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Coorg: The Scotland of India

With a perpetually misty landscape, Coorg is an ideal place to unwind amid lush mountains while soaking in the pleasant aroma of fresh coffee

Coorg is veritably a destination for all seasons. Its varied landscape with rolling hills, lush coffee estates, expansive valleys, serpentine streets flanked by endless acres of green vegetation, roaring waterfalls and glistening streams leave us speechless and awestruck. Fleece white floating clouds that hang low on this rustic hill station of Karnataka, tucked in the Western Ghats, create a mystic fabric to the pastoral landscape. Hamlets surface and shoot out of the tufts every now and then, unfolding cottages and huts of varied hues.

Our first destination in coffee land, most aptly called the Scotland of India, is Dubare Elephant Camp on the banks of the Kaveri, about 30 km from Madikere, the district headquarters. We have a whale of a time in the midst of frisking pachyderms and even venture, like most tourists, to give their leathery being a scrub as they playfully spray trunkfuls of water on us. With a mixture of apprehension and excitement, we feed them bananas and sugarcanes which they devour with gusto, whisking them off our hands in a swift swipe of their trunk. We follow this up with an elephant safari, snaking our way through winding tunnels of dense trees, hoping to catch sight of the wild creatures of the jungle. Though a trifle disappointed at spotting nothing wild, we savour the deep persona of the wilderness that alternates between stark silence and a cacophony of avian sounds. Dubare is a welcome change for us bone-weary, brain-fatigued urbanites as we warm to the burble of the Kaveri and ambient sounds of the forest. Our most delightful moments at Dubare happen when we romance the Kaveri, rafting and fighting through its frothy rapids.

Mentally rejuvenated from our odyssey, and our hunger for adventure sated temporarily, we succumb to the rumbling call of our bellies. An early dinner is on the cards and we head to Athithi Pure Veg restaurant on our way to Kushalnagar, home to the Namdroling, one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in existence today. Following a sumptuous and artery-choking supper, we proceed to Club Mahindra, where we are booked for our four-day break at Coorg.

Bylakuppe is a spellbinding re-creation of Tibet, home to the largest settlement of Tibetans in South India. We are transported to an entirely different world as we walk around the bustling Lama township, blending with a crowd of chirpy maroon-robed monks, many of who vroom the streets on trendy motorbikes. A plethora of eateries, from modest stalls selling momos to fancy restaurants offering multi-cuisine, dot the town. Colour is everywhere in Namdroling, locally known as the Golden Temple – in its architecture, its interiors and in its neighbourhood. Its principal attraction, however, is the mammoth gilded statue of the Buddha which was consecrated in 1999.

Upon the suggestion of a few young monks with whom we pick up a casual conversation, we indulge the culinary nerves in our body with spicy dumplings in one of its purely vegetarian eateries and polish it down with steaming cups of specially-brewed masala chai.

A mere 3 km from here brings us to the spectacular and serene Kaveri Nisargadhama, a man-made island sprawling over 64 acres and abounding in lush bamboo, teak and sandalwood forests. Apart from the deer, rabbit and peacock parks and an orchidarium, elephant and boat rides attract visitors round the year. We enjoy a jaunty walk on the hanging bridge built over the serpentine Kaveri that flows lazily below.

Holiday or not, we are early birds and wake up the next day to the twitter of birds. A hearty but nutritious breakfast sees us heading towards Irppu, first, and then Abby Falls on the third day of our Coorg sojourn. The thunderous roar of the tumbling falls greets us well before we actually come upon Iruppu Falls, one of Karnataka's most fascinating cascades. Nestled amid the verdure of the Western Ghats, it is as majestic as it is ferocious, plummeting down 170 feet in a series of cascades. According to legend, Iruppu Falls was created when Lakshmana, Rama's brother in the epic Ramayana, shot an arrow at this spot during their exile. We follow fellow tourists to the Rameshwara temple at the foothills of Iruppu. It is a major crowd puller because the Shiva Linga in its sanctum sanctorum is believed to have been made and installed by Rama himself.

With a compelling affinity for water bodies and all sites aqueous, we proceed to Abby Falls that is just as alluring as Iruppu. With the monsoon in place, the foaming avalanche is a bewitching sight to behold. We drench ourselves in the raging deluge that plunges steeply in descent and bounces over rocks and boulders, unleashing notes of high decibels, creating a unique symphony unparalleled by any other. Abby, as several other spots in Coorg, is flooded with leeches besides other slinking, scuttling creatures. Some of the faint-hearted amongst us squeal and shriek at their very sight but soon acknowledge that we are indeed intruders in their territory. Unmindful of their presence, we continue to thrill in our surrounds even if it means getting those sensation-less pricks from these parasites every now and then. We continue to explore the verdant sprawl, leaving trails of bloody blobs, evidence that these creatures have feasted on us.

It is close to dusk when we return to our resort. The air is misty and the sky's hue slowly darkens as the sun sinks into the horizon. We watch entranced, heaven's drama above as the retiring sun gives way to the gently emerging moon, a full one, which bathes the earth with its luminous glow.

Nature-exploration gives way to a spiritual journey on the last day of our stay as we realise that Coorg is not just about mountains, waterfalls, verdure, coffee and spices. The fascinating temples of the region with their myths, history, legends, aesthetics, artistic beauty and above all, peaceful surrounds, captivate us in no mean measure. We sanctify ourselves by visiting Talakaveri, the birthplace of the river with its shrine to Goddess Kaveri and Shiva, Brahmagiri Hill from where it tumbles and Bhagamandala the confluence or Triveni Sangam of the Kaveri, Kannike and Sujyoti rivers. Each one of these sacred spots enjoys its own claim to fame and has a beauty that blends well with tranquility to captivate the most jaded travelers.

Mother nature's spectrum of wonder is unceasing, unmatched. Some moments in life cannot be described or expressed – they can only be lived, experienced and cherished.

Long after our visit to this spectacular hill town of Karnataka, the sights, smells and sounds of Coorg linger on, perhaps enticing us to revisit several times more.

Chitra Ramaswamy

Chitra Ramaswamy

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