Got to know about this retreat from the always helpful Aravind, Sankara and Amit. Called up Suresh of Honey Valley Estate, Coorg and after a long discussion booked the 2 thatched huts for the weekend for 3 of us as Raja was not in and me, Guru and Nag were supposed to go.
Honey valley estate is located near Kabbinakad junction in the heart of Kodagu(Coorg) district, about 250kms from Bangalore. Finally Guru also dropped out and out went the idea of biking to this place, finally we traveled by the ever dependable KSRTC services. Karnataka Sarige express buses ply directly from Bangalore to Kabbinakad junction and Virajpet is the nearest point if you prefer to travel the Airavata way and from there lot of private buses travel on these routes.
(Shot by Nag who says has no interest in shooting but lifts my camera stealthily and fires a couple of shots...)
Generally thatched huts are not let out to the general visitors as they are very basic, rustic and would not suit people looking for comfort, but we managed to convince Suresh that we would be fine and we enjoyed staying in the hut. You don't need an AC when the chill wind blows from all 4 sides right :)
As we traveled by bus, either we had to hire a jeep or walk up the distance till the homestay from Kabbinakad junction and no guesses for what we opted for! Landed prior to 6am at Kabbinakad junction and the weather still being gloom, cloudy and dark. Rested at the post office till traces of light appeared and then started the uphill early morning walk towards our destination.
Concrete roads are laid till the parking lot from where only 4*4 vehicles traverse for the rest couple of kms. As we ascended slowly taking our time, we were treated to some wonderful valley views and vistas with the sun trying to break cover from the clouds and in constant companion of the chirping birds.
As you proceed ahead, we first get to see the Chingaara property, a little more luxurious than the Honey valley estate property that is managed by Suresh Chengappa's son. Past this and uphill further, we finally reached the homestay, a little tired but worth the effort nevertheless. Stunning vistas awaited us and we loved the locale no end, absolutely wild, in midst of thick estates and hills surrounding you closer to the Tadiandamol peak (Kakkabbe, the place where we started for Tadiandamol was hardly couple of kms away from Kabbinakad junction).
We had plans to wander out to visit a couple of waterfalls nearby as we are so well known, our laziness played a domineering role and so it ended that for the time we were there, we went nowhere except for a small hike behind the property :)
Well, there are lot of trails in and around the property and they have documented it and made a small handbook of it, great! But, as it should be, whatever books you carry, you should follow your instincts to not get lost and if lost too, use back your instincts to get back and that's what most of the casual travelers won't do. The trails are smaller and bigger taking hours to a complete day and it sure is a wonderful experience in itself.
Food served at Honey valley is more of a general cuisine rather than a Coorgi delight, We discussed about this with Suresh and he had a valid point in saying people prefer it this way and the lot of foreigners to who visit this place. The home made jam and honey were a real treat as were the locally prepared chocolates.
Leeches were omnipresent everywhere and probably for the first time not one bit me and all thanks to the Ruggers socks that I wore. Just recovering from an bad foot infection, I didn't want to take any chances and so was well stocked and it worked. Poor Nag bore all the brunt of few bites he got all over and some in places you can't believe :)
Birding was sparse and limited with the cloudy weather not helping, but still a few walks and patient waiting yielded a few results, I would need to visit here only for bird watching sometime soon. The sunbirds were all over the place, so as the wagtail, wagging nonchalantly. The Parakeets were a real treat hovering all around with their tweet tweets and so did I got a glimpse of Asian Fairy bluebird couple in the open, but at a distance.
We thought we had just come in and it was already time to move, we left the place with an absolute no liking to go back... it happens to us always :) We took more than a couple of hours to reach the main road buttering all the way slowly downhill. What I meant is watching those lovely little butterflies and trying to capture them whenever I could. If you are behind butterflies, an hours journey will easily take more than a couple and we had planned ample time for that. Nag was patient enough accompanying me and that's the bonding in our group (however wrong our thoughts may be, they never let me down in the field, blessed to have such pals!).
We took the local bus to Virajpet and after the dinner at the local eatery (till now I have not been able to figure out a good veggie eating place in Virajpet :() boarded the Airavata Volvo towards Bangalore. Rode back home from the SMTC bus stand (KSRTC Mysore road bus terminal) on Nag's bike that we had parked there and thus ended our eventful Kodagu visit.
Butterflies are added to my new list of interests and they never cease to amaze me. Being the size of my thumb and how gorgeous they are created, those intricate patterns, looks like a designer crafted their wings. There are separate posts showcasing these butterflies and that portfolio is rapidly expanding. Few of them that I have succeeded in identifying are:-
Common Hedge Blue
Gladeye Bush Brown
Three Spot Grass Yellow
Fulvous Pied Flat
...and wish I had the patience to see more!
Bird check list:-
White Cheeked Barbet
Purple Rumped Sunbird
Crimson Backed Sunbird
Racquet Tailed Drongo
Rose Ringed Parakeet
Plum Headed Parakeet
Vernal Hanging Parrot
Malabar Grey Hornbill
Oriental White Eye
Red Whiskered Bulbul
Red Vented Bulbul
Yellow Browed Bulbul
Asian Fairy Bluebird
Honey Valley Estate - http://honeyvalleyindia.in/AboutUs.html
Chingaara - http://www.chingaara.com/aboutus.html
Contact - Suresh Chengappa
Phone - 08272 238339 / 200325