travelogue Coorg and Ooty
Coffee, Tea and More
Kinjal Ghose & Tathagata Biswas
ur trip was a sudden venture, lacking any good deal of planning, more so in a season which is generally not so preferred for a tourist visit. A short article that appeared in a corner of a page in the July 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine was the genesis of our trip down south. The initial plan was to visit the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, the only one that remains open during the monsoon. However, like all good things that come as unexpected, the plan could not materialize due to the ban imposed on safaris in tiger reserves by the Honâ€™ble Supreme Court a fortnight prior to our date of journey, and instead we decided to visit Coorg and Ooty. What we experienced was much more than what we had expected. Nested amidst coffee plantations and black pepper forests of the Western Ghats in Karnataka, Abbey falls was a delight to watch. The majestic falls was coming down roaring with fresh rains. The place was shrouded under a mystic fog. A rope bridge over the river was resonating with the footsteps of the tourists. Not many dared to venture till the end of the bridge where the foliage turned denser, the ground more slippery and the view, certainly more delectable.
Leeches were to be found quite frequently in the waters or on the tree trunks, however, much to our delight, they did not bother us. The steep walk down the narrow alley through the rocky outlay towards the falls smelt of spices that are cultivated on the slopes of Nilgiri. Origin of River Kaveri On either side of the road unripe coffee pods were hanging from the plants. As these immature green oval berries start to ripen, they turn yellow and then crimson. However, they have to go through several stages of processing before being served at the MNC branded coffee shops at hyper-inflated price!
The view at the entrance certainly gives an impression of one of those mystic monasteries that we often see in the Shaolin-styled films laced with martial arts. The fog was dense enough to hinder vision beyond 4-5 metres. The silence and serenity of the temple was exquisite. The temple is built on the origin of the Kaveri River at Talakavery. Looking at the gurgling spring from where the river originates, one might wonder as to how the same river swells up to its mighty form at the later stage of its flow. This river has formed the basis of the illustrious civilization on the south of the Vindyas by providing adequate water for consumption and irrigation.
Amidst the lash green of the forest, one gets to see other vibrant colours too. At the chocolage factory it almost seemed like a childhood dream come true! The quaint shapes in which molten chocolates were being moulded almost seemed to be from the pages of Hansel and Gretel!
travelogue Coorg and Ooty Namdroling Monastery
Popularly known as the ‘Golden Temple’, the Namdroling Monastery at Bylakuppe is the second largest monastery outside Tibet. It serves as the residence and training centre for over 7000 monks. The prayer hall was an awe inspiring sight with rows of monks chanting the hymns in deep and sombre tone with occasional interlude from a resonating and breathtaking voice booming through microphones. The gongs, the pipes, the huge statues of Lord Buddha with Padmanabhan and Rudrabhairav at his sidesall exuded the aura of magnanimity.
Rafting on Kaveri
On the way from Coorg to Ooty, the rafting on Kaveri was an unforgettable experience. Lined with sandalwood trees on both the banks, the river was gentle and calm, except a few (7 actually) rapids in between. Often we had to duck below the tree branches arching over the river. It made us almost feel like Tintin on his Amazon expedition! Unfortunately, those moments couldn’t be captured since our cameras were safely kept in a waterproof bag we got to use them only where the river was calm.
Bandipur National Park
En route to Ooty through the Mudumalai Tiger reserve, one could see the wondrous faces of the deer with their antlers (very few people are lucky enough to witness the Panthera Tigris!). Contrary to the belief that deer is a metaphor of docility and coy, the horned stags stood and stared quietly at all the vehicles passing by, with unmoved fascination, much less, fear. The Chital Deer, fabled in our ancient mythologies, stood in the darkness with glowing eyes like a galaxy of stars. It was a sight to see the multitude of home bound Chital crossing over the forest roads and return to their bases at sun set. Once we beheld the magnificent golden creature, we realized why Sita, the mythological character from the Hindu epic Ramayana wanted to have one.
October - December 2012
travelogue Coorg and Ooty A Train Journey through the Narrow-gauge Railway Track
When we beheld this magnificent golden creature, we realised why Sita, the mythological character from the Hindu epic Ramayana wanted to have one. The rest, as they say, is history!
The ride on toy train from Canoor was through the idyllic setting of the hamlets and villages, hillocks and pine trees on the Western Ghats. The tunnels and the faraway chimneys from the kitchens seemed to have been crafted out of the stories of Ruskin Bond.
Tea Estate at Ooty UNESCO, in 2005, has inscribed the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as World Heritage Site, as part of “Mountain Railways of India” due to two reasons. First, they are outstanding examples of the interchange of values on developments in technology, and the impact of innovative transportation system of the social and economic development of a multicultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world. Secondly, the development of railways in the 19th century had a profound influence on social and economic developments in many parts of the world. They are outstanding examples of a technological ensemble, representing different phases of the development in high mountain areas. Tea plantations of Ooty (also known as Udhagamandalam) are ideal for a few days’ escapade from the hectic and mundane of urban lifestyle. Lush green leaves on the slopes of hills are potent anti-depressants! Private rest houses are available throughout the tea estates. In addition, the local residents also offer their houses for homestay accommodation to the tourists. At the first glance one might be confused whether this roadside stall was selling colours. Nevertheless, we relished the fresh and delicious vegetables uncooked.
travelogue Coorg and Ooty Botanical Garden at Ooty
Mother Nature turns herself into an impressionist artist here and reveals that her pallet contains more colour than the human mind can imagine. Flowers in full bloom are soothing for the eyes. The slopes of Nilgiri are filled with flowers of different species, which explains why it is famous for honey.
Tulips, Orchids, roses, Pines, Spruce, Crysanthemum- it was the literal riot of colours at the botanical garden in Ooty. Created a century prior to the Independence, the garden glimmers in its old-world architectural grandeur over an expanse of 22 acres. It was strange to our unaccustomed eyes to find a ‘Governors House’ in the midst of a public garden! The said piece was erected under the direct supervision of the Duke of Buckingham in 1876. The horticultural map of India is an ingenious piece of art in the garden. Photographers with all varieties of cameras- from the now antiquated film-loaded “hot shots” to the powerful tele-lenses could be seen arching with their equipment all across the garden.
How to Get there: 24 hrs by train to Mysore from Mumbai or 2 hours by air. Taxis are available for the rest of the places. What to Eat: South Indian delicacies. Roasted local-grown-cashew nuts are awesome! Spicy boiled nuts and hot grams at the feet of Doda Betta peak are a must try. Where to Stay: Wide range to suit every wallet. What to Do: Rafting, para-gliding (during winter), photography and aimless wandering. Best Time of the Year: Mid-November to Mid-March. The monsoon is preferable for the unconventional.
Miracle happens. Else how to explain why everything went just right during our trip? Rain didn’t ruin our outings in the rainy season! An ever-enthusiastic chauffeur drove the Tata Indica who ensured that we see every little thing in which he himself takes pride. Even the clerk at the ticket window of the toy train ensured that we get the best seats for our photography. Ultimately, what constitute this vast nation and its beauty, are its people.
the wanderers who visited the wonderland
Travelogue by Tathagata Biswas & Kinjal Ghose