My tete-a-tete with Coorg

Written by Harsh Jegadeesan on 11:39 AM

It was 5.00 PM on a lazy Friday evening. All my Friday evenings are filled with a great rush anticipating a leisurely weekend. This Friday was different, I was lying on the couch celebrating the birthday of 'Lord Krisha', thanking him for the holiday that he gave all of us. I was also watching India fare miserably against Shane Bond's express speed with disgust. It gave me a feeling that the Indian team had forgot its cricket. Being a passionate and an ardent fan, I vowed I will never watch cricket again. I cursed myself for watching cricket than working on my research paper. I slowly realized my eyes were slipping into sleep. I did not bother to restrain them. When I fell half asleep, the phone rang and rang hard. I was anxiously expecting a call from Priya to confirm the travel plans to Navdarshan for Saturday. Navdarshan is an eco-friendly place near Bangalore, the whole concept sounded so fascinating that I longed to go there with Priya and few of her other friends. As she had left her phone back in Chennai, I could not reach her. I had to wait for her to get to me! After a hectic week, all I was hoping was for a great outing in the weekend. I answered the phone expecting Priya and there was a familiar male voice. My excitement went down by notches. I managed to stay afloat and answer the call. It was Anand. I thought he was lost in space as he had not spoke to me for ages (or so it seems!). After enquiring about how I was, he asked me whether I was free in the evening to go attend a brain-stroming session on taking entrepreneurship to BITS Alums in Bangalore. It was the familiar CEL group with Naina, Anand, Srinath and Jamps.The session happened in Leela Palace, Airport Road.

Anand offered to pick me up in the evening from DivyaSree chambers. The trip to Leela Palace was very eventful. After flouting all traffic laws and parrying a blow by a traffic cop we reached Leela Palace safely 15 mins late. On the way Anand asked me what I was doing for the weekend when I told him about failed weekend plans. He asked me whether I would want to go on a trek. He also said that he could get his car and that we could go 'somewhere'. A pulse of excitement ran through my veins. I was really excited at the proposition and agreed immediately without bothering about my plans to finish a research report by Monday. I was so desperate to trek that I failed to think about anything at all. Soon after the session, we made an open offer to the other people to join us on the trek. Naina accepted immediately with no coersion. Poor Srinath and Jamps had their life (or gfs!) to take care of.

We came out of Leela Palace with an exciting sense of satisfaction about the session as well as the trip. Anand acted fast. He called up Daitmar (didi, I am sorry if I am spelling it wrong!), a german project manager based out of Munich, currently on a trip to Bangalore to put a project back on rails. Daitmar, being a travel freak and having trekked with Anand to Bandipur Santuary readily agreed. We had to decide a place where we could trek. I came up with Coorg instantly. Coorg was becoking me for a long time. The coffee estates, the valiant coorg tribes and the mystic beauty of the western ghats with cauvery running naked was hard to resist.

Anand wanted to look at options. My heart was racing, I wanted to go to Coorg for a long time. He spoke and spoke and finally found from Neeraj (head of the Bangalore Mountaineering Club) that coorg was indeed ideal. I was so happy. There was a sense of achievement within me. All the trips that I had undertaken so far from Uttaranchal to Himachal have always been planned in the last minute. Something uncharacterestic about this trip was that it made me realise that the saying 'If you want something so hard, the whole world conspires to give it to you!' was in fact true. We left Leela Palace with Anand's promise that we will set things ready and call us up in the night. Anand dropped me back at my home and on the way I packed myself some pizzas for dinner.

I reached home, washed and sat down in front of the Television with my pizzas anxiously waiting for the phone to ring. It rang and gave me the happy news that we are going to Coorg the next day morning (Saturday) at 9.00 AM. I called up Amma and Appa and told them about the sudden but exciting plan and like usual they told me to 'have a great time but be careful'. I was so elated and I wanted to share this with Gayatri (for people who don't know Gayatri, its an interesting story about which I will write in a seperate blog!). It was 1.30 AM and I could not think of any ISD booth being open. So I decided to send her a message and she dutifully called up. I shared all my happiness with her at the cost of few dollars :) I went to bed looking forward for the great trip to coorg.

I woke up early the next day (the excitement did not let me sleep!) and got ready to go to DivyaSree chambers. I packed my back-pack with some change clothes, my deo, mouthwash, antiseptics and some chocolate bars and reached DivyaSree in 10 minutes. I had enough time to catch up with a tea and bun. I was in front of DivyaSree at 9.00 dot waiting for Anand to come.

With my tracks on and my backpack on my shoulders, I listened to 'Durr' of Strings in my mp3 player. While I was listening to the song, I was also reading 'A few questions that every entrereneur must ask' by Amar Bhide in the Harvard Business Review. I was thinking to myself that if I had this book a year back how useful it would have been! As I kept reading and listening to music sitting on the compoud of DivyaSree I noticed that the Security Guards were giving me dirty looks. I realized that I was waiting there for more that half-hour and there was no signs of Anand. 'What could have happened? Is the trip happening? Is he stuck in traffic, oh common there is no traffic at 9.00 in the morning ' All this was running through my head and I started glancing around every 5 mins. To divert the attention of the guards who were looking at me for a long time, I went inside the towers towards the ATM. I looked at the ATM and it said 'Loading Money, sorry for the inconvinience'. I had no money in my wallet and I told myself that I can withdraw money on the way. 'But wait, are we going at all?' was the question at the back of my mind. I decided that I would relieve myself. when I came back from the restroom, I saw the ATM functional. I was really relieved! Things suddenly started working for me! I withdrew some money for the trip and came out. The security guard's eyes had become more suspicious by then. I was cursing Anand and I decided to call up his house. His sister who answered the phone told me that he had left as early as 8.30 AM and that he would go to the browsing center before he would meet me. I felt eased, I remembered Anand telling me that he would take print-outs of travellouges that Neeraj promised to send him. But still I was wondering what he would be doing for 2 hrs. It was 10.30 AM already. When I was thinking, I got a call from a local number. 'This must be Anand', I told myself. Luckily to me, it was Anand indeed. He told me that he was around and that he could not find me there. I told him that I had gone to the ATM and that he had missed me then. It was near noon already and I could not wish didi 'Guten Morgen!', so much for the german language skills that I attended. I wished him 'Good Morning!' instead and introduced myself. We started to move to Koramangala where we picked up Naina.

By 11.00 AM we were on the Mysore highway heading towards Coorg. Since I had not had my breakfast, I felt really hungry. I was glancing over the motorway to find tender coconut, which has become a standard diet these days. Since I could'nt find one, we stopped over at a Cafe Coffee day. Being a south Indian by choice of food, I compromised and had Pizza and Irish Coffee for 'brunch'. We continued our journey to Coorg and I continued reading the HBR. After couple of hours, we stopped by to have coconut ('Kabala' in Indonesia. Courtesy: Didi). All the while, Anand was navigating from behind with a map, that he got from Outlook Traveller, in his hand. As time went by I realised how different Didi was when compared the the views that I had got from my cultural orientation session about Germany from SAP. I thought it was his education in Britain and his travel worldwide that had changed him. He was in fact thinking like an Indian most of the times.

As we closed on Coorg, we found out that most of the places close by 5.00 PM. We decided that we will stay in the woods on a Tree house. We went to Dubare first. Dubare is an elphant santuary. When we reached the place it started drizzling, it was almost 4.50 PM by then. Luckily for us, we got a boat that took us across the Cauvery to Dubare. Cauvery was muddy and turbulent. I was so excited that I put my hands into the water. The boatman warned me that there are aligators and it would be risky to put my hands outin the water. I quickly withdrew my hands when I heard of aligators. We crossed the turbulent Cauvery to go accross to Dubare. I could see huge pachyderms drinking water, a few others being washed my their mahouts. We quickly bought tickets (each costing 50 bucks!) and got onto a tree top to board our Jumbo! It started raining cats and dogs by then. We decided that we will brave the rain and go on the royal elephant ride. It was amazing, we felt like we were flying as our darling Indira took us around the wild woods of the western ghats. There was smell of alcohol in the air and I realised that the mahout was drunk, but the way he handled Indira was remarkable. Indira looked very beautiful as she wandered into the woods carrying us on her back. After a ride of 20 mins she bought us back to the same tree-top. We got down, took a few snaps and waited there for the boat to come back and take us to the other side. The rain started intensifying and our hopes of staying in the woods on a tree top went down with the rain.

The boat came back and took us accross Cauvery. Cauvery was wild and after a risky ride back we went all out to get an accomodation. A few wise men suggested that we go to Madikere and take up some sort of a guest house there. We followed their advice as we had to anyway start our trip of Coorg from Madikere. We drove through the rains on the western ghats to reach Madikere by 7.45 PM. We took up a place to stay. We ate and slept there.

In the morning I woke up to the phone ringing. It was Deepak (my room mate!). He had gone to Chennai and was returning back to Bangalore. He said 'Machaan, I forgot the keys, can you please open the door?', I told him that I was in Coorg. He got physced but allowed me to sleep further. I was tired after travel that I was tempted to sleep. But I quickly realised that I had a wonderful day of adventure ahead and got out of the bed in flash. I woke up Anand, Didi and Naina and we quickly got ready to leave. By 7.00 AM we were in the car heading to Abby Falls. Abby falls is 9 Kms from Madikere. The car stopped and we had to trek through a slippery route worsened because of the rains to reach the falls. It was an amazing sight to watch. The cauvery at her emphatic best flowing over two huge boulders causing a waterfall, which was a delight to the eyes. We walked accross the cantilever bridge and got down to go near the falls against the advice of a BIG BOARD which said 'DANGER, Slippery Surface'. We continued to walk down on the slippery sand and rocks paying no heed to the caution sign till we got down to the falls. There was a huge rock in the middle and I wanted to go there. It needed a perfect team effort between me and Anand to reach the rock. Alas, what an effort! It asked for a snap and we posed happily to the cameras.

After spending close to an hour on this trek we walked back to the car with gyan sessions from Anand on how to conserve energy and how to breathe through the nose and keep breathing continously when you trek. We reached our car and started our journey to Talacauvery. The birthplace of cauvery matha. After an hour and half of drive we reached Talacauvery. On the way we stopped at Bhagamandala to have idlis and dosas in a small shop called 'Janani' managed by an impressive, smart and shrewed looking middle-aged woman. I asked her 'Coffee?', she nodded in affirmative. I asked her 'Filter Coffee?', she nodded again and then I said 'Coorg Coffee', she flashed a huge smile. She got us good, strong coffee which was refreshing for a caffaine addict like me! We drove to Talacauvery which was 11 Kms from Bhaghmandala. Talacauvery was a revelation. When I expected a huge stream gushing out from the hills, to my surprise I saw a small pond with an idol of Matha Cauvery. The water levels remained constant. People say that the river originates here and vanishes to be found again in Bhagmandala. It sounds so fascinating. We trekked up a steep hill near talacauvery. I struggled to get there and I was telling myself that it has to be worth the effort. Since we had to go through Talacauvery, we were not allowed to wear footwear. That made the task even more painfaul. Imagine going up a mountain with bare foot! All the effort was worth and even more. It gave us a breathtaking view of the mountains and I basked in the scerene beauty of the hills. Suddenly, my mobile phone started beeping and it said '1 message received'. When I read the messge, BSNL Kerala welcomed me. Then did I realise that we were very close to Kerala. We came back in the same route to our car. Naina bought a few 'malas' each costing Rs. 10/- and Didi picked up a CD in Kannada on Cauvery Mata pooja :) On the way back in the car Naina taught us how to sing a Assamese song and we spoke about north-east and how beautiful it is, about the assamese wedding, about Tambrahm (short for Tamil Brahmin) weddings etc . She also put us to sleep by singing her lovely assamese lullaby.

We were riding back to Madikere to a place called 'Nisargadhama'. Nisargadhama is a river island in the Cauvery 23 Kms from Madikere. We crossed Madikere and stopped there to have Kabalas (coconuts) and then headed straight to Nisargadhama. Once we reached Nisargadhama I called up home to tell them that I am all fine and having a nice time here! I bought 'nuts' as we entered Nisargadhama. We had to go through a Cantilever bridge to the island and I was challended by monkeys which were interested in the nuts that I was carrying. I meekly surrendered and offered them all that I had and went through to the beautiful island. The island was full of teak, timber and bamboo and the people there had used bamboo to make beautiful tree houses. We climed a ladder to get into one of those houses and sat there for a while. We climbed down and took the path which said 'Way to Elephant Ride'. Blown over by the beautiful tuskers we walked down that lane to have another elephant ride. We stopped by to ask a small boy who was selling peanuts. I asked him in broken kannada, 'aanai elli kalustare' :) He said there were no elephants in Nisargadhama and we had to go to Dubare for a ride. Duped by the signboard we walked sad to another path which said 'The River'. We walked and walked for more than half hour, when we realised that there was no river front. We thought we are going around the whole island. We did enjoy the beauty of the raw woods but it was a scary experience. For a moment I though that we had lost our way. So we trekked back through the same route and finally realised that we had missed the entry path to the river. We quickly went to the river front and posed for a snap and walked back to the car through the cantilever bridge. On the way to the car we stopped for coffee and refreshments.

From Nisargadhama we left for the Tibetian settlements in Bylakuppe. Surprisingly, Bylakuppe has one of the largest tibetian settlements and beautiful monsatries. As we drove through Bylakuppe, I got a feeling that we were in Lhasa. We finally reached the Namrodling Monastry or the Golden Monastry. That was a first time I was going inside a monastry and it felt really good. I apprerciate the Buddhist religion and hence going into the monastry was peace. We took photographs inside the monastry and no one seemed to object. The monks clad in their traditional dress were busy praying to different forms of Buddhas. As we came out, we met a monk whom we engaged in a conversation. The monk spoke to us about like and it was a spiritual food for thought for our materialistic minds. I wondered how a young monk who was in his early twenties could be so knowledgeable. He told us about 'Samaskara' where a human is above all desires. He said that meditation is the only way to reach your innerself. Worries are because of the outerself and solace comes through understanding the innerself. How true he was. If only we could put this in practice, we would reach samaskara and be born in 'Brahmaloga'. The next state to Samaskara is the 'Nirvana', where one is free of sufferings. He said we are given SEVEN births to reach Nirvana. If we try hard we can reach it faster. His ideas about religion made me his instant follower. After a while, he answered our questions on life. After this session I really thought I had met the 'Monk who sold his Ferrari'.

After this thought provoking session, he told us that it would rain and we better get going. It was warm and sunny then. Once we got out of the monastry, I could see black clounds engulfing us, it reminded me of the similey he used while explaining desire. He said desire was like black clouds and understanding your innerself through medidation was like the wind that clears these clouds from your mind. Though the time we spent with him was just little over that a quater of an hour, it was so rewarding.

It was 5.00 PM then. I got reminded of the 5.00 PM of the day before when I was aching to go on a trek. I felt really happy that the wish was fulfilled. I thanked almighty for making my wish come true as we headed back to Bangalore. The milestone said 242 Kms. As we headed back it started raining. The driver was cool and composed and never troubled us the whole of the journey. He was a master at his art and made us feel really safe and comfortable. As the rain stopped, my stomach slowly reminded me of dinner. We stopped in a Dhabha to have dinner and followed it up with dessert in Cafe Coffee day where I generously treated myself with a Chocolate Fantasy and Cafe Frappe. After this pitstop where we refuelled our stomach we continued this marvellous journey back. The thoughts of office came to haunt me on the way. We had a BIG loud discussion on corporate ethics on our way back and then I suddenly realised that we were in KH road, close to home. I bid good bye and shook hands with Didi and walked back home tired. Appa called up like clockwork to find out about my well-being. I told them all that happened and stopped bye to call up Gayatri to tell her how much I missed her during the trip. I walked back home and hit my bed hard to wake up to another week of hectic activity at office!

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