Solo travel seems to be the flavor of the season. Unfortunately, a lot of us have caught the bus, or rather realized that there is a bus, a little too late. At this point of time, the craving to just take a long walk without a purpose, daydream and travel according to my own whims and fancies is as irresistible, as is close to impossible.
Almost all the books that I have read recently, a lot of blogs and newspapers give accounts of people who travel and explore places and generally enjoy being by themselves, coming back rejuvenated. The introvert in me gets mighty excited at this prospect because, I really really enjoy being by myself. But the pragmatic side of me knows that probably this kind of travel is only possible for me when my kids outgrow me and when my work responsibilities are lessened.
In a world of uncertainties and with my level of impatience, waiting so long to travel and see the world seems like a gross waste of time. Hence, to take the road often traveled, I planned to travel bag and baggage,with my kids and enjoy them, myself and the place all together. A tall order,but no harm trying.
Our first such sojourn this year was to Coorg over the weekend.
I had been to Coorg fifteen years ago and had fallen in love with the place. And as I had explored it then quite a fair bit, it felt easier to plan and navigate this time round. For the uninitiated, Kodagu or Coorg is a district in Karnataka, famous for coffee, spices and the natural beauty. The district has about five principal towns by name of Madikeri, Kushalnagar, Somwarpet, Gonikoppal and Virajpet, all at close quarters to each other.
Coorg, is usually considered a honeymooner’s,coffee lover’s and backpacker’s paradise. Despite not fitting into any of the above categories this time around, we enjoyed ourselves far too much. Definitely, we made it our own family paradise!
Though we stayed surrounded by a forest and coffee plantations,this is how we made it one:
- Harangi backwaters:
We planned our stay in a jungle resort in Kushalnagar, right on the banks of the backwaters of the Harangi river. The only problem with this being the commute for the last stretch of the road, which was quite bumpy. But the resort was such a pleasure. Well maintained, and clean food being the basic two necessities for the kids, it fit the bill perfectly.
The resort provided boating and kayaking facilities in the backwaters, and a great play area for small children. For the older ones, there are huge playgrounds created by the receding waters of the Harangi, which served as badminton and volleyball courts.
Meals in the garden, watching the birds and the vegetation scored over Doremon, in their novelty value, hence, making my job of feeding my younger one easier and their tummies fuller.
- Dubare elephant camp.
Situated about 15 kms away from Kushalnagar,is an elephant camp on the banks of the River Cauvery. Owing to the amount of people who visit it, it has developed a touristy feel with junk food stalls and others selling locally made handicrafts. Nevertheless, nothing can take away the happiness of seeing and touching the huge, but seemingly gentle beasts swaying their trunks gracefully about.
Alongside this, there are other things to do in Dubare, like still water rafting (as a compensation for those mothers with kids less than five, who are not allowed to be on the riskier but more fun version of white water rafting). The vast expanse of green all around, cranes abound and the rhythmic sway of the oars create a tranquil atmosphere.
Right in the middle, the boatman allows a stop at a place where the kids can jump into the water for a small swim and enjoy themselves. There are also places in between where you can cross the expanse of the water jumping over boulders and play in the water. (I’m told this is only possible in the summer and winters when the water levels are low).
- Trekking up the Bhramagiri hill.
The word trek here, is what I am using quite loosely. Near the Talacauvery (the birthplace of River Cauvery), is a hill Brahmagiri, which offers an amazing view of the mountain range around it. You only have to huff and puff a few hundred steps to reach the top. Carrying a small picnic hamper, plonking yourselves right on top of the world and having a bite, all the while watching the clouds pass next to you is a lovely experience. The top of the mountain gives you a view of three states , one on each side- Karnatka, Tamilnadu and Kerala(Though all you can see is mountains and lush green, making you wonder as to the farce of man made boundaries!).
- Spice farms.
Being born and brought up in a city makes for a slight amount of ignorance regarding the place of origin of many of the things that we confidently stuff into our mouths. Like the kid who thought that milk came from the closest milk booth and all that. Tucked away in an expanse of green, we saw a small board reading “The Indian institute of Spice research”. It appeared desolate, but on getting in, we met up with a research student who was doing work on growing vanilla. He showed us around huge plantations of spices right behind the building. Brown fragrant vanilla beans, bright yellow nutmegs with a burst of red within, peppercorns looking like a small bunch of grapes… It felt really good. Bye bye, spice dumbness!
- Cycling through the coffee plantations.
They say that you know a place only when you know its by lanes. Cycling through the small roads of the coffee plantations, stopping over every time we saw something new was great. With almost zero traffic, we could stop to watch every bright colored unnamed flower, coffee beans, small bugs and spiders. Houses with chillies spread out to dry, curious dogs looking at us and birds calling out ever so often into the silence, make for a great experience. Quite safe for young kids, as there is almost no traffic. Most resorts offer cycles, hence you can enquire beforehand, instead of lugging your own around. The only risk here is the condition of the bicycle. Make sure you find out ones with the best brakes!
- The honey farms.
This was one thing which I wanted to show my kids, but had unfortunately disappeared this time. On the way to Bhagamandala, on our last trip, we found a small dilapidated museum and a honeybee farm. The museum was dusty and had a weird smell, but was manned by an enthusiastic old guy who explained to us in great detail the history and the progress in the area of making honey. The museum was home to many artifacts and boxes in which the bees are kept. This time, however, the museum was not to be found. Have any of you seen it??
All of the above were really short trips saving us a lot of time to laze, relax and sleep of all the week’s tiredness.
As a mother, it was important for me that my children enjoy their trip too. And we realized that it did not matter whether the tv was on, or that we did not have internet for most part or that there were no amusement parks around, our weekend in Coorg was one of the most memorable ones in the recent past.