Run For The Hills!

Madikeri is in the Coorg (Kodagu) district, to the west, and up into the mountains between Mysore and the coast. It is much cooler, and wetter. The differences go beyond the climate and geography. The Kodava people are different from the Kannada people, with different traditions, different spiritual beliefs, and even a different language. Rajeev arranged for us to stay in a home stay in Madikeri, where we would have a local host, Padmini, and a meal provided in the morning right in her dining room. As a member of the Kodava community, she is connected with several taxi drivers who will take guests on tours of the regions. Padmini chose Jai for us, who knows her well, and seems to know everyone in the community.

Padmini’s home is located up on the hillside, overlooking town and across to the other ridges where Madikeri rests. We woke up to a view of the mountain mist moving over the rides across the way. After a breakfast of dosa after dosa after quite fine tasting dosa, Jai picked us up for a tour of the agriculture, the sacred temples and falls of the Cauvery, and a few local heritage sites in town in Madikeri proper.

Jai pointed out several different plants growing wild along the side of the road, as well as plants growing on private lands that bordered the road. We stopped at a home where he greeted a man in the front and lead us past the gate and down a narrow path, showing us particular plantings important to the region along the way. In sum we saw coffee, oranges, lemons, black pepper (which is the same plant as white pepper), sandalwood, pineapple, cardamom, ginger, and butter fruit, which we know in the U.S. as an avocado. For the coffee snobs who think there are only two types of coffee trees, Jai pointed out three: robusta, arabica, and Cauvery. The arabica and Cauvery trees are siblings, but do appear to be distinct varieties, perhaps a sub-species, maybe from thousands of years of selective crossbreeding. The most noticeable difference was the leaves on the Cauvery were much darker than the dark green leaves of the arabica tree.

Back in the car, Jai took us to the temple at Triveni Sangam, the holy site where the Cauvery River merges with two others before flowing downstream into the rest of Karnataka. The architecture of the temple was very different than what we had seen in the Mandya District, much simpler and with cleaner lines.

We proceeded upstream to the Bhagamandala Temple at Talacauvery. The Cauvery River is sacred to the people of Coorg, appropriately so as it gives life to the lush region, and feeds the agriculture and electricity of the Mandya District and other regions downstream. The temple houses the bubbling spring which is the sacred birthplace of the Cauvery River. Each year in mid-October, the spring bubbles high. That is a holy day and everyone in the community joins to celebrate at the Bhagamandala Temple in Talacauvery. Behind the temple we walked up a granite staircase to a view overlooking the ridge from both directions in the mountain mist.

After lunch in Madikeri, Jai took us to Abbi Falls. In Kodagu, Abbi means, literally waterfall. The British, however, attempted to rename the falls Jessica Falls, after the child of an important British colonial who died. The falls are very different from those seen in the Gorge, wide and flat. The rainy season had just begun, and even with all the glory we witnessed, Abbi is still waiting to come out in full force later in the season.

We came back into town and visited the Madikeri Palace Fort. Built under the Haleri king, the fort still houses government offices. At the entrance, a church has been converted into an archeological museum containing many local pieces, as well as a few from other regions of south Asia.

Finally, Jai took us up yet another hill in town to a local city park, which is the home to Raja’s Seat. Overlooking the western side of town, the Raja of Kodagu spent a great deal of time in the beautiful location, hence the name.

It began to rain as we were leaving the park and the beautiful view was clouded over by the familiar grey of Portland. By the time we reached Padmini’s house the rain had stopped to reveal clean air and a beautiful sunset.

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