(Part 3 of a three-part series)
My journey of discovering and appreciating the coastal bounty and maritime heritage of our country was coming to an end. Yet, so much remained to witness, soak in, and assimilate.
Karnataka is diverse in terms of landscapes, flora, and fauna. After I relinquished myself with the beaches, basked in the sun, and traversed through the Ghats to breathe the forest air, my last destination had to be the coffee cup of India.
Coorg has so many epithets, but all of them justify their connotation to the place. It is a picturesque hill station, a beautiful amalgamation of the archaic and the new. Not only does this place offer you a much-needed break from city life, but it is also an excellent place for venturing into some old temples and museums. Its history makes it interesting to visit and understand how the town modernised gradually.
The first place I visited was the state museum located in the Madikeri Fort. It is a must-visit, its amazing collection of timeless artifacts will make you re-live the bygone era. However, you will have do so through your eyes, as photography/videography is prohibited.
There are many ancient temples in Coorg which the GPS might not help you locate. The Tala Kaveri is a famous temple, believed to be the source of the holy river of Kaveri. The temple is located at a high altitude and sports a scenic view. Basic in construction, the temple is nothing grand, but it invokes a feeling of tranquillity and takes one close to a powerful form of nature, life-giving ‘water.’
Next, I visited Mandalpatti which was highly recommended by a friend of mine who is a wildlife enthusiast. All through my trip in Karnataka, I realized that the state has immense potential for ecotourism and wildlife enthusiasts, and Mandalpatti only added to it. Its lush green views and treks have gained a lot of prominence recently. Its stretch of the Shola forest and its unique vegetation will bewilder you. Nature’s beauty is exemplified manifold here; the breeze sweeps you off your feet, and you see only green as far as your vision can go.
Visiting the coffee capital and not devouring a cup of coffee is a crime. One of the interesting and most amazing things to do at Coorg is ‘coffee tasting’. Various cafes across Coorg are famous not only for coffee tasting, but also for selling it. You can choose from the varieties of Robusta, Arabica, and others, and buy coffee ground freshly, right in front of you!
As a coffee lover, one of my most interesting experiences was tasting the famous ‘Kapi Luwak’. Sceptical at first, I decided to take the plunge anyway, and it turned out to be sheer delight! The nice ambience and weather just made it a perfect coffee memory. I indulged in this experience at a famous café in Coorg named the Big Cup Café, a must-visit place serving delicacies and the most expensive coffee.
Travelling must also involve gorging on some local food, and while South Indian cuisines are easily available, there is no dearth of fast food eateries. There are also many organic pickle varieties, honey acquired from specific flowers, and not to forget, organic chocolates which taste better than any international brand – all this at pocket friendly prices. Coorg also sells indigenous, home-grown spices which can fill your house with a lingering aroma and can also be a perfect gift for mom.
The best time to visit Coorg is the monsoons, but it can be very chilly in the evenings. Nights in Coorg are usually calm and chilly, and the silence is broken by occasional and happy sounds of insects or night aviators.
Visiting the most sought-after places in and around Coorg takes a minimum of two days, but I would recommend some relaxed time to appreciate the place in entirety. Coorg is a humble town and has decent lodging facilities, but for those who wish to retire to nature’s abode in luxury, there are lovely resorts available at your service. I picked two different resorts for my two-day stay, both located close to the much talked about coffee estates. The multi-dimensional aspect of this town is what made me fall in love with it.
My second day in Coorg made me anxious as I wanted to ensure visiting as many places as I could. I had already decided that I would come back in monsoons to experience Coorg’s dreamy landscapes.
I spent my day visiting Raja’s seat, a favourite spot of the Kodagu kings to enjoy sunsets. It is quite a spectacle located among the high-low mountains, among many spots from which you can see the sun, the lamp that illuminates the world and crimsons skies at dawn and dusk. Then I visited coffee plantations and did some shopping in Madikeri town which is also a great place for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers.
As I travelled from the coast to the mountains, I simply could not believe the diversity possessed by a single state within my country. The quality and variety of indigenous products, and the revenue and accolades they generate globally are laudable. I will have to return a couple more times, just to absorb all the beauty, heritage, and information.
However, coastal tourism cannot be mindlessly promoted to generate revenue. Human intervention in nature’s processes can be easily seen in the now barren mountains, and the many landslide-hit areas around Coorg. We must preserve nature and its heritage in their original composure and not disturb them yet create opportunities for meaningful interaction between humans and Mother Nature.
While eco-tourism is a great option, I personally feel that instilling respect and pride towards nature amongst us Indians is paramount, as we lack it in general. We must attempt establishing a peaceful coexistence between preservation of the old and construction of the new.
Tiya Chatterjee is a Delhi-based Maritime Archaeologist, with a background in History, Archaeology and Museology.
The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.