Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Linger, Chettimani Coorg

We took a detour on our way back from Kannur to Bangalore to spend a day at Linger, the Do Nothing homestay near Bhagamandala in Coorg district of Karnataka. While the plan was to spend the evening and take off the next day, Sameer who runs this place, suggested we should stay one more day and we said yes.

Coorg is a familiar territory for me having driven around in my first car, a Maruti 800, around this place a lot and Bhagamandala and Thalacauvery has been a usual stop over when you are in Madikeri. But I was in for a surprise when I couldn't locate the place - I-know-this-place-around-and-don't-need-any-direction attitude resulted in not taking directions properly and shuttling up and down Chettimani village looking for that elusive bus stop where we have to turn inside. The problem was I thought you need to pass the bus stop and there was a board which I saw in some of the pictures of the place. So I went after the bus stop, but no sign board and the lady at the next bus stop said we had to go back. Then we went up to the next bus stop and no sign of Linger anywhere! I forgot to tell you - the Airtel phones don't work around this area and wifey's Vodafone had already barred her for not providing identification documents. But we finally located a pay phone - but I had the wrong number, tried calling Sameer, but he was busy. Luckily the lady in that store knew Harish, the caretaker of the place and had his number. We told him to watch out for the Orange Ford Fiesta, and he was at the bus stop! So feel free to ask around for Harish if you are lost, it is a small place!

From the top, the place looked like a very familiar place - and the closer we got, more familiar it got. I wasn't sure if it was my grandma's place or father's house or my aunts place in Wynad. It was a typical Kerala house hold with veranda all over the house. My father's place had one more level, so it was more
of the place where my grandmother lived till she died. I took off my sandals instinctively and was looking around for the "kindi" (vessel with a long sprout) that is kept at the entrance to clean your legs. And it was time to take off the jeans and get into a comfortable khadi lungi and ease into the chair with legs up on the wall.

The fields weren't this close in my grandma's place though. But the small stream felt so familiar and the instinct was to see if there is any small fish around - and there it was. So the plan was hatched to fish after lunch, but we will let it into the well instead of frying it. Our soon-to-be 3 year old daughter got the plan perfectly well. And soon after lunch she kept reminding us about fishing. We got her down and I was cautious because you know what to expect when you have fish and toads around. We tried fishing with a wide open bottle, but no fish got in. So we called in more support and got her mamma also inside and with a makeshift fishing net - a
thin towel, so easily found in a mallu house hold. The first sweep itself had many of them in it, but we let it go and took couple of more sweeps before getting 3 of them into our bucket. And the plan was executed to perfection by dropping it into the well. And Nishka mused - "once I caught a(3) fish alive and let it go again".

The paddy field turned into a football ground or a vegetable patch after the rains in our place - this place was still slushy. But our team was just 3 people to kick it around and there were no footballs either. So we took a stroll around the field along the stream upto a piggy's house. He looked very clean - it better be in Coorg where pork is a delicacy. We had to cross the stream and Nishka wanted to dip her leg in the water once in a while and she insisted that we carry her and that was a safe thing to do as well. She wanted to chase the kokkerakko-cock-a-doodle roosters, but she had no company and wouldn't walk!

Though the plan was to have pork for dinner, they ran out of pork and we settled for chicken for lunch and dinner. We tossed up the shuttle cock and wanted to see if there is a Saina Nehwal in Nishka, and she picked up a bit of knocking it up when the shuttle was thrown at her. The field in front would have made a great one for a Frisbee session when it becomes dry - off course football comes first. I was schooled in a scientific football coaching camp at a stadium in town, so missed out on the fun of football on the dry paddy fields in my younger days.

Fireflies which were regular visitors at my grandma's place came calling too - but only a couple of them. They still exist in some corner of this world! And the crickets were crackling all over by night - that is not so uncommon even now. As an early riser who responds to the cock-a-doodles, I was up early reading Sanjeev Kumar's book on India. While it was a bit cold, the nature around was awesome and the air breathed so fresh. The well around tempted me to take an open bath drawing water straight from the well, but settled for a self massage(oil picked up from an ayurvedic shop in Virajpet) and a sun bath before taking bath in the cold water.

We took a trip down to Bagamandala temple and met a "shanthi"(careteaker of the temple) who happened to be from the same place as ours in Kerala. He offered coffee at his quarters and we talked for a while and we knew many people in common. We also made a trip up to Talakavery, the origin of Cauvery river that feeds water to Bangalore. But the place was a bit plastic for such a naturally beautiful place.
We were very well taken care by Harish and Girija our hosts at Linger. Food was very good and unlimited - chicken, fish, veggies and fries. The neer dosa was awesome though a pandi curry(pork) would have rounded it well, but with no physical work, it was better to avoid red meat as well. We had a bornfire with the budding singer Nishka's "we are a happy family song" ! And the sky opened up with "twinkle twinke little stars" all around and fireflies dotted around to make it an awesome night !

Coorg remains an untouched land even now though there are big estates bordering the forest areas that gets into conflict with wild animals. There are restrictions in place for selling the land - if the land was granted land by the Govt.(Brits), they you can't sell the land. And wet land farms can only be bought by farmers. And that keeps the things very natural even now. But it is green and natural with natural water sources unlike the dams and canals you see elsewhere. My place was like this 30 years back - but they "developed" the fields and rivulets into concrete houses! Though there is still greenery around, the damage to the environment has been pretty deep.

Drive home to Bangalore was a long and boring one with stops at many places for Nishka's motion sickness - and the concept of do-nothing(lingering) vacation breaks down here, you need to drive! There is something odd about the idea of driving down to linger around! Hey, then the concept of vacation itself is an urban one to get away from the regular slogging that you do so that you can go on a vacation!

Overall a great location and if you want to do your own thing instead of the canned events of a resort, there can't be any better places than Linger ! Except for the books there is not even an hint as to what you should do there, you can make your own thing and the possibilities are endless in a natural setting! Needless to say it sure is not the conventional resort types.


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