Virajpet, Coorg: A Slice Of Heaven
Have you ever heard of ‘The Scotland Of India’? ‘The Land of Warriors, spices and pretty women’? How about ‘The Coffee Capital of India’?
If you haven’t, you’ve been living under a rock and missing out on one of the finer treasures India boasts.
I’m talking about Kodagu/Coorg.
A little town called Virajpet in the Kodagu district is my native and before I jump to that, here’s a little something about Kodagu as a whole.
Along with the killer views and the scent of coffee berries filling your nostrils when the windows are down or while on your motorbike, this little district cloaked by the Western Ghats, is home to some of the finest coffee produce, the best honey and oranges. Now you know what to take back.
My fellow Indians know of a love for spices that has no bounds and Kodagu is the place for it.
Also adding to an extensive list of what you can take back from a weekend getaway is homemade wines that leave you yearning for more long after the last drop.
I’d be doing huge injustice to the place if I didn’t tell you about some of the jewellery that’s authentic to the land. Shown in the pictures above are:
a) Kokkethathi- a crescent shaped mandatory piece of jewellery for the Kodava bride. (Usually is about 26 in long with a carved symbol of wealth and fertility.)
b) Jomale- Grooved gold beads filled with lac, stringed together on a black threaded cord.
c) Peechekathi- In the picture is an Odikathi and a Peechekathi brooch. These weapons hold a great significance in the Kodava community and hence, the Kodava men wear the Peechekathi on their self in their traditional attire.
Now that I’ve given you a little insight about the place that I spent most of my childhood, (Thanks to my summer, Dasara and Christmas vacations) and some of what it offers, I hope you’re willing to go ahead and see what this place is, from someone who isn’t just holidaying in it.
This is a journey from Mysore to Virajpet. It’s roughly a 106 kilometres drive but I plan to take you there in less than 15 minutes through pictures from my gallery and words that convert memories to writing.
Except for buses and your own private transportation, there’s no other way that you can get there. No trains run, you have no aerodromes to house your private jets. However, a helicopter can make an appearance every now and then in an open field.
It’s a rather small town with close to 17500 people according to the 2011 census. It used to rain most times of the year and if it wasn’t raining, a mist was always hovering. However, these days, I can’t say the same with the changing environment.
I was about 2 years old when my parents decided to leave me at my grandparents house for a couple of months whilst they dealt with things around changes. (Changes being me.) That’s how this love began. So, this post details a little over two decades of solid memory since I’m holed up and can’t make a trip back to my native as much as I want to right now.
Before you go ahead, I’d like to give you a little head’s up- when in a vehicle with windows, you’ll need a strong resistance to fight off the urge to roll down every window to let the soft air carried in between coffee and pepper estates to hit you.
Now if you have company and they’re anything like my dad, you’ll also need ear plugs for every time they tell you that rolling windows down will ruin the insides of the car. You don’t need that kind of negative ass energy.
From what I’ve seen, I’ve narrowed the pit stops down to two places-
a) Cafe county- If you’re on bikes and/or below the age of 40.
b) Hotel Annapurna- above 40 years of age, an old soul of sorts, the onion pakodas and green chutney is your fuel to brave the terrible roads ahead.
I say terrible roads because remember how I told you it rains a lot? Yeah, so because of that, before the roads were re-done recently, you’d see more potholes than actual roads. But that’s part of the experience so I’m not even going to complain.
For a brief stretch, you have a little surprise on your left (usually)- Elephants. There’s a tiny elephant camp called Anechowkur. Mostly tame elephants but if you’re particularly unfortunate that day, you’ll come face to face with a rogue one.
Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you- you’re driving through a part of the Nagarahole National Park. So if you encounter wildlife, this is why. Don’t act like a damn fool.
Just before you reach Virajpet, you have a relatively smaller town called Gonikopalu (Gonikoppal/Gonikoppa)- you would know this because you probably heard this being mentioned in one of the kodava songs.
Between you and I- The people here are a sight for sore eyes, men and women alike. It should be no surprise that men and women from the Kodava community are some of the most good looking individuals. This is unbiased.
After about half an hour from Gonikoppa, you start entering Virajpet: where magic happens.
The very first thing you see as you enter the town, is the clock tower and the post office and the Ganesha temple behind it.
If you don’t know anything else, know these three because you’re now in the heart of the town. This should be all you need if you’re new.
From here, I take you along my roads.
Taking one of the roads away from the clock tower, the first thing I look out for is the church- St. Anne’s church, peeking through the tree tops, standing mighty and tall.
The memories that come with it are the midnight Christmas and Easter masses, bundled up with the thickest wools we have, breathing out steam that always catches the eye of every child around you. I have never heard a better choir in all my life.
Down another winding road is where home is, nestled in between estates of coffee. Creaky black iron gates shielding a whitewashed house with a tiled roof and red oxide flooring- a very ‘vintage’ touch if I may say so myself. Around home I always see way too many potted plants with peels of fruits or strained coffee powder as manure.
If I’m down during the coffee drying season, I tread carefully around the coffee seeds from the estates that’re spread over large areas to dry, be grounded and packaged to sit on your supermarket shelves.
Even if it’s a surprise visit, there’s always the smell of hot coffee or something cooking. Always.
Next up comes a little tour around the house.
The firewood that provides heat to our bathing water stays piled up against a wall by the shed, some more potted plants with pretty flowers make appearances every now and then, a random frog or two crosses my path to scare the living Jesus out of me, and if that particular day I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, there’s a snake somewhere waiting to slither in front of me and send me running back into the house.
Once inside, I follow the sounds of purring to find a cat and her kittens all playing on a mount of sacks that granny made as their home.
My granny is a cat lady. I said it. Just that most of the cats aren’t hers. She just feeds and entertains whichever cat walks into the back door.
I didn’t forget the best part about Coorg, I just waited- The coffee estates themselves.
It’s an adventure every time I walk into the backyard, at the fringe of the estate. Accompanied by one of the workers or the least laziest, and the most daring family member on any sunny morning, starts a walk straight into the plantation.
Three things to look out for- snakes ( when it’s sunny), leeches (when it’s moist) and overhead spiders between the tops of the coffee plants (all through the year). You can add red ants on the floor of the estate too but you’ll just get used to it after a while.
One of my favorite things – the lone well.
I come from the city and wells are not something I see on the daily. Even after 22 years of seeing the same well, it still fascinates me. Oddly enough, owing to a very mild fear of heights, I never look down a well or stand by it because I honestly don’t trust my footing at all- I’m capable of tripping on air. I have a weird love-hate relationship with that well and it just had to make it on here.
Evenings usually entail a walk to a nearby bridge to take in everything my surrounding offers- coffee and pepper estates of relatives and friends, sounds of tiny animals and clapping your hands on pesky mosquitoes.
Or a trip to the old library that feels and smells of stories and ….. lots of dust.
Or a drive around the places my mom and dad used to play when they were little since they’re both from the same town.
It might be the 100th time hearing the same stories over and over again but do they ever get old? They don’t. It’s just as exciting as the first time, imagining mini dad and mom with their friends wrecking havoc and being a nuisance around town.
Or- my personal favorite off late- a trip to KFC. Not the one the Colonel made but the one that’s authentic to Coorg. I’ve heard a couple of jabs to the authenticity of it every time I bring it up but hey, if it serves the purpose, might as well, right? It’s a little funny to me, I’m not going to lie.
KFC- Kodagu Fried Chicken. Just leave it as it is.
The nights- if you’re not a fan of thick blankets, you just have to be one in Coorg. There’s no way else.
a) There are spiders the size of my palm all over the house. It just comes with estate homes but it’s impossible to get used to them.
b) There’s always the cheer of some distant hockey match happening.
c) Crab catching in paddy fields is a privilege honestly. You don’t get that kind of fun in cities.
d) Like I said before, there’s kittens 10 months of the year in Nani’s place. Just feel free and pick one if I take you there.
e) Always feed her cat. She makes extra effort to buy her cat it’s own share of milk but you got to put in some effort of feeding it off your plate too.
f) It took a little getting used to with the 10 am and 6 pm sirens everyday. Who am I kidding, I still jump when I hear them. Never heard of towns having sirens blaring through the entire town like that.
g) Your nice shoes don’t stand a chance in the rainy season. So if you ever make your way to Coorg, and after reading this if you still go with one nice pair of shoes with no backup for when it rains, ……. you’re just stupid.
h) If you’re a meat eater and leave Coorg without giving Coorg pork (Pandi curry) a try, you’re a disgrace to humanity. It lives up to it’s fame.
i) To combat the cold- beer, brandy and the likes are your best friends (Like it isn’t already.)
j) Whilst the whole world is losing their mind about avocados, we’re fortunate to grow some avocado trees in our backyard. Where was the hype all this while when unattended butterfruit fell to the ground and rotted. Sigh.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was fun getting my parents and my sister to add in their bits to make it what you’re reading. My parents were particularly hard on me for this one- obvious reasons. I’ve obviously not hit a lot of important things I should’ve mentioned about Kodagu but I’ve done what I could.
As always, thanks for reading 🙂
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In support of local industries from Coorg, here are some of the links that you can use to buy their produce and show some love and support to them. For anyone that wants additional information, Nectar Fresh is Women owned and is means for Rural and Tribal empowerment. This is in no way a promotion or sponsored by them. Just sending love their way ❤