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Published: September 4th 2008
I'd been planning to go to Coorg for quite a while, but something or the other always seemed to come up. Finally one day I got 3 friends together and decided that rains or no rains, come what landslides may, we were going to finally set foot in the beautiful hills of Coorg. And sure enough, it was raining cats and dogs and probably some more on the day we left. And the mother of all traffic jams had most of Bangalore at a standstill on Thursday night. Our bus was supposed to leave at 10:55 and at 10:30 we decided that we would be more likely to get to the Majestic (Kempegowda) bus stand on time if we walked. Heaving our bags on our shoulders we trudged as fast as physically possible (given the rain, sludge and human traffic) towards the bus stand. I almost hyperventilated due to the immense crowd at the bus stand. Now, I've lived in India for a while, and I've seen crowds, but this was by far the largest crowd I've seen. The only way Jyothi found us was by looking for the bright, flowery, pink umbrella that I held up above the melee of
heads. As if it wasn't enough that we were muddy, wet and tired, all buses heading out of Bangalore were delayed by upto three hours due to the traffic jam.
Reaching Coorg was a relief. Our hosts had sent a driver to pick us up. Coorg was indistinguishable from other hill stations in that it had the same narrow winding roads and lush greenery all around. We chose the Homestay option and were driving to one called Pegvey. The drive was awesome. The only word that came to mind while we were driving through the hills was ‘verdant’, which is pleasant when you live in Bangalore.
Pegvey was exactly what it looks like on the website. It was an old style bungalow with acres and acres of coffee all around it. Our hosts had four incredibly friendly estate dogs that welcomed us enthusiastically. But the first time 'Coorg' actually hit us was when we had the famous Coorgi coffee. We established a coffee routine which went something like this: have coffee whenever you want … which was pretty much all the time.
Our hosts were very pleasant people. They were always around to fill us in on
some tidbits about the place and the meals they prepared were delectable. (Yes, my diet was pretty much forgotten.) They had a huge collection of books about Coorg in their library in which they showed us a lot of pictures of Coorgis and their way of life, including clothing, marriage customs, feasts etc. We found out that it is a custom in Coorg to cook pork and have wine in all major celebrations. There are various kinds of marriage ceremonies as well, which include a person’s marriage to the animal they hunt! Pandit Nehru is supposed to have said that Coorg is famous for two things, namely the coffee and the most beautiful girls in India! (Although I think the Kashmiri girls’ beauty is also legendary.)
The first day was quite lazy … as were the rest, come to think of it. Breakfast consisted of idlys and sambhar and coffee. During breakfast we decided to go to Medikere town to see the sights there. Getting to Medikere was about an hour’s drive from Pegvey. Being the nature-deprived urbane citizens that we were, we didn’t mind the drive. The time gave us a chance to take great photos, get deeper
insight into our travel buddies and of course time to introspect.
The first stop near Madikere was a place called Talacauvery. This place is famous because the Cauvery river originates here. There is a huge temple here and to see it you have to climb up 300 stairs. The dreadful rain had begun again and it was getting cold on top of that hill so three of us decided to stay near the entrance and look at the beautiful hills. It was so cold that just that thought of taking my shoes off and braving the rain and wind to climb the wet stairs to the top of the temple made me shiver. Perhaps it made the other two shiver as well because we decided to go to a nearby tea stall and have some tea and pakodas. While we binged on the pakodas and the tea (we must’ve had three pakodas and 2 teas each) we thought about what to do next. We decided to go to the Abbi Falls.
The number of tourists in Coorg during this time was impressive. The rain and the wind did nothing to deter the determined tourists. To get to the
falls you have to climb down a hill. Stairs have been cut into the mountain to make it easier to walk down. A wooden bridge has been constructed in front of the waterfall so that tourists can get a better view of Abbi Falls. Lots of tourists walk the bridge for the simple joy of getting sprayed by the rapid water falls. In our case two of us decided to stay dry and the other two did not want to miss the photo op. And we did take photos galore at this place since it provided for such a picturesque backdrop. While climbing up the stairs we talked about whether we should have lunch or head to Raja’s seat after this.
We decided on lunch and ate at the Athithi restaurant (Madikeri), which was clean and pleasant. It is a pure vegetarian restaurant, which means that they don’t serve eggs as well. I decided to have the south Indian mini-meal on a plantain leaf.
You can’t come to Coorg and not stock up on spices, honey, some wine and the famous home-made chocolates. So after our hunger was abated we headed to a government run store selling all
these things. Chocolate was sold in 500 ml bars. These were just rectangular bars (resembling books), packaged and stamped with the price tags. The store also contained honey in different sized jars (I bought a jar of honey as well.) Packets of cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, different kinds of candies, and of course the different kind of Coorgi coffee were also sold here. I bought a pack of cinnamon sticks to put in the masala chai I’m so fond of, and some vanilla as well to experiment with in cooking. A packet of strong Arabica coffee completed my shopping bag.
Raja’s seat is a place where the king of Coorg used to come to think when faced with difficult problems. It is believed that solutions came to him while gazing at the lush vegetation all around. The gardens and the view here is not to be missed. Entry fee is Rs. 2/- and I’d say it’s worth it! I only wish that there had been less mist so that we could have enjoyed a clearer view.
We returned home after Raja’s seat and lazed around the house with coffee for the rest of the day.
For dinner we
had rice noodles and the pork that Coorg is so famous for, with a bit of rice and chapattis
. Surprisingly, we were unable to find restaurants selling traditional Coorgi pork dishes in Medikeri. So we were glad that our hosts made it a point to make these for us. If you are in Coorg and want to taste traditional pork dishes but are not staying at a Homestay or a homestay that makes this food, you have the option of calling up a homestay which does and booking a meal there. Most homestays do cater to travelers who are not staying but just want to have a traditional Coorgi meal.
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