My Birthday Roadtrip Through India’s Countryside

To better enjoy this post, please play the song above while reading.

This year, to celebrate my birthday, I did something I’ve never done before. I went on a road trip with three of my friends (one of them I’ve just met) through India’s countryside to a place called Coorg in Karnataka. Coorg, dubbed as the “Scotland of India,” lies southwest of the country near the old kingdom of Mysore.

We started our journey in Bangalore, India’s high-tech industry capital. There, we rented a car and set out on our five-hour journey. It was already late afternoon when we started so after navigating through Bangalore’s rush-hour traffic, night has already comfortably settled in as we made our way out of the city. Outside the bustling metropolis, the roads were pitch black and directions were difficult to sort out. I remember we had to stop a couple of times to figure out the signs and determine which way to go. Needless to say, I was thrilled. The experience was surreal. There I was in some random part of India, this beautiful Punjab song blasting from the speakers!

When we neared Madikeri, a hill station in Coorg, we rolled our windows down. Unlike in Bangalore, the air there was fresher.  As we drove through a tree-lined stretch of road, a saccharine scent lent a unique perfume to the air. I was told that this scent came from flowers that burst open at night, only to die in the morning. I assume they are referring to the night-blooming jasmine, also know as “queen of the night.”

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Jit, Sourav, Ebrahim, and I at Raja’s Seat

Eventually, at past midnight, we found our way to a small inn. The amenities were basic, with no heater to warm the water or the room. I said good night to my friends and snuggled under a blanket to lull myself to sleep. It has been a long work week and I was dead tired.

Next day, we got up early and went on our way to see the sights. First, we stopped by Raja’s Seat, a nice little garden which was said to be a favorite of the kings of Coorg. In the garden was a pagoda and viewing deck overlooking a vista of green fields and the graceful silhouette of mountain ranges in the distance. During that time, it was raining so a thick veil of fog settled over the peaks with slender wisps touching the valleys.

After that,  we drove to Madikeri Fort. Built in the 17th century, this fort encloses a palace and a church, which has been converted into a museum. You can walk along the fort walls to admire the view, but aside from that, there’s nothing much to see here. It would have been a nice place to walk around, except that by this time, the morning drizzle has turned into a rain shower. Having only two umbrellas, we were drenched so we decided to dry off while having a nice south Indian lunch. There were the usual naan and chicken curry, but we also had fried fish, which was a specialty in the area, curried shrimps, and a special kind of tea that tasted like a stronger version of Hong Kong’s milk tea. It was all good!

Our last stop for the day was Abbey Falls, which was nestled between coffee and spice plantations. The ground was muddy from the rain as we trudged our way down to see the sight so wearing white sneakers was probably not a very good idea. There were tons of people standing by the viewing area so we had to wait a bit until we found an empty spot by the ledge. While taking our selfie, the water roared loudly in the background, powerful from the influx of rain.

That night, my friends took me to Amanvana resort. We celebrated my birthday with a nice dinner and cake while being serenaded by the muted gurgles of the river Kaveri. There was even a bonfire to keep us warm. It was truly magical!

After a restful evening and a hearty breakfast near Namdroling Monastery, we went on our way back to Bangalore. This time, we were all really tired so after a few hours of singing along to different songs, I eventually fell asleep. (But not before I saw several herds of cow cross the road! Hahaha)

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Namdroling Monastery – Can you guess who’s in the photo?

Thinking about it now, I am so grateful to have met such trustworthy friends with whom to celebrate a birthday like no other. Sometimes, a plunge into the unknown is the best gift that you can ever give yourself because if you’re lucky, you’ll emerge with treasured stories of a great adventure and friends for keeps.

Thank you, Ebrahim, Jit, and Sourav! 🙂

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