Arriving at the Golden Temple, one can immediately feel that sense of calm that surrounds a place like this and we automatically began speaking in a whisper. After meandering through the gardens and lawns, there are two temples, both elaborately adorned with gold, giving it it's name. Every square inch, inside and out, of both temples is covered in brightly painted Asian deities with gold details that is as fresh today as the day it was painted. After removing our shoes and leaving them with the attendant, we entered the marble floored chanting room with 3 huge gold figures at it's front. The center is a glimmering buddha which stands 60 feet tall and is flanked on either side by two slightly smaller attendants; Amartyusa and Sambhava. At the base our two gold thrones, one of which is reserved for the Dali Lama himself.
I am a spectacle here. Adults as well as small children covering their mouths in disgust at my choice of hair style. It appears that our unique family also continues to baffle as they seem to be more riveted toward us at times than at the beautiful structure before them. Dev takes it in stride, although her normal waves to anyone who notices have become hesitant or guarded as she is realizing, although brown skinned, she is the minority.
At each stop the driver calls our host and our next stop is discussed. We decide to have a spot of lunch and so the 3 of us are dropped off at the Karnarita (not sure of the spelling) International hotel/restaurant. We entered a long corridor, heavily draped with red and white fabric with jasmine flower accents filled to the brim with people that opens into a large tent with food booths everywhere. We assume this is what the host meant by informal dining. Before we know it, Devi has an orange soda pushed into her hand and a 7-up has been offered for Pat and myself. Next we are each given a bowl of pineapple ice cream and three chairs materialize from nowhere for us to sit. We are certain we are in the wrong place, but the hospitality is hard to resist....they are insistent. Projected images are flashing on a screen and we notice glimpses of what appears to be a wedding party. Could it be that we have happened into an Indian wedding? Why yes, we are wedding crashers without even knowing it. The proud and gracious father of the groom approaches and we apologize for our ignorance, to which he offers us a veg or non-veg meal, almost forcing us to eat with him. We decline and find the spot we are supposed to be eating adjacent to the wedding and watch as the over 500 guests at this small Muslim Coorg wedding gorge themselves on wonderful looking food. After watching a while, we figure the newlyweds are housed in a huge separate building, where a steady stream of guests seem to be entering and exiting, offering their congratulations.The children are immaculately dressed and several wave to Devi as we watch from our open air table just a few feet away.
Although a couple other stops have been suggested, we decide that we should get Devi to the Elephant Corridor. She continues to be sick the rest of the way and we begin to wonder if it is the Malaria medicine in addition to the motion. Finally we arrive to our destination for the next few days. It is wonderful! A serene slice of heaven in a middle of a coffee plantation. Our gracious hosts Nimi, of Sri Lanka and Australian descent and Viji, a native Coorg, with their pets, Jomo and Viva the dogs greet us and we get acquainted over a cup of their own delicious coffee. The Elephant Corridor is a delightful 3 room (with more under construction) homestay in the Coorg region, a somewhat cool, hilly and lush emerald green landscape consisting of acre after acre of coffee and spice plantations.
After a lengthy death like nap in our bungalow, adjacent to the bigger house, we join them for a wonderful fish dinner with potatoes, spinach and tomato salad. Dessert is sweetened yogurt which is so refreshing.
Nimi and Viji are great (and extremely patient) with Devi who is our never ending question asker. By morning they are the best of buds as they patiently let her help open coconuts, collect the water, and grate the meat to put over our boiled bananas for part of our breakfast, prepared in their open air kitchen. Viji lets Devi help collect some fresh ginger and takes her to see the drying coffee berries (pictured above drying and still ripening on the bush) It is fascinating to listen about how they live off of their land with it's huge variety of fruits, spices and coffee, all on a 20 acre family plot, named the Elephant Corridor for it happens to be the place where wild elephants like to wander through from time to time from the National forest on one side to the water tanks on the other. In fact, just the day before we came a herd of 14 "tuskers" passed through.
Due to Devi's illness, we spend the first day there to enjoy the place in all of it's serenity, taking walks, reading and sleeping. The bungalow has netted windows that remain open and the temperature somehow stays just comfortable. Promptly at 6:30am each morning a Magpie, the first bird of many, sings a good morning call and the day begins. There is also a rhythmic pitter-patter of water, but what sounds like a light rain is actually a collection of dew from the morning mist that gently falls from the treetops that soar up an easy 100 feet. It is a peacefulness that is hard to put into words.
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