On very popular demand, here is another of our guest writers, ATS, writing about a one day trip we took to Madikeri a few months ago. Despite what he says about me at the end of this travelogue, despite doing just that (!), I have stopped myself from making any corrections, except for adding notes to factual ones.
You know, I had passed through Madikeri several times earlier but the only thing or the place I had seen there was the yummy Idli Wada at the bus stand hotel and the stinky toilet. There has been a big deal of interest about 'Coorg' in Bangalore in the past few years with a lot of IT folk who have lots of money and are jobless on weekends wanting some quiet place to booze and make noise heading there.
Now I had the chance to go there and actually see some places other than the bus stand toilet, courtesy my friend and now ex-colleague Deepa. We were going to Madikeri on Ugadi, the start of the New Year in this part of the world, though only for the sake of tradition. But its festival alright and any festival is good as you get to eat a lot of stuff which are otherwise not made everyday. I was going with Deepa who had just become my ex-colleague, Deb, who was about to become my ex-colleague and Nandi, who is desperate to become my ex-colleague.
I am writing this as a travelogue but basically it is a primer for any of you who are on the verge of going insane with your mechanical life in the city wanting to go to Madikeri but short on time (precisely 14 hours) and of course money. I know we don’t want to leave our beloved city, which is an archeological site plus construction site plus combustion chamber, all rolled into one. But you know some times you are forced to part from the city like I had to, so it would be a narration of our trip as well as a kind of 'lonely planet Madikeri' sans the cost and kms and all that nonsense! (In any case, all my expenditure was borne by my generous fellow travellers) . Only thing is you won’t get to see Deepa’s place probably, which is an absolute delight and her lovely parent’s hospitality, which is unmatchable. I am not even sure how it is in any of those shady home stays where you can stay.
Now cut to the chase directly to Madikeri bus stand where we got down when it was still pretty much dark (also my sleeping time). Now I must warn you, I know we all are used to carbon dioxide and monoxide to live in the city but in Madikeri they live on oxygen so you might need to do some acclimatization, which I did.
We reached Deepa’s place pretty early which is located on a small hillock amidst greenery and one might get confused about being in a serene village, but make no mistake it is just five minutes away from the town centre. As soon as we reached her place, we went out for an early morning walk, which turned out, to be a short guided tour of the town. (Now don’t worry about early morning. I know that in the city it can be a traumatizing experience watching those fat aunties in nighties and nikes discussing tomato prices and a group of oldies laughing hysterically at the corner of the park. But I assure you it is perfectly safe out there.)
At first we climbed a small hill that really seemed an uphill task for me thanks to ITC. But I managed to climb up to see an event which happens once in several years at least for me (I know it is the same for you as well!) no, it is not solar eclipse, it is sun rise. The scene on top is pretty beautiful as you can see the lush green landscape with silver white clouds slowly unraveling their blanket over the sleepy town and in the horizon you can also see several hills plastered with green.
I even named one peak 'Wow 630' because at 6.30 in the morning if you see towards that peak playing peek-a-boo with the sun, all you can say is 'Wow'. (Kodavas are famous for their warrior lineage and army backgrounds, hence they might adopt it!)
And no, this is not a suicide point guys, if you are with suicidal tendencies. If you jump probably you will end up with as many scratches as on my watch, so there. (crime reporting hangover).
After the sun rise we soon started walking on a narrow but beautiful road. Meanwhile, Nandi was parched early morning (being a water correspondent, she is always on the look out for water resources) and the only thing available anywhere in sight was milk packets from a local milk parlor. Since strange looking people asking for water in those neighborhood houses early in the morning would have raised an alarm, we did not dare ask. So, if you are out early make sure you are okay with drinking milk without boiling it.
But finally we managed to drink water (rather stealthily) from Hotel Valley View, which is really a fine place to stay from the looks of it and what’s more you can even eat or drink anything in sight early in the morning as nobody will be around, save for one dreary and sleepy guy who wont take the trouble to bother you.
Next on the course is Raja Seat, a small lovely garden with a view point of the mountain range where the early rulers of the Kodava land used to sit and watch the sun set or sun rise. (Probably with a scotch peg in hand. Kodavas love their drink. I am almost sure it’s sun set since it is highly improbable that a Raja would get up early morning just to watch the sun rise? Ha! He is the Raja after all!)
Now before you get to the Raja seat, there is a temple which we did not visit. (I am not very religious).
Now to say that the view from Raja Seat is majestic would be an understatement. Especially early in the morning, the pristine beauty of the surroundings would definitely enthrall you. Not just that, if you are lucky, you might also get to see one uncle trying to break his own ribs just by some heavy duty breathing, another uncle trying to level the ground with his sheer weight and the third one trying his luck to turn the Raja Seat itself towards another direction by his strength. (You might not believe this, but you have to witness it)
There is a toy train next to the Raja seat and again I have to warn you all with suicidal tendencies, do not bother. (I am reiterating this because, who else will read 'Lonely Planet' kind of books! The title itself is very suggestive!) If you are planning to kill yourself, this would not be the place since you would have to wait hours for the train to start as they wait till all the seats are filled up and you might be bored to death lying on the track waiting for the train to come!
After spending some time in the Raja Seat, Deepa next guided us towards the Palace of Chikaveerarajendra or V as his symbol says, the famous ruler of Kodagu of yore. It is a must visit in a Madikeri trip and it is gorgeous. We had crossed the typical and yet beautiful sleepy town of Madikeri to reach here.
As we entered the palace gate walls, we were told by Deepa that the district machinery has now habituated the place. There is a small church which has been converted to a museum on the right hand side but we could not go inside as it was early in the morning. There is a small building next to it which is well stocked library, I am told. I have a fascination for libraries as I have always had this feeling that libraries are where the transformation of a person happens with so many ideas, vivid imaginations, beautiful prose and poetry filling up racks and ultimately brains. (In some ways it also showcases the people around it) Sadly I did not get to check out the library.
There is a small concrete ramp bang in front of the palace wall and if you glance on the other side you get to see this 'romantic jail'! This is what Nandi had to say looking at the place from above. From the looks of it, it was indeed a romantic and antique jail. The jail has been shifted to other place now. Deepa even provided some proof by saying that earlier love birds that were separated by the cruel judiciary would exchange glances from this place and probably blew some air kisses too. Now that is Romantic alright!
After taking in the view of the romantic jail, we entered a more romantic building, which is the palace itself. Now I have to say one thing. We should be really proud of government and our so called administrators. They have preserved the building so beautifully, I am sure it is in the exact condition as it was during the Chikaveerarajendra’s time. It looks like, they have not even moved a singe brick or painted the walls or even tried to do some damage by attempting restoration of the building. Their sense of history baffles you. The DC has his office in the same building and I am sure he is very fat.
When you are visiting the place, do not try to move the stone Kachwa (tortoise) which is located at the centre of the palace. I am told that there is a tunnel under the Kachwa which leads to the other side of the town. Now that is romantic! I wonder how it must be inside the tunnel. Thankfully we did not have Indiana Jones with us and we proceeded out of the palace. Besides the Palace or now the DC office, there is the civil court complex (yeah, the same place where every one sleep walks through out the day and speak strange language and does not now what they are saying.)
We finally finished our morning sojourn by crossing an old Ganapathi temple right outside the palace. We had to reach home you see, breakfast is important or so I am told since I don’t have that bad habit.
Our second leg in the afternoon was pretty much green. After a brief spell of heavy rain (yeah the same thing. Huge water drops pouring from the sky. A kind of natural shower. I know we have not seen that kind of rain here in our city for some time now)...the good thing about Madikeri, I think now is that everything over there is romantic. Even the rain which I hate here in our city is romantic over there!.
It was a lovely afternoon as we were in the jeep along with Deepa’s parents and it was pouring outside. We were going to see a water fall. We were supposed to go a hill but rain altered the plan. Hence we were on our way to Hattihole where the water fall was located. It was a beautiful ride with all of us pretty much excited.
The roads were pretty good for WRC sadly they don’t have a leg here. I especially loved the ride because of the vehicle. A Mahindra MM 550. While growing up, the first four-wheeler I ever steered was a Mahindra Commander from the same vehicle family tree which our family had for many years. It was on that sturdy vehicle I had several memorable trips in my life and even learnt the basic lessons of four-wheel driving. It was and still is a Man’s vehicle just like the Charminar cigarettes which embodied the Man’s ciggy image while we were growing up. Though a ride on it rattles the bones out of your body, driving is a pure pleasure on that one especially in the hilly areas. So the ride was pretty nostalgic for me in several ways.
Our luck was not shining on us this time as we could not get out of the vehicle for some time as it was still raining outside when we reached the spot. But we managed to get out of the jeep after some time and caught a glimpse of the milky water fall after wading through little bushes and rocks. As Deb put it, we managed to get a screen shot of it mentally. Wish we could have spent some time there but we had to move on as it was still raining.
As we were heading back, we stopped for a little photo session besides a water stream which was running parallel to the road. You know, after a spell of rain there is a fragrance or smell (I don’t how to put that) that emanates from the earth which I love. (Now don’t go around asking people where to get that earth flavored deo. You don’t get it) This earthy fragrance, chilly breeze, the green environs, the water stream, all this makes me happy and sad at the same time because I do have an option where in I can stay and try to make meaning of life somewhere in a place just like this but now I have gone too ahead in other direction probably I can't go back. (Yeah Yeah I know there is this mine of stories, a new movie coming up in the multiplex and a great pub where all the hot girls in town come in the evening and look as if they have given all their regular clothes to Haiti victims).
Okay coming back to our trip, our next pit stop was a hanging bridge. It is actually wooden planks tied on ropes connecting two shores across the water stream. It was fun to walk on it and we had our photo session by our pro Deb who was clicking non stop on his cell phone camera through out the day and we had a ciggy break also here. I love to smoke in such places you know; the city is too polluted to even enjoy a cigarette!
We next halted at a hotel for a pint of warm coffee after the cold spell. Though coffee was really bad, I particularly enjoyed the place. You see, it was actually a typical shop which one usually finds in villages across the hinterland, where villagers gather around at dusk and exchange village gossips, discuss crops, debate about the politics and Devegowda, of course.
On the way back to Madikeri, there was a divergence and we ended up a small hillock in a place (I forgot the name) with a superb view of mountain range lying miles ahead and the new 'Romantic jail'. (Note: This place is called Ukkada. -D) It was literally a hair rising experience especially for Nandi. Static energy, we were told. There are higher chances of a thunder strike here than normal places it seems but we left unharmed. (Paapi Samudrakke Hodru Molakaludda Neeru is a popular Kannada saying!)
The second last stop in our second leg was two temples (Note: refers to Gaddige, the tombs of the kings and his favourite queens and ministers, not temples. - D) which were built by the Kodava rulers. The buildings are very interesting because of the architecture (I am told its Indo-Sarsenic) There are four Nandis on all four corners of the dome and it was one of the rare architectural marvels I have seen. But I could not go inside as it was too late in the evening. We also got see the Madikeri town from the top there with sun setting in the backdrop. It was a spectacular view with the sky painted with orange hue.
Our final stop was at a temple (Again I forgot the Gods name. In fact I go to temples not to pray usually) If you are visiting Madikeri, visit the temple whether you are religious or not. It does not matter. (Note: refers to the famed Omkareshwara Temple. -D)
The day which started early in the morning with a walk later ended with another evening walk as we strolled down the streets while chatting about inane things. Later it was time to pack up and head back to the city life which we did after a sumptuous dinner or feast. (Whatever, I just ate.)
So here goes our Madikeri madness log. If you have read till here, I am pretty sure now you will have suicidal tendencies, but do me a favour. Do not write my name in that suicide note! I also have to thank the three fellow travelers for their generosity in tolerating me and my PJs ;-) They were wonderful company. Adios.
(I have deliberately not dwelt upon Deepa’s place much and also about her really really wonderful parents who hosted us that day, especially the food for me. It would be blasphemous and superfluous to write about that. I will cherish it personally. On a lighter vein, I am even trying to persuade Deepa’s dad to hire me as a 'writer' (Not the one who is always seen drinking wine, flirting with Mars and Venus alike, attending so called lit-fests and has a ego bigger than himself and jotting down some crap once in a while) for their plantations now.)
PS: I know the reactions from all three; Deepa will search for spelling and grammatical mistakes (MS word helps you know!) and yell at my PJs as she is used to sitting besides me, Nandi will say 'Arre pagal hogaya kya!' and 'Mazaaaaaaa Agayaaaa' and Deb will immediately chop down the copy to 600 words and then start reading! :-)
Eom\ (can’t help it!)