Coorgi Tales- Madikeri and beyond!


15th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India

Continuation to the Dubare note. After Dubare, we were plenty exhausted and not to mention dirty!! After reaching the resort, we freshened up and had lunch. We decided to spend the remainder of the day in the town of Madikeri. We had lunch at ‘Arabica’ and then went to the room (i must mention that one of the days we had a mint and melon mousse for dessert and it was amazing. One day it was strawberry and white chocolate mousse which was lip-smacking!! No wonder they say Club Mahindra pampers you)
We spent the afternoon resting and then drove down to Madikeri. By now, i knew the route to the market and back so it was no problem. Once you take a turn to go to Club Mahindra, there is a school, 2 parks and a temple. we decided to explore the park and the temple. .
One of the parks had a mini train. it was amazingly cute!! It reminded me of the time we used to go to a park in Santacruz where there used to be a similar train and we used to ride it till the park closed. So it was a trip down the memory lane for me!!

The ride itself was only for 3-4 minutes but it was fun. We grabbed seats in the extreme front just after the engine. And a guy first came and checked our tickets (you have to buy tickets for the ride, different tickets for kids and adults!!)
There were even boards for stations and a small tunnel. And this ride attracted a lot of the crowd. I guess in a small town you would find this very much fun, people in smaller towns have more fun than city dwellers anyway!!
After that we made our way to the other park which was more like a ‘Joggers Park’. It was so well maintained with broad lanes, lot of dustbins in the shape of cute animals and pretty flowers. There were many people walking and many playing.

Coorg is called ‘Scotland of the East’ and it was not difficult to see why. The view from the park bench was stunning!! Even though it was summer, there was a slight fog in the distance and there was a nice breeze which made it quite pleasant.
After a walk and a lot of photos, we decided to leave and snack on something. We had some ‘Joy’ Ice cream(=chocobar!!) and then to our surprise, the lights came on at the centre of the park and the people were standing around the circle which we later discovered turned out to be a musical fountain. And we slowly made our way towards the gate coz we knew we’d just come out and we couldn’t go in again but the lady sitting at the entrance told us to go right ahead. We went in and were totally awestruck.
They played some song with lyrics we couldn’t understand (=either kannada/tamil/malu) and the fountains danced to the tunes. It was so well done. The colours also changed. I was totally engrossed. We took videos and many pictures. I hear there is a musical fountain at the Vrindavan Gardens at Mysore but this was amazing. And there were very few ppl so that made it better.
The fountains were amazing. They jumped, they danced, we gasped!!! They played 4 songs and for that time, held the audience totally spellbound. They ended with ‘Saare jahan se Accha’ and the people slowly started making their way out.

Thats when i realised how pretty the flowers at the edges of the park looked. They were nice and purple. So got in some pictures of those as well. Then we went to the temple nearby and guess, we were just in time for the evening ‘Aarti’. The co-incidence was amazing!! After the Aarti, we made our way back to the hotel

Oh i forgot to mention that while coming back from Dubare, we stopped at a place and purchased lots of spice. Coorg is known for its spices. We also got some Vanilla to be had with milk. It smells so sweet and delicious. One really wonders why people go in for artificial substitutes when the real one is so much fragrant and better!!For dinner this time, we decided to try the a-la-carte restaurant at Club Mahindra called ‘Coffee Blossoms’ We had some thai curry(red and yellow), steamed rice, kheema paratha and some starter. The red thai curry was so delicious, we really enjoyed and literally licked our plates off. We did have some light dessert and made our way to the room.

This restaurant had another way which led to the swimming pool near our room so but we decided to take the longer route to enjoy the smell of the coffee blossoms. It was a super night and i really kept going back to the stunning Musical Fountains that we found in the small town of Madikeri.

cOMING uP next: Adventure Valley Part2, The town again,Coorg cuisine,Goodbye Coorg
Some of the pretty flowers

Coorgi Tales-The Spice Plantation and Adventure Vallley part 1


14th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India
Today we decided to go in for the Adventure Activity. They have 17 different types of activities which are clubbed into 2 different groups , Easy and Advanced, 5 activities each. You could opt for the clubbed activities or do any of the activities individually. So today we tried the elementary ones.
I was strapped first. Sachi decided to watch me first and then try her hand at them. I had a bengali fellow who was my instructor. The first activity was the ‘Shaking Bridge’ where the distance between 2 planks on 2 ropes keeps increasing. This was fairly easy. The second one was climbing across a big criss cross maze of ropes, the difficult part was climbing on the rope, the easy one was walking on the iron rope.
The third activity was walking through the tyres. the easy part was walking on the rope and the difficult one was walking thru the tyres. Trust me it is difficult when you have to walk suspended with a harness. The fourth activity was the easiest, you had to walk on one iron rope holding a rope above your head, i did that pretty fast. The next and last activity was climbing on a rope. There were knots at regular intervals and you had to hold the knots using your thumbs and then hoist yourself up (which is NOT a piece of cake) and finally the trainer would lower you down. Tiring job really. My hands were really paining. shows how us city folk fare when we meet with adventure sports 🙂
After i was done, it was Sachi’s turn. She had it fairly easy coz she’s thinner than i am. It was fun watching her do it.
we were really exhausted after the activity because holding on to the ropes and harness really asks a lot from your pampered and never been used muscles!!! After a lunch in ‘Arabica’ we rested in the room for a while.

Naya Plan The next plan was the Spice Plantation Tour. Club Mahindra takes you to a place which is 35 kms from the main resort and shows you around the spice plantation. The time for the spice plantation tour was 3:00 and we came a little late and my explanation was “For fashion show u have show stoppers, here in Coorg, we’re the BUS STOPPERS” (lol) The Club Mahindra Holiday Activities Co-ordinator coming with us was Punit and we teased him endlessly calling him ‘uncle’ and ‘grand-uncle’ and forced him to give us lessons in kannada. that was fun but i dont know how much of the kannada i remembered!!
We were delayed in reaching the spice plantation because there was a jeep stuck on the approach road. most of tese coffee estates have home sta facilities so one can enjoy the estate and stay there in the calm and fragrant atmosphere (estates smell soooo good!!)

We met the person who took care of the estates. It seems the estate has been passed down in his family for 150 yrs!! thats a long time!! This fellow it seems is a commerce graduate who stayed in bangalore but shifted here to madikeri to take care of the estate. The estate was a huge one, 225 acres!!! The first plant we saw was the Vanilla plant. It seems because of artificial substitutes for vanilla, the prices for vanilla had crashed so drastically it was not feasible to cultivate it anymore. The estate just cultivated vanilla on a small scale to show the people who visted the estate.
Then we proceeded to see the coffee plants. Coffee plants require so much of attention and labour, not to mention regular sprays of insecticide to protect them form the white stump borad. Also coffee plants especially ‘Arabica’ has to be cut in a special way so that the branches grow sideways and not straight ahead. We learnt a lot abt coffee in that tour. Arabica it seems is more labour intensive and its prices are sky high in international markets. Its also a more fragrant variety and makes better coffee. But because of high maintenance costs, ‘Robusta’ variety is preferred although it brews inferior coffee. There is one tree which is preferably grown with coffee because during summer when the sun rays are very strong, it spreads its canopy over the coffee plants and then during the rains when the sunlight does not reach the plants below due to the canopy, it sheds its leaves. We also saw a rosewood tree. it seems a rosewood tree matures in 150-200 years. It means the tree must have been planted when the estate was started and its still not grown fully. Thats what i call a ‘Late Bloomer’

We also saw cardamon plants from kerala and Karnataka. We also saw a pod of karnatak cardamon (=elaichi) and tasted it..it tasted sooo good, much better than the dried ones we get in the market and fresher. We also saw the silk cotton tree. The silk cotton pods burst out when the cotton is ready and the pod falls off. The cotton is so soft. Bu the owner said that harvesting these on a commercial basis was not feasible so the pods just wasted on the ground. I think the locals took them and used them to make blankets or some clothes.
It seems that the estate was facing a sever labour shortage, although the wages were higher than other estates. Coffee especially Arabica required a lot of attention, coz the branches had to be splintered and all the plants manually checked for attacks of the white borad. Very few skilled men knew the job which made it expensive.

Discovery: Coorg was very famous for its oranges upto 40 yrs ago when a deadly virus came and wiped out all the orange trees in Coorg. There are still resorts with the name ‘Orange County’. The resurrection of oranges here had been started recently. It seems Coorgi oranges are much bigger than the Nagpur oranges and much juicier.

After the tour and seeing many such plants which included a wild plant with fruits which looked like lemons, we made our way back to the van. there we were served some of the estate’s home grown coffee which was so tasty. Pure and unadulterated coffee na so it tasted much much better than the ones in metros. There was also a cute dog there in a cage . He was kept in the cage because he got so excited seeing visiotrs and jumped on them (trust me he was huge but very cute, he even licked my fingers)
There was also a huge christmas tree with some cactii growing on it. Sounds hard to believe but i’ve got evidence!! We parted with very good memories and a lot more knowledge of how to run an estate.
wE kept bugging Punit on our way back. he also took us on a tour of the town and showed us a place where we could get authentic Coorgi cuisine. Coorg it seems is very famous for its pork.

After we went to the resort, Sachi, Medha and me went to play while the parents chatted. It was all in all a very fun evening.

Special Note: I really wanna thank Medha,Jayant and Mira Luthra for the amazing time that we spent together in the spice plantations. It was totally out of this world!!!

Agla Sthaan:Dubare Elephant Club and exploring Madikeri. Stay tuned!!!!The 3rd activity, the ‘Tyring one’Sachi with her instructorfresh cardamom, tastes awesome and smells out of this worldCoffee beans being dried!!The christmas tree with cactii

Vitthal and the Journey to Coorg-The traveller continues the journey


12th April 2010, Karnatak Hinterland, India
I continue with the journey
Most hotels in South India and also our hotel at Kolhapur give the guests a complimentary breakfast if they stay in the hotel. As we soon discovered that, we helped ourselves to the same yet tasty breakfast of dosas,idli vada and kesaribhat. We checked out after that and made our way to our next destination,
“CLUB MAHINDRA, Kodagu Valley,Coorg”
The road from Mangalore was not a smooth one because the Govt was in the process of expansion so it was a bumpy ride. But we saw a lot of bungalows on the way. Most of the bungalows are painted in bright almost horrifying colours like bright green and baby pink but these ones were painted in stately combinations like white and navy blue, white and gray etc.
We decided to go and see the temple at Vitthal so we took a detour from NH-48 and made our way to Vitthal. The landscape was changing, more like a tropical forest types, wet with very fresh air blowing at our faces. The Vitthal Math was being renovated and the bit of the new Math we saw looked very nice. At almost all the Maths in South India, they give you sandal paste which smells totally out of the world. There was also a temple dedicated to the Naags. As you would know, Naags depict our elders who we pray to so that we have their blessings for the present and future generations.
We met one of our acquaintances and we went to their house where we saw an enormous beehive. i’ve never seen a beehive so closely before and it was mesmerising…so many bees!!!

After Vitthal we made our way to Madikeri,Coorg. Coorg is actually the name of the district. Its very famous for spices so we’ve heard. While leaving Vitthal, we were stuck in a traffic jam and we could only make our way out of it because Vitthal unlike Mumbai, does not have any open drains!!!
Our first halt was at a place called Shuliya and we kept asking for that whenever we met people. The people in South India are generally quite knowledgeable they know routes to explore entire karnatak at the back of their minds!! quite an amazing feat!!

A special encounter:
At Shuliya, we encountered Karnatak’s biggest specialit, “Gobhi Manchurian” which could be found in every Nukkad and gully of Karnatak. The journey to Shuliya was uneventful, except that the road was winding and made veryscenic landscape because it was so lush and green!!
By the time we reached Shuliya, we could feel the heat beat down on us ..it was noon. So we stopped at Hotel Surabhi. Let me tell you, this place looks small but the food is totally awesome and very tasty. Here we tasted the famous ‘Gadbag’ and ‘Gobhi Manchurian’ both extremely delicious.

After lunch, we made our way to Club Mahindra. There were more and more plantations and lots of nurseries selling rubber spalings. A lot of areca nut trees and pepper creepers on them. It was pleasant to watch. Also i notcied right from Shuliya onwards, lot of stalls selling ‘Neera’, a drink from which toddy is derived, and that almost all street lights had solar panels on them, which was very nice to see that atleast our rural counterparts were making an effort to be environment friendly.

As we approached Coorg, the scenery was breathtaking. Lush green forests and the constant chirping of birds and c\insects. It was out of this world.!!
Also we passed a lot of estates with the home stay options available. Small cottages looked very inviting. we even stopped the car for some time to take in the environment. We passed a road which led to the ‘Indian Institute of Spices’ and then made our way to club mahindra. Here also in this small town of Madikeri,all street lights had solar panels and trust me at night, they glowed brighter than the other thermal electricity powered lights.

We made our way slowly, not before we passed a JM Financial (work follows my dad here as well!!!) and then drove into the resort. All Club Mahindra properties are huge and excellently done up. After resting in our room, we made our way to the Conference Room where they had a presentation for us to explain the facilities at the resort and also to explain the tourist sites around. It was followed up with some Coorgi coffee!!

We had a quiet dinner at the Buffet restaurant which was called Arabica (=name of a coffee) and retired for the night

Coming up next-Coorgi Tales

A beehiveMe!! at the hotel at Shuliya

Chronicles of Manki-Super Sights-Part 6


Chiiling out
We had a lot to do simply chiiling out at home also. First things first, watering a one acre plot is not easy, i’d have you know. Pulling the pipe literally breaks your arms off. shows how weak city-dwellers are. The maid at where we stayed could lift all of our luggage effortlessly and she is so thin.
Also we plucked flowers to make garlands . There were so many hibiscus plants there. I also had a task of plucking jackfruit leaves because breakfast the next day was going to be “Khotte” which is simply idlis steamed inside cups made out of jackfruit leaves. Much more healthier than idlis and also way tastier.
Caution to the new: Jackfruit sap makes the skin itch. So i had to use tons of coconut oil on my hands so it wouldn’t itch.
Incidentally 4 jackfruit leaVes are needed for one such cup 😀 things i got to learn out there.

Today was the day we chilled out and mummy, papa, suma pachi and hemant bhatmam went for a ride to Shirali in the Civic. It being an automatic and the latter two not have seen it.

Super Sight 1
There is this place between Shiroor and Baindur where P.P Swamiji visits often. The lane for the place is so small that you won’t notice it. But the spectacular sight took our breath away. Westood gaping at it for a long time. Also the Govt of Karnatak was building some cottages nearby (rent 400 bucks a night with your morning view of the ocean). we also xplored and walked down the steps. Sachi and I had a nice time climbing into the forest there and exploring. I had a nice time playing with the dogs there also.

Super Sight 2 Merwante
Merwante is a marvel. On one side of the road, there is a river winding by and on the other, the sea and Trasy beach. So here we look, its a wonderful river. There we turn, the beach invites us!! I dont have the words to describe this.
We went and had some snacks and then had a long walk on the beach. Unfortunately for me, there was a thorny branch that poked my foot. At first i thought it was a starfish and when i moved my foot it wriggled. then mum pulled it out for me. It was like this new adventure for me, something poking my foot. apart from that the trip was injury-free for a usually clumsy me. The poked thingie was swollen at night and i felt totally excited. Too bad the swelling went down the next day 😛 i loved the attention i was getting 🙂

The night was uneventful and we slept deeply totally in gratitude for the wonderful sights that we had seen today 🙂

To be Continued: The final leg of Manki, Welcome Udupi and Hello Manipal. Stay Tuned
The Sharavati

Branch Mavinkurve

Hemant Bhatmam, Manki’s proactive and travel-loving priestThe spot called Super SIght 1The sea at Super Sight 1