Category Archives: HillStories

In The Land of Kurumba Tribes-Part 6-The Time at Kurumba Village

When I woke up on the last day of my trip, I decided I will maybe spend the morning sitting on the balcony waiting for the morning to slowly show its colours. It was lovely listening to the sound of the birds. I woke up early, and I was pleasantly surprised that I did. The previous evening, I was treated to a fantastic dinner by Chef Murali.

Our little private garden wakes up to the dawn at Kurumba Village
Our little private garden wakes up to the dawn at Kurumba Village

I had their chef  arrange a special halogen lit dinner by their beautiful treehouse in the woods. It took me 10 minutes to reach there as I had to walk down on the path, to find the tree house within their huge resort-cum-forest complex. I loved his pepper corn starters, Herb infused salads and his concoction of a coconut-ginger soup that had me going on for more.  I had about 3 extra servings because it was so tasty. I was always a fan of the Burmese-Thai soup that Freshmenu makes, but this was better than that.

Tree Top Dinner at Kurumba Village
Tree Top Dinner at Kurumba Village

Chef Murali is from the town of Palakkad nearby, and has come up the hard way by doing some great dishes and takes a lot of interest in making sure his guest’s eyes light up. People going beyond their call of duty, makes you develop a huge affinity with the brand-Kurumba Village. I certainly had! When I left the tree house, Chef Murali, briefly mentioned to me, that I should not be scared when I walk my way back, because elephants sometime get into the resort. The buggy was arranged to transport us safely.

Chef Murali of Kurumba Village
Chef Murali of Kurumba Village

The following morning, I woke up and spent my time looking at the valley from our garden, and walked up to the little stream that flows beside the resort’s eating area. The sound of a flowing stream, amidst the birds chirping is all you need on your ears, early in the morning. It has a way to make your brain soak in just the right vibes and feel at ease with the world. The resort not having telecom signals and a very fragile Wifi connection also helped me be disconnected from the world.

Our Portico overlooking the Garden! Chai Time!
Our Portico overlooking the Garden! Chai Time!

Know more of how the last day went in this little video. It features the following

  1. My little trip down to the stream
  2. Epic views of the clouds and mountains during breakfast
  3. Nandu getting to do activities with the naturalist
  4. Nandu and I playing in the pool all morning
  5. Our rides in the buggy back to my car

Cost of Staying

The resort is priced above 12,000 INR onwards on its rooms, and it differs depending on the room type. Browse through their website to book directly

Best Time to Go

There is no best time for a place steeped in the hills, but if you can just before the Europeans come here for their winter season (Dec-February), the resort is flush with the freshness of the onset of the North East Monsoon(Oct-Nov) and the Pre monsoon showers (June-September)

Getting There

From Chennai– You could take the train 12671 to Mettupalayam via Coimbatore and then take a taxi from there to the resort. If you are flying down, take a taxi from the Peelamedu airport in Coimbatore.

From Bangalore-The best way is to drive, through Mysore and Gudalur into Ooty, Coonor and then Kurumbadi, but if you dont prefer the hills, you can drive through Salem, Erode, Avinashi keeping the ghat roads to a minimum of 14 kilometres. For those flying or taking a train, you need to come to Coimbatore to then take a taxi.

From anywhere else in India-Fly in to Coimbatore and take a taxi/train to Mettupalayam

To get to Kurumba Village, its best you travel on your own in your vehicle. Whether you travel on your own or take a taxi for your rides, it should be another 6000-7000 Rs on your driving costs at the minimum.

If ever you wish to be adventurous, the way to do that is to take the train at Mettupalayam and get down at HillGrove, and trek down into the Kurunji flower areas, cross a little waterfall hoping you dont slip, and you will find yourself in 20 minutes at the resort.

The resort has only BSNL signals, so if you have anything else, it makes sense to call the resort from Mettupalayam/Coonor for directions, as there is no easy signboard to spot on your left, where you need to make a V shaped turn down the valley. If you are not sure how to drive down or drive up a hill, it helps if you can drive in 1st gear or get a driver who is at ease with driving in the hilly regions.

In The Land of Kurumba Tribes-Part 5-The Trek through Singara Estate

Once I had reached TeaNest, I loved the view from there. My guide Srini had promised me about a great trek down the valley.I have documented my trek down as a video. You can watch it below. It had a few highlights

  1. Get to the Top of a waterfall and see the railway track from above.

    Nilgiri Mountain Railway Track as seen from Bakkasura Mountain in Coonoor-Tamil Nadu
    Nilgiri Mountain Railway Track as seen from Bakkasura Mountain in Coonoor-Tamil Nadu
Going to the top of a waterfall-Bakkasura Mountain
Going to the top of a waterfall-Bakkasura Mountain
  • Serenade through tea estates and find a shorter route home
The Beautiful Life begins here! Singara Tea Estate
The Beautiful Life begins here! Singara Tea Estate
  • Pause at a point, where you can see Sim’s rock from a distance
Clouds over Coonoor
Clouds over Coonoor
  • Walk down to a scenic government school, from which opens a beautiful valley view
Goverment School in Singara Estate-Tamil Nadu
Goverment School in Singara Estate-Tamil Nadu
Goverment School in Singara Estate- Coonoor
Goverment School in Singara Estate- Coonoor

 

  • Pause at the ‘Hill Grove’ Railway station. Drink tea and start the trek back down to the Hotel
Hillgrove Railway Station on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Hillgrove Railway Station on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway
 Some other photos from the trek below!
The Bakkasura Hills are coloured by the Clouds
The Bakkasura Hills are coloured by the Clouds

Cost of Staying

The resort is priced above 12,000 INR onwards on its rooms, and it differs depending on the room type. Browse through their website to book directly

Best Time to Go

There is no best time for a place steeped in the hills, but if you can just before the Europeans come here for their winter season (Dec-February), the resort is flush with the freshness of the onset of the North East Monsoon(Oct-Nov) and the Pre monsoon showers (June-September)

Getting There

From Chennai– You could take the train 12671 to Mettupalayam via Coimbatore and then take a taxi from there to the resort. If you are flying down, take a taxi from the Peelamedu airport in Coimbatore.

From Bangalore-The best way is to drive, through Mysore and Gudalur into Ooty, Coonor and then Kurumbadi, but if you dont prefer the hills, you can drive through Salem, Erode, Avinashi keeping the ghat roads to a minimum of 14 kilometres. For those flying or taking a train, you need to come to Coimbatore to then take a taxi.

From anywhere else in India-Fly in to Coimbatore and take a taxi/train to Mettupalayam

To get to Kurumba Village, its best you travel on your own in your vehicle. Whether you travel on your own or take a taxi for your rides, it should be another 6000-7000 Rs on your driving costs at the minimum.

If ever you wish to be adventurous, the way to do that is to take the train at Mettupalayam and get down at HillGrove, and trek down into the Kurunji flower areas, cross a little waterfall hoping you dont slip, and you will find yourself in 20 minutes at the resort. I dropped my S7 Edge into the waterfall, but thankfully my phone can remain in water undisturbed.

The resort has only BSNL signals, so if you have anything else, it makes sense to call the resort from Mettupalayam/Coonor for directions, as there is no easy signboard to spot on your left, where you need to make a V shaped turn down the valley. If you are not sure how to drive down or drive up a hill, it helps if you can drive in 1st gear or get a driver who is at ease with driving in the hilly regions.

In The Land of Kurumba Tribes-Part 4-Reaching Tea Nest and Singara Estate

This post talks about a guided trek from Coonoor’s Singara Estate all the way down to Kurumba Village resort, going through the monsoon clouds, tea estates and little government buildings popping out of nowhere. The previous post talked about exploring the Toy Train ride to Ooty from the land of the Kurumbadis. If you’ve just arrived here, we’ve so far talked about how we arrived at Kurumba Village and spent some time with a naturalist exploring the environment at Kurumba Village. 

In the evening, I managed to speak to the hotel manager ‘Jyotish’ about the possibility of a guided trek, who helped me arrange a trek with their resident guide. This needed to be planned as I had to arrive at Tea-Nest, a sister property of Kurumba Village which was about 20 kilometres away. I had to drive with one of the hotel staff early next morning till Tea-Nest, and then requested the staff to drive the car back to Kurumba Village. I would trek and come back to Kurumba village in a few hours.

So I woke up in the morning, and drove to Coonoor, where we would pick up our guide Srini (who spoke in a Malayali accent, but was actually from Mysore, who’s parents were settled in Coonoor).  The drive out on the mud-road is slightly challenging on the ascent, when you need to be on 1st gear, but otherwise its a straightforward drive to get to the main road.

Faith on a slateboard at Coonoor
Faith on a slateboard at Coonoor

We waited at a few points on the drive, to pause and take note of the beauty of the mountains. The sky was pregant with rain clouds, and the sun was threatening to find its away by showcasing an orangish gaze. The rain won the battle, and I had to get back in the car to focus on reaching Coonoor, so as to pick up our guide-Sreeni.

Beautiful view of mountains en-route Coonoor
Beautiful view of mountains en-route Coonoor

We reached Coonoor town by about 6:30 am, and were waiting for Sreeni- the guide from Nature Resorts. Sreeni arrived at 6:45 am, as he was walking and coming from his home, which was 5 km’s away. Sreeni is an active walker, who prefers walking from Coonoor to Mettupalayam, as its quicker to travel that way than get caught in the traffic jams that happen on weekends when travellers come in droves to Ooty.

Misty Morning in Coonoor
Misty Morning in Coonoor

We saw a beautiful ‘Thamburusi’ flower, which was having a beautiful contrast with the light mist, the green leaves and the dark clouds. The water-droplets on the flower, were like the fountain of youth dangling on them visually.

Flowers in bloom, amidst the morning mist
Flowers in bloom, amidst the morning mist

I had a cup of tea, and then started to walk on the trek. Stay tuned to Part-5 coming up soon.

Teanest- Our destination and starting point for the trek
Teanest- Our destination and starting point for the trek

Do have a look at the video where I reach Teanest, from the hotel. The videos always have a little extra than what I write.

 

 

 

In the Land of the Kurumbadi Tribes-Part 3-The Toy Train Ride to Ooty

Teanest- Our destination and starting point for the trek

This post talks about exploring the Toy Train ride to Ooty from the land of the Kurumbadis. If you’ve just arrived here, we’ve so far talked about how we arrived at Kurumba Village and spent some time with a naturalist exploring the environment at Kurumba Village. 

Getting Ready for a Toy Train Ride

After a beautiful walk in the woods, I was planning a trip to Ooty just to show my son the Toy Train. I had previously booked tickets on the Toy Train knowing that I will be staying in ‘Kurumba Village’. The closest station is Hilligrove, but the toy train does not admit people there, even though it stops, so I had to drive in my car till Coonoor, which is about 14 kilometres. I had a train at 1630 IST which was to reach Ooty by about 1730. I thought the morning Toy train would take longer, but it looks like there are different trains with different speeds or maybe the trains have started to go faster since my last trips in 2010 and 2002. We packed for some biscuits, the Go-Pro Camera, my camera kit (DSLR and mobile with the smaller tripod).

Watch a video of my ride in the toy train

The Ride to Coonoor Railway Station

We passed by Kattery Park and Glendale Tea estate (from a distance) as we reached Coonoor. While I did not have enough time to stop over, for the fear that I may get caught in a traffic jam.There were some beautiful views of the mountains in the distance and we paused for a few moments at each place to take in the view, and then reached Coonoor by about 3:55 pm, and since it was a weekday, there seemed to be enough place to park my car in the railway station.

The Glendale Tea Estate when viewed from a distance enroute Coonoor
The Glendale Tea Estate when viewed from a distance enroute Coonoor

As we walked into the station, i noticed a train already waiting, and on checking with the TTE(Traveling Ticket Examiner), it was confirmed that this was my train, which had probably been advanced by about 30 minutes. I boarded the train in my little compartment that could house 6 people facing each other where 4 seats would have access to a window view.

 
 

From childhood, I’ve always fantasized being in a pocket sized train, which I can take anywhere I want. The cars of the early 19th century were like a small toy train compartment which had wheels on roads. Having got inside, I took the middle seat, and gave the window seat to Nandu, asking him to observe what he sees. We were to pass by tunnels and bridges (There are 250 of them on this route) and we were part of a beautiful blue carriage with large windows that was slowly chugging past a beautiful green landscape.

History of the Nilgiri Mountain Railways.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was thought by the British back in 1854 and it took about 54 years to plan and cut through the rocky terrain to make a train go through these mountains. The locals of this area frequently were used to find paths to walk between Ooty and Mettupalayam in an hour and still do. The Toy Train is used by migrant workers or for people who want a safer commute between little towns on the hills, but with the trains coming in 1908, it did make a huge difference to the way people could commute and transport materials.

The Steam locomotive that pulls from Mettupalayam(MTP) to Udhagamandalam(Ooty-UAM) stops over at Coonoor for a more powerful engine to pull through the hill side. The engines were using coal, but due to diminishing coal resources, the trains now fill water at each of the stations which gives enough fuel to get to the next station pulling a group of coaches.

The train has a rack and pinion arrangement for better grip on mountain paths, and as a result the maximum speed is about 13 km/hr on the rack path, and about 30 km/hr on the non-rack path. The metre gauge track runs for about 46 kilometres from Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam

The Cinema connection to the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The beautiful and simple mountain railways in ooty has attracted many cinema directors to shoot on this iconic railway line. The Tamil Movie ‘Moondram Pirai’ also remade in Hindi as ‘Sadma’ was shot here in 1982.

The other famous movie shot here was the Mani-Ratnam directed Uyire/Dil Se’. There were many more movies, that were shot here, but I have included the 2 most visually appealing film-makers who have shot here. The complete list is shown below in the appendix.

Our Experience on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

On the Nilgiri Mountain Railway Toy Train from Coonoor to Udhagamandalam
On the Nilgiri Mountain Railway Toy Train from Coonoor to Udhagamandalam

The train’s doors were bolted by the TTE at the start of the journey. The train did not allow passengers to get down and amble around, and stops for about 45 seconds in each of the stations enroute (Lovedale, Ketti). This was a slight bummer, since there was a fast pace vibe to sitting in a slow train.  Our co-passengers and I would take turns to exchange views on windows. The train starts with views of betel trees, heads off into mild forests and then opens out into a valley view of tea estates, before passing by a lake by the side of the Udhagamandalam railway station.

We had booked our second class reserved tickets from Coonor to Ooty and had not booked our return tickets, since there was no train showing up on IRCTC. As a result, we had to get down and go buy tickets from the counter. The train stops for about 15 minutes at Udhagamandalam, and functions as a complete unreserved passenger train on the return journey to Coonoor. There is enough time left to go buy a ticket and find a place to sit, unless it happens to be a weekend, where there is expected to be a bigger rush.

Window seats on the unreserved journey back to Coonor
Window seats on the unreserved journey back to Coonor
Footboard View of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway Toy Train
Footboard View of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway Toy Train

On our return journey, the light started fading early, as mist started accumulating as the train slowly found its way into beautiful village with settlements built around railway stations.

Dusk, Rain and a forlorn railway station as the evening and night start talking
Dusk, Rain and a forlorn railway station as the evening and night start talking

Every time a tunnel came, it would automatically prompt the younger crowd of tourists to yell until the tunnel found light. The train ride in the evening was sleepy at best due to the fading light and we reached Coonoor, being happy enough to drive back to our resort, albeit feeling a little drained.

As much as I expected Nandu to feel entertained, he was falling asleep by the chill evening wind

Unreserved Passenger Train from Ooty to Coonor
Unreserved Passenger Train from Ooty to Coonor

Other Media on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Ooty

Here’s a big list of movies shot in Ooty, apart from the ones I have shared.

Ajay Jain of Kunzum, travels and shares his experience in a detailed photo blog, as part of his Arabian Drive.

Amit talks about a detailed road trip  + Toy Train

Sam and Sheena actually managed to put their cycle on the train. I found some very useful info on the intricacies of booking tickets, from their blog.

Planning your Trip on the Nilgiri Mountain Rail Toy Train from Mettupalayam to Coonor/Udhagamandalam

  • You could opt to book waitlisted tickets from a railway counter or on IRCTC, but that would mean uncertainty till the last minute.
  • There are 21 tickets sold in person on the morning of the journey. So if you can get to Mettupalayam really early before the rest of the crowd comes in, you can find a hack to book your tickets. But do remember, that these are small trains, and if you are using them at the start of your journey with heavy luggage, then it may be tough. There is a parcel van for one of the trains, which has a separate office to book your luggage. Do come early to avail of this facility
  • If you are with a large group, make sure every member of the group is with you during booking tickets, otherwise the ticket booking person is unlikely to book it since there is a huge demand
  • Ooty/Coonoor are in Tamil Nadu, which for a large part is a very hot and humid state. People from various parts of Tamil Nadu flock to ooty on the weekend, to have better weather and to treat their kids to a toy train ride. If you are planning a weekend trip, do try and club it with a Friday or a Monday, and keep your train ride on weekdays, if you have not planned in advance. There are not more than 50 seats on the train, and its extremely tough to get reservation unless you book early or reach the railway station line on the day of the journey (being the earliest). Most people come here by the Nilgiri express train from Coimbatore, so you will need to make sure you are ahead in the line, by reaching earlier than them to get ahead on the line. The train reaches Mettupalayam at 6:15, so you need to beat them to be earlier than them. 4 am maybe to be first in the line.
  • If you travelling from Bangalore, you would enter Ooty first and then come to Mettupalayam(unless you want to take the salem-avinashi-mettupalayam route longer by 100 kilometres but with pristine 5th gear worthy highways).  It’s always better to arrive in the hills, and then keep the ride as an attraction, than to use the trains as a means of commute on your journey start or end, since there is not too much space for luggage.

In the Land of the Kurumbadi Tribes-Part 2

This post talks about how we spent some time with a naturalist exploring the environment at Kurumba Village.  The previous post talks about how we arrived at Kurumba Village .

Night Walking in the Forest

As the evening paves way to the night and the winter chill sets in, I walk across the stone path from the dining place to my room. I can hear sounds of bats and crickets, and I find that the stone path zig zags a bit and goes down a considerable distance. I leave it for the day to explore, as it seems a little scary at night, and there’s a light drizzle that’s just picking up. I decide to come back post the rains, and discover that the path down basically goes to a beautiful tree house. There is a ‘buggy service’ for transporting guests to different parts of the resort, and I am far away from a resort staff at 9 in the night, and my phone is in the room, so I just walk back quietly. I am told that sometime elephants do come into the resort as the forest blends into the resort. As long as we don’t mess with the elephant, it will come by and go further down the hill, without really bothering about you.

Jaywalking at Night in the stone path within the resort at Kurumba Village
Jaywalking at Night in the stone path within the resort at Kurumba Village

On the Kurumbadis

The next morning I wake up early, and look at some of the paintings that adorn the wall of each of the rooms.  I also ask around, and figure out that the Kurumbas were hunters and gatherers, and usually exchange goods and services with the other 2 tribes. The Kurumbas had small dwellings with a garden patch, growing bananas, mangos and jackfruit. Most of their settlements have seen migration from the higher reaches of the nilgiris to just above the plains, owing to de-forestation. Some of the Kurumbadi tribes in the region, work in the ‘Kurumba Village’ resort. It is also said that the Kurumbas are known for their sorcery, but this yet to be verified. This website, talks a bit about the Kurumbas. If you happen to know a little more, do help me gather information by commenting on the post.

Painting/Sketchings of the lives of the Kurumbadi Tribes
Painting/Sketchings of the lives of the Kurumbadi Tribes

Planning the day ahead

At breakfast, Nandu and I decided to plan our day on what each of us wanted to do. I wanted Nandu to travel on the toy train and also attend a class on environment with the in-resident. Nandu wanted to play and read something on the hammock. So I had to sit and plan the day out. I wanted to go on a little hike with the in-house guide, who advised me on a hike nearby but he clearly said kids cant do the hike, so I postponed that plan to the next day to be done, when Nandu was sleeping.

Scenic Breakfast View at Kurumba Village Resort
Scenic Breakfast View at Kurumba Village Resort
Dining against the backdrop of the Bakasura Mountains
Dining against the backdrop of the Bakasura Mountains

So the plan for the day was to start with some hammock time, picking a couple of books from the room(Each room comes with a little library of books, apart from a library at the reception). It was initially a little tough trying to balance 2 bodies on the hammock, but once we settled down, it seemed a very relaxing thing to do.  Nandu went in first,  trying to play on the mobile, to discover that there was no network and no Wifi for him.

The lure of the hammock in a forest-Kurumba Village Resort
The lure of the hammock in a forest-Kurumba Village Resort
Morning Story Telling
Morning Story Telling

Naturalist Tour for kids, inside Kurumba Village

A resident naturalist called Dinesh, takes kids on little tours inside the resort and introduces them to the animals inside and gives them an introductory lesson on how children can get closer to the environment. I decided to follow them from a distance to try and see what Nandu learns, since I was trying to teach him something similar on our trip to the Andamans

Spot that Bird There!
Spot that Bird There!

Dinesh decided to divide the session into 2 parts. Nandu was with Rohan, another kid staying at the resort, and both of them had to go collect leaves and twigs from around the resort. After they had got about 5 leaves, they needed to pick up a paper and create a little art form by sticking the leaves on paper. While paper dried, Dinesh would take them around the resort, talking about the birds in the vicinity, spotting animal footmarks, learning to stay still and hug a tree, and about the Kurumbadi village. I was lapping all of what Dinesh was saying, staying happy that Nandu found an interesting activity to engage himself in.

Ambling our way within the resort (Kurumba Village)
Ambling our way within the resort (Kurumba Village)
Nandu reaching out for the adhesive at the Children-Activity center at Kurumba Village Resort
Nandu reaching out for the adhesive at the Children-Activity center at Kurumba Village Resort
Children's activity centre overlooking a beautiful view of the forests at Kurumba Village Resort
Children’s activity centre overlooking a beautiful view of the forests at Kurumba Village Resort
Tree Hugging Excercise at Kurumba Village Resort
Tree Hugging Excercise at Kurumba Village Resort

The tree hugging exercise is a beautiful excercise that teaches kids that the tree is our mother and feeling the vibes that flow from nature to us humans. One needs to spend about 5 minutes in silence trying to hug the tree, feeling the bark of the tree (preferably blindfolded as your senses of touch are heightened). Nandu is a kid who is high on energy, and it was a brief break to pause and connect with nature. I intend to do more such trips, that helps him connect with nature and grow up to be a environmentally conscious traveller.

The last time Nandu and I did this in the Andamans, I got an award from Indiblogger for being the best blog talking on the environment. While it was encouraging to see external people realising its importance, I realize these are still baby steps towards making him an environmentally conscious traveller, but If you have any ideas that could help and sustain learning, please do comment and let me know.

Nandu collecting all the twigs and sticking them in his slam book
Nandu collecting all the twigs and sticking them in his slam book
Kurumba Village certifies Naturalist Nandu
Kurumba Village certifies Naturalist Nandu

This series continues in Part-3

Have a look at Kurumba Village’s facilities

 

If you cant wait, and need a little highlights reel on what to expect in the other parts, do watch this below video

Cost of Staying

The resort is priced above 12,000 INR onwards on its rooms, and it differs depending on the room type. Browse through their website to book directly

Best Time to Go

There is no best time for a place steeped in the hills, but if you can just before the Europeans come here for their winter season (Dec-February), the resort is flush with the freshness of the onset of the North East Monsoon(Oct-Nov) and the Pre monsoon showers (June-September)

Getting There

From Chennai– You could take the train 12671 to Mettupalayam via Coimbatore and then take a taxi from there to the resort. If you are flying down, take a taxi from the Peelamedu airport in Coimbatore.

From Bangalore-The best way is to drive, through Mysore and Gudalur into Ooty, Coonor and then Kurumbadi, but if you dont prefer the hills, you can drive through Salem, Erode, Avinashi keeping the ghat roads to a minimum of 14 kilometres. For those flying or taking a train, you need to come to Coimbatore to then take a taxi.

From anywhere else in India-Fly in to Coimbatore and take a taxi/train to Mettupalayam

To get to Kurumba Village, its best you travel on your own in your vehicle. Whether you travel on your own or take a taxi for your rides, it should be another 6000-7000 Rs on your driving costs at the minimum.

If ever you wish to be adventurous, the way to do that is to take the train at Mettupalayam and get down at HillGrove, and trek down into the Kurunji flower areas, cross a little waterfall hoping you dont slip, and you will find yourself in 20 minutes at the resort. I dropped my S7 Edge into the waterfall, but thankfully my phone can remain in water undisturbed.

The resort has only BSNL signals, so if you have anything else, it makes sense to call the resort from Mettupalayam/Coonor for directions, as there is no easy signboard to spot on your left, where you need to make a V shaped turn down the valley. If you are not sure how to drive down or drive up a hill, it helps if you can drive in 1st gear or get a driver who is at ease with driving in the hilly regions.

 

In the Land of the Kurumba Tribes-Part 1

Tribes– Seth Godin describes them as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea”. I was out to live in a forest but in the comforts of a proper resort, in the land of a tribal village called Kurumbadi, where the Kurumbas live. The Kurumbas, Toda’s and Kota’s are the three prominent tribes in the Nilgiri area, presumably  believed to have originated from 3 sons named that way, who went on to develop tribes from their family tree. With this little history, I set off on my trip to the land of the Kurumbadis

If you dont have the time, to read further, try watching the video that tells our story. If you have the time reading the post further on is probably the best experience.

The Route to Mettupalayam

The weather near Salem turned slightly overcast, as I stopped for a driving break. I could see some hills from the A2B restaurant, which had considerable cloud cover. I knew I had to be a little mindful of rain enroute, and of course on roads that might not have a whole lot of tar on it. The other thing that worries me on drives are usually battery levels on the phone, since I use it to speak and also for navigation. The folks from ‘Kurumba Village’ called me a day in advance to tell me directions as Airtel signals dont work from Mettupalayam all the way till Coonoor, and Kurumbadi is exactly between these places, where I need to discover a mud path going down from the hill, 30 degrees to my left.

I had great roads till the Avinashi Byepass, after which I had to slow down on a state highway to Mettupalayam. As I turned on my phone from the slumber of the ‘flight mode’, a slow drizzle started and my car’s windows were starting to become dotted with drops. Its a beautiful feeling to be in a closed cozy car, when its raining outside. I started the drive, looking at the betel plantations on either sides of the toy train track that was running parallel to the road that took me on the ascent to the nilgiri hills.

The monsoon cometh- Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu
The monsoon cometh- Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu

Rain and Hair-pin bends

In about half-an hour, after a few hair pin bends, and some drizzle, I was feeling at home driving in the hills, when I realised that I had probably missed the turn down. I slowed down, stopped and walked a bit back to check and luckily I had gone only about 150 metres ahead of the left turn. I managed to turn back and find the road down, with a little trepidation. For a first timer, to drive a heavy car down a part-mud-part tar road filled with leaves, is scary, as you dont quite know the terrain. The hotel was still 500 metres away down that road. I settled for the comfort of the second gear, to just have a light grip on the accelerator, as I passed by homes of the hotel staff into the forest in a single road, which went down after a couple of curves into the entrance.

Getting to Kurumba Village

I had the hotel staff waiting for me, with their traditional ‘Vanakkam’, post which I was led to my room by one of the staff members.The Kurumba Village resort, was set up in 1996 and it took about 4 years to get all the permissions, and then by the time, it was complete for bookings, it was 2004. It takes some amount of patience to build a hotel, that’s a work of art, and the biggest compliment I could give it, was that it did not feel like I was in a resort, but in a forest where there were homes in random places along the stone walk.

Our room opening to a private garden and hammock-Kurumba Village Resort
Our room opening to a private garden and hammock-Kurumba Village Resort

Next to my room, was a private little garden surrounded by plants and a hammock, while each roomed adorned a painting of the tribes of the Nilgiris. The room had a valley view, opening out to the magnificence of the Bakasura mountains. The drive to the place was worth it. There were no telephone signals and there was a very bleak wifi. Not bad to just observe silence and connect with nature. With the resort basically being tucked in on a mountain, and near a waterfall, TataSky was going to have some problems coming properly. That was our only connection to the outside world, and when it rained the TataSky looked like a 1990’s video streaming on a dial up connection. The disconnection to the distraction of the modern world was well set up. I did not quite mind the situation, as I went over to the restaurant to have lunch.

Our room at Kurumba Village Resort-Kurumbadi-Tamilnadu
Our room at Kurumba Village Resort-Kurumbadi-Tamilnadu

As I sat there, gorging the hara bhara kebabs, the clouds were floating right above me, since the restaurant has this edge-of-a-cliff feeling. My son gasped at the size of the mountains, even as he was enjoying his meals, looking at the uniquely designed fork that was glistening against the table with its art form. After a long lunch, we just preferred to stare at the clouds and the mountains, as the evening light faded and the rain started to pour. Life was beautiful.

 

Edge of the Cliff Dining-Kurumba Village Resort-Kurumbadi-Tamilnadu
Edge of the Cliff Dining-Kurumba Village Resort-Kurumbadi-Tamilnadu

 

Read more in Part-2 of the adventure. If you cant wait, and need a little highlights reel on what to expect in the other parts, do watch this video

 

Cost of Staying

The resort is priced above 12,000 INR onwards on its rooms, and it differs depending on the room type. Browse through their website to book directly

To get to Kurumba Village, its best you travel on your own in your vehicle. Whether you travel on your own or take a taxi for your rides, it should be another 6000-7000 Rs on your driving costs at the minimum. If ever you wish to be adventurous, the way to do that is to take the train at Mettupalayam and get down at HillGrove, and trek down into the Kurunji flower areas, cross a little waterfall hoping you dont slip, and you will find yourself in 20 minutes at the resort. I dropped my S7 Edge into the waterfall, but thankfully my phone can remain in water undisturbed.

Best Time to Go

There is no best time for a place steeped in the hills, but if you can just before the Europeans come here for their winter season (Dec-February), the resort is flush with the freshness of the onset of the North East Monsoon(Oct-Nov) and the Pre monsoon showers (June-September)

Getting There

From Chennai– You could take the train 12671 to Mettupalayam via Coimbatore and then take a taxi from there to the resort. If you are flying down, take a taxi from the Peelamedu airport in Coimbatore.

From Bangalore-The best way is to drive, through Mysore and Gudalur into Ooty, Coonor and then Kurumbadi, but if you dont prefer the hills, you can drive through Salem, Erode, Avinashi keeping the ghat roads to a minimum of 14 kilometres. For those flying or taking a train, you need to come to Coimbatore to then take a taxi.

From anywhere else in India-Fly in to Coimbatore and take a taxi/train to Mettupalayam

The resort has only BSNL signals, so if you have anything else, it makes sense to call the resort from Mettupalayam/Coonor for directions, as there is no easy signboard to spot on your left, where you need to make a V shaped turn down the valley. If you are not sure how to drive down or drive up a hill, it helps if you can drive in 1st gear or get a driver who is at ease with driving in the hilly regions.

Exploring South Goa-Part- 4-Cabo De Rama Fort

This is a series on exploring South Goa keeping Agonda as the base. Part-1 talks about arriving at the village of Agonda, Part-2 talks about ‘The Space’ and RajBaga Beach. Part-3  talks about the little village of Sadolxem (where a scene from the Bollywood Movie ‘Dear Zindagi’ was filmed) and Galjibaga. In Part 4, we explore the nearby Cabo-De Rama Fort

The Route Map of the trip. From Manveer's Kitchen to Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)
The Route Map of the trip. From Manveer’s Kitchen to Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)

I woke up early, and spent some time by the sea collecting some shells, and asked Nandu if he would be interested in joining me for a 2 wheeler ride across to an old fort.

High-5 with the shells! Agonda Beach at Sunrise!
High-5 with the shells! Agonda Beach at Sunrise!

After an early breakfast at ‘Manveer’s Kitchen’, I started at about 8 am to find my way to the Cabo De Rama Fort. From Part-2 and 3, the only thing I had learnt is to not hope for 3G or 4G signals in the forests leading to my destination. I was back to finding humans and asking them the route. The only hitch was that it was winter in Goa, and there would be very few people up at 8 am on the road, and the place where I was going to was even more sparse, so there was a little challenge.

The morning most still hanging around at Agonda
The morning most still hanging around at Agonda

Round and Round in Agonda!

It was about 20 minutes since we started, and we felt that we must maybe be nearing Cabo De Rama, when we saw the sceneries unfolding in front of me with tall trees interrupting the misty view of the sleepy village on my right. I turned to my left and saw a little patch that seemed like a lagoon and sweet water lake. The patch was beautiful, but it triggered a little feeling that seemed to suggest that this was familiar. I saw a man and a boat that I remembered from a walk I did to Agonda’s northern part of the beach which ended in a similar lagoon. I realised that I had biked my way through Agonda’s villages to come back to the same beach. I realised that the road, where Manveer’s kitchen was, it leads right to this point. There was no need to follow the route that I had to taken. Point noted.

Back to Agonda beach after half an hour?
Back to Agonda beach after half an hour?
The round about to avoid at Agonda Beach (South Goa-India)
The round about to avoid at Agonda Beach (South Goa-India)- Courtesy Google Maps.

Right Road? Check Again and Again

I started to observe where we were, asked a person for help, and he said just go straight. I was starting to hit the hills, and the roads were really narrow for a hill route, and that meant I had to go slow on the rented 2 wheeler. The roads had this white marker on the sides of the road, surrounded by the green cover, which seemed magical (owing to the colour contrast) to stare at while driving. The forest was quiet and our vehicle was the only noise in this landscape, as the greens gave way to a more barren brown in a matter of 5 minutes, as the hills undulated to plains that swerved and curved on the road to nowhere.

The barren landscapes of dried grass were reflecting off the morning sun, making the place look very bright, and very surreal owing to the nature of the place. There were 2 more humans, apart from us each walking along the road. I wondered, if their lives involved walking through these plains every day, due to the lack of public transport. There was only a single house in the distance, and it seemed like a very nice place to go for a quiet holiday, but alas I don’t seem to know enough friends who have their homes in the Konkan hinterlands. As much as the place made me feel good, I was hoping that no bear or leopard was around to take a walk since no humans were around.

I kept a watch on my left every now and then to see if a beach view or the sea was visible, just to be sure that I was following the right path. You could not go wrong if there was just this single road, but I always have this feeling that I need to check every few minutes on the road. Having to check every few minutes, was more out of a fear psychosis that I had, and that meant a host of things. I had to get down from the bike, hold on tight to my 5 year old to prevent any sudden run on the road, hope for a human nearby to arrive as I walk a bit to check which side to go.

 

The curvy road into the woods enroute to Cabo De Rama [South Goa-India]
The curvy road into the woods enroute to Cabo De Rama [South Goa-India]

The Barren Landscapes beyond Agonda leading to Khola Village[South Goa-India]
The Barren Landscapes beyond Agonda leading to Khola Village[South Goa-India]
The road in a while, opened out on the left to a huge valley view, but there was no sign of a beach, or the sea. I wondered looking at the green expanse, if a road even existed here. I remember seeing on Google Maps, that there would be a beach through the woods down called ‘Kakolem’ but I did not find any road going down on the road, except the one I came on. Maybe I did not see it clearly. I followed the road curving to the left.

Trees, Endless Greenery in Cola Village [South Goa-India]
Trees, Endless Greenery in Cola Village [South Goa-India]
The small road was dotted with similar looking tiled houses that had a banana tree and a little gutter running on the sides, with a special laterite red brick partially forming a wall. it seemed to say, ‘you are always welcome, these walls are only a formality to make it look like a border’.

 

The slow and idyllic pace of life in South Goa's villages near Cabo De Rama [South India-Goa]
The slow and idyllic pace of life in South Goa’s villages near Cabo De Rama [South India-Goa]
The rugged landscape leading to Cabo-De-Rama Fort (South Goa-India)
The rugged landscape leading to Cabo-De-Rama Fort (South Goa-India)

After 20 minutes of ambling, we passed a school and came to a point where it looked like plains, when you see the mist-covered mountain in the distance, but the truth was that this was also a hill, but a plain on the top of the hill. There was one house and a hotel that seemed to be closed over the entire expanse. My son was questioning me if we were anywhere near to the fort, and I had no answer on where we were. I off-roaded the bike on the last patch of the road, to see if I could meet some human in the fields and ask them if there was a fort nearby. I was told that this area was indeed Cabo-De-Rama. If I went to my left, the fort would show up in a while, and if I went right and if my knees had the energy to trek down the mountain it would lead to the Cabo-De-Rama Beach.

Morning Mist, Sunrise and Quiet Goan Villages! [Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Beach(South Goa-India]
Morning Mist, Sunrise and Quiet Goan Villages! [Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Beach(South Goa-India]
Off-roading for Directions at Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
Off-roading for Directions at Cola Village near Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]

Wires? Civilisation must be close by. Cabo-De-Rama Fort was probably nearing (South Goa-India)
Wires? Civilisation must be close by. Cabo-De-Rama Fort was probably nearing (South Goa-India)

After 10 more minutes of fervently on the look out for a fort, I finally struck gold, and found the fort to my right. The fort had an iron turnstile, that seemed to stare at me saying “I have no clue why I am needed here”,  as the place by itself had no visitors and there would probably never be crowds in what seemed a quiet and sleepy village on a hill adjoining the Arabian sea.

Outside the entrance of the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
Outside the entrance of the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
It had become a little past 9, when I entered, but there was no guard at the place. I wondered if the place was a neglected site, which lovers and people with spurious chemicals frequented to be away from the prying eye of the local community. For now, I only saw a huge door that had a small opening through which I had to pass, and the fort seemed a little trek away, before which I had a church in the path leading to the fort.

The gates of Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
The gates of Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]
A church inside a fort- It happens Only in Goa [St Anthony's Church in Cabo De Rama Fort-South Goa-India]
A church inside a fort- It happens Only in Goa [St Anthony’s Church in Cabo De Rama Fort-South Goa-India]

Inside Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)
Inside Cabo De Rama Fort (South Goa-India)

The Legend of Cabo De Rama

The place that I was standing on, had changed enough hands. Legend says that King Rama and Queen Sita had made it here during their 14 year exile from Ayodhya. I am not quite sure a fort was there then, but that’s the little bit about Rama’s little legacy here.

I wonder when Rama would have come. Did he come here with Sita or did he backpack alone with Lakshman? Given Goa is close to Hampi(which is next door to Kishkinta where Sugreeva, Vaali and Hanuman lived), I am surmising that Rama must have come here while searching for Sita on his trip from Panchavati to Rameswaram enroute Sri Lanka, since the sequence is North to South. Any one has an alternate version?

The Portugese came here and then fought with a Hindu ruler called Soonda in 1763, and then took over the place. Wikipedia has an artist’s rendition of the fort They put cannons and guns inside the place, and also established a little chapel inside the place, which is why probably there was a church on my way in.

Back in the times the British or the Portugese were very focussed on their life’s goals. Travel and explore a new land, kill the ruling kings and destroy peace and occupy the area and make money off the local people and resources, father a few kids on the coast to forget about them, and then build a church to forcibly convert people to Christianity.

The good part about them, is that they leave behind some very nicely constructed colorful buildings, which we Indians lap up in the name of tourism. There is a sense of disappointment that I had that the place I was in, had seen so much bloodshed. Maybe not just this place, but every other place which was part of the colonial rule of the West has probably seen it.

 

The Cabo De Rama Fort is home to some wild growth due to neglect-[South Goa-India]
The Cabo De Rama Fort is home to some wild growth due to neglect-[South Goa-India]

We walked through the bushy outgrown twigs and creepers, and reached the top of the fort, where apart from us, there was only a swan, which was perched over the fort. Any time, ready to fly away. What a nomadic life they lead, I thought.

Their sense of home is a few twigs and nest, and they perigrinate from one place to another, trusting mother earth to provide. I sometimes feel we humans have gone a little ahead down the road, mother earth wanted them to. I for one, feel I have lost the connect to the planet with work in the big cities, that I keep travelling to. Maybe I need to slow down and observe how much of the environment am I observing.

The only living person at the Cabo De Rama fort this morning!
The only living person at the Cabo De Rama fort this morning!

Nandu was still energetic and posing for my pictures at the fort. He looked at the beach far away, and sat on the cannon which was positioned in the centre of the upper reaches of the fort.

There was a little hole through which you could see the beach from there. I earmarked that beach and the beach I never found (Kakolem) for a separate trip with Nandu, where we come camp, and try to cook food for ourselves at the beach, having a local assist us. I saw it as some way of connecting with nature, instead of taking a selfie and rushing through a trip. I’ve got a 3-man and a 2-man tent, which I hopefully can use.

Maybe some plans later for 2018. But till then, I look wide and far at the horizon between the merging blues of the sky and the sea, as the wind gently brushes me. It’s a beautiful sight and a very calming effect to stare the Arabian sea.

I leave you with some more images of the fort, and we meet again for part 5, where I take you to Cola Beach, which is one of those pristine places, hidden by mountains and has a calming view of a lagoon and sea separated by stretches of sand, overlooking chopped away mountains.

Till then, if you liked what you saw, do spread the word and share it.

Other Literature on the Fort

Navhind Times carries a lovely article, which is a historian’s attempt to tell you more about the fort

Wikipedia has an interesting art caricature of the fort from 1886

Staying near Cabo-De-Rama

‘The Cape’ is an option that costs anywhere between INR 12,000 to 18,000 a night, and looks breathtakingly beautiful to spend lazy days by the sea.

Agonda/Betul- 24 Kilometres Away- You could choose this as the base and do a day trip to Cabo-De-Rama. I have stayed in Manveer’s Kitchen and Jardim-a-Mar on Agonda, and both places are beautiful havens in the woods by the beach (for about 3,000-4500 INR a night during peak season and lesser in other seasons)

Nandu is never shy of posing at places
Nandu is never shy of posing at places

 

So did Rama camp here with Sita? Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India
So did Rama camp here with Sita? Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India

 

No Swings and Merry Go Rounds at this fort? [Cabo De Rama in South Goa-India]
No Swings and Merry Go Rounds at this fort? [Cabo De Rama in South Goa-India]
The view of Arabian Sea from the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]

The view of Arabian Sea from the Cabo De Rama Fort [South Goa-India]

Fe Fi Fo Fum- Is that a secret beach? Cabo De Rama Beach as seen from Cabo De Rama Fort's hole (South Goa-India)
Fe Fi Fo Fum- Is that a secret beach? Cabo De Rama Beach as seen from Cabo De Rama Fort’s hole (South Goa-India)

 

Cabo De Rama Beach in the distance [South Goa-India]
Cabo De Rama Beach in the distance [South Goa-India]
 
Cabo De Rama Beach looks like Paradise [South Goa-India]
Cabo De Rama Beach looks like Paradise [South Goa-India]

Nandu starting to indicate that its maybe time to head back (Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India)
Nandu starting to indicate that its maybe time to head back (Cabo De Rama Fort in South Goa-India) 
And the trip is over! Back to Agonda!
And the trip is over! Back to Agonda!
All happy endings must have a Chocolate Milkshake [Fatima's in Agonda-(South Goa)]
All happy endings must have a Chocolate Milkshake [Fatima’s in Agonda-(South Goa)]

Of Protecting Landscapes in a Forest

Have you ever thought about protecting and conserving nature, while you peer through your train window? Every new route unearthed means more green cover sacrificed and more animals displaced from their natural homes.

While Indian Railways help mankind transcend time and distances, it often comes at the cost of slicing through the heartland of where animals live in sync with nature. Add to it the railway hooter that rings while the train chugs through. How would it feel if your neighbor made a path through your house and made noise every time he used that path. It must be tough on the animals to find new homes constantly and having their environments being tampered with by mankind. Also the beauty of a landscape suffers, with an industrial flavour to the place, with the original landscape and green covers being affected.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-2

Or so they that technology is making the world flat. That’s what Friedman and Nandan Nilekani say of Technology. It probably applies to the mountains that are made plateaus through railway line work, cutting through the homes of animals and landscapes. Seeing Industrial infrastructure is good, but we should try our best to preserve the beauty of landscapes and make the focus on increasing green cover for every edit we make to nature. Sounds like a deal?

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-1

Every time a tunnel is dug in India, it also uproots much of our animals and green cover. I wish we are able to help re create more green cover in a creative way so as to not displace landscapes through industrial infrastructure. This is about preserving existing nature and environment by having trains run only at specific times so that animals/environment is minimally affected, and we impose heavy fines on passengers from a train throwing plastic/waste in the fragile ecosystem that we have built trains and tunnels through

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-3

It just occurred to me, that as a traveller, I usually wonder why do people throw stuff when they know that this may never get cleaned. Would they do the same to their garden and pretend that plastics don’t exist? Why are trails littered with waste, tissues, plastic and food items. All it takes while hiking in these woods is to carry a huge plastic bag, and place your dump inside it and wait till you reach civilisation to put this in a garbage bin.

Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4
Industrial Infrastructure Altering Landscapes in India-4

All of these photos are from a trip done in the monsoons at Goa’s Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, which is home to the beautiful trek in the woods to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls.

Travel Postcards #7

This edition of the Travel Postcard features Cola Beach in Goa.

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

Kola Beach(Goa) from above
Kola Beach(Goa) from above

Travel is about exploring and finding vistas. Sometimes you dont get a cookie, and at times you get a great surge of blood running through your veins, when you see a picturesque background. This was on the 1st of January 2017, when I decided to cross a little lagoon, holding my camera bag above my head, and hoping I dont drown. A little hill trek, a barren mud track trek with no directions and then to find this view from the hill! I was exploring Cola Beach on a trek from Agonda Beach, and this view totally made the hike worth it. I had put my son to sleep in the afternoon, and got a couple of hours to trek to a nearby place. Cola seemed like fun to do, and I ended up on the trek with some great visuals. That is the next series of articles coming up on KatchuTravels this February.

You can check earlier editions of the Travel Postcards right here

Travel Postcards #5

This edition of the Travel Postcards takes you to Coorg in Karnataka.

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

It’s 6:15 in the morning. That’s what the clock says. It’s chill and dark, and there’s no reason to get up. Maybe I could go out there and capture the sunrise, waiting for it to come. Maybe!

I snooze the alarm, hoping to get up in the next 120 seconds. Just that 1 second was not 1 second in that comfortable state of sleep that I was. A sudden premonition of a missed sunrise, woke me up with a start, and when I looked around, the windows had light passing through, and I had overslept. I quickly opened the door and took out my phone (S7 Edge), and saw this scene outside the house. I immideately snapped. I did not have the time, for taking my SLR Camera out of my bag, fix the right lens, and wait for a frame. The frame was outside the door, and said a fleeting goodbye before the sun chose to go higher! I thanked providence for the oppurtunity and went back to sleep next to my son.

Behind me was the Nagarhole National Park, and in front of me was a coffee estate in a little village called Balele. In the midst of nature, I was staying at Jagale Home stay, pristine for its location, food and its wonderful hosts Pavita and Ramesh. Do read Part-1, Part-2, Part-3 and Part-4 of the stay

Waking up to a Coorgi morning at Jagale Home Stay
Waking up to a Coorgi morning at Jagale Home Stay

After a while, I got up, the scene was normal but not surreal, but I learnt that it maybe worth it to get up early on holiday. Learn more about the trip to Coorg in Karnataka later this month.

A splending morning at Jagale Home Stay in Coorg
A splending morning at Jagale Home Stay in Coorg