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Friday, 29 July 2016

A trip to Coorg during Monsoon

The charming Kodagu district in Karnataka

Popularly known by its anglicized name Coorg and situated amongst the beautiful hills of the World Heritage Western Ghats range, the charming Kodagu also gives you a fresh and enthralling monsoon experience with its lush green cloud clinging mountains, coffee plantations, and fresh weather. Here is an excerpt from our trip six years ago at the beginning of monsoon rains.



Our Trip to Kodagu (Coorg)

Kodagu district in Karnataka, or Coorg as it is popularly known is one of the most popular hilly destinations of South India, with Madikeri town as its district headquarters (which was formerly known from its anglicised name Mercera). It was six years ago just a day before monsoon hit Kodagu that we began our journey towards it. This was long before we began this travel blog. Starting from Bengaluru, we went via Mysore road, then a shortcut near Srirangapattana to enter the Hunsur road to reach Kodagu district. It is also well accessible from Mangaluru, Hassan and even from Kerala side.

Even six years later, we regard this as one of our best trips ever together. Though we didn’t do much of sightseeing or get lot of nice pictures, we enjoyed the most in this trip. With the monsoon hitting Coorg at the time we arrived, the bliss and the ambience of the rains along with the misty mountains and surroundings created a surreal backdrop we hardly found in our other trips.



On the way, we stopped by Maddur in Mandya district for its famed Maddur Vadas. The skies were almost clear but with approaching monsoon clouds, which became more prominent as we crossed Srirangapattana.


Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara - the Golden temple of Bailakuppe

On our way to Coorg, near Bylakuppe (or Bailakuppe,) in Mysore district, bordering very close to Kodagu district, and about 6 kms from Kushalnagar, we visited the Tibetan Namdroling Monastery which houses the temple called Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara, popularly known as the “Golden temple”.

This monastery is the world’s largest teaching centre of the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. [1]

As we entered the monastery, we came upon Guru Rinpoche Temple, which features a large picture of Penor Rinpoche, the 11th Throneholder of The Palyul Lineage of Nyingma. His Holiness Pema Norbu ("Penor") Rinpoche was considered one of the of the foremost masters of the Buddhist tradition of Tibet[2].

There were some birds like turkeys and ducks in the garden lawns either side of the pathway.


Coming a little ahead brought us to the Golden temple, Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara. Inside this Buddhist temple, there are three large gold-plated statues of the Buddhist deities, Padmasambhava, Buddha and Amitayush. The place was full of weekend tourists.







From here, we headed towards Ponnampet in Kodagu district for our “Woodpecker’s nest”! It was the name of the little cottage in The Silver Oak Homestay where we stayed at. It was a nice place and being off-season, with fewer tourists. We had some nice time in the patio attached to the hut, watching the rains across the green fields in the evening.





We did some “workout” in their little gym (just posing for pictures of course), and had a fantastic time by the campfire. The best thing was we had it all for ourselves – off season you see. Along with this a little ping pong table tennis and a wonderful dinner to end that day. The trip was more enjoyable for these small silly funs we had along with the enthralling monsoon weather. It was a well enjoyed day, even though only one place visited - the Tibetan temple.

Bhagamandala & Talakaveri

Next day early morning after a great breakfast, and lazying around till afternoon check out, we headed towards Talakaveri on the Brahmagiri hill, believed to be the pious birthplace of River Kaveri. On the way to Talakaveri, we had a very good traditional meal in a small restaurant called “Hotel Santhosh” in Bhagamandala near Bhagandeshwara temple (marked in below map). The meals are served in a traditional way on the banana leaves (Note: Restaurants and eateries providing snacks and meals in most places of Karnataka will be typically named “Hotels” and people refer to these as “Hotels” too. Don’t confuse these ”Hotels” to the Hotels providing accommodations. These “Hotels” provide food!)


The curvy mountainous road to Talakaveri, from Bhagamandala (~8kms) was completely foggy with poor visibility, and we could see the vehicles only when they were some ten-twenty feet from us. You must proceed with caution on this road during monsoons. Even then, there were a lot of vehicles in the parking lot before Talakaveri.




It was very foggy there and raining consistently. We had a basic point-and-shoot camera which wasn’t waterproof and could only get few pictures here, of which most were blurred due to poor light and visibility.




Climbing the steps, we approached finally to the place with a small shrine in Talakaveri. We were almost 4200 Feet above sea level (1,276 metres), but as it was completely foggy with mist and rains, we couldn’t realize how high we were, as all we could see below was a thick fog.

There is a small spring here, which is believed to be the origin of River Kaveri. The water from this spring fills the small tank before it. The water from this tank is believed to flow underground and come out some distance away, thus beginning the river. A small shrine and an idol of the river goddess Kaveri is just before this tank, where a priest performs his pūjā rituals and gives the pushpa and gandha to the devotees. (pushpa and gandha are the flowers and sandalwood paste or kumkum respectively, which are offered to the deity during the ritual and later given to the devotees - a common practice of the pūjā rituals.)

Just above this spring and tank there is a small temple. There are more steps leading higher towards the hill top which gives a fantastic panoramic view around the mountains, but we did not go up those as people coming down the steps told us that nothing could be seen as it was totally foggy. However, the foggy and misty surroundings had their own charm to add to this charming place. If you visit here during less foggier climate, you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view.




From here, we headed towards Abbi falls in Madikeri, of course taking breaks in between at wherever possible for nice view points while coming down the mountain. At one of our stops, it was the first time I encountered a leech. It was a small one and I easily got rid of it before it secured itself and sucked blood. There will be several leeches during rainy season here, and that was just the beginning days of monsoon!
(Also read: How to avoid and get rid of leeches during your travels)



We had to climb down a bit to reach Abbi falls, from the parking area as I remember. The falls at that time however was smaller with quite less water and didn’t impress us much. The rains had just begun the day we visited.

But with more rains and more water it looks better than this [3][4]. Abbi falls is best after the place begins receiving good monsoon rainfall.



We skipped the famous Raja’s seat in Madikeri, as the only thing we could see from atop that mountain in that weather would be a thick fog. For fantastic panoramic views and beautiful sunsets, better visit Raja’s seat in winter or summer when there isn’t a thick fog blocking the view.


Finally, what counts is not how many sights we saw, but how we enjoyed the trip. Having a nice meal in Madikeri town, we headed back towards our destination owing to our time constraint, seen less places, yet highly satisfied.

This trip was all about the fantastic experience that cheered us up like no other, but we don’t know why. Maybe it was the monsoon weather, or the fun we had, or was it the impeccable charm of the place, or the fact that we were going out together like this after a very long gap. But yes, it is one of the best trips we had together till date, and also the trip where we decided to go on more trips from then onwards.

Tips for Travellers

  • For fantastic views from the mountains like Raja’s seat, and Brahmagiri hills or Talakaveri, visit during summer or winter when there are lesser clouds and foggy weather.
  • Abbi waterfall and other waterfalls are best during monsoons, typically some days after rains begin in June up to the end of rainy season typically in August or early September, while there is more water gushing in the streams and rivers. Be careful especially in rainy season as the rocks will be slippery along with faster water currents. Best thing is not to get into the waters. At Abbi falls there was a warning sign saying it’s a danger spot.
  • Coorg is well known for its coffee and honey. But be careful while buying especially in roadside shops. We were charged exorbitantly at one for their “pure honey” but found out later that we were duped with a jaggery mixed one.
  • The charm of Coorg is different in monsoons and in the dry seasons, but worth visiting during both times. During monsoons especially, better keep an eye on the weather.
  • Take some salt to keep away leeches during monsoons or rainy seasons. There will be leeches in wet areas on wet leaves and grass and in the wilderness.
  • Keep rainwear during monsoons, woollen sweaters during winter. During summer you can go along with regular clothes.
  • Also See: 7 Tips for rainy day travel & 7 sites for keeping track of weather while travelling
  • As monsoons are typically off-season here, you will get better discounts and deals during this season.

Getting there and getting around: Transportation

Madikeri, the district headquarters is well connected by roadways and buses from Bengaluru (~250kms away), Mysuru (~130kms away), Hassan (~106 kms away) and Mangaluru (~140 kms away) in Karnataka, and also Kannur (~115 kms away) and Kalpetta (~136kms away) of Wayanad district in Kerala. However to move in and around Kodagu district it is better to hire a taxi than wasting time waiting for a bus. You can also ask your resort or hotel if they can arrange a taxi for you. Having a car or a cab to go around sightseeing is best as it saves a lot of time. If you are coming from Bengaluru, Mangaluru or Mysuru, then you can choose to hire a good cab from there itself depending on your convenience.

Other places to see in Kodagu (Coorg)

Apart from the ones in our travelogue above,
  • In Madikeri: Raja’s seat, Indo-Islamic styled Kings’ tombs at Gaddige, and Omkaresvara Temple, are worth visiting.
  • In Madikeri Fort: St Mark's Church which was established by the East India company, which now serves as a museum and the Madikeri palace which now serves as the D.C office.
  • Iruppu Waterfalls of River Lakshmana teertha, and Dubare elephant camp are some of the other places in Kodagu you can visit.
  • For trekking enthusiasts, there are several options, but one has to proceed with care and caution, and not trespass any private or prohibited areas.

Best times to visit Kodagu

Best is during summer, from March to May. In winter, post October it will be quite cold here, but if you are okay with it then you can go ahead. Monsoon or rainy season has its own charm, typically late May or early June to August or early September. We loved it during monsoons, but some locations as mentioned before might not be worth visiting due to foggy and misty weather or may be inaccessible due to bad weather. Check the weather forecasts and accessibility beforehand.


Have you been to Coorg? Share your experiences and comments.

Kogadu Map: Places to visit in and around Coorg

We have made a handy map for you locating places worth visiting in Kodagu. Depending on your interests, you can choose to visit them. Let us know if we missed anything good!


Get Directions and distances to Madikeri from your place:


References:
[1] Bylakuppe Diaries: Discovering a Piece of Tibet in South India – National Geographic Traveller India
[2] Palyul Teachers - Palyul Ling International
[3] Glorious sight - Visitors enjoying the splendour of the Abbi Falls, near Madikeri – The Hindu
[4] 7 Best Places to Visit in Coorg - India Travel Blog | Waytoindia

External links:
[1] Kodagu - Wikivoyage, The free worldwide travel guide that anyone can edit
[2] Coorg Tourism Info - Coorg Tourism Info
[3] Monsoon Trails: Trekking Up Coorg’s Second-Highest Peak – National Geographic Traveller India



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