Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weekend getaway to Coorg !

This 'Good Friday', Soujanya, Pooja and myself packed our bags for a 3 day weekend getaway to the so called 'Kashmir of the South', 'Scotland of India', 'Gods own coffee shop' - Coorg!

21st Feb, Day 1: Friday
Our day started wonderfully well at 5:45AM in the morning and within the first 30 minutes of our journey, our car was greeted with a tyre puncture! Well, that was the last of the problems we had during the entire trip, thanks to the Tatas. The weather was just perfect with a mild drizzle (indications of a cyclonic effect) which brought a great deal of excitement to us as that was the best thing to keep the scorching sun out our our way. Also, hill stations and forest looks outstanding in rain rather than in sun.

We took the beautiful Mysore road, and after Srirangapatna, we took a right turn and went via Hunsur, Periyapatna and Kushalnagar. When we were close to Kushalnagar, our Driver (Kumar) suggested that we finish visiting the places around Kushalnagar as it was on the way to Madikeri. I bought his advice, called up our HomeStay contact person and told him the change of plans. We first visited the Harangi Dam. A reservoir against the Harangi River, the dam was closed for visitors but we could reach the water that comes out of the dam. The water was crystal clear with no filth anywhere and the place was absolutely clean and totally untouched. For the first time, Pooja was let free in the water (which she loves dipping into) and she had a ball of time. We spent about an hour there and Pooja had to be literally dragged out as she was not in any mood to compromise the piece of heaven. We had a quick grub by the river and set out to Bylukoppe.

Bylukoppe hosts the Tibetian Monastery, the very famous 'Namdroling Monastery' with the Golden temple. I was a bit apprehensive to visiting this place with the recent tensions with the stuff that is going on with Dalai Lama, Tibet, China and India. But those were a thing of the past when we entered the beautiful environs of the Golden Temple. I had seen this place earlier when a few of us college friends had visited this place about 10 years back. Nothing much has changed except that it has become dirtier. Even with the current state, the amazing wall paintings, the golden Buddha, gigantic dragons, colorful drums, the lawns and the huge prayer hall are worth a visit. Lots of visitors were seen in this place.

Next stop was at Nisargadhama, a beautiful piece of green Island formed when river Cauvery forks and rejoins later. A swinging and swaying bridge greets everybody to a dense bamboo forest with loads of things to see around. Pooja had a great time feeding the Rabbits. Then we went into the thicker sections of the land where we saw tiny tree houses built on tall bamboo shoots with Ladders dropping from the doors. The thick carpet of fallen bamboo leaves made the surface look so rich in color. Great place to let kids be themselves and the elders become kids again. Next was the elephant ride where Soujanya and Pooja perched on top of the Howdah and enjoyed the ride with the pachyderm. Next was the deer park where we saw about 10 spotted deers. A vendor was selling vegetables over there and I thought it was for human consumption but realized that it was being sold for the deers. And for the first time I witnessed a 'feed' the animals theme park in place! Good going.

It was about 5'ish in the evening and the dark clouds started getting darker and the rain god could not hold himself for long. So we said bye to the deers and started running like them to reach back our car! We reached Madikeri town by 5:30 and we met our homestay contact person (Sharath) on the way, who showed us the way to the 'home-away-from-home'. Home stays are everywhere in Madikeri and every other house is a home-stay. No shortages there. And this being the peak season, it was still hard to find them over the net. Somehow I was able to manage to get this accommodation.

We stayed with the 'Chuppi' homestay, and as of now there is no evidence of it's existance on the internet other than on a brief into on it on the orkut. It housed two bedrooms, one with an attached bathroom which had 24 hour running water (gas geyser!). The living room had a good TV, a Sofa set, a Diwan and a Showcase that was decorated with all the empty bottles of a hundred country made liquor brands ! Alas, it was not full. I would have sold it! (What were you thinking?). The accomodation was decent but the best part was the support that we got from the owners who reside on the otherside of the house. The living has a common wall with a tightly 'closed' wooden window. So any thing you need help from these people, just tap it twice and 'how-can-I-help-you?' genies would emerge by at your door! So cool. The illumniation was a bit dark inside which was a something that could have been better.

So we hit cleaned up the already cleaned rooms and hit the bed after a tiring day. We didn't even have to switch off the lights as Mother Nature did that for us as she snapped a tree somewhere and the whole Coorg grid got switched off. She also took care to cool us down with heavy showers overnight which were such a relief.

22nd Feb, Day 2: Saturday
We got up early morning at 9 AM and were ready by 10. After a quick breakfast we bought an additional umbrella from the town and hit towards Talacauvery. 50 Kms and an hour later, we reached Talacauvery. It was pouring cats and dogs but the sight of the landscape, aroma of the coffee flowers and the chill of the surroundings kept us excited all the way. Talacauvery the birth place of Cauvery, also referred as 'Nile of the South', 'Amazon of the east' (just kidding!). Finally, government has constructed some kind of temple around and it is now looking in great shape to attract the visitors. We looked past one of the view points to see the amazing greenery and landscape of Coorg. The chilling winds and the torrential rains gave a real perspective of the location we were at. A think blanket of clouds hovered around and made as feel heavenly. We climbed the Bramhagiri peak which was adjacent to Talacauvery. The view from over the top was just unbelievable. It was a 'Dejawoo' feeling with the same experince that I had when I visited 'Glendalaugh' in Dublin. I carried Pooja all the way up and down and I could hear my heart pumping real hard! Soujanya consoled me by saying "Moov hain na, so lets move on!” After our descent from Talacauvery, we visited temple at Bhagamandala where apparently 3 rivers confluence (Cauvery and other two I don’t know of). Due to heavy rains, I could only see muddy waters from two ends mixing into slurry here. But, I have seen this place earlier and it definitely is worth a place to visit. Nevertheless, we didn't spend too much time here and moved on.

We reached Abbey falls about 9 Kms from Madikeri town and this time, due to the recent downpour, the waterfall looked majestic and magical. We could hear the roar from the entrance to the falls itself. Standing on the 'Swinging' bridge, we could feel the mist hit us and drench us to an extent that we were wet in a matter of seconds. The walk to the falls through the coffee plantation was very memorable.

On our way back, we stopped briefly over at the Raja Seat, the vantage point in Madikeri city where we can see the other hills of Coorg. I had seen this place in my earlier visits and it is an okay place to visit but nothing memorable. But this time, it was different. Due to the weather, heavy breeze, clouds and rain, the view from the point completely blocked. The wind was blowing so hard that we had to keep the umbrellas horizontal rather than vertical! It was as if we were being literally pushed aside by the blazing wind. It was very chill and the experience was just great. I am convinced, weather conditions make a place look great.

We were back in our homestay by 6 PM and rested the rest of the remaining day. We ordered traditional Coorgi food (minus the non-veg stuff) and had a taste of their 'Akki Rotti and Curry'.

23rd Feb, Day 3: Sunday
We packed our bags and said goodbye to Chuppi Homestay. The next visiting spots were the Dubbare Elephant Sanctuary on the way back to Bangalore. We did a quick stop-over at the Omkareshwara temple right in the middle of Madikeri. A beautiful 'Kalyani' overlooks the temple from the front. We then had a quick breakfast in a local hotel and left for Dubbare Elephant Sanctuary. The location is very nice with greenery all around. The scenery with the river and loads of trees in the backdrop makes it a perfect place to shoot a great deal of photos. A couple of motor boats take you across River Cauvery into the camp. Unfortunately, the elephant ride (similar to the ones we had in Nisargadhama) was just closed for the day as the elephants had to go out for lunch! So we just got a chance to watch the elephants in close quarters for a while. We spent taking a few more photographs and returned back on the same boat. Nevertheless, the scenery was really great. If anybody wants to take the elephant rides here, they need to be here before 11:30 AM. There is a slot in the evening too, but indefinitely.

Having seen the beauty of the hills, the chilling cold, the breezes and clouds, we left back with loads of memories and started towards Bangalore in the same route that got us to Coorg. We stopped briefly in Mandya for lunch and packed a few Maddur Vadas in Maddur. We were home by 6:30 PM. A great weekend getaway!

General info for others who would need some more details:

1. Coorg: A district of Karnataka, A.k.a 'Kodagu'. Madikeri (A.k.a Mercara) is the major city in Coorg.
2. Mode of Transport: Tata Indica car @ Rs.4.5 per KM.
3. Total travel distance of the trip (Bangalore-Madikeri-Bangalore): 711 KM, Driver Bata: Rs.150 per day.
4. HomeStay at Madikeri: Rs.1200 per day.
5. Total cost of the trip: Approx Rs.7000 for 3 days, for 2 adults and a kid, including food.

As always, I have uploaded more than a few photos and videos of our trip here: Click on the photograph and to view the slideshow.
Weekend getaway to Coorg!

Map of Coorg:

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Anna's 70th Year Birthday Celebrations

The 2nd of Feb, 2008, We celebrated Anna's 70th Birthday @ Shri Puttige Matha, opposite BMS College of Engineering.

Fortunately, that Saturday, we were able to get the booking of the Matha without any hassle. The day started off with a small pooja back at home and we left for the Matha by 10 AM. By 10:30 the Satyanarayana Pooja started which got completed in 2 hours. All of our folks came down from various parts of Bangalore and offered their best wishes.

Thanks a lot everybody for making this event a grand success.

Here are a few Photos and Videos that I captured during the event.

Anna's 70th Year Birthday Celebrations

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