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Friday, Jun 17, 2005

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Coorg capers

Swetha Kannan

Nothing could take away from the beauteous charm of Coorg... not even a hurried day-trip.

Abbey Falls.

There is so much to see in Coorg and one day would probably not suffice. But a day was all we four friends had, and thought it was worth visiting... even if it meant skipping places. It takes about seven hours to reach Coorg from Bangalore. We had heard enough about the beauty of the Kodagu hills and were longing to get there.

Describing Coorg as the Scotland of India would be first of all a cliché, and secondly, none of us have visited Scotland. But one can say this of Coorg — it is a nature lover's delight. Its meandering pathways and magnificent mountain views, not to mention the huge coffee plantations, are bound to impress anyone.

After a rickety 260-km bus ride overnight, we landed in Madikeri, the main town in Coorg, at about six in the morning. Although it wasn't chilly, it was nonetheless a welcome relief from the garden city's searing heat.

A quick wash and breakfast later, we hired a jeep and set off excitedly. Music was in the air, as we screamed our throats out — the jerkiness of the jaunt adding effect.

First stop was Bhagamandala, about 38 km from Madikeri. Here is where the rivers Cauvery, Kannike and the mythical Sujyoti meet at the Triveni Sangam. After sinking our legs in the absolutely chill waters, we climbed onto the bridge for a photo shoot.

We then visited the Bhagandeswara temple nearby, to find some women in sarees draped Coorgi style, an uncommon sight elsewhere.

According to the Skandapurana, the temple is named after Sage Bhaganda who set up a Shiva linga here. The temple houses images of Shiva, Vishnu, Subramanya and Ganesha. The ceilings are adorned with wooden carvings painted with vegetable dyes and describing stories from the Puranas.

Brahmagiri near Tala Cauvery

It was time to head to Tala Cauvery, 8 km away. Our hopes of seeing something spectacular — after all this is where the Cauvery originates — were however squashed. The sump-like concrete structure atop a hill was an anti-climax! We tried figuring out what the fuss was all about and didn't quite succeed. It is believed that the river springs from underground, disappears mysteriously for a while, only to resurface at Nagatirtha, near Bhagamandala, before reaching the Sangam.

Getting over the disappointment, we took in the breathtaking view from top. The mountains spread out like a green blanket, with the pale blue sky snuggling close to form a picture-perfect backdrop. To borrow from Will Smith in Hitch — life is to be remembered by the moments that take your breath away. And this was one such moment.

By now we were tired and famished. But after a hearty lunch at a local eatery, we were ready for more.

Next in line was a beautiful garden called the Raja's seat. The kings of Kodagu and their consorts are said to have enjoyed the sunrise and sunset views from this peak. From here, we could catch a panoramic view of the mountains and the plantations. Adding more history to the visit was the gaddige or royal tombs, built in Indo-Sarcenic style, of the Kodavu royalty who ruled in the 18th century and other court dignitaries.

But the best part of the day was reserved for the end — and no, it wasn't planned. Amidst cardamom and coffee plantations, Abbey Falls, about 8 km from Madikeri, is `the' place to picnic.

A signboard warned us that the area was slippery. Add to that our poor swimming skills, we didn't dare venture into the waters. Of course, a few brave ones frolicked away.

We were content sitting on the rocks, cooling our heels. Hours passed as we chatted aimlessly... the mild sun on our backs. We had to be dragged out literally by the irate jeep driver, who had had enough of waiting.

And when it was time to say adieu, we half-heartedly boarded the bus to Mysore (as we missed the one to Bangalore by a few seconds).

Suddenly, the temperature dropped with the arrival of rains, bringing along cool breeze and the smell of wet earth. The ride back was memorable, the leaky bus notwithstanding.

The lush fields, the fiery orange of the gulmohar blossoms lining the road... these images will haunt us for long.

Picture by Sampath Kumar G.P.

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