Coorg is about 130 kilometers from Mysore. It is one of the most popular destinations in Karnataka. Also known as Kodagu, Coorg is adorned with the evocative nickname Little Indian Scotland or the Kashmir of the South. As I have told you in previous posts, I enjoyed these trips and always had my camera in hand to capture all the details except when I fell asleep, of course. In this region, we stayed at a resort where they looked after us like royals. This place seemed to me of the most special, where I felt that nature surrounded me with love and protection.
Day 1 - Kabini
We leave Mysore by car to go to Madikeri located at 1500 meters altitude in the Kodagu region. This is a mountainous region west of Mysore with great scenery and fabulous pork dishes! On the first half of the day, we are on the road.
Our bus drops us in front of a sugarcane processing center. Our journey ends quickly. After having peeled the Lonely Planet hotels without success, we found a guest house to sleep. We cross beautiful agricultural landscapes to arrive at the hotel in Kabini. The hotel is on the banks of the Kabini river that crosses Kerala and Karnataka and it is a tributary of the Kaveri river.
We have lunch in a restaurant with chapatis and chicken. Everything was delicious. The bungalows are lost in an ocean of greenery and flowers. The transparent blue water in the pool is clean and warm. I enjoy the little time as we go around the field. Upon entering the restaurant I notice a text in English and some small sculptures referring to the Punnata dynasty. It was a small kingdom in southern Karnataka that existed with its capital at Kittur.
The Greek geographer Ptolemy wrote about this civilization. He describes among other things the beauty of the emeralds produced by the kingdom. It was also an important center of Jainism, who migrated to Gujarat and the surrounding areas. I was delighted to discover this little historical fact.
We leave for the Nagarhole National Park to discover the tigers! It is already almost 5 o'clock and the sun is setting. We manage to enter the bus with a troupe of photographers! We spotted deer, monkeys, peacocks on the sides but it is impossible to take photos. A call signals the presence of a tiger near. We arrive in a noise of an infernal engine. Some photographers in the front were able to take the photos of the head of the tiger, but it was impossible for me.
We go back to the hotel. We have a dance show on the grounds of the hotel. At about 7 pm, in front of us on a flat mound in the spotlight, a small troop will perform a dance. It would be the Karaga festival with dances by the Thigalas who usually celebrate this show.
The main dancer has a metal pot decorated on the head on which stands a huge floral pyramid. Here the flowers are synthetic. The contents of the pot would be secret. Normally during Karaga Shaktyotsava, there are many dancers. The music is punctuated by drum sounds.
This dance of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is associated with the goddess of health and rain. The origin of this festival comes from the Mahabharata and Draupadi. We go to follow the acrobatics of these dancers whose goal is to never drop the resting set on their head.
It was a nice end to the day.
Day 2 - Bylakuppe
We do not get tired in our cottage lost in the forest. We have the wood-fired pizza, and tea. We take the direction of Coorg. Our guide at the end of the small town towards Kabini, suggests us a ride in an old ambassador. Indeed this village being very close to the Nagarhole National Park is a starting point by jeep for the safaris in this reserve. There are numerous ambassador taxis in the car park. We are going to travel ten kilometers in the surrounding countryside. I had fun watching people do their work smilingly in their sewing or iron workshops.
Halfway, we stop in the town of Bylakuppe, a Tibetan refugee camp. It is about 11 o'clock. The sky is blue and it is a wonderful time to arrive at the entrance of the Sera Jey Monastery. Indeed during the clash in Tibet with China, the Sera monastery there was partly destroyed. The monks left Tibet and the camps were settled on land in India rented for this purpose.
The Sera monastery thus resumed its function in Bylakuppe. In fact, there was an important tantric university in Ngakpa Dratsang. It disappeared and only the Sera Mey and Sera Jey colleges were able to revive in India. We arrive by a beautiful path lined with curved trees that greet us. There are many people, monks and tourists. It reigns soothing calm.
As I go around the various buildings suddenly a bell rings and the monks who quietly chatted in the gardens, enter the Golden Temple. The largest temple of gold is worth a visit. The songs and prayers rise towards the vault of this temple, under the benevolent look of Buddha. It was a great moment. I have small videos, but not possible to insert them in my blog.
We hear the music and prayers as we visit the Namdroling monastery. We meet many Tibetan monks. Around the monastery, there are the prayer flags that float above the houses. The place is not like a refugee camp, but is rather a Tibetan enclave! We leave this haven of peace and fervor leaving everyone to their meditation.
At the exit in the courtyard of the entrance, a small shop opens its doors. Many monks arrive with their prayer wheels on the hands!
We leave to visit the Dubare elephant sanctuary. Here the vegetation and water lend themselves to offer the pachyderms a haven of peace. We arrive at a landing stage along the river Kaveri. We discover all the activities of the place like trekking, rafting, fishing, hiking and the place is very beautiful.
I see a group of students from Kerala take a group photo, on the roof of the bus. A flatboat awaits us. We cross the river to see numerous elephants. This center is famous. It is from here that the elephants go in the famous Mysore Dasara festival. At present, elephants do not work in the forest. So the government has created a tourist center with the provision of beautiful luxury bungalows.
I walk around to see the life of the camp from near and far. We take the small boat then the bus to get to our hotel in Coorg. To get there, we climbed the hills on the hills of the ghats with breathtaking views. We raked the jungle creeper in the hope of seeing a cousin of Kipling's Mowgli come out of it. We cross through a lost garden of eden embellished with rice fields and cottages with thatched roofs. We arrived around 4 pm at Coorg where we stayed at a nice homestay just outside the city. It is quite large and is run by a friendly family.
First, we have lunch and we see there many young tourists from Bangalore too. During the lunch, our guide explains that this day is an important date in the province of Karnataka as it is the birthday of Tipu Sultan. We take rest and then head back to the city.
We pass the afternoon in the city by making a walk on the remains of the ramparts of the fort. We book a trek for the next day at the agency, which is also the tourist office. Later we buy coffee, vanilla beans, nutmeg and coriander in the spice shops. The dominant crops in the region are coffee and coriander.
In the evening we drink rum and play a round of poker. We dine at the restaurant of the hotel where we regale. Tonight we ate organic, including garden salad, something very rare in India, a mix of vegetables cooked in a wok, rice, sambar, grilled chicken, and bananas.
At night, I sit on the terrace and my bare feet are caressed by the soil as soft as oiled clay. The jungle sounds of all its insects and birds, and fireflies fly and blink all around and on some trees they turn on and off. It's absolutely magical. It seems that vampire bats fly above us. We hear no human noise and the harmony with the nature is total. It is the absolute happiness for us. I cannot wait to fall asleep tonight in the light of fireflies and stars, cradled by the sound of insects.
Day 3 - Coorg
This morning we did not set the alarm as the scheduled visit is only in the afternoon. We take a hearty breakfast around 9:30 and love the dosa, a kind of large crepe. We relax quietly. At about 1 pm, we take the road to the Bhagamandala temple located 38 km from Madikeri. Photos are prohibited inside.
It is an ancient temple where there are many locals who come to pray in front of statues of gods. There are beautiful wooden ceilings. At the exit, we taste some small bananas always delicious and drink coconut milk from a one opened in front of me. We leave, still on a winding road, uphill and lined by many coffee plantations.
We stop in one of them where we see the coffee drying in the sun and coffee trees. There are only two workers who trample the coffee beans. One of them wants to take pictures with us! It is quite fun, as we take a picture in their traditional outfits and they return us the favor!
Ten kilometers further, we arrive at the Talakaveri temple. Here we find other tourists. At the entrance, a family wants to have their picture taken by us, and I oblige! The temple is like almost everything else in a mountain region. But before we were allowed to climb the steps to the top, I was stopped by a security. With my short pants, I cannot go up there. I should cover myself! So I have to wear a dhoti.
The temple is near the source of the river Cauvery. There is a pond where the water is considered sacred and where devotees bathe. Some people come with a bottle to take the water, while others spend a moment with the priest sitting by the pool. We climb a long staircase to the left of the temple. It leads to a great view of the surrounding hills. We then leave the temple where the devotion of the faithful is remarkable.
We return to Madikeri to see the Abbey falls. We go down a rocky road with beautiful trees, and huge spiders swaying before our eyes above the huge coffee plantations. This is a pretty waterfall and the water must be more impressive during the monsoons and the rainy season. And what do you do on waterfalls with clear water? We swim!
We reach a kind of viewpoint with a view over the mountain and the coffee plantations. But there is little time to admire the view. It's getting dark and we want to get to an even better place. So we step through the bushes, over sticks and stones and finally land on a cliff. And we end up in Raja seat, where we see the sunset over the valley. We return to dine at the restaurant of the homestay.
Day 4 - Madikeri
After a sumptuous morning breakfast we leave around 8 am with our driver at the RV point for trekking near the Mukkodlu village. We take the way and we go up to a home in the countryside after driving on a road that looked more like a track. It is the family home of the guide. There are two other houses that are used to accommodate tourists who want to spend several days in this tranquil setting.
We have a very good Civet Coffee with the exquisite aroma and we go for a 20 km hike. The weather is pleasant as there are some clouds that prevent the sun from being too hard and is the ideal time. We start by crossing a suspension bridge. We walk in the forest, through coffee plantations, rice fields and sometimes on portions of small roads where no one passes.
The guide is competent. Here too, we learned things, one of which is about the types of wood. Currently, the most expensive wood is sandalwood, then rosewood which cannot be cut before 150 years and especially not without the permission of the government. We appreciate very much this pretty walk. There are beautiful views of the hills. We do the Kotebetta trek. We observe webs and spiders where the spider is at the bottom of a hole that it established.
In the end, we see a waterfall. The pool of water is suitable for swimming but the place seems dangerous. On the way back we have having paputtu, a rice cake and koli curry in the roadside dhaba. The meal is very spicy but there is raita to soothe our senses! We end up with a good arabica coffee. We returned to the hotel and have a shower to remove all dust and relax a little. We go into town to make one last purchase of coffee and cashew nuts.
We discover a beautiful wedding and we get invited. In this Kodava marriage we see women around the bride. She carries two colorful pots on her head that she maintains with her hands and her beautiful sister just support the set with her own hands. A monotonous throbbing music gives the tempo to the dancers. Some men and women turn raising their arms and pounding the ground. Under the courtyard, drinks and cakes are available for guests.
We then attend the Ganga Puja. The bride removes her ornaments and bracelets from the feet. She put the veil of the married woman on the head. She put on her head two sacred vases. The groom holds two on his head and the two others on the heads of each of the girls belonging to the groom's family. They stand in front of each other behind the bride.
The dance of the participants begins with the sound of the instruments. Each one blocks the road of this small group of women and this until late at night. They want to know the endurance of the bride. When the bride has arrived in the main hall where the wedding was held, the small pots are kept under the lamp that still burns. We return quietly at night and dine at the hotel. Tomorrow we leave for Ullal.