1. Harangi Backwaters
Harangi must be one of the most beautiful dam backwaters in India. The early morning mist rising on the waters with the thick forests as the background is an unforgettable sight. And if you are an aficionado of dams, the Harangi dam is not to be missed. Not that it’s big. It’s actually a medium sized masonry dam (2,775’ in length and 174’ in height) but the setting is simply awesome. The place does not attract too many tourists and is a tranquil place to relax and just breathe in the ozone. To see the backwaters, it would be a good idea to take one of the side roads (ask the locals) and reach one of the banks opposite the dam wall.
Towards the latter half of the rainy season, the sluice gates are opened and the sight is simply mind blowing. This has to be seen from beneath the dam. There are also some walkways and a statue of Goddess Kaveri.
Bhagamandala is situated upstream of river Kaveri where two other tributaries, the Kannike and the mythical Sujyoti forming a river confluence or kudala sangama. A short distance away is the temple at Padi housing the deity Lord Igguthappa and considered by many Kodavas to be the most sacred shrine in Coorg. The other temple considered as sacred is the Chinnathappa temple at Aiyangeri, which houses Lord Krishna. The twin peaks of Mt. Thavoor and Mt. Koppatti tower over Bhagamandala and are fascinating trekking paths in the Shola forest range.
As with all holy rivers in India, it’s customary to take a dip in the waters to erase one’s sins and negativities and emerge cleansed to take on life’s challenges. Legend has it that Kaveri, wife of sage Agasthya, parted ways with her husband for not keeping his word. The parting divided the Hindus and the Kodavas, with the former backing Agasthya and the latter going with Kaveri. This angered Agasthya’s backers who cursed, ‘let crops fail and women turn barren’. The stunned Kodavas ran to Kaveri who emerged at Bhagamandala and she removed and redid her saree pleats at her back symbolically giving the women fertility and also asked the Kodavas to uproot plants and replant them. Even to this day, the Kodava women uniquely knot their saree at their back.
The town is nothing to write home about but this is where the Tibetan monastery with their golden Buddhas is built. India’s foremost Tibetan resettlement project at Bylekuppe is here. Amidst the din and bustle of the town are the people of Tibet who have learnt to live in a far off land and in strange climes.
Worth a visit as the place is grandly colourful and, at the same time, calm and serene. On leaving your footwear at a well organised ‘reception’ and going inside, you’ll see three huge deities of Buddha, Sambhava and Amartyusa. A detailed history of the deities and Buddhism in general is there for all to read. The gardens are pleasantly landscaped and you can hear the prayers being chanted. Once done, the curio shops outside have some bargains. The cuisine in the various restaurants around the place is authentic Tibetan.
4. Thirunelli Temple and Pakshipathalam
About an hour’s drive from Machaan Nagarhole is the ancient Thirunelli Vishnu Temple aka Southern Kasi located in a valley surrounded by verdant forest set amidst four majestic hills – Brahmagiri, Udayagiri, Narinirangimala, and Karimala. The temple is so old that there’s no record of when it was actually built. The first documentary proof is during the reign of Bhaskara Ravi Varma, the Chola king in 962-1019 CE. The ruins of two ancient villages nearby echo their distant past.
Through medicinal herbs, tree roots, grass and undergrowth flows Papanasini straight from the heart of Brahmagiri. This is a holy mountain stream and Panchatheertham is the holy temple pond. If you have led a sinful life, there’s still hope left for you, as it’s believed that a dip in the temple’s cold waters washes away a lifetime of sins.
From here, there’s a trek to Pakshipathalam that’s a birder’s paradise. Try and do this in the summer months as you could be literally sucked out by leeches in the monsoon and the paths are slippery. The drive to the temple is through thick woods and bamboo clusters that in itself is an experience. Expect to meet elephants in the evenings.
5. White Water Rafting
Whitewater rafting on the Baraphole River in South Coorg is a challenging but enjoyable experience. The actual length of this run is between 3 to 4 kilometres, but the rapids on this river stretch can be a class 4 or 5 depending on the rains. The entire experience takes around 3 hours an happens only from July to October.
There are two rafting organisers – Jethna Rafting (Alok) and Ace Paddlers (Manjunath). Both are good and provide an awesome experience. Guests need to be aware that there are some age restrictions, preferably above 14 and below 60 years. If you are moderately fit and can paddle without feeling you are in some marathon, then you are a candidate. Surprisingly, you need not know swimming, as the life jacket takes good care of you. Wear clothes suitable for water with floaters or rubber slippers. Remove and store every bit of junk you carry around – watch, cell phone, wallet, jewellery… It’s a good idea to leave these back at the resort.
Read more about whitewater rafting under Experiences