One drizzly morning in Madikeri

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A view of the mountains from a bench at Raja’s Seat

That a DSLR camera makes a sea of difference to your life is no exaggeration. My recent trip to the beautiful hill-town of Madikeri exemplified this and more. This was not my first visit. I have been here innumerable times mostly during my childhood. This was were my grandmom stayed for a good 20 years of her life, reason enough for me and other kids in the family to spend many memorable school vacations complete with games and story-telling. Little would I have known then that my fairy tale land would one day turn to a photographic haven.

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A typical bungalow surrounded by trees

I woke up early one Sunday morning before the crack of dawn to trek all the way to Raja’s Seat, Madikeri’s most famous tourist spot. The idea was to capture the sunrise but sadly I was a tad late. However,  the walk uphill made up for the disappointment in a large way. The air was filled with a mélange of fragrances. The faint drizzle added to the romance of the surroundings. Every now and then Magpie Robins broke into a song. At a distance the rooster crowed, “kookra-a-koo ku”, not once but thrice. There were so many sparrows chirping around. The road was lined with dwellings large and small, some old others trendy. All along, there were narrow mud roads wet because of the incessant drizzles. The 4-km walk was simply out of the world. And to add to all the nature’s treats was a soft-as-satin breeze blowing against my face.

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I looked everywhere except at my watch so I wouldn’t be able to say for how long I had walked before I eventually reached Raja’s Seat. There were a lot of people at the park. I could see joggers, walkers, and a lot of tourists. The flowers were wet and looked fresh and pretty.  They stood out against the lush greenery. Birds chirped and sang in concert.

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The main structure at Raja’s Seat

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The ramp at Raja’s Seat offers picturesque view of the mountains

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As I approached the Raja’s Seat, the air smelt sweeter. The sight of clouds kissing the mountains was breathtaking. Once upon a time, this was where the erstwhile Rajas of Kodagu (Coorg) spent a lot of time enjoying nature and watching the emerald mountains and blue skies.

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A group of tourists had completely let their hair down running around trying to catch each other, some others were playing musical chair and then there was a group tugging at each others shirts and saree pallus reciting “Fire in the Mountain, run run run …”. Perhaps the beauty of the surroundings had driven them nuts.

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An attractive bench at Raja’s Seat

A good half-an-hour later, I made my way back. This time my walk was downhill. The experience was similar to my walk uphill. I felt like in heaven.

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A view of Madikeri town

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A weather-beaten building

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A week later, the songs of the magpie robins linger in my mind. I can still smell the fragrances of the flowers. The mountains of Coorg are a great place to be in summer!

A holiday in idyllic Coorg

This year my Dasara was memorable in more ways than one. I visited a temple almost every day. I sank in the festivities at Mysore when I visited the historical city most famous for its grand Dasara celebrations. And to top it all, I had a nature holiday at the ‘Scotland of India’ popularly known as Coorg or Kodagu. After a fleeting one-night stay at Mysore on a Friday, I arrived with my family on a fine Saturday afternoon at Hillstone Estate near Virajpet. We were ushered into a magnificent bungalow by Mr. Raju, the caretaker of the place. The bungalow was surrounded by a beautiful garden. Image The interiors of the bungalow were very inviting. A central garden in the large hall was particularly captivating. A sit-out with comfortable chairs reminded me of story books. Sadly, all I had with me was a self-improvement book. It made me wonder why on Earth I carried that and not a Wodehouse or Gerald Durell. Just as I was ruing about my choice of book, Mr, Raju invited us in. The four of us were shown into two impeccably furnished rooms. I shared mine with my little niece. Image Image Image Image Lunch followed. Mr. Joseph, the Malayali cook, cooked a sumptuous Kerala-style meal. Image Post-lunch I went on a recce. My niece was bowled over by the fireplace. She couldn’t wait to see it lit up. Image Image Image Image Image Image Image When I stepped out I noticed a kennel and from inside it peered a dog with an exceptionally large, grey face. As I approached the kennel, I heard a loud thumping on the wooden floor and endearing woofs. Eden, the estate dog, was as excited as we were. He was wagging his tail with great speed and asking to be let out. We were told that he is friendly and playful. On being let out, the adorable Neapolitan Mastiff stood up on his hind legs to give us all a hug. We had a great time playing with the fella. A dried coconut and orange served as excellent toys and to add to that there was a long twig that caught Eden’s fancy. After the awesome time we had with the majestic canine, we realised that all our clothes had large paw marks all over. The weather unexpectedly changed for the worse late in the afternoon. The incessant rains put on hold our plans of a walk through the coffee plantations surrounding the bungalow. Image Image Image Image Image Image Late in the evening was chai-pakoda time. We enjoyed our tea even as we devoured one crispy pakoda after another. The rains never ceased that evening. A game of badminton in the porch with my niece ended abruptly when I hit the shuttlecock onto the lampshade on the roof. Not knowing what to do next, we suddenly chanced upon a basketball near the fireplace. So for the next 15 minutes it was a game of bouncing the ball. The sound of us bouncing the ball awakened Eden who was unknown to us napping in his kennel. He started whining and wanted to join us. We couldn’t resist playing with him either. Keeping the ball aside, we marched to the kennel and let the big boy out. This time I gave him a good belly-rub. My niece found the big guy quite intimidating and watched the action from afar. Eden, was undoubtedly cherishing all the attention that the four of us were showering on him. The fireplace was lit up around 7pm. The four of us took turns warming ourselves. I spent the following two hours on the self-improvement book. Dinner was served at 9pm. Again, thanks to the rain, I decided to walk barefoot around the garden inside the bungalow instead of stepping out. Walking barefeet had a therapeutic effect and I walked for more than an hour. Image Image The next day I woke up around 6am to the chirping of birds. There were so many of them. Not surprising because the coffee plantation had hundreds of trees of various species. I spotted this very beautiful bird near the window. It was jet black with streaks of flaming orange. I went to grab my camera but by the time I approached the window the bird had flown away. Browsing the internet some days later I learnt it was the scarlet minivet. During the course of the day, I spotted many varieties of birds which I had never seen before such as the Vernal Hanging Parrot, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Golden-fronted Leafbird and some others which I am yet to identify. A Bottle-brush tree near the bungalow seemed to be a favourite with many of the birds. Image Image Image Image There was a slight drizzle in the air. After a breakfast of paper-like ‘neer dosas’ which melted in my mouth, my niece and I walked down the hills to the estate. Mr. Raju showed us around. We stopped near various trees and plants and our host explained the significance of each of them. It was truly a learning experience. A plantation worker’s children took us to a waterfall and a pond. By about 11am, were were back at the bungalow. The drizzle had by then stopped and we thought of playing badminton. Unfortunately, the game ended abruptly again when I skidded on the wet ground and sprained my muscle quite badly. I had to hobble around for the most of the second day. Lunch on Day 2 had ‘kozhukattas’ (steamed rice balls) on the menu. I relished them with a tangy sambar-like accompaniment. I did not play with Eden because of my painful right leg. My niece found a walking stick for me from the bungalow and we again had a walk though a small one down the plantation. Image Image Image Image Image Image The estate also had store houses and homes of plantation workers. Image Image Image We were leaving the next day, so I couldn’t resist the thought of playing with Eden. And again we had a great time with the big fella. I was so immersed in playing that I completely forgot about my injured leg. Later we noticed a basketball ring near the granary and my niece tried her hand with the game. Five pm was chai-pakoda time. After a round of bird-watching it was back to the bungalow. We warmed ourselves again at the fireplace after which I was back with the self-improvement book. For dinner, we again had a delicious Malabar spread. The speciality that night was ‘puttu’. I hit the sack around 1pm with a heavy heart. We had to leave the next morning. I couldn’t sleep that well and every now and then I could hear Eden shaking off the mud from off his body. He was walking around the garden. I would miss him the most. Image Image Image The final day

To do a wee bit of bird-watching, I woke up around 5am. I went down the plantation at sunrise and again spotted a couple of vernal hanging parrots. For the first time, I also spotted a pair of woodpeckers. After about an hour, I made my way up the hill to the bungalow. Mr. Joseph served soft snow-white appams which just melted in my mouth. After 15 minutes of playtime with Eden, it was time to pack up. Bidding goodbye  to all was tough. The only consolation was that we could come back again for another holiday. Eden and his garden and the great hospitality we enjoyed at the bungalow will forever remain etched in my mind. Image Image     See also: Endless clicking on a road trip from Bangalore to Coorg and back https://sujnaturelover.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/endless-clicking-on-a-road-trip/ Dasara Doll Festival – I https://sujnaturelover.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/dasara-doll-festival/ Dasara Doll Festival – II https://sujnaturelover.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/dasara-doll-festival-ii/

Endless clicking on a road trip from Bangalore to Coorg and back

A week back, a road trip from Bangalore to Coorg and back proved to be more colourful than I had imagined. I travelled with my family on an SUV and unlike on earlier travels I had my precious DSLR camera for company. Seated on the backseat and near the window, this time I thought I would do more than just watch the world go by. I kept clicking. To many the idea may sound crazy but I revelled with this new found pastime. The car was travelling quite fast and most of the shots were out of focus or got blurred. Still there was a sizeable number of them that were quite publish-worthy.

I was awestruck with some of the rock formations:

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The lush green fields and greenery were a tonic for the eye:

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The roads were lined with a lot of colourful houses. Parrot green seemed to be a favourite colour with many. Houses in neon hues that would have been an eyesore in the urban landscape stood out brilliantly on the countryside.

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While some of the shopping centres were bustling with activity many others were waiting to be occupied.

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Every now and then I could spot a shrine done in bright colours.

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I was impressed with some of the building designs.

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Thanks to a stopover at Mysore, I got the opportunity to soak in the Dasara celebrations although for a short period.

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The palace looked ethereal when illuminated. Sadly, my hands were full and I couldn’t capture that moment. However I got to click the illuminated arch at the Dasara exhibition and spent a lot of time at a stall selling Dasara dolls.

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Dasara dolls on display at a stall in the exhibition:

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A bird’s eye view of Mysore from the hotel window:

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After an early morning breakfast of rava onion dosa, we were off to Coorg.

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There were more colourful captures on my way to Coorg and on the return journey. I particularly took a fancy to this novel toilet :

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I loved this picture of a grazing pony:

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Here a derelict edifice stands amidst wild growth and begs for attention:

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There were many of these artistic bus stops on the highway. Some of them were vandalized.

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I am looking forward to more road trips and better clicks 🙂

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See also:

Dasara Doll Festival – I

https://sujnaturelover.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/dasara-doll-festival/

Dasara Doll Festival – II

https://sujnaturelover.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/dasara-doll-festival-ii/