IN THE LAP OF NATURE

Ever heard of the Scotland of India or the Kashmir of South India? There are a few more though, like the  land of brave soldiers or a bowl of coffee and a place bearing so many nicknames, of course, tops the list  of a traveller’s wanderlust. 

The destination of our subject is Coorg or  Kodagu, the smallest district of Karnataka,  which has always been a fascination for travelers  all over the country and even abroad, in  the recent years. As one looks back in time  and travels down the memory lane, its majestic  hills, serene weather, picturesque beauty,  and flourishing coffee estate perhaps did the  trick in tempting the British to set up their  homes in the lap of its mountains. As the  Western civilization, at the peak of their  grandeur at that time, settled in Coorg, they  could not help but compare this incomparable  land to that of Scotland, as both places enjoy  the same hilly terrain and weather.

Geographically, Coorg is situated at 1,140  metres above sea level and boasts of wonderful  forests, huge coffee estates, scenic hills,  numerous falls, famous temples and trekking  places. What more does a traveler need on  offer?

Thus on this high enthusiastic note began  my journey by flight from Delhi to Mangalore  and then on to Coorg by road, to check what  the ‘Scotland of India’ had to offer in reality.  Around 11 AM in the morning, we landed at  Mangalore airport. The first question to the  driver sent to meet us at Mangalore airport  was how much time it would take to reach  Coorg. He informed that it is just 131 km, but  it takes at least four to five hours as the roads  have many curves and turns.

With coconut and nut trees along one side  for as far as the eye could see, the road journey  from Mangalore to Coorg is one that  comes rarely and for a traveler having treaded  this path once becomes a memory for a lifetime!  Then comes lush green coffee estates  and shimmering streams. However, the ascending  roads, with many twists and turns  may prove to be quite exhaustive. At around  3 PM in the evening, we entered the periphery  of Coorg and alas, what a sigh of relief it  was!

On our way, our driver, who was Coorgi, informed  a number of interesting things about  Coorg and its inhabitants. Even though Coorg  is situated in the very heart of South India, it  bears no resemblance to this part of the country,  or for that matter to any part of India. It  came as a surprise to me when I learned that  people here don’t worship any God, but only  their ancestors. They don’t worship idols but  their weapons; they don’t celebrate Diwali,  Eid or Christmas, they celebrate just three festivals,  including Huttari (harvest festival); they  don’t wear the traditional attire of South  India; and they relish pork dishes. And all of  this in the very heart of South India.

The irony doesn’t end here, the list is long  but perhaps the most amusing is the fact that  despite being extremely peace loving people,  every house owns a gun or two. And the land  has produced some of the finest soldiers, including  Field Marshal K M Cariappa and General  K S Thimayya. All in all, the place is very  much different from rest of India in terms of  culture, food habits, dress and even looks.

Coorg is not name of a city but of a district  surrounded by Mysore, Mangalore and Bangalore.  Virajpet, Medikeri and Pollibetta are its  main city.

Around 4 pm, I finally reached in The  Tamara Coorg (Madekeri Taluk)- a luxury resort  and my home for the next two days. As I  took a refreshing welcome drink, sitting in the  hut-like reception area, I felt extremely re-  laxed, an indication of the days to follow.

Located in 170 acres of lush greenery, the  resort grows its own coffee, cardamom and  pepper, along with several rare plants, and  also produces honey. The resort has 56 luxury  cottages surrounded by hills and sparkling  streams.

Our cottage had generous living areas, outfitted  with modernistic furnishings including  plush four-seater futons, LED television sets,  king-size beds, comfortable lounge chairs and  board games for recreation and pull-out  mountain view balconies.

By the time we settled in, it was almost dark  and the manager of the resort suggested that  we try some fresh coffee and snacks from the  coffee shop — The Verandah. He then offered  me the chance to drink “my own prepared  coffee”. Of course, I agreed. It was next  arranged that we visit a coffee estate and see  how it was really prepared.

After having the light snacks, tired from a  long journey, we preferred for early dinner.  The resort has eclectic dining options including  The Falls, the multi-cuisine restaurant and  The Deck, the resort’s lounge bar. The resort’s  executive chef, Ranjan Samal informed that  Coorg is not only popular for its picturesque  beauty but also for its cuisine. In dinner he  cooked some of the famous Coorgis dishes like  Pandi curry (pork) and Akki Rotti (a chatpattilike  pancake made from cooked rice and rice  flour), as well as Nooputtu (rice).

The next morning turned out to be quite a  mesmerizing one. For city dweller like me,  watching rare birds perched atop tall trees in  front of my cottage window was a rare treat.  They infused colours into the surroundings,  making for a perfect picture-postcard scene.

Then it was a turn to learn how coffee is  prepared? Our guide for the coffee plantation  was a 25-year-old boy, who was not only expert  in coffee plants but also on cardamom,  pepper and other produce. He informed the  difference between coffee varieties like Arabica  and Robusta. Arabica plants are small in  height but their beans are larger in size, while  Robusta plants are tall but with small beans.  He also told how the coffee bean was actually  the seed inside a berry that would be dried,  roasted and ground before being used as coffee.  Our next class was held at the café where  he gave us raw coffee beans for us to prepare  a brew. And trust me it was the best coffee I  ever tasted.

After our first-hand experience with coffee,  it was time to explore the places nearby.  Coorg is quite rich in terms of sightseeing.  Two of the biggest falls in Coorg are Abbey  Falls and Iruppu Falls, but we preferred the  latter, given its proximity to our resort and its  picturesque setting. If one has any liking for  wildlife, Coorg has a lot more to offer. Rajiv  Gandhi National Park houses tiger, jungle  bison, sloth bear and the Asiatic elephant.

The Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery  (Golden Temple) is also very popular among  tourists. It is a holy place for Tibetan. The  temple is calm and people could be seen mediating  here. Two days stay in Coorg gave us  a thought that Coorg was a haven where one  could escape from the humdrum of daily life.

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