We had somehow missed our favourite roadside joint where we used to have breakfast whenever we hit the Bangalore - Mysore road. And the famous Kamat eateries had busloads of people waiting. So after 2 hours of riding we were really hungry and thought that the "Yummy Breakfast -Available all day long" consisting of Idly, Dosa, Aloo Parathe etc at CCD, might not be too bad an option. We decided to give it a try at the Maddur CCD.
The 10 or so 1 inch sized white discs and the yellow liquid over it which they passed for Idly - Sambhar was without doubt the worst, most distasteful thing I have seen and eaten. The dosa was only a little better. And priced at around 80 bucks, it was a bad start to the trip. Naman was furious that how could anybody sell such stuff. It was a pity that in all the frustration (and hysterical laughter), we forgot to take pictures of it.
We took the diversion somewhere before Mysore and were soon on SH 88 which would take us to Madikeri. Almost immediately, things started to get better. Gulmohar tress lined the road and I dare say that I can't remember seeing RED like that in a long long time.
At around noon, we reached Bylakuppe, the Tibetan settlement. But for a couple of signboards, it's easy to miss it. A few hundred meters into the settlement, and the landscape was already changing. Prayer flags, vast farmlands on either side of the small road, ornately built gates, Lamas and Tibetan people on the road - it was tough to believe that we were in Karnataka.
Bylakuppe was a gem of a discovery. It grew on us as we roamed around the place. Even though the first stop at the Namdroling Monastery reminded us of a typical tourist spot with roadside vendors and hordes of familes clicking pictures, we soon realized that people didnot have the time, energy or the inclination to visit the lesser known monasteries which were more secluded and not a part of tourist guide books and hence in my book more worthy of a visit.
The half a dozen monasteries that we visited in the afternoon really made our day. From the 'prasad' of cheese balls, wafers, guava juice that we received at one monastery to the sight of lamas chanting with gongs and drums playing in the background; from the Tibetan school kids who posed for my friend to the late afternoon squall which was preceeded by the darkening of skies - Bylakuppe was way beyond what we had expected. A diversion, meant as just a stopover on our way to Madikeri had turned out to be a revelation.
The late afternoon shower had made the place all the more charming. We were having chowmein with chop sticks when the rain came. And it ended almost at the same time we finished our lunch. Talk of coincidence.
By 5 o'clock in the evening, we were so much in awe of the place that we shelved our intial plan to reach Madikeri (another 40 kms). By a stroke of very good luck, we found out that the Sakya Monastery guest house had rooms available for the night. The thought of spending the night at that quiet village as opposed to some touristy place with a hotel in the market place was at once a huge relief and a pleasing feeling. We dumped our bags in the room and went in for another ride before the sun set. As if to remind us that there was much more to Bylakuppe than we had seen, we witnessed lamas debating amongst themselves in the Sera Je monastery. Groups of 2 were continously arguing along with frequent clapping of their hand as if to emphasize their points of view. Of course we didn't understand a word of what they were saying but it was a very unique sight nevertheless and something both of us are unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Soon it was night and after having tasted the steamed momos at the Fast Food center, we came back to our room. At around 9 o'clock, we went to the Sakya monastery. A cool, steady breeze was blowing. The few solar powered lights outside the monastery along with the the flickering lamps which could be seen through the huge windows lent a sense of eeriness to the place. The fluttering prayer flags which in turn would make the lights dance only enhanced the effect. It was a very peaceful and calming feeling. And of course there were thoughts on the way we lead our lives - continously assaulting our senses with internet, TV, music and what not but this is not the place for those.
I came back to the room very content. There was hardly any tiredness because of the 280 Kms that we had travelled. I guess when you are so happy, the body yields to it too. By 10 we were asleep.
Day 1 of the trip had been unlike what we had thought. And in a very pleasant way. Day 2 would see us at the real Kodagu (Coorg), amidst the coffee estates and the rolling hills.