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

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Coorgi Tales- Dubare and Beyond


The Pachyderm Connection
15th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India

Today we decided to go to Dubare, the elephant club. It is situated abt 35-40 kms away from the Club Mahindra resort and is a good drive. This venture is promoted by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Board and thus draws in a lot of tourist. It is a good thing that the elephants are being taken care of like this. These elephants are from the adjoining forests and here they are bathed everyday and fed. People can also ride them. It ensures that the elephants are not mercilessly massacred for their ivory.
We had an option to use our own Civic (=nicknamed Civi by us)
The trip timing was 9:00 in the morning and we had breakfast at ‘Arabica’. The timing was such that you could get a good morning drive and spend adequate time there without the sun being too much of a problem. There were 3 families who opted for the Dubare elephant club activity that day so we went in a Tata Sumo and the other 2 families came in a van.
The early morning drive was so refreshing. The weather was pleasant, and the air was filled with the scent of different flowers especially the smell of the Robusta flower (=robusta is a coffee variety, the picture of the flower id down there). The roads were winding and not maintained well so the ride was bumpy. Also a lot of trucks come along that way because the Govt is repairing another main road so this is like a detour.
But the sights of the hills was just awesome. Madikeri or Coorg is also called ‘Scotland of the East’ and we could see that this was true. Having been to Scotland I can really say that Coorg was prettier!!!
The approach road to Dubare is a small bumpy road. before i forget, we passed a lot of estates with home stay option available. If you wanted some time by yourself, this would be the best option. We also passed the Tata Coffee estate. I forgot to mention in my previous note that the trees planted in and around coffee estates are usually Silver Oaks, tall trees with silvery, white barks look stunning.Finally, Dubare!!!
The club is situated at the edge of a river. The river when in full flow has a lot of white water rafting but since it was summer, there was hardly any water
.
So we sat in that boat and then crossed over to the Club. When we arrived, there was only 1 elephant, the others were yet to come. so we waded into the water and then made our way towards the elephant but the club mahindra holiday activities guy who had come along with us told us to wait till the other elephants came along.
The mahindra connection We had an option of taking our own car but then we were advised that because club mahindra has a lot of people coming to Dubare, that’s why they got tickets to the boat and the elephant ride in the club. The mahindra pampering here too!!!

Back to the elephants sorry!!!
Then later we saw a few elephants coming. this bathing the elephants is another way for the locals to earn money and respect wildlife. there are twin objectives of conserving bio-diversity and making the locals earn in the process. When the elephants came into the water, first there were their droppings and then their pee to deal with. Yes people, the water u wade in is filled with disintegrated elephant poop and pee. But to scrub them, you got to let go of your inhibitions, after all there is always soap and antiseptic in the hotel!!
The elephants are scrubbed with hard metal brush or the one you would use to clean toilets. Although their skin seems rough, its smooth at some places and feels very nice when you touch it,.
Scrubbing the elephants is fun coz they are lying sideways in the water and its total pampering for them.
There was also a naughty one who sprayed everyone with water, i guess they are trained to do that so that the tourists are happy.
After that we went to see the elephants eating. They are fed this big ball of some mixture made of a lot of cereals and jaggery. Each elephant ate about 5-10 balls and each ball weighed about 2.5 kgs. wow that’s a lot to eat!!

There were times when you could pose with the elephant, that after they finished their share. There were some elephants throwing tantrums because they were hungry. It was amusing.
After that, to cool off we had some tender coconut water. And guess what, there were dogs there who ate the malai from the tender coconut. I guess necessity and hunger are the root of that.
After that we rested for a while and the Club Mahindra guy bought tickets for us to take rides on the elephant. There is a home stay for people in the Dubare elephant club so those people were given preference for the elephant rides. The elephant taking the rides was making a meal of the tender coconut waste nearby so it got a few raps from the Mahut. The gulmohar trees were filled with flowers and it really was ‘flaming’ it was so red.
After the ride, we made our way to the boats and then back to the Sumo and then to the resort. By this time the sun was burning so we couldn’t smell any of those flowers that we smelt in the morning.Coming Up Next: Madikeri Mysteries!!!! and the Famous Fountains!!The naughty elephant, he sprayed every1 with water!!!me scrubbing the elephantsthe elephant being fed!!The flowers of ‘Robusta’ They smell so amazing, it’s unbelievable.

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

Coorgi Tales-Tranquil in the hills


Madikeri, the small town in the hills is our next destination.

13th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, india

Our day begun with a lot of movement because we wanted to change the room we were allotted. The problem was that there was some construction work going on and there were a lot of hammering noises. we reckoned that we get all of these noises in bombay and didnt want the same here. So the morning went in changing rooms from the apartment ‘Masual’ to ‘Carandas’ this one was away from the noise and was tranquil.
After breakfast at ‘Arabica’ we explored the property. Club Mahindra Coorg, is 32 acres and that asks for a lot of walking. we checked out their ayurvedic centre which was very well done up with a nice pond with stones on it to reach the reception. Most of the property is filled with coffee plants of the ‘Robusta’ varietso we could see a lot fo the coffee pods. Also there are lot of trees which makes the property look very lush. There are also a lot of birds in the trees so the air is littered with cries of one or the other bird and as you walk you can catch the fragrance of a flower or two. There were also a few pineapple plants and small creepers with dark green leaves. these leaves had pink spots on it. although it sounds repulsive, the leaves were actually very cute!!

Lunch was also at ‘Arabica’, we had taken the package for 3 meals. Club mahindra spoils you simply with the variety fo their dishes, Here also like at other Club mahindras was a live counter where they made rotis for you. the dessert counter was also amazing!! So many different types!! An indian sweet, some mousse, a pastry. There was also a kids counter where they had a curry, rice and some desserts. did that mean that we couldn’t pick something from there?? Didnt deter us from trying that section out. After all, we’re our parents kids too!! 😉

The afternoon was a quiet affair. we walked around the property and checked out the other apartments and just chilled out. This Club mahindra has different adventure activities which made good entertainment but we decided to do it another day.

In the evening, the holiday activities was having a bonfire and we decided to go there.. i wore a short skirt for the first time and then we made our way to the holiday activities space. There were bonfire games and we had a fun time playing. we got fully involved in the games and as a result made many new friends…Our team eventually won. Here we met Medha who became our fun partner for the rest of our staY IN Coorg and her parents, Jayant and Mira.
After we made our way for dinner, we found out that one small girl was missing so i helped to find her for a while. It would be scary losing your 3 yr old child in a 32 acre property at 9 pm. Eventually they found her in another room with video games. The dinner was tasty as it always is.
I got compliments for the skirt 🙂
We retired soon and slept like logs.

Next Episode: First Adventure Activiy and the Spice Plantation tourthe road ahead…driving thru the forestthe restaurants

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

Mangalore Tales-Whew, wait is that travel fatigue??


11th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India
Driving down to Mangalore was not filled with excitement as the other places as the scenery was much like as if we were driving in and around Mumbai, filled with industries. Mangalore is a busy port city of Karnatak so there were a lot of factories and facilities for unloading goods. Mangalore’s port handles 75% of India’s coffee exports and the bulk of the nation’s cashew exports. Sinche Mangalore was just a halt, we didnt explore around much.

Discovery: Karnataka is dotted with bakeries called ‘Iyengar Bakeries’ which have a different letter to the start like’L.V Iyengar Bakery’ or ‘Madhu Iyengar Bakeries’. you get a lot of snacks here as well as sweets but not many confectionery items so its not a usual bakery.

Hotel: Kumar’s International
Location: Close to the market but can be difficult to find unless you know your way around.

After resting for a while and a steaming cup of tea, we left to explore the market. We had an option of taking a rickshaw or an innova so we opted for 2 rickshaws. our first destination was Mangalore Math.

We had to look out for the Math and that took a while but we eventually found it. Its in such a cosy spot, it doesn’t look like a Math. But we found out later, that we had entered through the back gate which is why it didn’t look like a Math. Here also we had a pooja and we prayed at the Samadhi of one of our Swamijis. We found out that the bhatmam here was the elder brother of hemant bhatmam.
The idol of Lord Krishna at the Math is beautiful!!

After the Math, we decided to explore the market. we went to see shops but it being a sunday and Mangalore being a sleepy city, shops were closed on sunday. Most of the stuff was the stuff that you find in Mumbai so we gave all of that a miss. Originally we planned on seeing a few saree shops but all of them were closed. finally we went to a jewellery store called ‘Alukkas’ and looked at the jewellery there. most of it was so fancy and heavy that we were put off. Finally we settled for a pair of bangles ‘which look thin when seen from one angle and thick from the other angle.

After our purchase (we got a bag, 2 complimentary purses, shopping bags etc) we left to have dinner at ‘Taj Mahal’ which Sanjay Mam had recommended to us. There we waited for a while because there was a queue for seats and then had south indian thalis. Thalis are so wholesome, and just right so you can taste everything. The tomato soup we got along with the thali was excellent.

After dinner, we took 2 rickshaws to our hotel. The rickshaw took us from a different winding route which was nice because the weather was pleasant at night. After watching a bit of IPL, we slept

Coming UP Next Vitthal and the journey to Coorg