Our host at our home-stay in Coorg told us, on our drive to see his Coffee Estate, that Kodagu is a city of Nature worshippers.
The first whiff of the city we get on our drive down from Bangalore was sure to hook us on it. Driving through the lush forests along the Western Ghats you feel an overwhelming feeling of serenity come over you. You feel all the stress melting away as you step into a world by itself — a city where everyone is so content and happy being amongst elements of nature that you can’t help but have it rub off on you.
We arrived at our beautiful homestay at Gowri Nivas in Madikeri, a little cocoon by itself. Owned by a charming couple, who inherited the expansive villa from their ancestors and let out the attached cottage annexe. Mr. Boppana, our host, was warm and welcoming right away which made our stay all the more pleasant.
We quickly made ourselves comfortable in our cottage, showered and had a hot cup of filter coffee while it drizzled outside. While we sat in the verandah watching the pitter patter of the rain in the garden, Mr. Boppana came down to check on our plan and give kind suggestions for our itinerary. Not wanting to miss anything, off we went armed with all the information and brimming excitement to drown ourselves in lush greens of this beautiful hill station.
First stop for the day was Abbi Falls, situated a short drive from Madikeri city between private coffee plantations. We walked down the short trail down to the falls and were greeted by this splendid sight.
We could barely hear each other over the crashing sounds of the falling water. Monsoons had made this already magnificent waterfall even more abundant. As we stood there watching spellbound while slowly drifting away from reality as the constant rhythm brought in a feeling of calm, I felt a drop of water on the tip of my nose. And another one. Quickly it culminated into a full-blown downpour. Commotion commenced around us as fellow tourists ran around to quickly go back up the trail or find a large enough tree to crowd around for some shelter. We kept standing there — with the crowd cleared from the edge of the bridge, we now had a clearer view of the splendour of nature that was ahead of us. We wanted to drink it all in.
We finally started on our way back up the trail, drenched but happier than ever. We sat in our cab as the driver drove back towards Madikeri city centre to Raja’s Seat. We sat silently in the car for the next 30 minutes craning our necks out of the window not wanting to miss the view for even a micro-second.
We strolled for a while in the garden around Raja’s Seat, watched the floating clouds over the hills, wrapped our shawls around us tightly as the wind got chillier — all with a quiet smile on our faces. We got back to our cottage at 8 and went to bed at an unimaginable 9pm to sleep a sound sleep that a content, rested mind & soul are privileged to.
Day 2 we started with a breakfast of some crisp dosas and filter coffee that our host had prepared for us. Mr. Boppana had offered to take us to his Coffee Estate for a private tour and we discussed the day’s plan over breakfast. We sat in his jeep as he drove us down towards South Coorg with plantations aplenty. The route lined along the Western Ghats was made even more scenic with the light drizzle as we drove along with our windows rolled down halfway.
We passed paddy fields and a cloudy glimpse of Tadiandamol, the highest peak of Kodagu District. The journey was peppered with personal anecdotes and little history nuggets that Mr. Boppana related with much gusto. We stuck our heads out of the window when the rain stopped wanting to take in as much of fresh Coorgi air as we could to store for our return to the city life.
Amongst the most remarkable of all the stories that Mr.Boppana related was about the people of Coorg. He told us how it was a land of ancestral and nature worship. The settlements in Coorg don’t believe in idol worship, they instead light a lamp to the spirits - to the ones who’ve birthed them, the supreme most of which is Mother Nature.
We reached the plantation after about an hour’s drive, the last stretch of it was through a mud path almost through a jungle. We got off and looked around, Mr. Boppana pointed out his finger and swept it across the stretch of the hill indicating the expanse of the Estate. It was marvellous. We quickly changed into gumboots lined with vinegar to keep the leeches away and set off deeper into the plantation.
We stopped along the way to smell some lemon tree leaves and taste the raw black pepper from the creepers. We walked along trying to spot the Arabica and Robesta coffee plants and beaming when we got it right. Every few minutes Mr.Boppana made us check our trousers and the soles of our boots to check for leeches. We gingerly passed an area damaged by bears looking over our shoulders for any more lurching around.
We reached the edge of one side of the Estate and stopped for a moment to enjoy the view. It was all forests as far as the eyes could see. Mr. Boppana pointed to the top most point of the hill on which his estate stretched and told us how he is planning to create a tent lodging there soon (yes, we’ve booked our spot there already!). We stood there for a few more minutes before descending back down to the small hut at the bottom of the estate for a hot cup of Tea and some modest patties.
After this wonderful start to the day we headed off to Talakaveri, the source of Cauvery River. On our way our driver suggested a stopover at Nalknad Palace. On the outset it wasn’t much of a Palace as it was large house. On entering our guide painted a pretty picture of the history that it started to look like one at least in our heads. A fascinating thing about the Palace were the wall-to-wall hand-painting across the interiors. While it is currently under restoration since a PWD project gone wrong whitewashed over the paintings, the portions which were visible were exquisite in their intricate details.
Off along we went on our mission to see the birthplace of Kaveri, but not before we caught a glimpse of this beautifully untouched Chelavara Falls. It was a mini hike down a slippery trail to get to it was very much worth it.
After much ado, we reached Talakaveri. A temple was constructed here since the birthplace of their largest water source for most parts of southern India was nothing short of Holy. We sprinkled some of the holy water on our heads as we marveled at how a tiny spring from the ground can end up in this magnificently flowing river. We ended the eventful day with a bowl of steaming hot Rasam and softer than butter Idlis with coconut chutney, already wistful of the short holiday almost coming to an end.
The next day we packed up, said our warm goodbyes to Mr. Boppana and sat in our cab to drive back towards Bangalore. On our drive back as we once again felt the rush of the wind in our hair, we looked back at the last two days and how we were humbled by the glorious display of unadulterated nature, simplicity of lifestyle and the warmth extended by the people here. We made some lasting memories, hard to put in words but always vivid in our minds.