The retreating rains call for one last time to cavort under the cloudy skies and misty winds. Just the right time when we decided to road trip to south of India, to Coorg, in the Western Ghats of Karnataka.
The first stop of our journey was Belgaum as we wanted to drive through the Anshi National Park. So we stayed the night at comfortable Eefa Hotel, Belgaum (the stay was rather comfortable, the food was OK. Belgaum is a beautiful small city with pleasant weather and a lot of history), and took off via the jungles of Karwar early next morning. The road condition was quite bad, but the slow driving added to the fun as we quitely glided through the forest spotting Indian Rollers, Woodpeckers and a Jackal.
The road connected us to the Konkan Coastal line via Ankola, Honavar, Gokarna. We witnessed some breathtaking views of passing rivers and rain bathed lush green fields as we drove past beautiful country and village life. Hitting NH 66 was a real dampener as the highway was broken, dusty and fully jammed. Our day pretty much ended there and we took our second halt at Udupi. We stayed at Kediyoor Hotel, upon recommendation from friends. It was strictly OK.
On road journeys, bad times are never here to stay. And the next morning proved it, when started off from Udupi on our way to Coorg. The Udupi state highway is excellent making the drive such a flight. After crossing Kallur, our appetites got the better of us and we stopped at a wonderful indiscreet thatched roof “tapri” at Dasakodi, to have our first fill of neer dosa with fish curry. After crossing a congested Puttur we got back on SH 88, and enjoyed a 10kms spin in lap of lushiest greens. The road got bad again near Sulya, mangalore-puutur highway. This was an opportune moment for a fresh chikoo milk shake at Payaswani Juice centre that appeared out of nowhere. A must stop at this quaint little joint.
Suddenly the the Kodagu hills emerged, enticing us. We took our last break at Sanjpe with a quick lunch prepared with country chicken at a highway restaurant, and enjoyed the whiff of Toddy (Local Liquior) being sold as “Todday” 🙂
And so we decided that it was destination Coorg for us!
Past the hill station and bustling touristy crowds of Madikeri, we drove into thick coffee plantations of Coorg district, scouting our way to Polybetta to the Tata Plantation Trails. The route was scenic and very captivating with narrow roads surrounded by thick green plantations on either side, and a frequent visual of women carrying traditional coffee picking baskets. Since it was post monsoon, it was the non coffee picking season as we were told later. We may have not seen the coffee bloom, but the enigma of deep dense plantations was truly surreal. Our stay was at a beautiful 100 year old colonial Planter’s Bungalow. The flavour of the Raj was not only in its architecture but also in the ways of life, as we were given a personal butler and a care taker. The delicacy of Kodava food was addictive. Breakfast with nuuputtu with kootu curry (mixed vegetable curry), main meal with Kadmbuttu (rice balls) and Pandi (chicken) Curry, sesame chutney and the works, after a point the taste took the better of memory and we only recall digging into sumptuous platters laid before us. More detailed notes next time!
Out in the plantations our nature guide explained the significance of growing coffee under shades of silver oak trees, and how spices and cardamom grow. While the morning walks and bird watching caught the better of us , we also learnt interesting facts about wild elephants. How to identify the smell of a passing elephant, their social behaviours and their love for jack fruits. We also got lucky to dig our teeth into a fresh jackfruit dropping from the tree.
Inside the plantation, one could take long quiet walks and completely immerse in nature. It is a perfect haven for those who want to live across the fence in a wonderland. The walks led us to small water bodies and ponds where the animals would retreat to beat the heat. Frogs would camouflage themselves and watch us human explore their habitats. Wild mushrooms spread themselves while the jungle Cicadas would make a unique noise in loops of an everplaying record, and remind you that you are not alone. 5PM was our cutoff time to return to the bungalow so we don’t cross the path of elephants and fan their fury. Rest of the evening we would relax with rounds of tea freshly plucked and prepared at Tata Plantations, enjoy the coziness of the bungalow rife with interesting books or just look beyond into the hazy darkness of the deep woods, in company of cicadas.
The distance from Mumbai to Coorg by road is roughly 1033 km. You need a minimum of one night’s stop Enroute. Coorg is a district and you would be visiting a town or a village.
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The route: Mumbai to Belgaum (Stay at Eefa Hotel) via NH4 (Bangalore Highway).
Belgaum to Karwar via NH4A – SH34 and then to Udupi (Stay at Kediyoor Hotel) via NH17.
And then Udupi – Mangalore – Madikeri (Stay at Tata Plantation Trails, Polybetta)
On the way back: Madikeri to Bangalore (stay with friends) through the Nagarhole National Park.
Bangalore to Belgaum via NH4. (Stay at Eefa Hotel).
Belgaum to Mumbai via NH4.