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Coffee and Critters in Coorg

I had booked with Kabbe Holidays based on the recommendation of a chance-met couple from Chennai, and the B&B’s website. And I had paid a sizable deposit. In cash. I didn’t think too much about the deposit, as I had been required to pay cash deposits for both Palolem and Kannur. I’d paid those via Western Union, since the U.S. seems not to have joined the wire transfer system, and it had been more trouble and more expensive than visiting the ICICI bank in Mangalore. However, when Hyacinth decided to call for directions before I left Kannur, and couldn’t get an answer on any of the phone numbers on the website, I did start to wonder… Had I been stupid? Did I need a Plan B? I took another look at the not-very-enticing options in Lonely Planet and crossed my fingers.

Coffee on the vine

Hyacinth had arranged my transfer with the brother of the rickshaw driver she usually employed, and both men went with me. I don’t think they had traveled the route before, and I don’t think they enjoyed it. We climbed up onto the Deccan Plateau, through a Wild Life Reserve, and as we climbed the temperature, not unnaturally, dropped. I welcomed the cooler weather, but these seaside guys clearly missed their accustomed heat and humidity. Then I had to stop them tormenting the monkeys who made their home in the reserve.

And drying on the ground

The road had progressively deteriorated, but after we passed a rubber plantation (apparently within the park) suddenly we were treated to smooth, well-maintained, asphalt. At Virajpet, the southern gateway to Coorg, my driver started asking for directions ad once we reached the village nearest the B&B I was relieved to find that the locals had at least heard of Kabbe Holidays, but the further we went, the narrower the road became, and the fewer buildings we passed. Eventually we were traveling up a country lane, and during the final stretch we lurched over loose stones. But then, on the last coffee plantation before government land began, we found Kabbe Holidays and my deluxe cottage.

My cottage

I hadn’t particularly wanted a deluxe cottage, but the deluxe rooms were occupied by two Indian couples: a brother and sister and their spouses. The sister and her husband were IT employees from Bangalore, and the brother an army officer with an IT specialty based in Kanpur (formerly Cawnpore, another place intimately associated with the Indian Mutiny/First War of Independence). As this was a family group, I was pleased when they included me in their conversation at meals (eaten family style on the verandah of the main house) and really enjoyed their company. I enjoyed the food too, plenty of it, and a good variety, and one big advantage to staying on a coffee plantation – really good filter coffee.

I hiked to a nearby viewpoint, but I didn't climb the rocks

After two nights the Indian couples left, and I moved into one of the deluxe rooms, although not solely for economic reasons. The second evening of my stay I was horrified to find a large slug on the bathroom trashcan. After I recovered from the shock I scraped it off outside, only to return to see three more comfortably settled in on my washcloth. At this point I called for help, and one of the young men who worked on the property removed them – with some reluctance, I thought – and Dilip, the owner, assured me that they showed up in his bathroom all the time. I can’t imagine how that was supposed to reassure me! When I subsequently found a large spider on the the night stand I was only sorry I couldn’t move that night. When I did move I found the smaller room warmer, and the bed big enough for three. And no unwelcome wildlife!

The second waterfall

In addition to running the coffee plantation and the B&B, Dilip acted as tour guide for his visitors. One morning we all hiked up to a nearby viewpoint (before breakfast!), and another we visited the coffee plantation and Dilip’s parents, who lived in a traditional style house behind the B&B. Initially I enjoyed visiting the plantation, seeing the coffee beans ripening on the waist-high bushes, shaded by silver oaks, but then we took a detour through a damper area infested with leeches. I had met leeches on a previous hike in Laos and had absolutely no interest in seeing them again. Luckily I was wearing boots, but the other two women were in sandals. Even my boots didn’t help too much, as some sections had mesh on the outside and the leeches were able to crawl in, although when defeated by the inner layer they had to crawl out again, and I wasn’t very good at getting them off.

I enjoyed a visit to two nearby waterfalls much more. Of course, I’m always happy to sit, or even stand, mesmerized by falling water, but I would think anyone would enjoy these two. The second, higher, fall could have been a bit of a challenge for me to reach, except that a film crew had improved the access just a week earlier. (I have a hard time imagining how a waterfall could help sell mattresses, though.)

Window at Dilip's ancestral home

My last afternoon Dilip took me to see a rather drab “palace” (Nalakunad), built by a local ruler so he could hide from Tipu Sultan, busy extending his Mysore-based empire. Then we drove to Dilip’s ancestral home – easily the highlight for me. The Kodavu, the warrior people of Coorg (they are still allowed to own guns), are ancestor worshipers, and the tombs of Dilip’s ancestors, and a temple, were outside. Inside, photos dating back to 1840 hung on the wall of a long terrace, with beautiful carving decorating the main door. Every Tuesday, some of the seventy members of the family meet there for food, drink and socializing.

I loved the cooler weather up in the hills, a welcome relief after the steamy conditions down on the coast, but Dilip wasn’t happy when it rained one afternoon, which wasn’t supposed to happen in December. The coffee harvest was drying out in the open, and needed several days with no rain. Mostly I had sun and good views in the morning, and mist, clouds or rain in the afternoon. I had just missed the harvest festival, but barley and five kinds of leaves had been tied to one of the columns in front of the cottages for good luck. Didn’t seem to protect against slugs, though.

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