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Kodagu calling

It's cold, gloomy and drizzling in Bangalore. Reminds me of a holiday in Kodagu I took last year. The piece I wrote for Deccan Herald is here. The memory of that bella kaapi is fresh in my mind:)

In the lap of nature

Savitha Karthik, Jan 27, 2013
Coorg’s bounty
Any description of Kodagu is in danger of turning into a cliché; but the endless rows of coffee plantations, the crisp mountain air, the clear blue skies...can all mean just one thing, that the place is indeed a slice of heaven. There can’t be a truer cliché than that.

After a five-hour drive, I find myself at the entrance of Madikeri’s Vivanta by Taj, and nothing prepares me for what I am about to experience. Set at an altitude of 4,000 feet, the hotel lobby takes my breath away. I can see the rainforest in the distance, the grasslands dancing in the breeze, as I sip bella kaapi, coffee with a generous helping of jaggery.

All about birds

Rejuvenated, I am all set to explore the property, which is set across 180 acres, with 150 acres of rainforest that has been untouched. I take a newfound interest in birdwatching, buoyed as I am upon spotting a Malabar Grey Hornbill. The region is home to rich birdlife, and is a treat for bird watchers.

Later, a quiet dinner is followed by star gazing; it is a clear night sky and hundreds of shiny dots punctuate the sky. A beautiful sight for some of us who never get to see even a patch of sky in the hustle and bustle of urban life.  

The next day, an early morning trek into the nearby stretch of forest is a revelation, as we were accompanied by a naturalist, who gave a group of visiting journalists insights into the secrets of the forest.

So, an hour-long walk leaves me richer with knowledge of Kodagu’s ecosystem. The walk revealed interesting facts about the famed civet cat, whose droppings of coffee berries is used to make coffee that is valued all over the world, and funnel spiders that have built webs that resemble tiny funnels. Nature’s architecture at its very best. The naturalist explained how the kurinji blooms every 12 years, and the hills are covered in a carpet of blue. I just stood there, staring at the hill, imagining a landscape of blue hills and clear blue skies. In a rather informative trek, I also learned about vanilla, the orchid that is among the most lucrative crops here, which requires manual pollination. The flower is pollinated naturally by a specific bee species, present only in Mexico.

The trip had exceeded my expectations so far. If being ‘one with nature’ is the theme planned by this luxury hotel, the property lives up to the theme. The hotel’s minimalistic design is replete with traditional Kodagu motifs. A lot of natural elements such as wood and stone, which are part of the interiors, have ensured that guests are indeed in harmony with nature here. The entire property has been designed in an eco-friendly and sustainable manner.

Great outdoors
If being in the lap of nature is not enough, one can opt for a slew of activities at the hotel, from pottery to meditation and biking, or a visit to the organic farm in the premises. Apart from these, there are several spa options designed along traditional lines; one of them being ‘Gudda Bath’, which is inspired by the local way of life.
If none of these are your cup of tea, or indeed coffee, you can always train your binoculars on the rich canopy in the vicinity, hoping for a lifer or two, (your first sighting of a specific bird species). For the active adventurous type, Kodagu is paradise. You could go biking or trekking. The region is full of trekking spots such as Thadiyandamole, Pushpagiri, Brahmagiri and Nishanibetta. If you love history, the conservatory inside the hotel is just the right place for you. Tales of Kodava warriors, agricultural implements used by Kodavas, their costumes, and their entire way of life is documented here.

Speaking about Kodava culture, don’t miss out on the local food. Foodies swear by their pandi curry and akki rotti. While at Madikeri, you can also make a quick dash to Talacauvery, the birthplace of River Cauvery, Abbey Falls, the Dubare Elephant Camp, Bhagamandala, and a Tibetan settlement nearby. Also, Madikeri by itself is a charming little town, and a walk along its many undulating streets can be a nice experience. You could visit the Raja Seat and the Madikeri Fort too while you are in the town. Or, like me, you could just stare outside the window, watching the green merge with the blue of the sky, and listening to the sounds of silence. Throw in a bella kaapi, no make that two, and there you have it, the perfect balm for frayed city nerves.


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