By Ashish Kumar (LMB)
The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.
~ Fabbiene Fredrickson
That is what travel is, to me. It always comes calling. And guess what! The best excuse for making it to all these exotic places is when you get to blend your holiday time with your favourite activity. In my case, it’s the love for running long distances which amalgamates well with my holiday plans. What I need to do is to find a good event happening in the vicinity of our destination, or sometimes I first find the event and then decide the tourist destinations around it.
It was around last year that I came across ‘Coorg Monsoon Ultra’, a Tuffman series ultra-marathon race organized annually in August. From what I knew of Coorg before, its rain drenched beauty and its coffee were already on my wish list. So I grabbed the chance finally and embarked upon planning the itinerary along with my wife and some friends (with similar unworldly interests).
Also known as Kodagu, Coorg is a district in the southern state of Karnataka. It lies along the eastern foothills of Western Ghats, the reason for its enormous flora and fauna. Headquartered at Madikeri, a small popular hill station located around 250 kilometres south-west of the capital city of Bangalore, the place is synonymous with best quality Indian coffee and also has plenty of other attractions to offer in terms of satiating one’s nomadic spirit. Its vast meadowlands, lush green forests, aromatic coffee estates and incessant drizzles make it a true soul satisfier. The British called it ‘the Scotland of India’ for its unique, raw and rustic beauty and its misty cool surroundings.
Day 1, Delhi – Bangalore:
Coorg is 2400 km away from Delhi. Since there is no airport in Coorg, the most viable option to save time and effort is to take a flight to some nearby airport and do road journey thereafter. Bangalore was the obvious choice for us given the cheap air-fares and the fact that one of my running buddies lives in Bangalore and he had agreed to join us for the trip (He is a regular at Coorg for office work, so we got a tour guide for free). Other options are Mangalore and Mysore airports which are comparatively nearer but maximum flights from Delhi are connecting flights via Bangalore only. We reached Bangalore by evening flight and spent the night there at Leisure.
Day 2, Bangalore – Coorg:
7 people, a self-drive Innova car on hire and a 6 am start. That is how our journey from Bangalore started. The road connectivity from Bangalore to Coorg is fantastic with 4 lane road almost half the distance. Even the hilly part near Coorg is a smooth ride as the roads are wide and well maintained. It took us 5 hours of unhurried drive to reach Coorg by noon even with some photo stops and a lunch break at the famous regional chain ‘Swathi Delicacy’ on the way.
Our stay was booked at a government guest house in Madikeri town (through a source in DC office) and we checked-in first thing as we reached. This was a decent, spacious bungalow located over a cliff with nice view of a valley and peaceful surroundings. After having lunch and earning a couple of hours of rest after the long journey, it was time to rush to the race briefing, kit collection and The Upma party at ‘Coorg County Resort’ which is situated around 20 km from Madikeri in a thick forested area.
Situated in a sprawling coffee plantation estate, the resort was an attraction in itself. As we had already anticipated, the fine non-stop drizzle made the party even more pleasant. Some surprises came during the briefing, like the possibility of encountering elephants on the course and the precautions required to be taken. We were quite excited and looking forward to the adventure. Now need of the hour was to quickly finish our snacks cum dinner and pick up the goodies bags since it was the race day next morning and we needed to wake up early. But we got to spend some real nice time with fellow runners and the organizing team.
Day 3, Race day and local sightseeing:
This was the most happening day in all respects. Started the day with a very satisfying half marathon run on the rain soaked trails, got to know some serious facts and information about coffee plantation and processing (post-race from our coffee expert friend) and then did some local sightseeing which was partially interrupted by non-stop rain though. Still we managed to see the nearby places of interest like the Madikeri fort, Raja’s seat and also visited some local shops to check out on the famous filter coffee and spices. The evening was even more spectacular with an invite for a beer party cum race awards distribution ceremony from the organizers and the revelation of having won a podium position (2nd prize) in my distance category, truly an icing on the cake.
Day 4, Coorg – Mysore:
We kept this day for waking up leisurely after having a great time the previous evening. Around 10 am, we checked out of the place to visit some remaining attractions nearby Coorg before beginning our journey to Mysore palace. We had planned one night stay at Mysore on the way back to Bangalore. The places we covered were Abbey water fall, Namdroling Monastery and golden temple on the way and frequently stopped for relishing the hot filter coffee.
The plan was to reach by 6 pm and see the Mysore palace during night when a light show and parade happens every Sunday. The magical architecture coupled with the enthralling decoration was truly a treat to the eyes. Our day ended with the birthday celebration of one of the friends among us and a pleasant night stay at Country Inn and Suites, Mysore.
Day 5, Mysore-Bangalore-Delhi:
After creating some awesome memories the following days and a delightful breakfast buffet, it was time to say good bye to the southern charm and catch our afternoon flight back to Delhi. Mysore to Bangalore road condition was excellent too and it was a four hour drive to the airport.
Other travel tips:
- Take a scenic and refreshing tour to some coffee plantation facility.
- Don’t forget to buy your stash of filter coffee and spices of choice.
- Keep the rain gear ready and your roof-rack luggage covered, you can’t say for a moment when it starts pouring left and right.
- Bangalore – Coorg via Yeswanthpur, Channarayapatna is less crowded compared to the one through Mysore.
- You can give crazy Bangalore traffic a skip if you start real early, something like 5.30am before the office cabs begin to ant the roads.