Sunday, December 30, 2007

Le Tour de Coorg - [ Day Three ]

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Day three started off very early. Over the three days I had observed the different sounds during the day. The earliest birds are the crows. They wake up much before us or any other birds. As the day progresses, the mynahs, cuckkoos and other birds join in and start an orchestra. The crows (who are the early birds that got the worm) now cool off. Later the parrots come and go in groups... they make a lot of sound that does not make sense at all. They are like the hard rock band of the bird kingdom. Each one sings to its own pleasure. They are always on the move. Once they are gone, you can again listen to orchestra - all day long till sunset. This steady state is disturbed only by an odd crow that found some left over lunch somewhere. At sunset, there is frenzied activity - much like our peak hour traffic. Every bird wants to get to some where. the honking, the vexing generate a lovely crescendo. Within minutes, its all over. Once the cukkoos, mynahs, sparrows and wagtails retire to their cozy nests, the night is taken over by the insects. The pleasant bliss of the bird concert is replaced by chilling uneasiness of the crickets. They are monotonous and together with darkness, they are very effective in developing a scary environment.

We battled thick fog and bad roads for over an hour. To sun rising across the fields and melting the fog was a sight worth waking up early for. The road turned from bad to worse. On the previous days, tough climbs were always rewarded with cool breeze on the top, and an exhilarating descent. But today, the descents had to be as slow and treacherous as the climb. It road became irritating and slowed our progress very very slow. We had taken 2 hours to reach Ballamavute which was a paltry 13 Kms from start. Everyone we met on the road had their own estimate on how long the road was in this state. Irrespective the road condition, the coffee estates were pleasing to the eyes and chirping of the birds were music to the ears. A couple of kilometers after Ballamavute is Hotel Priya where we had breakfast.

Infact, a few Kms after Ballamavute the road gets better. We could see that some work was in progress. There is a fork in the road. Left goes to Napoklu and right to Kakkabbe. The right is the raod less taken by buses and hence it is less spoiled. The journey to Kakkabbe was mostly downhill interleaved by gentle inclines. I made quick descents and spent more time talking to locals. Topics ranged from climate, politics, tourism to general geography. People are very friendly and always volunteer with information. They are always intrigued by the GPS receiver and become happy when I enter their village's name into it. Holiday season was in its full swing. We saw a huge group of foreign tourists checking out of Honey valley estate. After Kakkabbe and Kakkabbe comes Cherambane followed by Cheyyandane. This is where our featured adventure of the day awaited us.

H had already arranged for a pickup to take us to Chelavara falls and beyond it to see the view point. Chelavara falls is a little known falls hidden among the many coffee estates of Coorg. It is now accessible easily only to the home-stay guests in those estates. It is better to keep it that way. If it attracts a larger crowd, it will also become as dirty as Abbey falls. Our ride was a Mahindra pickup. Only one person can sit with the driver. Remaining two had to had to manage standing/sitting behind in the goods area. A 3 Kms ride on an extremely bumpy road will lead us to the Falls. The road disappears ahead and morphs into a jeep track... which promptly worsens into a just a series of rocks. The gradient also kicks up viciously. If any body saw this terrain without the pickup, they would not believe that it is indeed motorable. The driver told me that He had driven a Scorpio (without a 4 wheel drive) up last season. Can you even imagine how the road (?) would look like during rains? Another 3-4 Kms beyond the falls is a high point from where we can see as far as Kerala on one side, Tadiandamol on the other, and a magnificent view of the entire Brahmagiri range. After a quick photo session at a vantage point, we made our way down to the falls.

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We spent an hour at the falls. And all the time, we were the only people there. Its as if it were our own private falls. Even though, the pond size was not more than a 30-40 site, I did not want to try swimming... especially after I realized that I could not touch the bottom even after I was chest deep. But we throughly enjoyed the refreshingly cold water... We did not want to leave the place. But we were reminded about the rest of the journey we had to cover on cycles to reach a city where we could find a lodge ;-) Reluctantly, we got out of the water and headed towards the jeep.

On the way back to the main road, we got to taste Coorgi Hospitality first hand. M had visited this ancestral house with his neighbor (in Arsikere) during his childhood days 17 years ago. His neighbor (Latha aunty, as he calls her) no longer lives here. Its only her brother who lives with his family here. Still he recognized M and insisted all of us come up and have a lunch. The lady of the house served us sweet juice of a fruit that is a cusp between orange and a lemon. Home grown and native to Coorg only. I only had to hint that we left our water bottles at the base camp... She prepared 2 litres more juice and gave us in a huge maza bottle. Within minutes, M exchanged numbers and promised to keep regular contact with them. They had by then called folks in Gonikoppa and offered to arrange for our night stay and food. They made it really hard to politely turn down such offers. After almost an hour od catching up with old memories M finally got ready to leave. Back at Cheyyandane, we were shocked to hear that our little trip up the hill would cost us Rs 600/-. There is no haggling after the tour ;-) so we paid up and pedaled ahead burying the agony deep inside. It was only 3 Kms later when H brought up the topic that all of us vented out our displeasure.

We should have lunch at Cheyandane. Coz miles and miles after Cheyyandane, till Virajpete, we would not find any veggie restaurant. Towns and villages came and went... Karanga, Kadanga, Kadanoor and so on. The terrain had become much more easier than the previous two days. With 6 Kms to Virajpet H's brake just broke. Yes, it just broke into pieces. While he was repairing his brakes, another nice gentle man came up to us and offered NelliKai (amla). He insisted. He took me to his home and gave me a handful of them. On the way he introduced me to his neighbors as "Kids from Bengaluru who came cycling". I kept wondering why. Later he revealed that he has a son working in Toyota Kirloskar Factory in Bengaluru. Probably it was his way of feeling close to his son. He inquired about our future route. Like a father, he cautioned us not to cross the Forest area at night. "Pass that stretch in day time only" He said. and here we were 10 minutes ago second guessing his insisting that I come home. My faith in future of humanity just grew many fold... Long live such people.

A kilometer on the same road, we get the Madikeri-Virajpet road. This is a state highway and hence has nice asphalt. Although the road has its own share of ups and downs, it is nothing compared to what we had pedaled past in the last couple of days. At Virajpet, we had a quick snack and by 5PM we were on our way to Gonikoppa. The route was mostly flat. Both sides of the road were paddy fields. The sun was setting on my right. The scene has to seen to be believed. For brief moments, it was nothing short of the evening scenes in the flat stages of THE tour. Unfortunately, I had run short of batteries (that is one downside of too many gadgets). I will have to wait for H's photos to be uploaded. A couple of Kms before Gonikoppa H shopped for some exotic/artistic candles. We reached Gonikoppa town by night fall. Checked in to a hotel. Washed up, dined, chatted with family and crashed. We had just one more day of cycling ahead of us. It was a nice feeling.

Harsha's Photos on flickr:

For the Cyclists:
Route: Bhagamandala - Ballamavute - Nelaje - Kakkabbe - Cheyyandane - Karada - Kadanga - Madikeri Rd Jn - Virajpete - Gonikoppa
Distance: 82 Kms
Max Speed: 45.1 Kmph
Start Time: 06:00 AM
End Time: 07:30 PM (approx)
Road Condition: From Bhagamandala to Nelaje (approx 20Kms) the road is in horrible condition. At places we had search for even 6 inches wide asphalt to ride on.

Hotel Nandanavana is one of the first hotel one sees when he enters Gonikoppa from Virajpet side. Rs 400/- per room including extra bed. Limitted hot water - only from 6:30 in the morning. No restaurant attached. Ample parking space. Moderately recommended (for lack of better alternatives).

We had a coffee each at Santhosh Hotel. It was the only joint open so early in the morning.

Next stop for food was at Ballamavute - Hotel Priya. We had poori with chutney. The chutney was extremely super dooper spicy. We cooled it off with Idli + sugar. Tea was very pleasing as well. All in all just Rs 54/- for a very satisfying break fast.

Somebody told that Kadanga is a good place for food. Unfortunately we forgot mention that we were veggies. Kadanga does not even have one veggie restaurant. People laugh at you if you inquire for one. We had to be content with bananas and biscuits while M stuffed a boiled egg down his bowel.

Evening snacks at Virajpete. Some Kamath cafe on the Madikeri road. Plain dosa and Coffee.

Dinner at Gonikoppal needed to be an early one. The town closes down very soon. There are two good veggie restaurants. We went to the Kamath's place run by a Udupi guy. Apparently he was over whelmed with the crowd that day and hence the service was a bit slow. We had Masala Dosa, Onion Utthapam, Gobi manchurien and the mandatory curd rice. Ice-cream for dessert.

1 comment:

Gauthaman said...

Rs.600 to go beyond Chellavara falls. Cheating. ;-)

Manohar catching up with his childhood neighbours was a nice read.

Eager to hear the happy ending in Mysore enroute Kushalnagar.