Coorg, Karnataka

March 29, 2014

The last weekend of March was a long one with Ugadi holiday on Monday. And its the perfect time for a trip in South India, just before the summer heat gets in.

Madikeri, popularly known as Coorg or Kodagu, is the closest long weekend outing destination. And most probably the one to top the list of must-see places around Bangalore. So we decided that let Coorg be the first of our outings with our kid, who just finished 9 months in this world.

Many people discouraged us from travelling with the kid as it is never easy to stick to the timings in your itinerary. Also there is fear of kid falling sick due to travel and change of weather. But I should say, we had good confidence in our sweet daughter, who has surely gotten our travel genes. She was the first one wake up and get ready for the trip!

We - me, SL, VG, and my in-laws - started from Horamavu, Bangalore at 6AM. Early start is helpful in beating the city traffic at Bangalore and all other small towns that come in between. There are two major routes to Coorg - via Tumkur Road or via Mysore Road. We had chosen to take the Mysore Road as I was more familiar with that.

In 35 min, we had hit the Nice Road at the Bannerghatta Road exit. In normal Bangalore traffic, it would have been 100min! Driving through Nice Road is a wonderful experience. 8 lane express highway cutting though rocky terrain, it is a sight right out of Napa Valley in RoadRash computer game.

After 15 min, we were on the Mysore Road. This time we took 5 min extra due to careless driving. I took an early exit and had to take a U turn and join back the highway. Mysore Road seemed more congested than what I had seen in my previous drive to Mysore. I guess it was the long weekend rush trying to get out of Bangalore. But luckily the traffic eased out 10-15 kms. We could then cruise at 80-90 kmph, except for the sudden stops near numerous curves. Yes, you guessed it right.. SPEED BREAKERS.. It is a trademark of Bangalore Traffic Authority and its influence extends to 150kms out of it too!!

Our first stop was the famous Kamath's 6kms after Ramnagara.The place was reasonably full, predictably due to its popularity and it being the first big chain restaurant on the way from Bangalore to Mysore. All others - Adigas, KFC, CCD come after this.

Breakfast menu was appetizing and we ordered Akki Roti, Kara Bath, Idly Vada and Set dosa. While waiting for the order, SL spotted a sweets shop there and got hot yellow Jalebis. The jalebis went down our throat remembering SL's sis in Melbourne. Yellow Jalebis are her favorite. SP, you missed it!!! And we missed you!!

Then came the surprise. Idli was wrapped in banana leaf. It seems it was cooked within banana leaf itself. The next one was Kara Bath. It was just enough to feed our 9 months old daughter. Such small quantity for Rs 50. Exorbitant!

Akki roti was superb, so was set dosa. In the next round we ordered Neer Dosa and yet another Akki Roti. I guess you should only eat Kannadiga specials at Kamaths.

So far our daughter was simply enjoying the drive. She was playing happily with her amma  and paati at the back seat. After an hr or so she started getting cranky and we had out next stop. A bit of stretching and relaxing, feeding the baby and getting fresh air.

By 10 AM we had reached Mysore Ring Road which will connect us to Hunsur Road. It is a good route to take avoiding Mysore city traffic. Hunsur Road is a normal state highway, yet very well maintained. And there is not too much traffic. So the average speed doesnt go down too much. We crossed a stretch of mangroves where a lot of people had carts selling mangoes. We decided to get some, on our way back.

By noon we were at our first tourist location, Namdroling Monastery, popularly known as Golden Temple at Bylakuppe. It is 2 kms to the left of Hunsur Road. You can take a diversion either before or after Bylakuppe town. Ask anybody on the road side and they would show you the way. Mind you, there are no sign boards.
Namdroling Monastery, Bylakuppe

Namdroling monastery is primarily a place for study for Tibetians. It seems Bylakuppe is the second largest Tibetian settlement outside of Tibet, first one being Dharmshala in Himachal Pradesh. We could see a lot of "rimpoche" (of "Akkosotto" fame) running around. :-)

We spent an hour at the monastery. After customary photo sessions at all necessary locations :-P, we rested there for some time. It was nice and cool inside. Varsha had a jolly time crawling around and playing with other small kids.

It was past lunch time and we still had to cover 25 kms to our destination. So we decided to have lunch near the monastery itself. We found a vegetarian restaurant which served Indian and Chinese. Almost everything that we ordered was decent, especially considering all the utter waste hotels where I have had food near tourist places.

After passing Kushalnagar there is a small tourist joint named "Nisargadhama". I guess it means Nature's paradise. It is a small island created in the middle of river Kaveri. Varsha was asleep and SL's parents were tired of the journey. So me and SL had a some time for ourselves, remembering our numerous honeymoon trips when we were in Delhi.

The island could be reached by a hanging bridge. Under the bridge there was a small area marked for boating. And that is SL's favorite. We got into a pedal boat and circled the whole area. We almost got ourselves stuck at the opposite bank, when we took the boat too close.

Other attractions at Nisargadhama are deer park, elephant ride, children's park, cottages, machan and lot of secluded places for couples.

There was a small trail to the river side. That seemed interesting and we walked down. All that we could get at the river side was one pic. Sigh! Enough of Nisargadhama. Now lets make a move to Coorg.

Ganga homestay
Our stay at Coorg was booked at Canara Bank Holiday Home named Ganga Homestay. As the name suggests it was a large house converted to 6 double rooms, a common area, kitchen and a dining area. The caretaker, Raju welcomed us. The homestay is located just outside the Madikeri town in a quiet residential area. We took rest for some time and decided to visit the Omkareshwar temple and Raja seat in the evening.

Raja seat was a garden and vista point where Raja would come in the evenings and enjoy the sunset. But we reached there well past sunset and the garden was also closed. But there was a small toy train ride which was still open and Varsha enjoyed it thoroughly. Nearby there was a small exhibition (trade fair) going on. We went there for some time pass. Our pockets got lighter and hands heavier. Fortunately it was all useful things, no Aakri (Kabadi) things :-P

Day 2

Next day we had planned to cover Tala cauvery and Bhagamandala. The drive to Talacauvery was what I was waiting for - the high range. Twists and turns and couple of hairpin curves. All along the mountain contour. It was almost like driving through Malabar region in Kerala, along the Western Ghats.

The route to Bhagamandala was full of coffee plantation. But the harvest season had just ended. So we couldnt see coffee beans on the plant.

There were also many shops selling local spices, coffee, home made wine, honey and chocolates. We passed by a few coffee pubs which reminded me of the British and French.

Bhagamandala was a holy place with a temple and a small rivulet of Kaveri. People take a dip in Kaveri and perform rituals as reverence to their ancestors.

The temple was very nice, very similar to what we would find in Kerala. I guess we were pretty close to the border and hence lot of Kerala influence.

After recharging ourselves with tender coconut, we set off to Talacauvery.

Talacauvery - from the peak
Talacavery is the supposed to be the origin of river Kaveri. I had great expectations, having seen pictures of Gangotri, the origin of river Ganga. But Talacauvery disappointed me.

Dont expect to see the river flowing down from some mountain. This place is known for the temple of Kaveriamma. The idol is placed near a pond. It is believed that the water in the pond comes from the small stream washing the feet of the idol. And the water going out of the pond is the river Kaveri (I dint see any signs of water going out though)

But the temple was located on a hilltop. So the view of the valley was awesome. The cool breeze was very relaxing.

On our way back we had our lunch at the KSTDC hotel at Bhagamandala. It was probably the best hotel in that area, going by the rush at the self service counter. We had a not so disappointing meals.

Oh yes we also stopped over at a shop selling all the local stuff that I mentioned before. Again we had a bag full of goodies, mainly spices whose aroma would soon fill our kitchen when SL makes vegetable rice next time.

 Beautiful view of the valley from Raja Seat
 As we missed Raja seat the previous day, we went there again. It is probably the most beautiful place in Madikeri town. You could see the vast valley and many small hills. Every tourist spends his evening at Raja seat, I guess.

Guess what, the only seat that I could find was this!!

Some Raja might have at there with her Rani enjoying the setting sun. Or was he there in solitude when his Rani went to her hometown.

The "Seat" at Raja Seat

Day 3

Oh no our long weekend is coming to an end. We have to return to Bangalore. This was the first thought that came up when I woke up. We had planned an early start so that we can visit the Dubare Elephant Camp.

I forgot to mention the good hospitality of the caretaker at the homestay. We had two good dinner and one breakfast there, all prepared by his wife and mother-in-law. Thats the best part of a homestay. The worst part being power outage and lack of generators. Alas! we are so much dependent on electricity.

Dubare is located at a 12 km diversion from the Madikeri-Mysore highway. At the camp, if you reach by 10AM you can see the elephants bathing in the river.

You can get to the elephants either by crossing the river on foot jumping over the rocks or by raft. One of the elephants was in very jolly mood. He was filling his trunk with water and splashing it over all onlookers. You also get a chance to bathe and feed the elephants.

Varsha was super excited seeing the elephants. She kept on making noises like them. There were many cages made of logs to keep the untamed ones. A really small one, probably Varsha's age was there in one of them. It was fun watching it playing.

Our trip was almost done. Then we noticed that Harangi reservoir was close to Dubare. A 5km diversion to the other side of the highway. Summer is not the time to see Harangi. We were the only ones there! I am sure it would be beautiful when the dam gates open. There is a garden and children's park too.

Back on the highway towards Mysore, it was mostly uneventful. We had two stops before we reached Mysore - one for a superb sugercane juice and another one to get the mangoes.

We reached Mysore past noon and we needed a place for lunch. There was lot of advertisements for Hotel Swad, Near Columbia Asia Hospital, Mysore. It is on your left on the highway when you come from Bangalore towards Mysore. Excellent lunch. North Indian Thaali - including soup and desert.

One more item was left in our to-do list. Buying a nada vandi (walker) for Varsha at Channapattana, the city of toys. You can see a lot of toy shops as you pass Channapattana. Contrary to the chinese plastic toys, which are the norm of the day, here you will get only wooden toys.

Our target was to reach Bangalore by evening, so there were no more stoppages. And we reached home well within our target, through Nayandahalli-Tumkur Road-Hebbal-Outer Ring Road route.

As we believed, Varsha was the no-trouble kid and enjoyed her first tour very well. Her next one should be Nandi Hills. Lets wait and see when it happens.


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