Day 20: Coorg to Brindavan Gardens

Brindavan Gardens, Mysuru 

Brindavan Gardens, Mysuru (Mysore)

Places to see Mysuru, Weekend in Mysuru,

Weekend Trips Bangaluru,

Weekend Trips Chennai

South India Road Trip Day 20-24: Chennai to Kochi and back via Pondy, Kumbakonam, Tanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Periyar, Gavi, Vagamon, Kumarakom, Wayanad, Coorg, Mysore and Yelagiri.


Got up late, and only when the landlady knocked on the door at 9:30 AM. We asked for coffee and breakfast after 30 minutes and then rushed to get ready. Wife took Antibiotics for the throat infection and also Panadol for fever and was feeling low.

 

The breakfast was excellent, the landlady served us Kadambattu (egg like steamed rice balls), Paputtu (rice and coconut rectangles in milk as the cereal), Egg Curry and Pandi Curry (dry pork in black masala). Wife had her fill and then packed the rest of the Pandi curry and lots of Kadambattu and Paputtu. I finished all the Egg Curry and Kadambattu served to me, while she had little. Later she had the Pandi curry and Kadambattu for lunch (part 1) when we stopped under a tree at 12:30 and the balance in Mysore at 3:15 PM (lunch part 2). I concentrated on driving without any stops except for a 10 minute break under a tree. We started around 10:30 and headed for Mysore without GPS asking directions and staying on the highway NH-275 all the way. Once you leave the hills of Madikeri the highway becomes quite wide and the speed limit increases. Just short of Mysore I filled petrol and discovered that Brindavan Gardens were 12 Km away and the turn off was round the corner from the petrol pump! The town was 12 Km straight on NH-275. We had the choice of visiting the Gardens or Mysore Palace and we decided that the ‘bird in hand’ was the Gardens…

 

At the entrance to Brindavan Gardens we were told by the guards that there was one 5 star hotel on the premises. However one couldn’t drive into the hotel called ‘Royal Orchid’ without a prior booking, printout in hand and registered with the guards at the entrance by the hotel. This was now not possible so we went to a hotel 100 yards away called ‘Mayuri’, which we had looked into on our way in and negotiated a price of Rs.1,500/- for the night. We checked in and wife had her balance lunch while I had guava and cheeku and a few balance Kadambattu, I may have had enough at breakfast to last till dinner. Later we slept from 4:00 until 5:15 and then headed to the Gardens.

 

A truly grand and well-built garden but unfortunately not maintained as I remembered, I had visited the gardens maybe 25 years ago. Many of the flower bushes had been replaced by Bougainvillea plants, there were dirty washrooms, broken down arches, Chhatris (dome shaped pavilions or canopies) in disrepair, tiles broken… Still a very nice garden to take a stroll in. We took photos from our mobiles. Later at 7:30 until 7:45 we saw the light and sound dancing fountain show. 3 songs were played and then the national anthem. After the dancing fountains at the Dubai Burj Khalifa and the Sharjah Buhairah Corniche (played for 10 minutes every half hour in both cases), this was much smaller. A lot of crowd participation and appreciation were the highlight of the show. Returned to our hotel immediately after the show and had dinner. We recommend this hotel for its proximity to the Gardens and price, cleanliness and comfort. It has an excellent large and clean pool too. Tomorrow off to Yelagiri for our last stop on the tour before returning to Chennai.

 

Looking at the invoice of the hotel, it is called ‘Stay Simple’ Brindavan Resort, no mention of the name Mayuri signposted outside. There is a second KTDC Resort inside the gardens, also requiring a prior booking to take the car inside, is called ‘Caveri Mayuri’, and is the cheaper of the two resorts. The high end one being the ‘Royal Orchid’, also belonging to KTDC (Karnataka Tourism). ‘Stay Simple’ group have some 20 hotels across the country.

Day 21: Mysuru to Yelagiri

Weekend Trips Chennai

Brindavan Gardens, Mysuru to Yelagiri Hill Station

Yelagiri Hill Station

Kuzhipaniyaram (rice and lentil balls)

Places to see Yelagiri, Weekend in Yelagiri,

Weekend Trips Chennai


Yelagiri is 295 Km from Mysuru and a high speed 6 hour drive, our longest drive so far, though the 250 Km from Fort Kochi to Kalpetta takes 8 hours driving straight through as per google maps due to slower speeds. We woke at 7:00 AM by the alarm and saw the sunrise from the room at 7:15. However by the time we finally departed it was 9:30 AM. The village road, off-road drive of about 10 Km led us to the Bangalore highway NH-275, the same highway which starts from Madikeri and ends at Bangalore. This highway is good for an average speed of 70 Km/Hr. and goes all the way until you hit the Bangalore Bypass 20 Km from town, also called the ‘Nice Ring Road’ or NH-8. There we hit toll roads, we paid Rs.90/- at the first toll and were soon flying at 100 Km/Hr. alongside huge cargo trucks, until we got to another toll for ‘Hosur’. However the GPS immediately took us off this highway and onto the Chennai highway, NH-44, on which we again did 90 Km/Hr. Later we checked that the Hosur highway merges into the Chennai highway which continues to be NH-8 (also labelled NH-44, AH43 and AH45), both roads being the same, the GPS shortcut saves 1 Km but adds 20 minutes due to traffic and a single narrow lane under the flyover for 200 meters, the need to go wrong way to cross over to the correct side of the road, and this immediately leads to a toll booth (Rs.25/- toll)! After a bit we hit another toll booth where we paid Rs.60/-, at this stage it was 1:00 PM and suddenly the traffic thinned and trucks disappeared, or greatly reduced. Now we were averaging 110 Km/Hr. We stopped for lunch at 1:30 PM at Adyar Ananda Bhavan. Here the thali was ‘awesome’ with 8 vegetables/sambar etc., plus rice, chapathy, papad, all excellent and easily fed both of us @Rs.115/- followed by an equally good filter coffee @Rs.30/-. We bought coffee, 80/20 coffee/chicory mix the same that they use, 200 grams for Rs.95/-. Then we were back on the highway and sprinted 120 Km/Hr. all the way on the Chennai highway NH-8 almost traffic free for 1 hour till we turned off for Yelagiri.

 

The Yelagiri climb is a mere 14 Km but done entirely on 2nd gear on the turns and 2nd or 3rd gear on the straight roads depending upon how steep the climb is. Extraordinary valley views all the way but I couldn’t look due to the steep climb and narrow road, so all concentration on the driving and gear changing, a few times in 1st gear as well. It is a sheer fall and so cannot look while driving. Need to go back to the view from the top view point as there were no valley views from Yelagiri itself. Once we reached the Yelagiri town we looked for a place to stay from 4-5 PM and saw many places, all without a good view, and finally had to settle for Hotel ‘Rhythms’ Lake View Resort, which is the only place on the lake itself. The whole place all to ourselves, apparently it fills up and is sold out on weekends Friday till Sunday, with crowds of men of all ages coming up from Chennai and Bangalore looking for a drinking hole, sans family. Many bring their own liquor and our hotel has a bonfire in the courtyard overlooking the lake, to draw in the crowd. We got the best rate in Yelagiri at ‘Rhythms’, Rs. 1,755/- per night including taxes but without breakfast. We were getting Rs. 2,000/- per night on a 3 night stay at ‘Peter’s Cottages’ where we were shown a good room on the 2nd floor of a 3 bedroom cottage with balcony, with a pick of any one bedroom since other rooms were not taken. It had good upkeep, but the view was of the central courtyard and not of hills, valley or lake, and they did not allow the use of the kitchen which would have clinched the issue for us. We decided to take a look around before deciding and this would be our last resort if we couldn’t get better. We had reached after a long drive and were prepared to do some sightseeing without unloading our bags. We saw the Sterling Resorts place but it is a regular cardboard box 4 story building on the noisy main road and the best they could do was Rs. 3,800/-, we didn’t see the rooms. We saw a good place ‘Emerald Dove’ and their ‘corner’ room with a view was available but the best rate she offered was Rs. 2,500/-. This hotel has a restaurant about 100 meters away called ‘Hotel Nigress’, a very popular place and probably the only place serving freshly cooked food in Yelagiri, most other places closed especially during weekdays.

 

Later we had dinner at Nigress, excellent Mutton Pepper fry (Rs. 200/-), rice (Rs. 90/-) and chapathy (Rs. 20/-), and a good ‘Karak Malabari Chai’ (Rs. 15/-). Then it was time to get back to our hotel at 8:15 PM, early to rest as we had completed a long and tiring drive. Earlier we had Chai (tea boiled in milk) at our hotel on the courtyard overlooking the lake, on a lone bench facing the lake at sunset.

 

Yelagiri is a very small place and we went to-and-fro on the single 1 Km winding street looking at hotels and then for dinner several times. There is little traffic as the place is empty during weekdays, all hotels were empty except maybe a couple of cars in Peter’s Cottage and a couple in Sterling Resorts. They all claimed to be sold out most weekends. We will explore the viewpoints tomorrow.

Day 22: Yelagiri Hill Station

Weekend Trips Chennai

Weekend in Yelagiri

Weekend Trips Chennai

Kuzhipaniyaram (rice and lentil balls)


 

Woke up late and had tea in the room, the hotel did not have any provision for breakfast on weekdays. By the time we got ready it was 11:30, and we got meals and mutton pepper fry at Nigress Restaurant in the market. After lunch we drove to the first (from the top) view point on the hairpin bends on the Yelagiri approach road, as we had planned while getting here. We got a few photos but it was scorching hot so we returned to the hotel about 1:30 PM and then relaxed and then slept for an hour until 5 PM. Wife’s throat infection is much improved but the coughing still intense all night.

 

In the evening we drove onwards beyond the town and came to Mangalam Village, and a privately owned temple overlooking the valley and opposite hill, but locked up. Near Mangalam Village we followed signs to the YMCA, which we didn’t know existed else we would surely have checked it out the previous day. This was a very big and well maintained compound and canteen. They serve food only to resident guests. The double rooms are Rs. 935/- and they have dorms too. This is our recommendation ahead of any of the shabby resorts in town, all drinking holes for weekend revelers most drunkards. We got one such group of 10 men last night, came in late and drank themselves silly, then puked all over the property and left in the night. The staff refused to clean so they got in outside cleaners in the afternoon today. Wife had a good mind to shift to YMCA immediately but we were comfortably settled and had the corner room with a view over the lake, so too much effort and decided to stay put. At the corner shop, on a fork in the road (junction between Mangalam, Yelagiri and Nilavoor), we got very nice Kuzhipaniyaram (rice and black lentil balls, steamed and lightly fried) for Rs. 10/- for 8 pieces, very crisp and tasty. We headed into town at nearly 7 PM in pitch darkness. I got two aloo parathas (potato stuffed roti), very well made and tasty and wife got a Seekh Kabab (minced meat barbequed on skewers), not good, dry, too much batter, crumbling and excessively spicy, maybe the chicken tikkas are popular as the chicken is more succulent. Later we got their excellent tea, without sugar this time.

 

After dinner we got Vicks cough drops at the market and then returned to the hotel for an early turn-in. Luckily, no revelers tonight, they are day trippers and we were well rid of the lot from yesterday, the place restored to peace. The learning from our exploration is: Stay at YMCA or The Travelers Bungalow or even the CSI Retreat Centre which do not allow drinking on the premises. The Nigress Restaurant we learned also does not allow drinking or drunks to sit down, and thus it is the one operational restaurant in town with a tandoor and tandoori food prepared by North Indian cooks. They see a lot of take-away, probably for the drinking set, and a lot of families with children coming in, basically all of Yelagiri.

 

We hadn’t managed much sightseeing but had a restful day after many days of travelling across the country and hectic sightseeing in many places.

 

   

 

Palm Fruit or Nungu in Chennai

Brindavan Gardens, Mysuru

Yelagiri Hills

Nature Park, Yelagiri

Jackfruit all over Yelagiri

Yelagiri Temple

Sunset at Yelagiri Temple

Bee Hives all over Yelagir

Day 23: More Yelagiri

Weekend in Yelagiri 

Kuzhipaniyaram (rice and lentil balls)


 

We decided that we must see the chief attractions of Yelagiri, and among them Punganoor Lake Park, Nature Park, Government Herbal Farm and Fruit Farm, Velavan (Murugan) Temple, and maybe Swamimalai Hills, a 1 Hour trek from Mangalam Village, or Sunset Trail from Murugan Temple, and Government Silk Farm…

 

I woke at 8:00 AM, sleeping thru the alarm which went off at 7:00 AM, then walked thru the lake park to its entrance around the lake on the other side. All the shops at the entrance and outside it were closed at 9:00 AM including the tea stalls. One restaurant was open but cleaning was underway and did not start tea at this time. On the way back I was howled at by a dog at the Park entrance and then forced to avoid the guard when he demanded a ticket to return back thru the Park, especially as he was unable to control the pet dogs, one of which was luckily chained to a post. Most shops are closed thru the day until evening, the same was the case for shops in the main market when we went there at 10:30 AM, when some visitors come in around 5:30 PM. We had omelets at Nigress Restaurant as that was the only food available at 11:00 AM there, they hadn’t started lunch and other breakfast items had run out.

 

Hunger pangs satiated, we went for a drive thru town, turned off at the fork to Nilavoor Village instead of Mangalam and got some petrol at the bunk about 100 meters on that road. Short of the fork saw the Panchayat Fruit Farm. Lots of mango trees and one or two trees of many other fruit, but a small farm. Then kept driving along Nilavoor Road till we reached the bus stand, where we got a huge jack fruit for Rs. 150/-. We chatted with the fruit sellers for a bit and then continued on a narrower road passing many resorts. Some of these resorts have a view of the flat land, farms on the plateau or valley between the hills, and surrounding hillocks, but not a commanding view of the plains and there are no hills of note. Finally the road ended at a development on a hill top where plots have been cut (marked) and sold but land not developed and nothing built as yet. On our way back we bought ‘Yelagiri Honey’ brand of honey from a Balwadi (Pre-school) teacher from her home 10 yards short of YMCA campus in Mangalam Village, one liter bottle for Rs. 390/-, after tasting the honey. So no need to get YMCA honey, which we couldn’t taste and verify.

 

On the way back saw the lady making the Kuzhipaniyaram (rice and lentil balls). It is fermented rice batter with onions, green chillies, fresh dhania leaves (coriander) and seasoned with cumin and mustard seeds. She was at work making these right then and there. So we stopped and ordered and waited patiently for two rounds of 8, the batter placed in the Patram (cooking vessel), steamed then oiled and lightly roasted/fried in the oil in the same vessel, and then eaten straight out while hot and crisp. We had two rounds 8 x 2 = 16 pieces for Rs. 20/- in total, an excellent lunch. We sat there a long time as the rice balls crisped, quickly ate them when done, and then ordered the next round, repeat. Wife collected all the local gossip and the life and times of the ladies making the stuff.

 

Sometime later, we drove on back and thru town and reached Kumararaja Palace Hotel on a street behind the market. It is a nice hotel with a pool in the central courtyard. I had a filter coffee with extra decoction for Rs. 35/-, but still not completely satisfactory. It was quite hot in the afternoon now, and not a good time for the Nature Park, so we returned to our hotel around 2:30. We had a lot of cheeku fruit, and then slept from 3:00 till 4:30 PM. At 4:30 we headed to the Nature Park, entrance opposite the street leading to the lake. It has lots of fruit trees and a fountain, which operates only on weekends. It was a pleasant walk from 5:00 until 5:30 PM. After this we headed to the Murugan Temple for Darshan and sunset. We got to see a lovely sunset here as the Temple is on a hill top. The temple was lovely at this time of the evening, cool and with a breeze. Soon after sunset and before dark the temple gates are locked, so we made a hasty departure after sunset, even though we could have spent another half hour sitting on the steps as the light faded and darkness fell. As we drove to Nigress Restaurant for dinner it was already dark at 7:00 PM. We convinced the cook to make tandoori stuffed parathas (in the clay oven), instead of the tava (pan fried) ones with onion and green chillies, even when he refused the potato filling. He made these really well. We ordered the Mutton Pepper fry, his specialty, with reduced pepper. This was now excellent without the pepper over-dose. We could now taste the mutton better and enjoy the other spices as well. Before and after dinner had a good tea at the tea stall in the market on the opposite side of the street leading to the lake. She made tea better than Nigress Restaurant. Back at the hotel at 8:30 PM we slowly unwound, relaxed and drifted in to sleep. The plan is to visit the ‘Friday Weekly Market’ at Atanavoor Village, the main town in Yelagiri Hills (which I have been referring as the Yelagiri main market, opposite the street leading to the lake). This gets underway at about 10 AM. The market is called ‘Sandaii’ (translated as ‘Market’ in English) in Tamil. After that we head back to Chennai, home (home of BIL or Brother-in-Law, whose car we have borrowed and been driving for the last month).

Day 24: Return to Chennai

Weekend in Yelagiri 

Weekend Trips Chennai

Kuzhipaniyaram (rice and lentil balls)

Palm Fruit or Nungu in Chennai


We woke at 7:00 AM as planned but as wife was not getting up I went for my walk around town and then we got out of the hotel by about 9:30 AM. We went in search of the meat shop, mutton (goat meat) in Yelagiri is Rs. 400/- per Kg while in Chennai it is double that, and the quality is top notch as well. Downhill from Yelagiri in the town Tirupatur, which is the source of this excellent mutton, it is available for Rs. 300/- per Kg and another 50 Km away the Ambur Biriyani (mutton cooked in special spices within the rice) is famous. All restaurants on the highway at Ambur offer Ambur Biriyani, it is on the NH-8 on the way to Chennai, but cannot say who on the highway sells the ‘real thing’ for which Ambur is famous or you need to head into town.

 

The Sandaii (market) was just being set-up, small tempos were unloading their tenting equipment and their first bit of vegetables and provisions, all coming in from the plains. We were directed to a mutton seller, selling on the roadside with no shop, just a few hooks on a wire stung across a tree trunk by the road. He was almost finished at 10:00 AM when we got there, we got one of only 3 hind legs he had left with him. We got 2 Kilos but should have got more as the mutton was excellent, one Kg for each of the two BIL in Chennai. This purchase completed we headed off to Chennai, we couldn’t wait for the Sandaii to get fully underway, and had a long way to go, 250 Km and 5 hours’ drive even on NH-8 due to traffic on the last 50 Km as you approach, enter and navigate Chennai. We set the GPS for Pallikaranai IIT Colony (BIL’s house) and off we went.

 

We came down back the same way, the only approach by Yelagiri Road, down 14 hairpin bends. Going down is easier as you do not need to go up to 1st gear, and 2nd gear is also optional as you do not need the power and just let the slope propel you down on 3rd gear, with the brakes doing the rest. At the base of the hill and just as we hit the highway NH-8, we saw a ‘Bhavan’ and promptly stopped for breakfast, it was past 11:00 AM and we were famished, and good time for a quick break. Very soon afterwards we were on the highway NH-8 and zipping at 100 Km/Hr. and already restaurants selling Ambur Biriyani were flashing by. We could easily have waited 15 minutes and had the biriyani instead of the breakfast at the Bhavan, maybe next time when we have researched the place to have the Ambur Biriyani so we can head there directly.

 

We went full pep all the way until 1 PM, we made good progress the first hour at 100 Km/Hr. but soon hit a toll booth and from then on the ‘Toll’ road was a shambles all the way to Chennai. So the last 100 Km to Chennai is a badly broken toll road and you can average about 70 Km/Hr. if you are aggressive, and still need to navigate past many rogue trucks heading for Chennai, terrible. At 1:00 PM we got a Special Thali, which was good for both of us and my customary filter coffee, always good at a Bhavan near Chennai. After lunch we made slow but sure progress and were home about 3:30 PM at Velachery junction and by 4:30 PM in IIT Colony Pallikaranai. We offloaded the maybe 8-10 Kg Jackfruit for SIL to have a go at cutting up later on. So we beat the office rush and were home in good time in spite of starting late and having 250 Km to go, thanks primarily to the 3 hours on the highway where the bulk of the distance was covered…