Summer was at its peak, humidity was at its best (or worst) and I was wondering which place to venture out next, just to get away? Ooty, Munnar and Kodaikanal had already been explored and I needed a less crowded place to soak in and admire as much as I could. Some blessed soul then suggested of a place called Kodagu– the hill station with valleys, forests, waterfalls, woods, wildlife, history, trekking trails and mouth water cuisine! It sounded perfect.
And hence began the off-beat, self-expedition, road weekend trip to the unexplored destination; I mean that quite literally, I had never even heard the name of the place before. Roughly, 260 kilometers and approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes away from the city of Bangalore via Mysore and Kushal Nagar, I reached my scenic destination.
I was pleasantly surprised to find situated just on the outskirts of Madikeri, the capital of Coorg, the Namdroling Monastery- the largest Buddhist settlement in India which the locals call the Golden Temple. It is said to be the biggest schooling centre of Nyingmapa, a key lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world.
As soon as I entered the monastery, I was transported into another world filled with approximately 5,000 monks in bright red and yellow robes, amidst peaceful Buddhist chants, the mesmerizing scent of incense and spectacular views of Buddhist pagodas. After having had my share of visual and intellectual stimulation discovering the huge golden statues of the Buddha, the Tangkha paintings and the intricate murals, it was time to wet my appetite for authentic Tibetan cuisine with the delectable thugka– their noodle soup and appetizing momos.
Filled with peace and tranquility in my heart (and stomach!), I was ready to explore a place I had not a single idea about. Google maps came to my rescue and showed Kaveri Nisargadhama, just 8 km from the place I was. Upon entering, I saw a deer up close and not to forget the beautiful river Kaveri where the animals dipped in and out like the sadhus. I then availed the service of an elephant ride to observe the biodiversity more beautifully. The elephant ride was rather interesting as the elephant himself decided the route, taking me within the wilderness as he pleased. I personally took the ride as I saw the animal was taken good care by his master and that was a condition I was not willing to bargain.
By the evening we were at Madikeri, approximately at the height of 1525 meters. Sipping the amazing Coorg coffee, I ventured out to Raja’s seat where the Raja used to sit and view the beautiful sunset. The feature that wowed me the most about this location was that it offered views of sunsets and panoramic sights all the way from Coorg to Kerala.
Picturesque mountains and alluring landscape, aromatic breeze of coffee and spice, thick reserved forest and home to two national parks, Kodagu (pronounced as Coorg in English) was surely a paradise for photographers and traveler’s embark!
Omakareshwara temple was the next visit in the morning which is situated in the heart of the city. From outside, you would wonder it was– whether a monument or a small heritage site. However, as soon as you move inside, you’ll realize it’s an elaborate temple. The reason for this dilemma is the distinctive feature of this Shiva temple which has both Hindu and Islamic architecture. Similar to the temple, you’ll see the assemblage of Hindu and Muslims all over this small hill town. The locals here, although reserved, are quite helpful; especially the rickshawallahs.
Abbey Falls which fell beautifully from the coffee plantations was next on my ‘must-see’ list . The coffee plants not only added beauty to the place but the coffee also tasted amazing and refreshing. This spot seemed perfect for trekking as it had a number of valleys and towering peaks. The popular route for the same is from Kakkabe to the highest peak in the region i.e. Thadiyandamol. Besides, it is also fun to trek in the Brahmagiri area, starting from Virajpet, till the Irupu Falls. Adventure fanatics will surely love it, as the trek involves moving through thick forests and uneven yet scenic terrains.
There is also the Dubare Elephant Camp to visit if you are an elephant lover; I, however gave it a miss after a long tiring trek tempted by tasty, delicious Kodagu food.
The Kodava Cuisine
Coorg food is influenced majorly by its geography. The aroma of the food heralds it’s taste and increases the anticipation of the first bite. And once, the food is in, it’s surely like heaven. The magic ingredients in the food are the spices grown in the area. There are many shops that sell the local spices to bring back home as a souvenir from such a beautiful place; not to forget the special Kodagu Coffee which has its own unique taste and scent!
Known as Kashmir of the South and also as the Scotland of India, the climate here is always serene and soothing; exceptions being the afternoons of scorching summers in April, May and June. The majestic hill town with awe-inspiring greenery and amazing trek spots has immense historical significance as well, but let’s keep the history as a tale for another day.
By Deepti Verma
Image Source: By Sahyadri H S (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, By Rameshng (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, By Saurabh Sharan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, By User:notnarayan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons