Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coorg Region

Back to the grind that is India. Two weeks on the beach has been relaxing and a much needed break from the fast pace of Rajastan and Mumbai. We get on the train headed to Mangalore a city on the coast known for its spice trade. The train is a first come first serve policy meaning there are no arranged seats, therefore, if there are no seats when you arrive, you stand. This creates pushing, shoving and the occasional elbow to the face. The Western Ghats train route is beautiful and filled with rice paddi fields, wide rivers and lush landscapes. The trip to Mangalore was slow as usual but we have found two 21 year old Indian Girls to chat with. They are nurses who have finished there training and now work full time. The discussion gets on the topic of religion. They wanted to know if we celebrated Easter and Christmas and other various religious Holidays. When we told them of our Easter celebration where we find chocolate eggs scattered around the house they became very confused. It took several minutes to describe to them what we meant, but I’m sure they were still very confused.

Once we got to Mangalore we looked at the Lonely Planet and decided we should look around at the various accommodations around the city. Most of the places that the book gave were very disgusting and overpriced, so we decided to ask the rickshaw driver for suggestions. He brought us to a very nice place called Park Place which was very nice and clean. (Usually we don’t go with rickshaw driver’s advise because they will most often rip you off with commissions etc). Upon arrival we decided to go out and find food. We found a little omelet shop outside our place, total bill; 30 rupees. Cheap, convenient, and delicious.

The next morning we were off to the Coorg region of Karnataka, to a little city called Madeikari. There were no trains so we had to take a 150km bus ride. The roads were terrible. The monsoon which lasts for 3 months and ends in September destroys the roads. The 150 km took a grueling 6 hours through narrow and windy one lane roads meant for 2 lane traffic.

We went to Medeikari because of its plantations; which grow coffee, rows and rows of fruit, make spices, as well as the beautiful picturesque country side. This region is popular for its homestays. Homestays are guesthouses that are connected to the plantations. We opted to stay in the city instead. The city is nice and peaceful but power is a problem and it often cuts out every 2 hours. We had read in the LP ( Lonely Planet) that there was a little Tibetan town close to Medeikari. Since McLeod Ganj we had both been in love with the people and the religion. We decided to take a city bus to Bylakuppe which was among the first refugee camps set up in South India to house thousands of Tibetans who fled from Tibet. We saw the golden temple which was remarkable and stunning. Inside were faboulous paintings with amazing detail depicting stories from the past. There were also 3 huge Buddha statues that were approx 65 feet tall.

The next day we visited the Dubare national elephant park. There was no bus to the park and we had to be there at 8 30 in the morning so we took a taxi. When we got to the park we had to take a little boat across a river to meet the elephants. The elephant park cost 200 rupees each which was very cheap. The first order of business at the park was elephant bathing!! The elephants came down to the river and were washed by around 10 tourists including us. The elephants were well trained and seemed to enjoy the scrubbing by all of us. After the elephants were all scrubbed and cleaned we fed them. They seemed to really enjoy watermelon and coconut. We got to touch their tongues and watch them eat which was an amazing experience. After the elephant park our taxi driver brought us to a plantation. He took us for a walk around the plantation which was very nice. We saw coffee beans drying, banana trees, mango trees, fig trees, orange trees, chili pepper plants and various other plant and trees which we forget. It was very impressive and we loved the tour. From there we went to a waterfall called Abby falls which is raging during the monsoon but lackluster during the fall months. We then proceeded to the spices store where Marsha went wild buying every spice in sight. It didn’t matter because the spices were fresh and about 1/10 the price.

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