A Ride to Mallilli Falls in the Coorg Hills, South India

Account of a trip made with my brother in law Sonam Tashi to the Mallilli Falls in the Coorg Hills, around 30 km to the west of the Coorgi town of Somvarpet.

The trip to Mallalli Falls took place the day after our ride up to Mandalpatti. Somvarpet was the town we were heading to and it lay approx 30 km north east of Kushal Nagar up in the Coorg hills, then from Somvarpet it was another 27 kilometres to the Mallalli Falls, heading more or less due west. In the Notes page on my iphone I tapped in the following –

Somvarpet, next place to go on a 2 day sleigh ride through the hills of Coorg. Never gonna tire of the feeling which comes over me when I go hill hikin’ from outta different temperatures where the land doth change. Sunticoppa, halfway up the pipe to Madikeri we could have gone and then got the SH8, but no, Sonam Tashi had other ideas and took us on a road which lay on the east side of Kushal Nagar. Coupla days hill rollin’, stepping out upon a different scene away from the heat haze of the plains where the red soil of Karnataka contains the tales of a 1000 million stories all bled out beneath the sun which we will never get to know. But it is just that I know it will soon stop happening – this goin’ here an’ goin’ there – because Sonam Tashi shifts back to Kollegal tomorrow, the place where he is now stationed as Chief Settlement Office and about four hours drive away from Bylakuppe. It is then that I will have the time to sit back an’ do more writin’ so as to keep up with all this stuff I have set myself the task of reporting on.

Now, away from those iphone Notes, here are a few more names of places on the way into town, the town of course being Kushal Nagar on NH 275 and this time we had the following –

Coorg Gate Hotel, New Bright Hotel, Minister’s Kourt, Hotel Rich Fort

– to play with. Out over on the east side of Kushal, where we were soon driving on the road to the town of Hassan before taking a turn onto another one for Somvarpet, things were more extensive in terms of what was there. Coffee most certainly had a big presence by way of such places as Travancore Coffee Works, Tata Coffee and the Bold Earth Agri & Coffee Works. The precious bean no doubt being taken down from those plantations in the hills for curing, refining and in some instances turning into powder. Got to say I liked the name Travancore, somehow in my mind it was a throwback to another time, possibly when things were less hostile and the road to Travancore might have been a path of wonders if, indeed, it was the case that Travancore even as a place existed.

The road to Somvarpet once we were on it turned out to be a fast one and it was clear that as we rolled through that particular part of the Coorg hills things economically were pretty good, life was comfortable and there was plenty of wealth around judging by some of the houses. Just how it should be I guess, certainly not much hint of those grinding locks of circumstance that threw beggars onto the pavements as sights to make you catch your breath, which are all so easily found in other areas of India. No, there was none of that, this was clearly a prosperous part of the country in which to end up, and there was most certainly a subtle kind of entrancement to the scene spread out before us as gradually we climbed higher into the hills. Not far from Somvarpet we pulled up for a late morning coffee at a place called the Hotel Nandhana in the village of Bajegundi, where the coffee tasted good, sweet and strong, Coorgi style, and the people had a gentle manner about them which in countless places on Earth has now been lost, if indeed it was ever there.

Taking a turning just past Somvarpet and following the signs to the Mallalli Falls, we were soon on a bendy twister of a stretch of tarmac which put us through our paces as far as sudden spurts of nausea were concerned, where the turns at times got a little too sharp for comfort as Sonam Tashi spun his driving wheel of the Mahindra. The sting in the tail as far as the road to the Falls was concerned – snaking its way as it did through the dense greenery of those east end Pushpagiri Hills – was that for the last couple of kilometres or so it was being resurfaced. This meant driving on a bed of red stones throwing up dust clouds all around us, so the windows of the Mahindra most definitely had to be shut, otherwise we would have all been on Choke Street. Goes with the territory in that part of the world I guess, and there was nothing for it but to plough on through until we reached the Falls, our place of destination. The Mallalli Falls had a car park of sorts, rough ground with a few trees which you could park your car under, and which required a payment of 50 rupees. There was also a very clean Ladies & Gents toilets which as far as I was concerned was a most welcome sight indeed, as that last bout of rock an’ rollin’ on the stony dusty road had left me burstin’ for a piss. Just like the day before over in good ole Mandalpatti we somehow managed to arrive slap bang in the middle of the hottest part of the day, but there was nothing else for it than to just get on with things and in this instance the things in question were to walk down a couple of thousand steps to the foot of the falls.

Now it has to be said that strictly speaking we were at the falls in the wrong time of year. Monsoon season was, naturally enough, the best time to catch them, when they would be in full flow, but in that regard we were there a few months early, just on the cusp of the hot season. This meant that the land was dry and whilst the river was not exactly a trickle, it was plain to see that the volume of water at other times of the year would be far, far bigger. Guess it was because of that and also the fact the midday temperatures were pretty damn hot, that we didn’t get too far down those steps to the bottom, not far at all in fact. It was just too much effort when the rewards at the end of our descent would hardly have stacked up against all the energy we would have expended in order to get there. Not only that, there would have also been the decidedly uncomfortable prospect of then having to walk all the way back up again once we’d seen whatever water there was. Not that I minded really, in years gone by I might have pushed on a bit, but in this instance it was clearly totally pointless so calling it quits caused no pain at all, no mental agitation, none whatsoever. It was what it was, too damn hot to go all the way down for just a trickle. Might have been a different story if the falls were gushing with the power of a thousand million gods in full transcendental flow an’ glory, but they weren’t, so that was that. On the way back up the already descended steps I amused myself by way of picking up sweet wrappers from the dry an’ dusty ground and sticking them in my back pocket. Such great fun, I can tell you!

Lunch was in Somvarpet and by the time we got there from the falls it was coming up to 2 in the afternoon which meant that we were all pretty hungry. Struck lucky in the middle of town by way of finding a place by the name of the Hotel Ganesha Darshini, one of those little restaurants which served up delicious food by way of Indian vegetarian meals at a price which was so good as to be borderline incredible. Get this, we had three full meals, fresh thalis consisting of multiple curried vegetables, rice, pickles and curds, plus a vegetable byriani and a bottle of Bisleri water all for the grand total of just 278 rupees which, whilst not quite nothing, was still pretty close. Yeah, it was a meal you just don’t come across everyday in terms of taste, value and overall excellence and I ate every single grain of rice on my plate because of it. So if you ever happen to be in the town of Somvarpet at the eastern end of the Pushpagiri Hills in the district of Coorg, you would be well advised to check out the Hotel Ganesha Darshini, because I can guarantee that you won’t walk out of there feeling in any way disappointed. And once inside you will see the people have a humility about them which can bring a lump to your throat, but not a lump big enough to stop you from eating and thoroughly enjoying their fantastic food!

So our little ride to Somvarpet and the Mallalli Falls was good, but as far as the water splash was concerned it was a case of putting it in the book for another time in the future when the wet season came along. Not bad then, all things told. Oh yes, the roads were pretty OK as well, apart from possibly those bendy bits and that stretch where it was just red and gravel tracked with enough dust thrown up to spin your eyes out the other side of your head.

Crashed out that night but soon awoke from a dream, kinda nightmare if truth be told, of someone familiar yet not quite who was putting a blow torch to my head, all located in a cinema of torture which I could not get out of. Head felt hot on awakening sometime past midnight. Details so clear it was one of those dreams I was not going to forget in a hurry, no siree, that was for sure. Might have had something to do with doing one of my yoga poses from the evening before whilst up on the roof in the fading light of the day, another exercise session biting into the coming dusk of South India where Bettadapur, mysterious holy hill on the horizon to the east, stood against a back drop of a slowly darkening sky. It was one of those poses where I stretch my legs up in the air, hands supporting my back, almost turning myself upside down, so yes, that might have had something to do with it, the head heat that is, but as for the dream show, well that must have come from a different story!

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