Thursday, 15 January 2015

Big Foot's Big Walkathon

There are sportspeople, there are fit people, there are outdoorsy people, and then there’s me. Happy that I wasn’t crushed to death in a near-stampede (There are no tracks in a nature trail, I learnt), I almost forgot I was supposed to join the horde! Like I said: Big Foot's Big Escapade or 'Escape'ade? Then, as if I ruled that trail, I simply walked my way through, along with a few other aunties, uncles and kids. I was going to make it a cakewalk… well, a walk, anyway. I am pretty sure, I heard my Puma running shoes groaning in disgust.

Nonchalant to the fact that this is a “run”, I simply put one big foot in front of the other, walking as slowly as you could possibly imagine. I looked right to see a rivulet gurgling past pebbles and stones. I looked left to see acres and acres of coffee plantations. I looked straight ahead and saw no participants (thanks to my amazing speed). I looked back and saw, much to my amusement, that I was on par with oldies and kids.

It was as I paused at the rivulet to watch it slithering past, gurgling away like a happy baby, that I remembered why I had signed up for that trail run at all. It was as I walked past plantations after plantations that I remembered why I had let go of my introversive instincts in the first place. It was as I let my shoes and socks get wet in a stream we were to cross, that I remembered why I had chosen to let Mother Nature get the better of me.

About forty minutes into the trail, a while before I had to climb a steep hill, a few crew members of the organisers handed out glucose packets and water. When a foodie says glucose tastes like manna from the heaven, you can imagine the extent to which their body must have dried out! Well… I don’t know about the others, but it certainly had a great impact on my energy, at least until it began wearing off as I climbed, slipping every now and then, one of the Chomakundu Hills.

I wondered if I would get to the top and back alive at all; my sweat-beads had long turned into sweat-sea. But I guess I had a writer’s gumption then: I was there in pursuit of my favourite muse – Mother Nature, and I was going to get all of her, one way or another! At the back of my mind, even as I climbed like a snail, almost on all fours, I wondered how I would describe the walk, the crawl, and the hilltop view. I had no clue; only a small voice uttered (with as much difficulty as I climbed) “breathless”. I stifled a laugh; I didn’t want the aunties and uncles around me to think the trail had unhinged me!

Once atop the hill, though, the Bilbo in me stirred and took full flight. The ‘Misty Mountains’ track, from The Hobbit movie, played in my mind. My big, ugly feet tingled, as I set my eyes upon the landscape: there she was in all her lush beauty, my Mother Nature, the one who is the ink in the pen, the rhyme in the poem, the word for this smith…

Photo credit: Sindhu Rao & Flash Bulbzz Photography

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Big Foot's Big 'Escapade' or... 'Escape'ade?

Every time I force-open my eyes from a slumber, I feel like I am destined to die from lack of sleep. Every bone in my body protests and my feet, mysteriously, become extra heavy.

The morning of the big run was no different. When I looked into the mirror while brushing, I might as well have been a puffy-eyed corpse that had slept the night in King’s Cottage, a homestay in Kakkabe, Coorg. Even 7AM does no good to my sanity, let alone 5AM!

But the run would start at 7.30 from near Chelavara Falls, and participants were to report at 6. Naturally, my body had to give in to the trauma of waking up at 5. And so, I dragged my corpse-like body along and sat, mum as a graveyard, in the taxi as the driver drove me to the starting point of The Coorg Escapade. 

When the trigger on the gun was finally pulled as an indication to start, I merely stood out of harm’s way as a horde of eager, well-toned-bodied, sportspeople made their way, rushing into the trail... 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Big Foot's Big Love for Nature

I may have big feet, but they don’t really bring out the sportsperson in me…
I may travel, but I never really get outdoorsy…

When I make a trip, I have only two purposes – one to go in search of myths, legends, folklores, just about any kind of stories, another to gather my thoughts while I bask in the beauty of nature. In fact, those purposes are so strong in me, that when I travel for mere fun, it is oddly unfulfilling!

So when I told my parents I was taking off to Coorg, yet again, merely a week after I was back from my first solo trip, and that too, to run a trail of sorts, they were dumfounded. Here I was, their never-a-sports-girl-always-locked-up-in-her-room-writing-something daughter, suddenly announcing my interest in wanting to “run a 10K nature trail” 
that Amway Nutrilite was conducting in Coorg on a Sunday.  

You see, my interest in this activity all rested on the ‘nature trail’ part of it. The ‘run’ part barely mattered. But just in case, I did practise a one hour walk-and-jog (more walk than jog) exercise in the night in the preceding week. And my muse for this unexpected enthusiasm for a 10K run? The trail that was to be run: amidst coffee plantations, past waterfalls, crossing rivulets, climbing steep and rocky hills… And no, none of these brought out any kind of sportsmanship in me; they simply teased the writer in me, making my eyes yearn to see them all.

After my Big Foot and Big Bore episode and my Big Foot Spirit episode, I didn’t quite know where to place Coorg as I had barely seen it. But with this nature trail run dangling, tantalisingly, like a carrot, in front of my eyes, it seemed like Coorg wasn’t done with me, after all…

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Big Foot Review I - Coorg O Farm Homestay

A view of one of the cottages at the homestay
Some places are meant to bring out the explorer in you. Some places are meant to bring out the leisurely creature in you. And Coorg O Farm Homestay belonged to the latter category. Far far away from the humdrum of metro living, nestled amidst a coffee plantation in Coorg, this homestay is for those who want to catch up with their reading, writing, eating, walking, smelling the incessant rain and other small pleasures of life. 

Room: 4/5

Interiors of a room 
Basic, clean, neat.

With TV, large double bed, dressing mirror, attached bathroom, torch, and mosquito coil.

Food: 3/5

The homestay's dining quarters

Basic, hygienic, well-cooked.

Tomato soup, coffee and tea, and dosa are great.

Ambience: 3.5/5

A view from the porch at the room
Coffee plantation, small agricultural land.

Great for sipping on coffee and reading your favourite novel at your room’s porch.

Location: 1/5

Two attached cottages with a common porch
Not very conveniently located; most tourist places and trekking areas are far away.

If you are looking for absolute cut-off from the rest of the world, this place can be your silent haven.

Value for money: 3.5/5

A view of the plantation from the homestay's dining quarters
A room costs Rs.2,500 for a couple, and about Rs.1,700 for a solo traveller, and includes breakfast and unlimited coffee and tea. The room is very well-kept, with a good TV connection, and the bathroom has 24X7 hot water. Moreover, the porch makes for your own tranquil space at your room, with a view of the coffee plantation and the agricultural land. So, it is reasonably priced. 
A vegetarian meal costs Rs. 250, and a non-vegetarian one Rs. 300. While the food is basic at its best and well-cooked, it is a tad over-priced as the “meal” doesn’t really feel complete. Also, there is no ingenuity in the cooking; all that fresh produce from the plantation (guava and jackfruit grow in abundance at this place) is going to waste. The cooking need not be extravagant, but it can easily be special: using that produce and making some local delicacy would be a good start.

Overall rating: 3/5

The homestay is decent, with a very amicable host, Deepak, and his cooks and helping boys follow suit. It is only because of the average food and inconvenient location that I have given this homestay 3 out of 5 points. Otherwise, if the food were better, it can easily score a 4.


Monday, 20 October 2014

The Big Foot Solitude - II

The experience of going solo is sometimes mightier and more important than the destination itself. It does not even matter if you got around to doing everything on your bucket list while at the destination; the fact that you managed a solo trip in itself can feel like a huge achievement. The top most benefit of a solo holiday is finding out that you can do it! You will find that you are stronger and more capable than you think. 

It’s what one of my freelance writers (I work as a sub-editor for an English daily) wrote in an article about the joys of solo travel.

It has struck a chord with me. I might not have made an epic journey. I might not have made a holiday worth being carried in travel magazines. I might not have made an adventurous trip. Just because I went solo, it didn’t make it a grand escapade.

But I learnt a lot from this trip. Things that I probably knew deep down, but never really considered. Things that I probably never expected to learn. Things that I probably snubbed as pish-posh, previously…

I am not afraid of being alone
Well, I have always been someone who loves solitude, as you may have gathered from my Big Foot Solitude post. But spending three nights and four days in an unfamiliar place, all alone, called for a whole new set of solitude dynamics. It meant I had to be on guard all the time. It meant I had to find something to do when I wasn’t exploring the place. It meant I was solely responsible for the schedule and planning of the trip. It meant that I was mostly in control of the outcome of the trip.

I am not afraid of the dark
Well, I knew I was never scared to walk around in the dark even when no one was home. But I never knew I wasn’t scared being alone in a room at a homestay in Coorg, even when the power was gone! I never knew I would just switch on a torch and continue reading a novel in the dead of night, when power was gone, and I could hear insects chirping away to glory amidst a coffee plantation.

I gel well with the opposite sex
Well, I have never had many guy friends and I had no clue I could actually be comfortable talking to guys while on a solo trip! It was as I sat in my short shorts and drank a couple of Breezers with the homestay host, Deepak, discussing the Game Of Thrones series, that I realised I can be friendly and unawkwardly with male acquaintances, too. I, who hides in my room when relatives come home.

I cannot afford too many solo trips
Well, following your passion means, more often than not, you don’t get to make much money. Being a writer and editor, even if it is at a leading English daily, is no way to fund your solo trips, especially when you are a compulsive money-saving freak. The room tariffs that are usually aimed at couples or groups are not very solo-travel friendly, and even when you strike a bargain, it’s not budget-friendly. And you’ve just got to eat like a pauper for fear of having no one to share your food with, and spending a bomb on it anyway!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Big Foot Spirit

The non-stop chiming of Nagavalli’s anklets in my mind should have been a foreshadowing of what was to come, but the fantasy-loving fool that I am, I assumed it was my mind conjuring her up for my entertainment. So, I just let her dance away the 45 minutes’ drive, all the way from Gaddige Fort to Mandalpatti. 

My tour-guide-cum-homestay-host, Deepak, was playing the driver for me again (isn’t he a gracious host?), and even bought the tickets, for us and his teen nephew who had accompanied us, from a small make-shift ticket counter at the foot of the hills. We were to take a jeep with a driver and ascend the winding slopes of Mandalpatti. The jeep we were to hop into was, to put it politely, antique, and the road was, to put it understatedly, bumpy.

Only as the guards opened the gate to the hills and the jeep tried to speed up, did I notice that I could no longer hear anklets. But before I could so much as ponder over the dancer’s sudden disappearance, the jeep threw me up and down, left and right, all in a fast and non-stop sequence. My shoulder bumped into the front seat on the right side, my head bobbed onto the metal body of the jeep’s top, and my legs swept the floor of the jeep in apparently lifeless movements. Have you watched the movie The Exorcist? I pretty much felt a ghoul had entered my body and was throwing me around with vengeance!

Perhaps I was paying the price for pursing my lips at the boring tomb. Perhaps I was being challenged for turning my back on it and paying my attention to the carvings on the walls that protected it instead (not that the royal bones and dust under the concrete floor ‘tomb’ needed protecting). Perhaps I was being taught a lesson for planning to title my blog post ‘Big Foot and Big Bore’ in honour of the King’s mortal remains.

Well, it was surely exciting, albeit bruising to various parts of my body, and oh my… what a scenic view… even as the ghoul threw the jeep to the very edges of the unprotected hills, I couldn’t help but gape in awe of this partially cloudy, partially green, partially muddy vista. On reaching the top of the hills, the howling of the wind seemed to confirm my doubts that it was indeed a ghoul that threw me about. Anyway, without a doubt, I could see that Mandalpatti is every picnicker’s paradise, not counting the ghoul I carried there.

And just as I was planning on trekking a trail on the opposite hillock, the heavens gave way and the clouds grumbled in agreement. The skeletal face of Doddaveerarajendra, under
Raja’s Tomb, seemed to be smirking in my direction…