We checked into Hotel Coorg International. The first thing we had to sort out was whether we wanted to stay for an additional night at a higher price. I was clear that we had to do some negotiations with the hotel, or it would be a good idea to shift out for the third day. Hemant had suggested that we could stay in Veerabhoomi in Kushalnagar, if we were in any case going out. However Saravanan, the manager of Coorg International agreed to extend our stay by a day on the rates agreed with Vishal. That was a bit of a relief because shifting from hotel to hotel could be a pain.
The room we checked into was one of the most peculiar rooms that I have ever stayed in a hotel. We were told that it was a family suite but it was hardly looking like one. The room looked as if it was built out of some residual space and they really did not know what to do with the space. It was in the shape of an inverted L [or the digit 7 if you may wish]. The entrance was at the bottom of the 7 with the toilet on the right hand side, soon after the door. The corridor had some seating and the telivision. The end of the corridor was a double bed and if you turn left at the other end of the perpendicular corridor was another double bed! Imagine paying through the nose for something that was so badly designed. Anyway I decided that it was not worth kicking up a row, particularly if we were going to be outdoors most of the time.
We ordered coffee, and had a good wash. Arjun was quite happy with the room and Gowri was also not complaining. The coffee was okay, not really great, considering that we were in coffee-country. Hemant promised to return by 7 in the morning to take us on the Madikeri beat. It had just started raining and we were to be confined indoors. There was a sit-out for the room, but the view was that of the roof of an adjoining house. Even the sit out was not tastefully done, except that they had thoughtfully put in a couple of plastic chairs and a teepoy, in case the guests decided to have coffee in the open.
The dinner was in the dining hall below, and was loaded on to the room tariff. It was an okay buffet, food was ordinary. I guess once I decide not to like a place, I tend to find fault with everything. Of all the things there was bamboo pickle - which I thought could be exotic, but taking that was a great mistake that I made. The pickle smelt of horse-shit and therefore eating the other food was also a problem.
The moment I woke up in the morning I realised that ultimately Coorg International was a hotel in a small town. They would not serve the morning coffee until 7.00 am and did not have a kettle in the room. We tried our experiment with making coffee from the left over coffee bags that we had picked up in Kabini. I carry a small immersion coil with me and that was put in a metal flask. Yes, we had coffee, but it turned out to be luke warm like the hospitality of Coorg International. Eventually we had the complimentary breakfast and were out on our way. Hemant had reported on time and was waiting for us. Good thing about Skyway travels is that it has an office in Madikeri with some facilities for the drivers. And nothing could be better than a driver who has had a good night's sleep.
Hemant suggested that we go to the Omkareshwara Temple first. Given our religious leanings [or the lack of it], going to temples could be a pain. We, removed our footwear in the car [as usual] and walked in. The temple was like any other temple, and we found nothing special about it. The writings on the inner walls of the temple gave us some insight into the history and why the temple was built. In each of the tourist spots we found that the Center for Environmental Education had put a granite plaque talking about the historical and environmental importance of the area with some brief introduction to the flora and fauna. This I thought was an interesting way of spreading awareness. We had the darshan of lord and came out. We somehow did not even feel like taking a picture in the temple. So here is a shot of the temple downloaded courtesy google images.
From there, we were on the way to Bhagamandala. The drive was breathtaking. The district is full of greenery and it is such a pleasure to see thick cover all around. The roads were good and we were in Bhagamandala in a good time. Hemant advised us that if we wanted to buy honey and spices, this place could be good as Madikeri itself was quite expensive. The car park at Bhagamandala was a distance away and the water in the pond where people were having a holy dip looked really dirty. We trekked to the temple. There was construction activity at the temple and therefore the walk in barefoot was a torture with pebbles and sand all over the place. As usual we went into the temple, had a good look at all the deitys accepted the prasadam and came back. Our next destination was Talacauvery.
When he stopped at Talacauvery, we as usual, dropped off the footwear and went walking. We found steps to the right and assumed that the temple would be on the top of the hillock. It was only when we reached the top that we discovered that the steps led to Brahmagiri and it was a great view point. However the point was that there was no reason for us to remove our footwear to scale these hundred steps. Footwear or no footwear, this was a great place to come to. The view was breathtaking and we spent some time just being there. We also took some photographs. We then walked down. The actual place is quite small and unimpressive. Here also, construction activity was going on and we found a lot of sand. The priest at the temple looked unwell and reluctant even to look at the devotees. It is said that Cauvery river starts here, but it was more like a pond and we did not find the river flowing further. On inquiry we were told that the river after sprouting here, flows underground only to emerge in the open much later. So our expectations of a great destination where we could see lots of water was belied. This is also the problem with photographs in tourist books. They make the places appear so impressive that the reality belies expectations.
On the way back we stopped by at "View Point" and spent a few minutes. The picture as usual was absolutely green and the overall cloudy atmosphere added to the joy. It was the third day with nature and we were loving it!
We came back to Madikeri from Talacauvery after a brief stop over in Bhagamandala at the co-operative society for the purchase of honey, cardamom and pepper. There were several options for lunch and the Outlook book had listed many which could be tried out. One of the places was East End. East End was an old place and we expected some of the old world charm to be there. It was an old house converted into a stay-cum-eating place. We occupied the corridor and ordered food. Again, it was disappointing. Not only was the taste quite ordinary, the ambiance was distrubed with quite a few flies. I guess it is a sin to be a vegetarian in Coorg and especially not eat pork. We found that most of the dishes in East End were non-veg [and did not include the flies].
After lunch we went back to the room in Coorg International for a brief break. Hemant suggested that we finish seeing Madikeri and then proceed to see the other places the following day. Given that we had a lond drive the previous day, it made sense to stick to Madikeri for our first day. So, Hemant promised to return after a while and we went back to the room. Arjun was quite excited by the hotel and wanted to play table tennis. We had a go at TT for a while and after the usual cup of coffee were on our way to discover the rest of Madikeri. Gowri was not satisfied with the purchases she had made in Bhagamandala and wanted to buy some more things in Madikeri. So we had requested Hemant to stop by on either our journey out or in for further purchases.
Madikeri seems to have emerged as a good tourist destination. Wherever we moved we saw signboards indicating the mobile and telephone numbers which offered "home stay" and "plantation stay". If we had access to more of this information before leaving, we would have definitely opted for one of these. Well..
Our next destination was Abbi Falls. The outlook book and other material said that this is a small waterfall and is located in the middle of a private estate. The authorities must have got the owner of the estate to provide the right of way to tourists. We enthusiastically went to see Abbi Falls. Well again, Abbi was a little false! There was really nothing much out there, a small cliff and water flowing down from it. A wooden hanging bridge from which one could have a view. We did the customary photo session, more to show how small this was rather than for the breathtaking beauty. Here are two pictures - one with just the falls and one with Arjun in the foreground to give a sense of the size-magnitude of the Falls.
We quickly got back into the car and started moving. On the way, in Madikeri itself, Gowri found some terracota stuff. If there is one temptation she always yields to, it is terracota. So we went in the shop, which had apart from the customary Ganeshas and the bells a whole lot of other interesting stuff. Gowri bought a few of the pieces and we were on the way back.
From there, we went to Gaddige. Again when a tourist destination becomes very famous, there is a tendency to make every small spot into a tourist attraction. Gaddige is the final resting place where the rulers of Madikeri were buried. Gaddige had two structures, and one was open for view. The local kids were playing cricket with stumps drawn on the compound wall of the structure. There was the customary Archealogical Survey of India and the CEE plaque. The only interesting thing about the trip to Gaddige was the narrow staircase that took us to the terrace and the view from the terrace. The staircase was so narrow that it was a reality check for anybody frequenting VLCC! As usual my benchmark is Arjun for all such measurements and you can see a couple of photgraphs without and with Arjun.
The view of Madikeri from the terrace of Gaddige was very nice. As we were having a look at the view of the town, we could also sense that we were in for a heavy downpour.
After seeing Gaddige, I thought I was inadequately prepared on the history of Madikeri. The writing in Omkareshwara Temple was a primer, but more reading would have to be done. Masti Venkatesha Iyengar has written a great novel about one of the rulers of Madikeri - ChikaveeraRajendara. This was noted for a must-read in future.
We stopped by at a shop to buy the rest of the spices - green pepper pickle, coffee powder, nutmeg, cashew... all that made coorg so famous. As Hemant was driving us towards Raja Seat it started drizzling. By the time we were near about Raja Seat it was pouring cats and dogs. We decided to call it a day and make the trip the next day. Raja Seat was left and insha-allah if it did not rain the next day we would be able to see it.
We did visit Raja Seat the next day, but did not wait for the sunset as it started drizzling again. However the view from Raja Seat was good and whetted our continued appetite for greenery. Coorg International had one more family who were in Kabini and they were at Raja Seat too. I guess most of us follow an expected route from the guide books and running into each other may not be avoidable. There was nothing much to write about Raja Seat except that the view is great. As usual pictures speak more than words and here they are.
We planned to go towards Nisargadhama and Dubbare - the things we missed because of the Kushalnagar strike and also have a look at Orange County. But that was another day...