World of wild…

KABINI…was all in my mind..I wanted to escape from the hustle bustle of the daily routine. I was fed up and wanted to rejuvenate over the weekend.

My search started, viewing the pictures of Kabini, reading reviews, finding accommodations, this is what I did on Thursday and Friday. With the experiences shared by our fellow travelers, I shortlisted Forest Guest House for the stay. With the reviews, I found it’ll be thrilling to stay at the forest guest house, amidst the Jungle. Also, it would be affordable and convenient option.

Calls begin..I start calling on the Sunkadakatte guest house number +91-8222-252041. On talking to a lady over there, I get to know that we need to book the guest house through Deputy Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Mysore. And she provided me with the number: +91-0821-2480902. When I called in they said, they will not be able to provide the guest house as there are some trainee’s staying over there. Bad Luck! On researching more on booking the forest guest house, I got to know that we need to book a forest guest house 15 days in advance. You need to call and speak to the officials, write a letter to them with your travel plans, if the rooms are available they will provide you their bank account details and we need to transfer the amount and confirm the booking. Disappointed, with not able to avail the forest guest house. But the plan was still ON.

I started finding home stay accommodations. Finding home stay accommodation is not on easy task, that too at the 11th hour. You get a lot of options, you literally have to surf real hard, read all the reviews, check on the budget and then book your stay. You get plenty of options. Coorg has around 500 to 600 Homestay accommodations. However, I had Kalmane Estate which is now Faith Cinchona Estate on my list, which is at Kutta, South Coorg and very close to Nagarahole National Park. But this place did not fit in our budget as they charge Rs 1750 per person which includes all the meals. I called in for some of the homestay’s like Gowri Nivas, Honey Valley and so on which was all full.

It was time for me to get back home, get the bags packed for the journey. Now, it’ll be an adventures journey. Not sure on which place we are going to, how are we going, where are we staying, if at all we wanted a rejuvenating experience! I went home, packed basic amenities required for 2 days, including Camera, Torch…I then realize, the Camera memory card, I had left at my hometown last time when I went home. Now, at 10:00PM who would keep their shops open to sell a memory card??? Okay, I thought. If  at all we get a shop near Mysore, I’ll buy it over there, else we’ll experience our journey and least bother about capturing the moments.

BENGALURU! Majestic bus stop! Here, our journey begins. We start towards the Majestic bus stop. Slow moving traffic near Majestic, which took 15-20 minutes drive from Corporation to Majestic. Even before we enter the bus stop, we gave a visit to Swathi Delux. Our favorite spot to have dinner whenever we travel. After dinner, we started towards the bus stop. Now trying to find buses towards to Kabini, Madikeri or Mysore. The plan was Kabini and through my research I knew we need to take a bus towards HD Kote to go to Kabini. At this hour, it was around 12:00AM, the only option which was left is MYSORE. You get plenty of Karnataka Sarige buses towards Mysore, Day and Night services are available. Luckily we could get Rajahamsha Executive and we boarded that bus. It takes 3 to 3.5 hours to reach Mysore from Bangalore. It was a smooth journey and we reached Mysore around 3:30 AM.

MYSORE!!! This bus stop was revamped recently and now you got lot of space, lot of benches. You could see people sleeping all over. Whenever I see Mysore bus stop at night, I feel people come here to spend a night. It’s a good sight for photography. Having no intentions of sitting in those benches, we started finding buses towards Madikeri. Madikeri got into our brains just to find an affordable accommodation. Also, there was a bus which goes to HD Kote. We HAD to ignore that bus as we dint have any option for accommodation over there. Other than Orange County or Jungle Lodge and Resorts in and around Kabini.

We got into the Madikeri bus,  Karnataka Sarige. In no time, all the seats got filled. People travel during this time too.  It was time to find an accommodation before it’s too late.  I took my Laptop and started browsing. Even before that, we wanted to find the distance from Mysore to Madikeri and then to Kabini. While seeing the directions in the Map, it looked as if we are taking a big round to reach our destination. More than Kabini, Nagarahole National Park fascinated us. Our plans were finalized then and there. The bus which we caught goes via Hunsur. We bought tickets to Hunsur. Yes, Hunsur!

HUNSUR! We reached Hunsur at 5:00 in the morning. A small KSRTC bus stop. With only 2 shops, a small hotel(This is the only big hotel in the town) which was not yet open, few people waiting for bus. We entered the bus stop, kept our bags on the chairs. I found a board which read in Kannada, the timings of the bus starting from Hunsur. In no time, I found the timing to Nagarahole. It read 07:30. I started calculating, from 5:00AM to 07:30AM. We had to wait there for 2.5 hours. No way!!! The mosquitoes were humming, flying around the ears, legs, all over. Lot of other ideas starting coming in, go back to Mysore, or take a bus to Madikeri, take a bus to HD Kote or Gonikoppal which were in plenty. Any bus which came in, I started running towards the driver and conductor or see the destination plate. Anywhere but not Nagarhole! The bus towards Nagarhole will come only at 7:30. The journey from Hunsur is around 1 to 1.5 hours. So, I was sure it’ll reach before 9:00AM. What I had read from the websites is, the morning safari timings are from 6:00 to 9:00. Seeing our plight, a coolie worker in the bus stop said the bus will come only at 07:30. He also showed me a parcel which was kept in a platform. He said, the bus on which I dump the parcel is the bus which goes to Nagarhole. Okay! I stopped finding for other routes and we freshened up, had breakfast. By then at 07:15 a bus came in. I ran towards the bus, a small boy who was selling flowers saw me, his face glowing, lit up with smile, happily screamed Kutta, Nagarhole. Got into the bus, relaxed! I thought this was too much for a day.

Journey from Hunsur to Nagarhole is a pleasant one. This time experiencing extreme summer in Bangalore, no one could predict it’s summer in those places. It’s greenery all over, super cooling. Forest, trees, all over. There, I felt this is what I needed this weekend. This is what I came for. With these thoughts in my mind, the bus slowed down for a moment, when I peeped out of the window, it was sap green in color, lovely, a wild elephant crossing the road, entering towards the wood. Such a lovely scene. I enjoyed the scene and thought for a moment, if I had a camera I wouldn’t have enjoyed as I did at that moment. I would be busy trying to capture the best shot. On our trip, everything happened for a reason, like forgetting the Camera memory card, unplanned destinations, still more to come.

NAGARAHOLE! We reached Nagarahole forest check post. We got down from the bus, few forest officials were standing outside the forest office. It was 08:45AM. The forest officials were welcoming, we asked them for Jungle safari, with sweet smile on his face one official said it’s closed after 08:00. Our smiles faded, he said the next safari would be from 03:00 to 05:00. They suggested instead of waiting until 03:00 we can visit the close by places. They said Irupu falls is close by. Which is just 12Kms. Okay, that’s not a bad idea but, how do we go there? The next bus from Nagarahole to Kutta(Which is the nearest junction) will be around 12:30. Wait! Wait! Wait! Tired of waiting for buses. The place around was cool and pleasant. A deer was feeding on the grass. We sat on a bench, freshened up and relaxed for sometime. And then we headed towards the forest office and started taking to the forest official Sidappa. He’s a nice man and we got lot of information from him. He handed us a brochure of Nagarahole National park and clarified whatever questions we had. Also, he said it’s not in their control to offer the forest guest house. We need to provide the approval letter for them to provide the guest house keys. The guest house ranges from 800.00 Rs to 1600.00Rs. Dormitory will cost you 800 and the cottages will cost you 1600. They provide basic vegetarian food which is on additional cost. He was surprised to know that we traveled by bus and we did not have transportation. The forest road is closed from 6.00 PM to 6.00 Am. He suggested we stay in a place, relax there and come for the evening safari. He provided us a number and while taking to Tarun , he said they provide accommodation ranging from 350.00 Rs to 3500.00 Rs. It’s a resort “Tranquil Lake Resort” and currently they had a cottage which was free and the cottage charges were 2000 per day. We bargained and got down till 1500 and that was a fair deal when compared to the Homestay’s around. Still we were not sure whats in store for us. While searching for a accommodation around Kutta, I used to find this place but I never went to read reviews or something did not fascinate with this place.

JEEP RIDE! With no options, we agreed to stay at Tranquil Lake Resort. This is place is 9Kms from Nagarahole. Tarun said, Yatin, will come in the jeep to pick us up. Yatin came to pick us in some time, seeing the open Jeep I was so excited. I always loved the open jeep and I never got a chance to ride in the open jeep. We got into the Jeep, Yatin vromed the jeep, my god! the speed, first time ever I’ve experienced that speed in a four wheeler. Awesome! Awesome speed, we almost missed few accidents too. On the way, we spotted a small deer, drinking water in the stream. The scene, the atmosphere, was just perfect, it seemed to be a painting. I’m glad, I witnessed such a scene. On the way, we could spot a group of deers. The sight of deers are common in these sanctuaries. But to find the big cats, one should be really lucky.

TRANQUIL LAKE RESORT! Heaven it was. You feel you are entering the gates of heaven. So cool, so beautiful, so pleasing, so welcoming. When you enter, both sides you find flora, passion fruit hanging all over, variety of flowers, plants, lovely view. We spoke to Tarun, the rooms were not yet ready, so the caretaker Renin guided us towards the dining hall for breakfast. The way towards dining wall is just fabulous. Both the sides covered with coffee plantations, when we reached the dinning hall we were surprised to see the scenery. A beautiful lake in front of the dinning hall. WOW! the mention Tranquil Lake, very much suites.

The menu for breakfast was Upma and Bread Omelet. The Puri had got over when we reached. We had a Upma and Bread Omlet. Both were not great. I would say food in this resort is not up to the mark. There were several other guests. The cook was not so enthusiast is cooking variety of food and he tried to hook us with the South-Indian non vegetarian meals. No way! We are in Coorg and we’ll eat Coorg cuisines was our attitude. We politely said, can we get Coorg special chicken. He agreed to prepare Coorg Special chicken curry and Chicken dry item with rice and Chapathi. After tasting breakfast, we did not expect great lunch either. Despite we wanted to enjoy the other things around. Lake was mind-blowing, weather was splendid.

We checked-in to our room, a single room, pretty spacious, the room was kept neat, the room freshener was just sprayed so the smell did not fascinate me, bathroom was kept clean, a bamboo stand to hang clothes was placed. Overall it was a good feel inside the room. We took a small nap, freshened up and walked towards the dinning hall. Had lunch and then came the exciting part. Boating!!! We went boating in the canoe with the care taker Nitish. This guy is very enthusiastic and he told us lot of stories about the leaches, animals which come to drink water in the lake and so on. We had a nice ride in the canoe and then we headed for estate walk. Lovely butterflies were following us everywhere. The saying “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” is very much true. We got to see variety of plants and trees which we haven’t seen, we got to pick some oranges which was fallen down in the estate. Evening we had tea, we did not opt to have any bajji’s or snacks.

We had Chicken Biriyani and Fish Fry (Macarel) for dinner which was again Okay. they had set up bon-fire. Remember, it was so cold even at this time of May. We enjoyed sitting round the bon-fire. The dogs Jimmy and Maya were of pretty entertaining. Maya  even swims in the lake and entertains the guests.

Night Safari! Before dinner we planned for the night safari. The night safari is nothing but a ride on the Tolpetty (Wayanad) road, if you are lucky you get to site few animals, even big cats sometimes. We had to share the safari with other couples and a safari of nine would be charged 2000.00 Rs. We were six in a safari. They would arrange for a batch of three safari starting from 8:00PM to 11:00PM. The Safari was exciting, we took our head torch with us, trying to find any animals possible. Initially, we found only deers. To our luck, we got an elephant which had almost crossed the road. It saw the Jeep and tried coming our way. We were so close to that. That was the fun part of our safari. The driver moved with little speed and in next interval we could find a group of elephants. With our torch light they started roaring. We moved further and on the other side of the jungle we could find few Gaurs and that’s it. We could not trace any other animals. But the safari was much fun.

We had sound sleep, did not want to wake up very early, we were so tired because of the previous day’s adventures. Had our Breakfast. There was Neer Dosa for breakfast and we opted to have Neer Dosa. It was a bad idea we picked to have Neer Dosa. It was no were near to Mangalore Neer Dosa. If you are a foodie, you’ll not love this place. We had one more round of boating. The caretaker Pappu, took us this time. He swirled the canoe so fast, it was thrilling. And then, we checked out of the resort. Overall experience was great.

Yatin dropped us till Kutta, a junction nearby. Little disappointed we couldn’t get a drop in the same jeep which we were picked. He then said, there was no deisel in the vehicle and it’s very difficult to drive it as there are problems with the break! The Maruthi omni was filled with dust, but he drove us super fast. He says, they call this vehicle as E-Class Mercedes. Superb!

Kutta Bus Stop – Again we were back to a bus stop and had to wait for the bus. We wanted to go for a evening safari at Nagarhole. We checked in a bakery and he said we will have the next bus only at 3:45PM. The only option we had was take a bus to Tholpetty – Wayanad. It’s just 5 Kms from Kutta and there are plenty of bus services. Fine! At 2:00 PM we started from Kutta to Tholpetty.

THOLPETTY – WAYANAD! The safari starts at 3:00PM and before that we took the tickets and combined with another family for the safari ride. Tholpetty is in Kerala state. For the tickets, we need to take a token, only 20 vehicles will be allowed from 03:00 to 05:00PM. Once you get the tokens, you need to stand in queue again and collect the tickets. They charge 20 Rs per head, 100 Rs guide charges, 50 Rs for the vehicle pass if you have your own vehicle or you can pay 300 Rs and hire a private jeep. These arrangements will be done at the ticket counter itself. Before the safari started, we started tasting all the eatables in the petty shops around. I enjoyed eating Raw mango slices, Amla (Gooseberry) which was dipped in the salt and chilli water. Awesome taste.

It was kind of interesting, Tholpetty just 5 kms from Kutta, but the weather was kind of humid. Strange. The safari was very much more disappointing. The roads were dusty and the worst part is we couldn’t find ANY animals other than deers. Also, the safari’s were not well organized. Really very disappointed. On our way back, we got a jeep which was going towards Kutta. Again, at the same bakery we checked what time would we get the bus towards Mysore. Until 07:30 there were no buses towards Mysore. The option left was Gonikoppal. We got into a Gonkoppal bus around 05:30Pm and reached Gonikoppal around 06:45PM.

GONIKOPPAL! Gonikoppal is in the South Coorg. There’s a very small KSRTC bus stop. Not well organized at all. We had to wait for the Mysore bus in a corner near the flower stalls. When the Mysore bus arrived at 07:00PM lot of people who were waiting for the Mysore bus started bumping into the bus. Some putting the handkerchiefs, some keeping their bags in the seats from the window. We did not even consider getting inside this bus. We checked with the TC and he said next bus will be at 07:30. We decided to wait and to our luck there was another bus just in 10 minutes time which goes towards Mysore. We boarded that bus and reached Mysore around 10:00PM.

MYSORE! We had dinner at a Keralapura Military Hotel. I wouldn’t suggest this hotel to anyone. My friend suggested we go to Pai Vista, I pulled back saying Pai Vista is a four star and it would be expensive. But Keralaapura was a worst choice in fact. Finally, this was our last leg. We took a normal A/C bus towards Bengaluru and we reached Bengaluru at 02:45AM.

All in all we had a rejuvenating and adventurous weekend. We got to learn a lot from our experience. Next time, we would make sure to plan such visit in our own vehicle or hire a vehicle. This trip was more like a Destiny than a unplanned trip. 🙂

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Recommended Home stay at Coorg: Bel Home

How could I forget this trip with my family to Coorg for a home stay? Alas!! It took this long for me to write a recommendation/review.

I had done little research and had picked few destinations: Jaipur/Rajasthan, Srilanka, Coorg or Chickmaglur for my holidays. And then I remember my Dad’s words few years back talking to my friend. He says in an innocent voice, “I love hill stations; I always love to go there.” So I shortened the destinations to the nearest hill stations around Mangalore.

Coorg or Chickmaglur? These were the two options I gave my Dad when I was about to plan my holidays. He says, Coorg. Though I’ve visited Coorg lot of times, distance being just 4 hours from Mangalore, during School/College trips, this time I planned this trip for my family. I planned for a Home stay at Coorg!

I researched a lot over the Web, and I found one place which had no negative remarks. It’s the Bellari Mote Estate, Bel Home at Madapura. Also, two more home stay’s Faith Cinchona Estate which Mr. Prabhu takes care and Polaycad Bungalow at Ammathi which Mr. and Mrs. Cariappa’s host. We were lucky enough to get a cottage room booked at Bel Home. Above all, at the last minute, my sister and her kids plan to join us! Now what! I called Ms. Ramolla to find  if there’s any option at their place. Yes they did have the Swiss tents. And I went ahead and booked the Swiss tents too.

Vijai and Romolla the hosts, they were in touch with me regarding our stay from then on. Even before I booked the place for stay they were worried about how would we commute from Mangalore? The Mangalore-Mercara roads would be closed for 3 months on road widening and it was of no use getting our own vehicle. Mr. Vijai then asked me to check with KSRTC if there would be any direct bus. And we find there would be shuttle services from Sampaje, Puttur.

The day we travelled Coorg, since we did not have a definite time when we would reach I had asked Ms. Ramolla that we will arrange vehicle on our own when we reach Mercara. When we reached Mercara, we couldn’t get any taxi or they charged very high. When I called Ms. Ramolla at the 11th hour, she was to arrange for a vehicle.

It was an Ambassador car, after ages I got to travel in an Ambassador; Anthony rode us to the gates of heaven “Bel Home”. Its 45 minutes to 1 hour from the Mercara bus stop. We had to pass through few other coffee estates before we reached Bel Home. Roads for around 1 or 2 Kms would be little tedious with mud roads for around 1 Kms. But then, you get to see the heaven on top. Two cottages with two lovely couple waiting to welcome you along with their two dogs Tiger and Patch, they are ready to play with you anytime.
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Highlights:
Bel Home is located amidst the coffee estate, with a river flowing nearby, completely serene and beautiful.
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The guest cottage consists two spacious double bed rooms, a common hall, a porch overlooking garden and coffee estate where you also have you breakfast, lunch and dinner. Couple of easy chair is placed in the porch to sit and relax while you read your favorite novel or sip a wine during the cold nights of winter. The rooms were kept so neat, flower vase on all tables even in the bath rooms, they get the hot water ready whenever you wish to. There’s no television and that’s when you enjoy the serenity and somehow for the network was available in the cottage room. It may not be the same for you, so you might be lucky.

The Swiss tents are adventurous and not a bad idea at all. We were tentative about the idea of sleeping in the tent. When our host Vijai accompanied us towards the tents itself, he assured us not to worry about the safety. We were rest assured, though Mom and Dad didn’t let myself and sis to sleep in the tents instead they did. However their pets Tiger and Patch will be wide awake at night. The Swiss tent had a foundation with the tent on top. A spacious room, bathroom and a porch with an Armchair. The tent is put-up in the Vanilla garden few meters away from the main cottage. You hardly get a feeling it’s a tent.

Hosts:
They are a lovely couple. My parents liked them a loved for their respecting nature, their simplicity, hospitality, their extremely friendly nature, they give you privacy at the same time they are approachable anytime you need. My Dad liked speaking to Vijai and Dad about the coffee estates, about Coorg or on any topic. Vijai also arranged for a Taxi of a Mangalorean fellow so that my parents feel comfortable while we are out on sightseeing. Ms.Ramolla was curious to know who slept at the night and she gives me a “You made your parents sleep in the tent” look when I said who slept on the tent. And then she reminds me my words, she didn’t want her parents to sleep in the tent when she initially booked the cottage. 😛 In other words, the Deviah’s are so caring couple.

Food:
Awesome Coorg cuisine. My mouth is still watering when I think about those cuisines. Both Veg and Non-Veg are delicious and they would keep your mouth savoring with the taste for months.
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Commuting:
It’s great if you have your own vehicle. Else, Mr. and Mrs.Deviah’s would arrange for one.

Security:
You don’t have to worry about the security when you are around Bel Home. I used to sit out on the porch late till midnight, several times at night either Tiger or Patch would come around the cottage for their rounds.

Care takers:
They are one among the people who contribute in keeping the standards of Bel Home. They help in preparing awesome food, keeping the place tidy, etc. On our first day at Bel Home, after dinner my Mom went to wash her hands. They keep a bucket full of water to wash hands. The water was cold. There was a care taker called Sathish, he noticed that Mom didn’t want cold water. Immediately he got a bucket full of warm water. At Bel Home, you don’t have to ask for anything. They’ll sense your requirements.

Only thing what I regret, I couldn’t spend more time at Bel Home and enjoy the natures calmness. Anyone who plans for a Home stay, please do not plan to visit anywhere towards city. Just be there, relax and enjoy the serenity. The hosts also arrange trekking activities to nearby peaks.

The two days we stayed at this heaven and we felt were at home. We did not feel like getting back home.

Tariffs:
Rooms Bed & Breakfast – Rs.3000/per couple (During season)
Extra Bed – Rs.1000
Non-veg – Rs.225 per meal
Veg – Rs.175 per meal

To book your stay, please visit: http://www.belhome.co.in. You can call Mr. and Mrs.Deviah on the numbers mentioned below or email to bellhome_homestay@hotmail.com.

Vijai Deviah – +91 94488 – 73543
Ramolla Deviah – 08276 – 204477
+91 98809-08135
+91 93410 – 80586

To find other best home stay’s, visit: http://www.getoffurass.com/  or http://besthomestaysindia.com/

I would really visit Bel Home next time. I also want to explore South Coorg and want to stay at Faith Cinchona Estate which Mr.Prabhu and Mrs.Maya look after.

Make sure to read all the reviews and check with friends/blogs to find a best place to stay. In my opinion Bel Home is worth the price. To view more pictures of Bel Home, please visit: https://picasaweb.google.com/SeemaKotian/BelHome#