India Part 4 – Misadventures in Coorg

I fully accept responsibility for our unfortunate stay in Coorg. It was a bad idea, and it was my idea. We had 5 days to fill after the wedding, and I wanted to avoid flying since our departure was from Bangalore. Sadly for us, there’s not much within driving distance of Bangalore, and after scouring the Internet I settled on the mountainous region of Coorg. People love Coorg!!!

I failed to give proper weight to the reality that that said lovers of Coorg like roughing it Bear Grylls style. Descriptors like ‘rugged’, ‘off the beaten path’, and ‘the real India’ should have been red flags, but I didn’t heed the warnings. Our delicate little threesome emphatically hates nature and roughing it (re: the Tumkur coffee drama of 2017). We each have our own special phobias (mice, birds, lack of internet) that ensured the long stay in Coorg would make all of us uniquely miserable.

The drive from Tumkur to Coorg was about 5 hours long, and involved winding through tiny town after tiny town. It was pretty interesting for the first two hours, and pretty car-sicky for the next three hours. When we finally arrived, we found that our home in Coorg was a rustic little cabin on an Indian hippy’s pepper plantation. The place would have been awesome if one were the type to like off-the-grid, ants-crawling-on-the-kitchen-counters hippy nature stuff…. but not for us. It was one large room with intermittent power, no Internet, and a serious bug problem. We spent the better part of two days with no electricity, and between the three of us we managed two warm showers over 5 days. It was rough.

Oh yeah, and my cousin Matt hurt his foot. One of the only things in Coorg is an elephant farm – which is a poorly planned tourist trap in which you pay a few hundred rupees to bathe domesticated elephants. From a monetization perspective, it would make sense to figure out a ‘normal’ way for paying customers to get to access this site. But this is India, so what happens is thousands of tourists a day trek across a shallow but very wide river to see the elephants. The river is very slick and very crowded, and on our return trip poor Matt lost his footing and twisted his foot. It looked horrible, and even writing about it makes my foot throb. This was our first full day in Coorg, so for the next 4 days Matt had to limp around the mountains with a walking stick (courtesy of our Indian hippy), adding exponentially to our self-pity spiral.

For a few days after Matt hurt his foot we were confined to our rugged prison. After two days in quarantine I sent the following text to my sister Hannah. It reads like a desperate Morse code sent from the Franklin expedition or something. Matt hurt his foot. Stop. We have no Internet. Stop. We think there is a mouse because a banana was open and no one remembers doing it. Stop.

Our desperate messages to the outside world.

There was a highlight to Coorg, however, and that was chatting with our host Nachiappan and his friends in the evening. Nachi had spent about 5 years living in Bangalore as an artist, but he’d recently returned to his family’s coffee and pepper plantation to run the operation. Many of his friends ran similar plantations in the area, and had similar tales of moving back from the big city. We spent an evening chatting with these guys (and one gal) during their plantation-owner happy hour and it was fascinating to get a glimpse of this sub-culture in the mountains of Coorg. All of these guys were super well educated and engaged with the world, and it was fascinating get their perspective on Indian-linguistic politics, the mixed legacy of colonialism, and of course, Trump.

After 5 rough days in Coorg, we booked a car to Bangalore airport by way of Mysore Palace. Mysore Palace is a case study in how not to run a tourist site. The place was packed with Indian tourists, and the security guards were regrettably armed with whistles. At any infraction, a whistle was blown. Matt accidentally took a photo, and after bloodying our eardrums with his whistle the security guard demanded the camera. Jeff tried to resist on Matt’s behalf and it almost came to blows. The guard seemed to be giving some explanation that involved photos making things catch on fire. Apparently the only antidote to this is to grab unwitting tourist’s cameras and deleting the photos.

One of the few photos we managed at Mysore Palace. Luckily nothing caught on fire… phew.

After 45 minutes of this hell, we ran back to our taxi and headed desperately to Bangalore airport. We staggered like refugees into the airport lounge in Bangalore. We were bug bitten, sweaty, and limping, but we had survived India.

We headed south to Colombo, Sri Lanka for the adventure to continue.

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