Riding through a winding road, the blind curves revealed the sun setting over the mountains beyond the quaint town of Madikeri in Coorg. It was already 5 PM by the time I finished exploring the Harangi dam near Kushalnagar. There was a long-distance of 30 KMs to cover to reach the spot I wanted to watch the sunset from. Such was the love for endings that I pulled the throttle as hard as I could and reached the Raja’s seat on a thumping RE thunderbird, just in time for the sunset.
Looking at the sun go down beyond the mountains, spilling all the beautiful colors onto the canvas of the sky, the last two days flashed before my eyes. The ride through coffee estates, hike up to the cascading waterfalls, driving alongside crazy maniacs and resting in the lap of River Kaveri, all converged to this very moment.
It was March of 2019 and I hadn’t been on a single trip until then that year. But my mind works in miraculous ways and halfway through the month, I was really disturbed. Every day felt like I drained all my energy and lay bare on my bed by the end of it. I was suffocating with that confined space of routine. I was desperate to get away from the routine and give my head that much-needed break to wander through anything but routine.
So I quickly looked upon the treasure trove of places to explore and Coorg caught my eyes. In the last week of March, I packed my bags, booked a ticket to Coorg, and with a map of key places to explore, I left Bangalore.
In Madikeri By Mistake
Soon after the bus left Bangalore it was cruising at speeds I never imagined possible for a bus. Perhaps the driver was a race car driver in his previous life and carried on his love for the sport, the speed made me lose track of time. By the time I woke up, we were already way past Kushalnagar, my scheduled drop off point. Knowing the bus had the final stop at Madikeri, I slept again.
Got down, asked a cab driver for a bus back to Kushalnagar in my broken Kannada. He pointed me towards a darkly lit concrete structure which I later found out was the bus stand. Moments later boarded a bus back to Kushalnagar.
I peeped through the window of the bus and the view of fog partially covering the silver oaks was so mesmerizing. That very moment I promised me to ride on this road the next morning. Blame the ruthless KSRTC drivers for the blurry picture :P.
Checked in to the hotel, freshened up, and picked up my ride, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird from Royal Brothers. They’re so good that they’ve become my go-to bike rental service for my rides. It was still early for the locals of Kushalnagar, none of the shops were open on the main road. I was really hungry, so I packed for the day and left in search of breakfast. After riding 2 KMs from Kushalnagar, I finally found a Udupi hotel. I recouped my energy and I was all set for the ride.
Planned But Unplanned
The idea was to ride to Iruppu falls and ride back to Kushalnagar via Bylakuppe visiting the Golden Temple. But just like life, road trips don’t always go as planned, but I kept my mind open to anything that came my way.
It was sunny by the time I finished breakfast and hit the road. Few minutes after hitting the Kushalnagar-Madikeri road, I took a left turn at Guddehosuru. The road was surrounded by paddy fields on both sides, with the Kaveri river watching me in the distance beyond the paddy fields.
With just 30 minutes into the ride, I saw a board that said, Dubare Elephant Camp. I faintly remember reading about the Dubare Elephant camp when I first visited Coorg in October 2015. But due to time constraints, we didn’t check it then. But heck, I had all the time in the world that day, so I took the left turn and reached Dubare Elephant Camp.
Dubare Elephant Camp, Kushalnagar Coorg
The parking space was full. I didn’t find a spot for parking a bike until the very end of the parking lot. I realized this was a very touristy place. It was just by the Kaveri river and I saw people were walking across the river to the other end. I was curious, so I followed them.
Since summer was fast approaching, the water level was at it’s lowest. But the water was so still that it was almost acted like a mirror, reflecting trees, no matter how huge they were.
I continued walking on the rocks, looking all around, drowning in the tranquility of the place. Soon my eyes turned to the other end of the river, where elephants were bathing. People gathered around the area to watch them bathe, shamelessly (including myself :P).
I later learned that Dubare Elephant Camp is one of the important elephant camps in the forest department of Karnataka. It is where the Mysore Dussehra elephants were trained. Now the camp has naturalist-trained elephants primarily engaging in jungle rides and other interactive activities. I am not sure how long we’ve to go before we leave nature on its own terms and not indulge in unnatural activities like taming and riding elephants.
The Coffee Dotted Curvy Roads
I couldn’t stand it for long, so I came back to the parking lot and started the ride again. The road after the Dubare Elephant camp was really interesting. The road was curvy, passing through coffee estates and covered by silver oaks on either side of the road. The silver oak trees gave me enough shade to ease the discomfort of the scorching heat. The breeze and the shade were exactly what I wanted and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride until I was fast approaching a curve. I had to slow down so I pressed the brake, but It wouldn’t slow down. Then, I used the front brake, to slowly bring the bike to a stop just around the curve.
I knew RE vehicles had their own reliability issues, but experiencing it first time was very annoying. Suspecting of any cable failure, I bent down to check the brake cables, thankfully that wasn’t the case. I called up the Royal Brothers manager. He asked me to come back to Kushalnagar to get it fixed. But I already covered 30% of the distance to Iruppu Falls, so I was desperate to fix it.
Random things you learn come handy in surprising ways. After a few hits and misses, I figured it was a brake bleeding issue, where the air gets trapped inside the brake hoses. I pressed the brake pedal continuously to pump the air out and after a while, the brakes were back to normal.
A Ride Back In Time
Thanking the skies for it, I told the manager that I will manage it for the trip and continued the ride. A couple of KMs later, a board caught my attention. On it was a vintage car, The 1953 Ford Anglia, the board had an arrow pointing towards a muddy trail leading to a Vintage Car Museum. I was as excited as I was surprised to see that. Who would put a Vintage car museum, literally in the middle of nowhere?, I said to myself. The museum had an entry fee of INR 100 which I felt was exorbitant and not being put to good use.
The museum was basically a shed that had many vintage cars crammed up as if they’re insignificant pieces of metal to milk money out of travelers. I sighed at the rusting beauties and left the museum.
I hit the comfort of the curvy road, winding through coffee plantations. The road until Siddapura, extending until Ammathi was a comfortable ride. But soon after hitting the road towards Gonikopalu, the fuel indicator started blinking. I opened my phone to look for the nearest petrol bunk but there was none in sight before Gonikopalu. I didn’t know how long I had before the bike came to a grinding halt, But I prayed to the skies to let it last 13 KMs more. Thankfully, I reached Gonikopalu just in time and refueled it.
The road from Gonikopalu to Iruppu Falls is dotted with tiny villages and paddy fields. However, I started to miss the shade of silver oaks. The winding road, the scorching heat and the bridges built over canals kept me busy through the 25 odd KMs stretch. Soon, A large board caught my eyes that had an arrow pointing right and read, Iruppu Falls.
Mysteries Of Iruppu Falls
Much like the journey that day, the final ride to Iruppu falls was also surrounded by coffee estates. No wonder Coorg district tops the chart of most coffee-producing districts in Karnataka, I said to myself. I drove through those uneven roads and a couple of hairpin bends later, I reached the parking area of Iruppu Falls.
Nestled on the edge of the Brahmagiri Wildlife sanctuary, bordering the God’s Own Country Kerala, Iruppu falls is very famous for the folk tales surrounding its origin.
According to the local legend, Rama & Lakshmana were passing through the Brahmagiri range in search of Sitadevi. When Rama was feeling thirsty and asked Lakshmana to fetch some water, Lakshmana shot an arrow into the Brahmagiri hills thus Lakshmana Thirtha river originated. The falls form when the Lakshmana Thirtha river flows between two hills. The falls are apparently visited by thousands of devotees during Shivaratri as it is said to have cleansing powers. The mysteries of Indian folktales continue to baffle me.
The Hike To Iruppu Falls
After parking the bike, I took the ticket and started walking on a paved path. The hike starts with a beautiful panoramic view of the Brahma Giri Hills and the dense ceiling of trees takes over the views as you move ahead. The temperature dropped multi-fold soon after the paved path ended. With the music of the running stream beside me, the chirps of birds and crickets, I continued walking ahead. I crossed over a suspension bridge built over the stream, which also gave a glimpse of the magnificent waterfalls.
After crossing over the bridge, there are stairs built all the way till the falls. Although there wasn’t enough water in the falls in March, the fall is really beautiful in Monsoons, but it is almost always crowded. So it is not a very good place to be if you’re looking for some “me time”. I returned back after spending about 15 mins.
Journey To The Chants & Tranquility
Started riding from Iruppu at about 3 PM, back on the curvy road drawn amidst paddy fields. The sun was less harsh at that time and the minimal movement on road meant that I was cruising at a decent pace. Just when I thought I was enjoying the ride through wide open paddy fields, I reached Gonikoppal.
While at Gonikoppal I had the choice of taking the road towards Siddapura or towards Periyapattana as the distance was more or less the same with both the roads. But what fun is it to ride on the same road when there is an alternative available, so without a speck of doubt I took the “right turn”.
Riding Through Reserve Forest
A few KMs later, I felt like I was in a different part of the world. Firstly the road started off as a seemingly normal road, a few moments later, the forest guard check post welcomed me. After getting the clearance, the concrete buildings on the side started giving in to the dense forest on either side of the road. The clouds that were ruling the entire canvas above my head were now restricted to the blue space between the tree leaves.
Just a few seconds ago I was surrounded by the concrete jungle and now I was surrounded by tall and dense trees. On both sides of the road, I didn’t see anything but trees stretching to infinity. The road was so beautiful but it was a protected forest area, stopping on the road was prohibited.
Riding on the road that wild animals use to cross or wander gave me an eerie feeling about how we’re so close yet so far to nature. As I continued riding, probably for the first time In my riding life, I was really glad that there were too many speed breakers. Whenever I spotted a speed breaker, I slowed down to the slowest possible speeds to get a better sight of the wilderness that surrounded me.
It was one of the beautiful roads I ever rode on. Soon it ended as the concrete jungle pushed itself into the scene again. I reached Bylakuppe at around 4: 30 PM.
Golden Temple Bylakuppe Coorg
While I Bylakuppe, I was surprised to see how well planned the town was. As I rode through the town, I felt I was transported to a different country. The cleanliness of the roads, the etiquette of the people there, the Feng Shui prayer flags tied in front of almost every house, it all startled me. As if I wasn’t surprised enough, I saw a traditional wooden windmill behind a house.
I learned that Bylakuppe is a Tibetan settlement, the second largest one in India after Dharamshala. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, the Government of India allowed for the Tibetan Refugees to settle in Dharamshala first and subsequently in Bylakuppe where they have established schools to continually preach the various forms of Buddhism.
If ever I could leave everything behind and settle down somewhere, Bylakuppe would definitely be one of the places I’d consider. The peaceful aura of the place is contagious.
I was riding to Namdroling Monastery and distinctly remembered the monastery from my visit in Oct 2015. During that visit, I got a chance to get a glimpse of the lifestyle of Buddhists. The Namdroling Monastery is the largest teaching center of Nyingmapa, a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, in the world, and houses over five thousand monks and nuns.
I thought I reached at the right time when the monks sat down in the Golden temple for evening prayers. I stood outside the temple but even then I could distinctly hear the chants and drumrolls. After I left the place, the chants reverberated in my mind. And for the duration I stood outside the temple, I felt I was in a trance state.
Early Morning Rides
After having lunch and Dinner together in the evening, I rode back to Kushalnagar. The food scene in Kushalnagar isn’t as good as Madikeri, so I would recommend you do the same if you are following this trail of Inju.
As per the promise I made to myself, I had to wake up early the next day to ride on the foggy road. So, I slept off early that day and woke up at 6:30 AM. I quickly freshened up, tied my shoe laces, wore my jacket, picked up the keys and kick started the beast.
But to my surprise, the sun was already shining bright. I thought the fog would’ve disappeared and all that morning effort would’ve been useless. But I didn’t give that doubt another chance and started the ride. “We’ll figure it out on the way,“ I said to myself. looking at the empty road I pulled the throttle and reached Guddehosur in 10 mins. Soon after crossing Guddehosur village, the foggy road presented itself. The fog wasn’t dense as I wanted it to be, but just enough to make the ride memorable.
To sum up that morning ride in short, first came the fog, then came a straight empty road with fog. An empty curvy road with silver oak trees ducked in fog followed it and then came more curvy roads with coffee plantations on either side. The fog slowly cleared off making the board by the roadside visible. I saw the board read, Abbey Falls 7 KM.
The Crazy Ride To Abbey Falls
I thought, well, 7 KM is too short a distance to not ride to see other waterfalls. So, I started the ride to Abbey falls, but soon realized the caveat of the 7 KM ride. The roads were narrow roads and transformed into sudden steep slopes. They also passed through deserted villages and finally end at Abbey Falls parking area before making me ride on the edge of a ridge. I took the entry ticket by paying INR 10 at the counter at the entrance.
The shacks at the parking lot were open. So I had some Bread Omelette and a Puri before starting the walk to Abbey Falls. I walked on the concrete path to reach the falls. The path is completely covered under pine and silver oak trees, leaving small gaps for the sun to peep through.
After about 10 minutes of walking, the cascading beauty presented itself. The milky white water running down the pitch-black rocks was a beautiful sight. Due to a recent landslide, the hanging bridge in front of the falls has collapsed completely so I couldn’t get a direct shot.
I felt Abbey falls had much more appeal than Iruppu Falls. The calmness, the sun peeping through the pine trees to kill the shade, the place is definitely worth your time if you’re looking for some calmer place to relax.
But you gotta visit this very early in the morning, it opens at 7 AM or so. If you go after 9 AM then am pretty sure it will be crowded as I already saw a lot of people coming in by the time I left from Abbey Falls.
The Hunt For Lunch
I rode back to Kushalnagar on the same road back, the only change is that it wasn’t as empty. At one point while I was riding around a blind turn, a freak rushed around the same corner overtaking a bus from the other side. I quickly reacted and diverted my bike and stopped by the side of the road. It was a nightmare to drive alongside or against such freaks but I did and reached the hotel to get that much-needed sleep.
Woke up and freshened up for starting the ride again. But I was really hungry so I had to find a place to fill up my tummy first. I rode towards the first planned destination and thought I’d find something on the way. I hit the Kushalnagar-Madikeri road and just a few 100m before the Kaveri Nisargadhama, I spotted a huge board that read, “Fish Curry Rice“. The name was fancy but would I like it? While the questions about taste ran through my head, my tummy said, dumbo “something is better than nothing”. So I entered the restaurant and picked up the menu.
I wasn’t familiar with the Mangalore style cuisine, so I wanted to test the waters with an egg biryani. Surprisingly I loved it and then I ordered a Chicken Biryani and that was tasty too. To add to that, even though it looked expensive, it wasn’t that pricey. So, “Fish Curry Rice“ is Inju’s recommended choice to fill your tummy with delicious Mangalore food.
Kaveri Nisargadhama, Kushalnagar
I had no thoughts of visiting this place until a colleague of mine suggested me to do so. It is a park built on one of the islands formed by the Kaveri river. The entrance to the park is through a hanging bridge built over the Kaveri river, crossing which will lead you to the actual park. The park is filled with Bamboo trees.
The Bamboo trees made me feel as if I am in Cubbon Park back in Bangalore. A few meters of a walk later, I saw tree houses that resembled the ones on Nandi Hills. Adjoining the treehouses was a fenced area with deers inside. Probably a replica of the famed Bannerghatta National Park? maybe. I don’t know coz I haven’t been there yet ;).
I continued to walk to find a peaceful place to sit. Amidst all the crowded places I saw earlier, there was a small place by the river. Though there was a modest crowd at this place, there was something special about the place. I sat down on one of the stones and the noise of the people surrounding faded away in a second. Sitting by the river, dipping the tired legs in the cold water seemed to have created an isolated space for myself. A space that was devoid of all the noise meant it was time to dive into my own thoughts.
It was in the Kaveri Nisargadhama, that I got the much needed time for myself. Of course, the ride was relaxing and relieving, my mind was still busy thinking about the road. But when I sat down, I had nothing but calmness. I could finally take a deep breath and wash the worries of life in the Kaveri river.
The Ride To Harangi Reservoir
What’s so special about a reservoir that deserved to be on my list. Well, If I look back and think about why I had gone on this trip, it was for some peacetime. Harangi Reservoir with its isolated location and the peculiar views of the swampy grasslands in the backdrop of huge mountains offered just that. However, the timing was bad and the sun was shining bright on my face making me squint my eyes to look at the dam. So, I just explored the downstream area of the Harangi dam and left the place.
As fate had it, none of my trips are complete without witnessing the sunset. However, It was 5 PM and I was still at Harangi Dam. The best place to witness the sunset while in Coorg was Raja’s seat which is in Madikeri. Madikeri was 30 odd KM away and a quick google search confirmed the sunset time of 6:30 PM.
So, without any further delay, I started the bike and rode as fast as I could. On the other hand, the sun appeared to tease me. The orange shade filling the gaps between pine trees amidst coffee plantations, It appeared as if he was playing peek-a-boo as he disappeared on one curve and re-appeared on the other. But I never let him get out of sight.
I navigated through the curves and drove past the idiots overtaking on the corners and reached Raja’s seat. But it was foolish of me to expect an empty seat at the best place to view the sunset. The entire park was filled with people.
Knowing myself, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the sunset standing in that crowd. So, I rode further, took the muddy road beside the Raja’s seat park, climbed up a narrow road, and found a calm, uninterrupted view of the sunset.
I rode to Domino’s Madikeri, to grab some dinner. The IPL match between my boys, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore was up. I watched Sunrisers thrash Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 11th match of IPL-2019.
The Ride Back To Grind
It was dark by the time I started the ride back to Kushalnagar. It was a scary ride back to Kushalnagar. There were idiots who overtook around the corners, drove in high beam blinding me. Add to that it was a curvy and ghat road, so I carefully rode back.
I gave the bike back at Royal Brothers suggesting he give the bike for a brake bleeding service. Coorg is famous for its chocolates and coffee since I wasn’t much of a coffee lover, I bought chocolates back home. I was now ready to take on the grind of life again.
That’s all for today folks. Thanks for reading through. This is the 12th post in the ongoing streak :D. It’s been close to 3 months now since I’ve been posting regularly. Check out my other travelogues on Karwar, Kudremukh, Kheerganga, and Triund treks.
I’ll be back soon with another blog post.
Until then, be in touch.
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