This thread might disappoint those who took literal meaning of title. The virginity of western ghats was over-enjoyed.
As the title of this thread says, indeed I had an over-enjoyment of virginity of Western Ghats. The places untouched, unadulterated by overly-frustrated IT crowd of new India’s Silicon valley very popularly known as Bangalore.
Not to blame that educated lot of silicon valley, I too am a contributor to the chaos.
Long weekend is the precious gift here.
With that precious gift, I wanted to get to a place which is not a cliche. My photography buddy Devaiah came to rescue.
Like me, Devaiah is another bitten victim of the IT revolution in India but very fortunate for him that he belongs to the coffee county of India – Coorg.
Time changes the priorities of life. Somehow time changed me, but some of my passion is going to follow me till grave – Driving, Photography and my foolishness making me desperate to know more, know more about anything and everything.
Lets end this egotism and get started what I wanted to convey, well really.
A random call from Dev (Devaiah) is no surprise or in other words no brainer to me as well. I can easily guess beforehand that the call is about a photo trip.
But this time things were different. He called me up, and gave me a shock of my life. He was volunteering to show me Coorg countryside ! .. Reason for getting surprised is if you call my bum as lazy, then dev’s bum can replace that concrete bench in a park, never moves.
He offered me to come along to Kakkabe and invited me to attend a family function over there. For me it was like an honor, a chance never to be missed bcoz the dormant if not extinct volcano by the name of Dev had erupted.
We clubbed our sankranti holidays, and with zero to minimal plan we started for Coorg from Bangalore.
On the way I told Dev to get into my car since their rabbit (suzuki alto) was carrying three elephants, and my elephant(Fiat Linea) was carrying two mice- my wife and I (if u specially consider).
We took a diversion before Hunsur towards Virajpet. The road crosses through the wildlife sanctuary which I do not remember the name. All I remember was the sexy road which gave my car wet dreams (bottom hitting the potholes which could have cause oil leakages) .. Thankfully nothing serious happened. Despite of the road of narrow gauge width which was built during ‘1945 Quit India Movement’ era and never maintained, a Toyota Minivan was successful in overtaking me. I know he must have later danced on famous kannada item number ‘Jhinke Marina’ song.
We gradually entered deep into the heavily forested region of Karnataka, which is blanketed with Coffee plantation. Lucky us, we were there during the peak harvesting season. There was a lot of pleasant surprises waiting for us…
Apart from the breathtaking beauty, we were greeted at the Naladi Homestay. I met some of the best person in my life there.
Little I knew that trip is going to change me, forever.
I was inspired. How? I will let you know.
This is the homestay where we stayed.
Naladi holidays homestay is the only lodging place for tourists simply due to the reason that the place is not known among the IT crowd of Bangalore, like I said the place is not a cliche. The homestay is owned by Mr. Suman Paradanda who is a close relative of Dev. The family taught me the genuine meaning of true hospitality, which is non-plasticy and comes directly from heart. Their heartfelt hospitality portrays the genuine Indian belief ‘Atithi Devo Bhawa’ meaning Guest is God! .. I was treated like one.
The homestay is in the midst of Western ghat surrounded by hundred of acres of coffee plantation most of which is owned by the Paradanda family.
The ownership of the plantation came as a big plus for us. We got an awesome ride in not-so-awesome Mahindra MM-540 off-roader in the coffee plantation packed with tons of knowledge about the plantation and coffee agriculture. I will share whatever I recall.
We took rest after reaching the homestay and in the evening Suman told us about a stream which passes through his property. Reaching there needed a very small trek (200 mts LOL). But anyways, I was more than excited to get there ASAP. I was being told that the water in the stream has medicinal values which can treat insomnia. I dont know if that or the over dosage of alchohol worked for me in the nights to follow ! ..
This was on the way to the stream. The entire forest was green-red in color with ripened coffee berries.
A worker at the plantation
We had to kneel down, crawl, get scratched by shoots of coffee during the trek. But believe me it was fun. And more fun to see the laziest bum twist his body something like this.. thats Dev
So Suman escorted us to the stream and went back.
After lot of ups, downs, “ouch!”, “oof!”, “God”, “Sh**t man!” etc. we made our way to the stream. I was awestruck by the calmness and peace surrounding that place. It was even more great to know that the place crosses through private property. Getting to know that this place is owned by a family I know made me more envious than jolly.
The envy, low self esteem, jealousy, loss of pride etc. were short-lived. Everything vanished in a split second the moment I put off my shoes and put my feet in optimally cold, crystal water.
“This is Life Man”, was the simplest words I could utter in mesmerizing intoxication.
I wanted to live there, forever.
In that environment all we could hear was chirping birds if not our own voices, well we chose to stay silent and enjoy the beauty of unadulterated nature.
I had plenty of opportunity to try some creativity which we usually see on flickr.
Dev trying his best poise.
I finally had a chance to take a picture of (now old) Quechua Forclaz. I did a stress test by walking in water, I am must say these shoes are amazing. It was certainly not 100% waterproof, but gave me enough protection. The comfort level is second to none.
After spending a couple of hours, the lady in our team started to get afraid of jungle darkness and potential existence of ghosts around. We headed back and as expected we lost our way in the coffee bushes. Expected because this was told by Suman that many had lost their ways back and had to be escorted. But we somehow managed, no you better dont think that the Coorg boy with us was of any help. He was dependent on us LOL! , and possibly the most afraid of the lot LOL! … (I know I am going to get it back pretty soon) ..
Some more shots of berries
I dont know but I was finding it more fun to get lost there rather than finding the way out. Maybe that’s why I had time and energy to click pictures while inside the bushes.
Berries, Berries everywhere. Lost in the bushes were cardamom, coorg orange trees, betel nuts, avocado trees and may be more which I was not interested in counting. I was lost in coffees.
Hunted one orange tree.
We had a round of knowledge transfer from Suman about the coffee plantation. Let me try pen down whatever I remember.
So basically two kinds of coffee are grown in Coorg- Robusta and Arabica. The name Robusta because the plant it robust and has good immunity against diseases. The image below is that of Robusta berries.
Robusta because of its robustness and is grows in plenty in Coorg. Robusta has maximum yield in a given season and due to its natural immunity the farmland you saw in pics is organic. Thanks to a well aware and educated background of Suman that his farm is organic.
Arabica on the other hand has a weak immunity and has a tendency to get diseased. It need extra care and comes with a baggage of risk. Arabica was already harvested a month back so I could not get a chance to take pictures.
Another very interesting pick of coffee which is produced in that plantation is the Kari Beckoo(in kannada) or Kopi Luwak(as known in Internationally). The civet is most commonly found animal in the coorg coffee plantation. Civet cat eat with its choosy instinct for best berries eats them, the coffee gets partly digested and it leaves the excreta in the farms. These excreta is then picked up by the farmers, processed and sent to international market. Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee with price starting at 50$ .. Pretty cool way to spend a fortune to eat ahem ! . .. sh**t .. No offense to those who love ‘em ..
Anyways, coming back to topic, the coffee berries are plucked daily, sun dried for days together and is packed and sent to the controlled market.
Coffee getting sun dried.
Coffee berries getting dried in the compound of Naladi Holidays homestay.
Once the coffee berry is dried, it is dry filtered of stones and small impurities.
The dried coffee berries ready to be sent to market
You can spot Dev with his relative in the coffee drying ground in the image below.
One of the person in that pic is Dev’s cousin. He is one of my source of inspiration. That guy is working in a top notch financial firm in Bangalore for past couple of years. Every friday night he use to travel to his countryside without fail to help his father farming. You should have seen him the way he works at farm, truly unbelievable that a white collar personality can have so much of energy to work like a true farmer.
Getting introduced to that person made a great impact in me since I also belong to a farmer family.
Close up of that place where coffee berry is hand filtered.
We were back in the afternoon, and were served with freshest of the freshest filter coffee I have ever had in my life. That coffee fused with ultimate hospitality, motherly love by Suman’s mother (now my aunt) was unbeatable and can give starbucks a run for money.
In the evening, Dev’s uncle had arranged for a small booze for us. I was overly delighted with that gesture, and how could I miss booze with the sweetest people I know and who had dozens of stories to share.
It gets freezing cold in the evening, so brandy is the way of life. I had a sip of it to brave the cold and came out to witness stars, so many-
Since the place is not frequented by tourist (thankfully), the village spot a peaceful silence in the night. The silence took me 15 years back when I last visited my village, that was when my countryside was still in charms. I was captured by the nostalgia, remembering my childhood when I use to stare at the stars, trying to count them and ask so many foolish questions from my dad. That was the last time I witnessed that silence, the peace, I was immature back then thus never missed that night later.
The memories came flashing back in the yard of Naladi Homestay. I was mesmerized, lost in the darkness of that silence and peace. I was not at all frightened even if someone had offered to stroll into the forest in that hour of night.
Eyes wide open unlike the mind. Alcohol and Nostalgia took over me.
Till the time that brandy did not take over, I thought of shooting more of stars, tried my hands on trails. I did not have a remote control, so all I could do was to hold the shutter button for 160 seconds in bulb mode with aperture at f/2.8 and ISO 1250.
I was in no mood to do over manipulation of pictures. Lost my patience after 160 seconds of holding the button and this is what I got.
The result are not at par with what pro use to get, but I was personally happy to get a record.
I went into the house to have a sip of brandy and listen to the stories narrated by Suman and Dev’s uncle. I was like a kid listening to their long old stories about forest hunting of wild boars, about forests etc. Man it was amazing. I think I can spend hours with Suman talking to him. BTW just FYI, there is a 100% literacy in Coorg, and to my surprise everyone in that village knew English (except the migrant laborers). Suman himself had left a well paid job at Mysore to take care of his farm. He is one among our age group, and is literal fun to spend time with.
LIttle I knew the brandy was taking over, intoxicating me completely.
I came out to take more shot in the pitch dark (I think yes it was) .. I sneezed, and seems the D300 got intoxicating infection by the saliva I sprayed on it. It started taking pictures like the one below. Or maybe the telepathy I have with my camera, it was shooting the way I was seeing things after the brandy went down.
Here is how I was seeing things.
The intoxication started to appear in my shots as well. Notice the direction of star trail.
I dont remember what was served for dinner, but I do remember that I ate a lot.
We planned to take a walk next morning.
To be Continued…