Coorg stands for coffee and Coorg stands for the army. So we set about deciding to meet these martial race on their own coffee grounds (pun intended). Our army made a gentle advance – halting two days in Mysore after a leisurely amble from Bangalore. And then circumambulated the enemy territory – Hunsur, Goniloppal, Poonampet and finally met the dogs of war at Kutta. Kutta is a small town at the edge of the coffee country and a couple of km away from the Kerala border. Word of advice for warriors in a hurry – take the route from Honsur – Markel via Nagarhole National Park.
As with the Indian army the favorite vehicle for the Coorgi warriors is the Mahindra Jeep. Kodagu district (yes, that is what Coorg is officially called) has roads that are designed for warfare training. Every oncoming vehicle is treated with the same respect that Manekshaw would have given to Pakistani tanks. Like the ceremony at Wagah where the guards will see eye to eye and try to act as menacing as possible, a car crossing is a pure who-blinks-first contest. And when you are driving a low road clearance Fiat Siena, sensible strategy is to hold your ground, press the brake and refuse to let the enemy push you down the road. As in most cases the enemy used to be a Mahindra jeep, they would see the light – and as our friend Freddy Mercury would say – another one bites the dust. This of course came at a cost of speed, but then aren’t vacations supposed to be about the journey and not the destination?
Kutta is not very tall when it comes to height above MSL – in the Bangalore range actually. But then the presence of stupendous greenery helps. We stayed at the Pearl Garden Coffee Estate with the Utthiahs. Whatever I wrote in the Visitor’s book is factually an understatement. The stay was marvellous – Nalini Utthiah put the Tajs of the world to shame as far as the food and hospitality was concerned. Breakfast used to be a 5 course meal – you can now imagine lunch and dinner. You can actually carry your weighing scale when you visit – if your weight does not increase by a couple of kilos – I will eat my words and the leftovers on the dining table.
So you’ve got it right – food is the high point. But you can linger around the coffee estate, go for short walks on the traffic-less roads – of course armed with sticks to help combat some of the martial Coorgi Kutta dogs (alliteration intended). And yes lots of insect and bird-watching to do. Why I even managed to surprise a snake or two on the estate. Robin, Nalini’s son, even congratulated me, as the guy I surprised represented the 10% venomous category. Apart from such adventures, if you want to see wild life in a more organised way, jump across the border to Kerala and hop into a Mahindra jeep for a 1 hour safari in the Wayanad Game Sanctuary – VFM at 500 bucks for the trip. I would also recommend showering under the Irpu waterfalls, about 8 km from Kutta. But one thing there is no free lunch (Ok shower) – you have to pay Rs. 20 for the 500 m trek to the falls. It was fun to see the array of undergarments on display, to which I added my own kaccha.
If you are keen, you can get in touch with Nalini. The stay costs Rs. 2000 a day, all 3 meals included. Enjoy the stay – and yes – carry your own weighing scales…