After Goa, our next destination was the Coorg (Kodagu) region of the Western Ghats, roughly in between Mangalore and Mysore. Ostensibly we were there to enjoy the scenery and experience the Indian countryside but I had a secret plan to find a tiger for Louise. The Coorg region is gorgeous – rolling hills covered with coffee plantations and interspersed with protected wildlife areas. It is pretty off the beaten track when it comes to western tourists which makes for an interesting and laid back vibe. We stayed at an incredibe homestay in a 200-odd year old heritage house on a coffee plantation called the Jade (http://www.thejadecoorg.com/), and Megha’s fantastic home cooking was a real highlight. The area is difficult to get to by public transport, so we organized a driver for this part of the trip.
The Jade is a short taxi ride away from the relatively untouristy Nagarhole national park. As usual, the whole Indian wildlife viewing experience is fairly chaotic. You can’t book a game drive, you just turn up at an unspecified time (we arrived around 6:30), pay a relatively small amount and after a lot of waiting around climb aboard a massive truck which drives a pre-specified route. One thing that made it really stand out from Ranthambore, where we’d been previously to see tigers, was the lack of other vehicles – besides our truck there was only one other small jeep – and so all the sightings were decidedly peaceful, with no jostling for position and shouting at other drivers. On the first day, we pretty much exclusively saw spotted deer (think impala, but more common) and left feeling underwhelmed. Luckily, we decided to try again because within 15 minutes of the start of our second drive we saw a pair of Indian Wild Dogs, or Dhole (less than 2 500 left on the planet). Unbelievably, the drive got better from there, with a whole host of other game including TWO separate tiger sightings. Of course this is India, so one of the tigers ran away when a guy got out of the vehicle to take a photo! We even saw wild elephants the next day when we drove through Nagarhole again on our way back to Bangalore.
Our last night in India was spent in Bangalore which is a very modern, young city, and is considered India’s tech capital. Spights are limited, although we did an excellent food tour with Bengalaru by Foot (http://www.bengalurubyfoot.com/) which we used to shock Louise into trying a whole host of different dishes. The city is also considered to be the craft beer capital of India and is packed full of vibey bars and restaurants of the kind you might find in the west but with a cool Indian twist. Think jaggery flavoured beer and boozy brunch featuring parathas and pickle. It is definitely a city which is worth a visit and was a great way to end this part of our very long weekend.
Even after two 5 week adventures in India, we still feel like we have barely scraped the surface and we will certainly be back.
Next up: although the very long weekend is officially taking a break, I am sneaking some skiing in Canada at the end of January