Weekend in Coorg (late September)

 I know we are waaaay behind on blog posting, but we wanted to put up at least a few pics of our recent trip to an area of South India called Coorg (don't worry...pics from the trip to Sikkim are on the way). 

Coorg (also called Kodagu) is in southwest Karnataka (see highlighted region in the map below). The Coorgis come from a warrior clan and are one of the only (if not the only community) in India that are allowed to carry weapons. The men are often seen carrying large knives, usually tucked into a belt behind their back. Coorgis are also called Kodava people and have their own distinctive dress (particularly the way that women wear their sari), culture, and language, though many Indian communities seem to have this kind of uniqueness.

But, before the trip, a side note. One of the crazy things about living in India as a (relatively) wealthy foreigner is that you can afford all kinds of things that you would never be able to back at home. Coorg is something like 300km/190miles from Bangalore. We don't have a car, and the bus and train rides seemed quite long for a weekend trip. So, we hired a driver a few days before this trip using taxi-type service, but the driver never showed up (we were scheduled to leave at 7am and the driver cancelled the trip at 630 that morning). So, we thought we were out of luck, but using a taxi app called Ola, we asked for another driver and one showed up immediately. I mean like, 5 minutes later. We wondered how this guy was ready so quickly for several days away from the city. Well, he spoke little to no English, so we had a difficult time communicating with him, but he didn't realize at first that we were: a) not traveling across the city, but more like 5 hours westward [he kept scrolling on the Google map route on his phone for nearly 5 minutes], and b) that we were not coming back for another 4 days. But this guy just dropped whatever it was he was going to do later that day, and for the next 3 days (!), and ended up driving us everywhere we wanted to go the entire weekend. Luckily, they had a room for him out back at the place where we were staying, but the whole thing is odd in that he just rolled with the situation in a way I could never imagine happening in Montreal.

Okay, enough of that. The drive was long but pleasant, as our driver also had an obsession with keeping the music on, kind of loud, and fixed on some station playing old Indian music. Alissa and I both got a kick out of this song as we were riding with the windows down, and just kept singing it the entire weekend.

We stayed at a place called Spring Dale Estates (yes, fellow Arkansans, Springdale!), which is a beautiful, family-run 100-acre coffee and pepper plantation that was a welcome relief from all of the noise and pollution of Bangalore.

We arrived in the evening and took a beautiful stroll around the plantation with our host (Mrs Ravashi), who owns the place with her husband but seems to run the entire operation on her own (her husband is a dentist who started a dental school nearby). She is also extraordinarily tall and was impeccably dressed the entire time, even during our walks through the muddy plantation.

They are primarily a coffee planation, but they also grow black pepper, and they used to grow and sell cardamom, but it turns out that the latter is just not cost-effective anymore because it is so labor-intensive. You can see below some young coffee beans that are green and some more mature ones that take on a reddish hue. The pepper plants are vines/creepers, which were really beautifully mixed in with other trees and plants. They still had some cardamom plants, but we did not get any pics.

The next morning we awoke early and went for a stroll, and just spent time soaking up the sound of frogs and birds getting their day started (okay, more honestly, perhaps we were just enjoying the absence of horns honking and construction). Take a listen while you peruse these images:

The estate is basically self-sufficient--they produce all (or nearly all) of their own dairy (milk, butter, yogurt), eggs, vegetables, and meat (primarily chicken and pork). Despite the Indian reputation for vegetarianism, Coorgis are different and are well known to be serious consumers of meat. We sampled pretty much all of it. We had fresh eggs and milk from their cows in our coffee for breakfast (you can see the cows being milked in one of the photos):

Another thing we found a lot of in Coorg, especially in the early morning (and in more rural parts of India generally), are wood spiders. Huge wood spiders. Sometimes they are alone (like in the pictures below) but in other cases there are like 5-6 webs all strung together, which is completely creepy, but also kind of beautiful.

We took two day trips away from our general lazing about the plantation: One to a Buddhist monastery called Namdroling, where we were able to listen to several dozen young monks in training doing some recitation and chanting. It was quite an experience to see and hear all of them in sync, with little obvious direction and essentially no talking between chants (you can hear them beating some huge drums and blowing these enormous horns during the chants as well).  We recorded a little snippet of their chanting you can hear below. You can also see the young monks reading their script that is hand printed on what looked like hundreds of rectangular cards.

The other day trip was to a huge waterfall nearby the plantation, which provided some entertainment in the form of some young boys treating the pool below the waterfall like a birdbath:

and some very nice pics of Lissy:

We had a wonderful time, ate well, slept well, and got to enjoy some relatively pristine and unspoiled countryside. Plus, the coffee was awesome (we brought home a couple of kgs). A few additional random pics of women who were working on the plantation (on this day it was raining and they were spreading manure for the next growing season...yes, we should all appreciate our good jobs), a frog we found when we were walking, and a puppy I almost tried to take home with us. Love and miss you all...more to come soon (promise!)