Would you be pleased if your year began with breaking and aching ?
Well I was not just pleased but positively exhilarated when 2019 started off exactly like that … with Breaking and Aching of the nicest kind of course !!!
My Coorg jinx of 2018 which saw several aborted plans of making it to that destination and my record of the highest mountain that I have ever trekked … both these were vanquished in one fell swoop with my visit to The Tamara Coorg. Of course the breaking of the latter resulted in the Aching of several muscles for several days but it was the blissful agony of achievement or what is known as the Gain from Pain 😀
(also just to be clear, I have climbed a total of two and a half mountains in my life, in case I gave the impression of being a world class climber :-D)
The Tamara Coorg is visually enchanting, with its hilly terrain and lush greenery that extends all the way to touch the mountains that hug the horizon.
It is a blissful place for rest and relaxation, a haven for several species of birds and its rugged surroundings also offer trekking trails of varying difficulty levels.
Stroll through its pathways and join me in exploring all the delights that it holds.
The Tamara Coorg provides a host of man made activities within its premises, apart from what nature has already bountifully bestowed on it.
At the outset, the mesmerizing view from the cottage balconies, can be definitely counted as an activity (or non) because one can entertain oneself for prolonged periods of time, merely gazing out onto the landscape. Comfortable lounge seating on the wooden deck of the balcony, ensures that you will lose all will power to move for hours on end.
Within the room, there is that ubiquitous chess board embedded in the coffee table in every room for those Shatranj ke Khiladis who would want to forget outside life, kingdoms and what have you 😀
There is also a very detailed and well curated Information Directory in every room that covers every aspect of the resort and possibilities of entertainment within, along with some interesting snippets of Coorg history. It would be worth those few minutes to go through it and get an idea of the options.
Indoor activities –
The recreation center has karaoke and also a host of indoor games. Apart from the usual carrom, chess, ludo, cards etc, the list also endearingly includes a few traditional ones like Chowka bara, Aliguli maney, Adu huli aata, Brahma gopura etc
You can google to identify these games or better still you can visit the Tamara and discover them yourself 😀
Outdoor activities –
If sports and games are your thing, there are several courts to keep oneself occupied like tennis, badminton, net cricket and basketball.
Gym, Steam and sauna –
The enthusiastic ones can have a free run (no pun intended) of the gym which is modestly equipped. The usage of the gym is included in the basic package.
Steam and sauna are also available at no additional charge.
Swimming pool –
There are 2 pools, outdoor and indoor. The outdoor pool also has an attached pool bar. The Indoor one is maintained at a pleasant 29 deg c.
Yoga temple –
Yoga sessions are scheduled at fixed times and are on the house. They are conducted in the large and serene hall of the yoga temple.
The Spa here is named Elevation, aptly indicating what it promises to do for your spirits after you experience it.
It is housed in the bungalow which was the home of the original coffee estate owner who sold the property to the Tamara. A bit of refurbishing of the walls and floors is the only change that has been made, in an attempt to have the place retain its existing aura. An adjacent shed that was used for storing coffee, now contains the spa materials and stores.
There are various health and beauty treatments available along with ayurvedic massages and also western style massages rendered by very skilled and trained staff.
Picnic spot –
Tucked away in a peaceful hideaway on the premises, lies a circular patch that can be used as a picnic spot or a venue for private events. Guests can order their picnic baskets by choosing from the restaurant menu and can carry them to this little clearing in the woods and enjoy their little getaway into the outdoors. A picturesque bridge and stone benches add to the charm and tantalize Instagram trigger happy folk 😀
Plantation walk –
The plantation walk is an activity that should not be missed. The local guide accompanies you on an hour’s walk around the 2.5 km trail that snakes through the resort and imparts a wealth of information about the very interesting and exotic flora and the fauna with the bird life, interesting insects, mammals like the giant Malabar squirrels etc.
The coffee, pepper and cardamom plantation, the features of the property and of course the history of the resort are the other details that are also covered.
Blossom to brew coffee experience –
The walk has its grand finale at the boutique store called the Verandah, where all the knowledge that you have imbibed about coffee is now put to use, culminating in actually imbibing the coffee itself 😀
Blossom to brew is an interactive operation that takes you on your personal tour of a mini model of a coffee processing unit, where you weigh, roast, dehusk, powder and eventually brew your own cup of achievement 😀
Cooking class –
Every evening at 4.30 pm the one of the chefs takes the guests through a veg or non veg (depending on preference) demonstration and prepares one local curry and one rice bread. It is worth attending this short session especially for those who would like to recreate these local dishes at home.
Bird watching –
The resort is a Bird watchers delight and holds many species within its hospitable trees. Birdsong makes for ongoing background music and the air is filled with chirping, cooing, hooting, whistling and tweeting … the latter being a refreshing avatar of the non cyber variety of course.
The notable bird species here include the Malabar grey hornbill which is very easy to locate with its strange call that to me resembled the attention seeking cry of a hen that has just laid an egg 😀 The other birds that can be easily spotted are the Scarlet minivet, White cheeked barbet, Drongo, Woodpecker, Pompadour green pigeon and several others.
An early morning expedition led by the resident naturalist, takes the guest on an hours tour within the property. 6.30 am is a good time to begin, armed with a pair of binoculars that are provided by the resort. The guide is very skilled in locating and identifying even the tiniest and highly camouflaged of avians as he enthusiastically leads the group through all the likely locations.
The Coral flower tree is one favorite hangout for most of the species.
The hills in the vicinity make for treks of varying difficulty levels and the resort has complimentary guided treks on pre determined routes. Manjemotte peak (6 km and 3-4 hours moderate trek), Balliyatre ridge (7 km and 4 hours moderate trek) and Pathipole falls (8 km and 4 hours moderate trek) are the trails that one can choose from.
There is also a much longer and tougher trail to the highest mountain in Coorg called Tadiyandamol peak. This takes around 7 hours from the resort and is a chargeable activity.
My experience –
I was there for 2 days and that turned out to be an ideal time frame to experience some of their key offerings.
On Day 1 – I arrived at lunch time (that is getting to be quite a habit with me 😀 ) and after being done with the check in formalities, Bhojamma of the front office escorted me to my cottage in the electric buggy. The buggies are the only wheels permitted after the parking area. En route she gave me a quick briefing about the features and facilities and those 5 minutes were sufficient for me to chalk out an itinerary that would suit all my interests.
Lunch being the first activity (I am really starting to feel guilty when I say that), I then had a choice of going on the plantation tour at 3.30 pm or resting in my room till the cookery class of 4.30 pm. The excitement of being in a new destination usually overrides all desire to stay still and hence I naturally chose to do the walk.
Armed with my camera and accompanied by Ashwath my guide, we set off on the 2.5 km trail through the property. Ashwath was very knowledgeable and articulate and it was a pleasure being educated by him on the various types of exotic fruiting and flowering plants, ferns, trees etc.
I was fascinated by the ornamental green bananas stemming from brightly colored flowers and the red velvet banana that bursts open when ripe and to me resembled the face of a little mouse 😀 with its seeds forming the facial features.
The star moss, exotic black orchids, rudraksha tree, coral flower tree, areca trees, torch ginger flowers, heliconium, rattlesnake flower and of course the mainstay of the plantation, the thousands of coffee, pepper and cardamom plants, were all viewed and explained about.
I fell in love with all the flowers here and I think the feeling was mutual because I swear I saw some of the flowers making eyes at me 😀
At frequent intervals one also finds fenced saplings that have been planted by guests on special occasions like their anniversaries etc. and the resort sends them updates of their babies !!!
I also visited the spider, which according to Ashwath, had been quite a permanent resident on one of the coffee plants and he assured me that it would be right there whenever I wanted to come back and take pictures of it 😀 He was right of course and my 2 days there saw me making quite a few sorties trying to capture him on my lens a la King Bruce and the spider !!!
However in this case Queen Caroline was the only one making numerous attempts to get a decent shot, while this spider was quite adept at spinning an enduring web and did not seem to undergo the tribulations of his forefather in the original story !!! Fortunately he was just a few feet away from my cottage and not difficult to access.
The natural waterfalls in the property have their source in the mountain springs and though they were not cascading in full glory as in the monsoons, they still made for scenic spots and pretty pictures.
The walk provides you with views of the cottages from various angles and there is an uncontrollable urge to repeatedly take pictures of the charming wooden cabins.
Though there is a dedicated bird walk every morning, the birds do not deprive you of getting a glimpse of them at other times of the day either. Ashwath pointed out several species along the way and I was absolutely thrilled to have another one of my records broken with the sighting of the Malabar grey hornbill. The hornbill that had eluded me even on my recent trip to Assam and Nagaland, the latter to attend the Hornbill festival, ironic as that sounds 😀
Well this grey one despite belonging to the more subdued looking of all other hornbill species, was good enough to please me and I have to thank both Ashwath and Pavith (one of the staff) for helping me locate them and managing to get my first picture of this bird, who actually was kind enough to hold still until my camera had its fill.
The trail took us past the spa, gym, yoga temple, swimming pools, game courts, cardamom plantations and picnic spot which is quite an enchanting space where one might might be forgiven for stealthily looking out for pixies or fairies or gnomes to suddenly pop out from under the little bridge and startle you.
The Verandah was our final stop and this boutique store dazzles with its fine antiques, works of art and other curios that are available for sale. It also houses a little library and its piece de resistance, which is the Blossom to Brew coffee experience center.
Ashwath took me through the paces of weighing, roasting, dehusking, winnowing, grinding and ultimately brewing my own cup of coffee … which of course being a non drinker, I did not consume, much to his disappointment 😀
Well I cheered him up by making plans for the next morning where I had a choice of bird watching or trekking. I chose the trek, reserving the bird walk for my Day 3 before checking out.
The scheduled one and a half hour walk had taken us nearly 3 hours since I was the only guest that afternoon, thanks to my guide’s patience as I clicked pictures along the way and generally absorbed the pleasure of the session at a relaxed pace.
Of course that meant that it would soon be time for dinner and a buggy appeared magically and transported me to my room to freshen up and go to the restaurant.
It is not advisable to walk on the driveway after dark and the buggy is the recommended way to get back to the room after dinner.
Dinner ended on a sweet note as you can see. A sinful, coffee dusted chocolate tart. In my defence, I needed all the energy for the next day’s trek right ?
Day 2 –
The highlight (with a pun on the High) of Day 2, was my trek to the highest mountain that I have ever climbed 😀 and people are going to have to deal with my bragging for quite a while to come.
I was at the recreation center by 6.30 am and we set off on the trek with Ashwath and another guest couple Sandeep and Sirisha. Not being of the adventurous mountain leaping category, I did get rather nervous seeing them and wondering whether I would be slowing their pace and generally being an impediment 😀 But they were really patient and wonderful and encouraged me on and without them I would have surely coerced Ashwath to allow me to give up half way through.
It goes without saying that I chose the easiest of all the offered trails and the 3.5 km Balliyatre ridge was our destination for the adventure.
The Tamara lies at around 3800 ft above MSL (mean sea level) and the ridge is around 5800 ft above MSL.
En route we passed by tiny villages. Watch out for some of the dogs who take their job rather seriously 😀 However, Ashwath assured us that they would do no harm.
To our credit, we did complete the to and fro 7 km trek within the estimated time of 3 hours, conquering intermittent 60 – 80 % gradients, loose stones and rubble, overgrown roots, thorns and burrs that stuck to our clothes and eventually made for victory banners or should I say Burr’ner, in the secret space of my room (where the cleaning personnel must have found it the next day :-D)
The view from the top of the ridge is of course the reward for not having faltered and we had this stunning aerial perspective of the Tamara, 2000 ft below us !!!
As I put it – The view was breathtaking … and so was the climb 😀
We revelled in the aura of the surrounding cloud engulfed mountains, far away waterfalls and even the fog hindered view of the Kerala border in the distance.
The highest peak Tadiyandamol, formed the backdrop of our pictures, though for that moment it was a case of ‘My peak highest’ for us :-D)
The slopes were covered with remnants of the shrubs of the Neela kurinji flower, that were taking their winter break before breaking out into a riot of blue at the upcoming spring.
A tiny snail clung to one of the bushes, as if a part of the plant that it was glued to.
We had our refreshments of juice and apples and lingered on the rocks for around 20 minutes, clicking instagrammable pictures and generally feeling victorious.
The descent was not as easy as I had hoped and put a different kind of pressure on the legs. However, that was vanquished too and an hour later we were back at the resort for a well deserved breakfast.
As a reward for being such heroes, my legs had been promised a relaxing massage at the spa after the cooking class that I had planned to attend at 4.30 pm.
So until then, I spent the rest of the time walking about the property and discovering even more things to photograph.
Yes I visited my spider friend again too 😀
At the cooking class, chef Sunil Jiyal prepared Coorg bamboo curry and the rice bread called akki otti, which I had always wanted to learn. Hence it was a very educative session for me as the chef patiently took me through the steps. I cannot wait to try this out in my own kitchen.
After this I made my way to the spa where the doctor in charge spent some time with me explaining all the treatments and massages available.
I was then treated to an hour of delight where the highly skilled Dema from Bhutan, pampered my legs with a customized massaged and soothing them into a state of bliss after the trek generated soreness.
A hot cup of herbal tea ended the massage.
The evening came to a close with making plans for the next and final morning of my stay, which was my tryst with the birds of Tamara.
Day 3 – the day began at 6.30 am with Ashwath and my friends Shirisha and Sandeep (who to my relief, had not got fed up of me 😀 ) and the hour’s walk within the property brought forth many charming winged denizens that my camera gleefully trapped.
Thanks to the Coral flower and fig trees that seemed to be the favorites of these birds, woodpeckers, pompadour green pigeons, drongos, hornbills, scarlet minivets and a whole host of beauties paraded for us as we visited them at their breakfast time at break of day !!!
This was a very fulfilling experience and I have not had so much luck with birds before … so yes, yet another first for me at the Tamara 😀
See how many birds you can recognize here.
The bird walk ended with breakfast and then it was time for me to pack up and check out.
An aromatic memento of sachets of pepper and coffee and a little wooden case bearing a pod of the holy Rudraksh from their estate, were their imaginative return gifts and I regretfully departed from that wonderland of green, clutching the pouch in my fingers and the memories in my heart.
Places of tourist interest in Coorg –
While the resort is quite self sufficient in its ability to entertain or relax the guest, there is always the option of exploring the places of interest in the surrounding villages and towns. Coorg presents the tourist with waterfalls, rivers, trekking trails, elephant camps, wildlife sanctuaries, monasteries, forts, temples and gardens.
Some of the popular spots that one can include in their itinerary are – Abbey falls, Raja’s seat, Dubare elephant camp, Talacauvery, Tadiyandamol peak, Nisargadhama island, Namdrolling monastry at Bylakuppe etc.
Hired cabs or private vehicles are the most convenient forms of transport for seamless travel.
Please Note – This is a collaboration, based on the invitation of The Tamara Coorg and I thank them for hosting me with their warm hospitality.
The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
Jan 7th – 9th, 2019