08 September 2008

Adventures in Coorg

This weekend Linda and I were in Coorg, a beautiful area about 5 hours away from Bangalore filled with coffee & spice plantations. We stayed at the most beautiful organic farm in the rainforest, the Rainforest Retreat , which also (and unsurprisingly given the name) doubles as a retreat/guest house owned by two former molecular-biologists turned farmers (the funds from which are used to fund the owners' very forward looking organic farming/preservation non-profit). We had the pleasure of getting to know the wife Sujatra and taking a tour of the farm with her which was fascinating (and of course, right up our alley). Linda liked it so much she is staying the rest of the week on a work-exchange, teaching the already quite able cooks there some new tricks, in return for lodging and getting to see how they do things.

We had a magical time there, getting in midday Friday and basically loafing in our guest house near a burbling stream, interspersed with some delicious meals and the occasional hike/walk for the next day-and-a-half. We had good company, making friends with a lovely Columbian couple with whom we shared walks and meals.

Sunday was a much more intense day - quite wonderful, one of the best days I've had in India. We got up early and were picked up by a driver par-excellance, Prince. Prince took us first to the Elephant camp at Dubare where we got to meet, bathe, and I got to ride elephants (Linda didn't want to). We also got to see a mischevious and terribly charismatic baby elephant. Oh, and I stepped in some elephant crap. That stuff both sticks and smells. This morning when I got back to my apartment at 4AM, the first half-hour was filled with scrapping them off, so the stench would abate! Anyway I still wouldn't have traded the experience.

Our next stop was the Golden Temple, a buddist shrine built by a community of Tibetean refugees given a land grant in Karnataka some years back. Really neat place.

From there we proceeded to a quaint homestay arranged by Sujatra (they were her friends), where we spent the rest of our perfect day. First we washed off and had a delicious lunch. Next we took a walk through the small plantation, across a mile of rice paddy, and down to the Cauvery river. We spent two hours sitting underneath a tree, talking, resting (I took a short swim at the end). It was soooo relaxing and was the first time we've had in India where we've been outdoors in a large open space, but also been alone. Alone is much harder hear where there is such a mass of humanity, even much more so than a crowded place like NY, and it's really precious.

After coming back from the river, through the paddy again, we had some tea, washed off and settled in for a restful nap. Towards 7 we had another delicious meal, packed and headed back to town, where Prince dropped me off at 8:30PM. I was really sad to part with Linda, but super happy that she is going to have such a nice time (she doesn't have much in the way of email or phone connection though, so don't worry if you don't hear from her for a bit). I was also anticipating a boring wait until my bus left at 11:15PM with everything closed in a dark, sleepy, unfamiliar town. But things seem to work out for me.

I turned out that this particular night was the one on which Madikeri had chosen to throw it's big Ganesh Chaturti festival and the streets were filled with revelers, floats, and music. I was repeatedly draw in to dance and being the only foreigner there was a source of much excitement. Of course I didn't want to disappoint and spent about an hour-an-a-half dancing with the natives and generally enjoying myself. I think over a hundred people came to shake my hand and ask me where I was from, really crazy stuff.

My one sadness was that Linda had all of the memory cards so I couldn't take any pictures or video - except using my iPhone which doesn't do too well at night with pictures and didn't have the software to take video. But I thought, well maybe the open source community made some progress with their video utility and while dancing checked for upgrades through the Cydia software distribution system. Again luck strikes, there was an upgrade and my cellphone's interent was good enough for me to download, install and then begin filming - all while continuing to dance, carrying all of my luggage and smelly boots! So I had a great time waiting for the bus and can really share the experience with you too. The video is choppy (taking video on a cellphone at night, using beta software you can only expect so much) but actually conveys the experience quite well. In this clip you can watch the music start off slow and build to a frenetic conclusion (also keep your eyes out for the ganesh float partway through). Enjoy!

Final thoughts: when Linda returns to me, I'll pepper this post with some more pictures and video, or post another, so those of you who get email should most certainly revist the page itself to check for updates. At around 10PM, I left the revels and headed to the bus station, where I chilled out before my ride and managed to sell my extra ticket (sans a handling fee from the agent, or graft, not sure which). You can read about the mostly non-eventful and nicely quick ride on my twitter posts.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this excellent information, I will make a trip there for birdwatching.