Coorg also called the ‘Scotland of India’ is a popular hill station in Karnataka. Apart from the delightful natural scenes, Coorg, officially called Kodagu, is known for its coffee, wine and the vibrant, exotic lifestyle of the Kodavas.
I planned a weekend trip to Coorg which is about 250 km from Bangalore in the month of September. I boarded a bus to Madikeri, a popular hill town in Coorg from the Satellite Bus Stand in Bangalore. The most luxurious bus is the Airavat which operates every alternate hour; there are other options available as well.
I reached Madikeri at 4 AM. It was drizzling and the weather was colder than my expectation. The bus stand looked deserted and apart from few bulls who had found shelter under the roof, there was no one around. Even the lights had gone off and I was left to the mercy of my mobile flash to find my way out of the bus stop. As I stepped out, there were 2 auto-rickshaws near the gate. I peeped into one of them and found it empty. Just then I heard a voice from the other auto rickshaw. I had a hard time explaining to him the location of my homestay which I had pre-booked online. The price quoted by him was little on the higher side and I tried to bargain but to no avail. The late hour and the incessant rain didn’t help my cause either.
Google Maps fail when we need them the most. Following the map, we reached a dead end. With no clue what to do, and doubtful of the existence of the accommodation I booked, I got down from the auto-rickshaw. After a few minutes of wandering, I located a house with the board painted with the name of my homestay. I knocked on the door and waited for a response. There never came one! I knocked, again and again, each time harder than the last. I ringed the bell, called on the mobile number; still no response. Wow !!!
After about 30 minutes of pummeling, a guy opened the door with a sombre expression. He clearly didn’t like my presence. He filled the usual check-in details into a register and accompanied me to a room in another building. The room was a good one with a good view of the hills; finally, something good happened. However, after the bus journey and the troubles I had been facing from the moment I deboarded the bus, I hardly had the patience for anything. I dozed off under the cozy blankets.
I got up around 10 AM. Perhaps a little late but manageable. I had a quick hot shower and set out to explore. I didn’t have any fixed itinerary and I was flexible to stay an additional day if required so I was in no real hurry. I walked through the meandering roads and explored the area. The first place I reached was the Omkareshwar temple. It’s a small temple with golden domes.
The Omkareshwar Temple
Walking ahead, I reached the ‘Udupi’ restaurant where I had my breakfast. Opposite the restaurant is the Madikeri Fort. It’s an abandoned fort complex in a dilapidated state. Some parts of the fort have been renovated to create office spaces from which few government offices were operating. There is nothing worth visiting here maybe apart the expansive view of the town one can see from the balconies of the battered fort.
Next, I took an auto-rickshaw to the Abbey Falls which is 8km from Madikeri. It’s a small yet beautiful cascading waterfall. However, visitors are not allowed to bath or go near the waterfall. It’s just the view. To reach the waterfall one has to do a small hike and ascend some steps. The waterfall is located amidst beautiful, tall trees and coffee plantations. The administration should perhaps create a better viewing gallery, probably one where visitors can view the picturesque waterfall from the front. There is definitely a scope for improvement here. Nonetheless, it’s a must-visit if you are visiting Madikeri, especially in the rainy season when the scenic grandeur of the Abbey waterfall is in its full glory.
After Abbey Falls, I returned back to my homestay. I planned to visit the Raja seat viewing point at sunset but decided against it due to the rain and fog. The evenings are absolutely peaceful and people generally stay indoors. I explored the local market and tasted Coorg coffee and chocolates. The other thing Coorg is famous for is its wide variety of wines which are domestically brewed in the households. Do try it if you happen to visit Coorg.
The next day, I planned to visit Kushalnagar, the other notable town in the Kodagu region. After I checked out from the homestay, I took an auto-rickshaw to the Madikeri bus stop. From here, one can easily get buses to Kushalnagar. There are direct buses and you can also board the ones going to Bangalore. The road between Madikeri and Kushalnagar is beautiful and passes through coffee estates. I missed these views while coming and I was glad that I was making the return journey in the day time. It takes about an hour to reach Kushalnagar from Madikeri. The weather in Kushalnagar was markedly different from Madikeri. While there was incessant rain in Madikeri during my entire stay, Kushalnagar had a burst of bright sunshine. Kushalnagar, unlike Madikeri, is not located on the hills and life here resembled any other town in Karnataka. My next destination was the Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery.
Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery
Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery is Bylakuppe is the largest teaching center of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. The Monastery was established by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche in 1963. The monastery is locally called as the Golden temple or the Tibetan temple. Auto rickshaw is the most convenient way to reach the monastery from the Kushalnagar bus stop. There are local buses as well but the frequency is low and they don’t drop you near the monastery.
The monastery complex is huge. I have been to beautiful monasteries in the northeast and Himachal Pradesh and this one stands right among the best ones in the country. I never imagined I will come across such a huge monastery in South India. Inside the monastery complex, there are separate buildings for learning, accommodation of the monks, souvenir shops and of course a gigantic monastery. The interior and exterior walls of the monastery are adorned with colourful murals. There is a meditation hall with 3 humongous statues made of copper and gilded with gold. The middle statue is of Buddha Shakyamuni which is flanked by statues of Guru Padmasambhasiva and Buddha Amiatyus. I was told that the statues are hollow from within and are filled with Buddhist scriptures, relics, and smaller statues. Spending time meditating on these beautiful statues fills one with spiritual bliss. Photography is allowed even inside the meditation hall which to some extent thwarts the spirituality of the place as visitors are more indulged in clicking photographs than meditating. However, it boosts tourism and as the learning centre is located in a different building it does not affect the monks as well. The monks and disciples here are friendly and love interacting with the tourists and provide them information about the monastery and Buddhist customs. There are few places within the complex that are restricted to the visitors, so one piece of advice would be to respect the privacy and solitude of the monks and not venture to those areas.
The monastery is like an icing on the cake on a trip to Coorg. If you happen to visit Coorg, do include the Namdroling monastery in your itinerary. It takes hardly a couple of hours (you can wrap it up even earlier if you are in rush) but it’s a must-visit in Coorg.
I hope you liked his post. Do share your feedback and experiences of Coorg in the comments section below.