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India and beyond
By Sydney Winer - (contact)

Madikeri to Mysore: Cycling in Coorg

Monday November 16, 2009, 338 km (210 miles) - Total so far: 2,506 km (1,557 miles)

9/11/09
Madikeri to Gonikoppel 52km
Finally head south out of Madikeri although haven't completely shaken the cold. The ride is gorgeous. One of the guidebooks describes the Coorg region as being like something out of a Constable painting and I'd say that's a pretty fair description - tiny neat villages and patchwork green fields amongst the forest.

10km downhill to start the day then rolling hills with short climbs and descents.

Wound up in Gonikoppal - a biggish town that doesn't appear on either of my maps but sits right at the intersection that leads to Kutta and the Nagarhole National Park. There seem to be two places to stay, a traditional Indian hotel with "Lodging" and the shiny new Hotel Pranaam International where I stayed because I'm a jetsetter. 24hr hot water and a VERY comfortable bed won me over.

Shortly after settling in the heavens opened and it poured torrentially for much of the night.

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Typical of the day's scenery.

10/11/09
Gonikoppel to Kadama Kolli Homestay, Pookala Village. 49km

Rain had cleared by morning so off I choofed. The road to Kutta was potholed and bumpy but very scenic. At last I found a village of the typical architecture unobscured by trees so stopped for a picture. A car traveling in the other directions pulled to a stop and I chatted for a while with the driver who turned out to be a Coffee farmer with a home stay on his plantation. As did Babu Cherian at Poondi an offer was extended to stay as his guest...

The Kadama Kolli homestay (www.kadamakolliatcoorg.com, or new site at www.kadamakolli.com) is a 26km diversion down a dead end track, but wow, what a track - no traffic worth mentioning and eye melting lush scenery with rice, coffee, tea, cardamom, banana and palm plantations. Lots of short steep climbs and drops especially towards the end of the road.

With 6km to go a downpour caught me. I stopped under a tree to put on my rain cape just as the single bus of the afternoon passed by. About a kilometre down the road at the next bus shelter a voice called out to me to come in and sit out the rain... an offer that was then extended to a cup of tea in the house just behind the shelter. The occupant turned out to be a relative of the home stay owner and had spotted me from the bus and felt it was his duty as an Indian to extend hospitality.

Once the rain passed I set out for the last 5km (the steep ups and downs) to the end of the road where I was assured I'd find the home stay. Instead I found a school but the gaggle of school kids who then found me pointed me down the right track to the strikingly picturesque Kadama Kolli. Picture a quaint two story white house on a hillside amid wide lawns with a river curling through the front yard, an african style thatched sit-out across the river and a coffee plantation spread through the surrounding mountain jungle and you get the idea.

As I write this in the late evening I'm feeling like a bit of a fraud, Suju, the man who extended the offer to stay hasn't yet returned from his outing and may not it now seems return until tomorrow. Meanwhile his family have accommodated and fed me without batting an eyelid. I think Suju was particularly keen on talking to me about ways of attracting foreign visitors.

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Bumpy, though scenic roads today.

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Rice fields filled every valley floor.

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The village where Suju fortuitously stopped for a chat. The architecture is typical of the Coorg region.

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On the road to Kadama Kolli. I'm unsure if this is a temple or a house.

11/11/09

Finally caught up with Suju in the morning and took him up on the offer of staying another day. Went for a few short walks, between rain showers, sat by the river (small fish, frogs and tiny crabs aplenty) and generally chatted with Suju about getting his website noticed and word of his homestay out there. We also talked about the local religion - a mix of traditional ancestor worship and Hindu beliefs - and the Coorg language which is different to Karnataka states official language, Kannada, but uses its script in the written form. I may have misunderstood but a families surname almost seems to contain a coded family history. I think Suju said his most revered ancestor was 25 generation ago.

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Kadama Kolli Homestay. Pretty, isn't it?

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Just up the river behind the house. I couldn't get too far thanks to my slippery shoe soles on the damp rocks.

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Nice garden too.

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Madikeri to Kadamakolli Home Stay via Gonikoppal

12/11/09
Kadama Kolli Homestay to Manantavadi 71km

After retracing the first 26km I turned onto the worst roads of the trip - potholed like you wouldn't believe - often more pothole than road. Luckily traffic was light and what little there was was slow moving. The scenery too continued to be outstanding and the road passed through a couple of wildlife reserves although I again saw no wild elephants.

To help passing cyclists the accommodation situation between Gonikoppel and Manantavadi looks like this....

22km south of Gonikoppel you come to a roundabout surrounded by a small cluster of shops and 'hotels' - eating places only, no accommodation. At the roundabout go right for Kadama Kolli, there's a sign at the roundabout showing the way. After about 2 km you come to a fork in the road - go right for Kadama Kolli, left for Irupi Falls. Kadama Kolli is 26km from this point with a couple of signs up at crucial intersections to show the way. There is a sign to another homestay just after you get through the Tata Tea Plantation a few km after the road first forks to Irupi Falls. I think the sign said 7km although I can't remember the homestay's name... Jungle something?.

When you return to the roundabout (remember it's a dead end road) after your stay, or if you're going straight from Gonikoppel to Manantavadi you'll find some accommodation in Srimangala about 3km further south from the roundabout including Mat's Guest House in the middle of town and the Coorg Guest House, a garish orange concrete building at the southern edge of town. A few km further on there's a southern approach road to Irupi falls and there appear to be at least a half dozen home stays down that road judging by the cluster of advertising hoardings. Continuing south there are then many roadside signs to guest houses, holiday homes and homestays all the way to Kutta, about 25km before Manatavadi. How open any of these are to 'drop in' customers is untested. The last 25km is often through wildlife reserves and I don't recall seeing any other accommodation untill Manatavadi and the rather dire "Due Drops Rest Home" where I'm holed up for the night - if only because the sun was setting, it was the first place I found and I didn't want to ride around in the dark in the hope of doing better. Oh and it has indoor parking for the bike, which clinched the deal, grimy walls notwithstanding.

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Talk about bumpy...

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Rice Paddy near Manantavadi in the late afternoon.

13/11/09
Manantavadi to Sulthan Bathery 46km

A short day today but tiring and with plenty of slow going as I dodged potholes. Sore butt from the constant bumpy road pummeling.

The first 20km was bumpy with tons of bus traffic along a hilly road lined with small villages. Friendly locals though - I was almost hoarse from all the hellos. At 20km the road forks (not shown on either of my maps) with the left branch heading for Sulthan Bathery on an initially smooth new road that carries little traffic yet manages to support three strategically placed ice cream vans. The smoothness doesn't last but the final eight or so km are along a better maintained hard shouldered highway.

The scenery wasn't up to the region's usual standards today, or maybe I was distracted by the need to swerve through the potholes rather than look around.
Sulthan Bathery (aka Sultan's Battery and Sultanbatheri) is no great shakes - a messy, busy, small town but with plenty of hospitals and hotels. I'm staying at "Issac's Regency" - a upmarket looking place with surprisingly cheap rooms and cheerful staff.

14/11/09
Rest day in Sulthan Bathery

Bed was incredibly comfy so I slept in. Then it started to rain so I slept in some more. Then it wasn't worth my while leaving so I signed on for an Ayurvedic massage in the hotel's Ayurvedic Centre. An oily experience!

15/11/09
Sulthan Bathery to Nanjangud 95km

Wild elephant at last! Left late, about 10am, and shortly after leaving town the road entered the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and then Bandipur National Park. Most of the first 40 rolling km were through these gorgeous parks. Traffic was Sunday morning light and I finally saw my first wild elephant just 10m from the roadside. No photo sorry - It was a fleeting moment and it seems I won the staring contest as the elephant stopped briefly, sized me up, then fled, which is lucky for me as its tusks seemed absurdly oversized. I also saw herds of deer and countless monkeys.

I'm sure there was more to see but the weekend drivers seemed to think I was an even rarer sighting than any wildlife and greeted me with blasting horns, whoops and cheers - none of which is conducive to sneaking up on animals. It was another of those days when I starred in countless tourist photos and was flagged down constantly for chats.

The second half of todays ride was on a road I cycled down a few weeks ago towards Mysore. It seemed busier today. I've stopped short of Mysore as it was getting late by the time I reached Nanjangud. The hotel is cheap, the room huge and clean with 24hr hot water. The latter is a rarity in Indian hotels but for a cyclist who arrives hot and sweaty makes a nice end to the day. Most hotels, even mid-range ones have hot water only in the mornings. A cold shower at the end of the day in baking Tamil Nadu is nice but in the cooler weather of the Karnataka plateau it's not so much fun.

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Spotted the elephant in this forest.

16/11/09
Nanjangud to Mysore 25km

Completed my circle through the Wayanad/Coorg region today and will stay for two nights at my favourite Indian Hotel - the Mysore Dasaprakash before heading north to Hampi and Goa. Actually the more I read about Goa the less appealing it sounds - a former hippy haven now overdeveloped for European package tourists, and as it's getting into the European winter now it means high season is approaching...

There are two West Australian cyclists at the hotel (not the pappadums) who are finishing their ride in Bangalore in a couple of days. I'm the first touring cyclist they've met in three months. Swapped notes so I have a few ideas now on the road ahead.

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Kadamakolli Homestay to Mysore via Sultan Bathery


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"India and beyond" Copyright © 2009-2014 By Sydney Winer - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on November 16, 2009 03:48 PDT, last updated on September 16, 2014 06:03 PDT
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