then came the best part – elephants!! Some of us squealed in delight, while the others tried to take pictures. As we drove further, we saw a beautiful peacock (too quick to capture on camera).
We got out of the sanctuary, and parked the jeep to catch up on breakfast. One thing which I should mention here is the amazing hospitality of our host. The breakfast which was packed for us did not have just sandwiches or toast, but puri, rajma masala and vegetable upma. We continued our drive to Tirunelli. The Tirunelli temple is an ancient one dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is said that the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parasurama performed the last rites at the death of his father Jamadagni at this place.
While some of us enjoyed the siesta after the fiesta, in the afternoon, the others got the opportunity of learning how to make “Akki roti”, a delicacy in Karnataka. Our host Rakesh arranged for a demo session at his neighbor, Radhika Kittu’s house.
Day 4 was the last day of our holiday and we decided to relax. We left Bethel on Sunday morning around 9 AM after breakfast, after thanking Rakesh and his wonderful support staff. This was truly a lovely experience and we promised to go back again.