You would think writing about a blissful holiday should be something that one would normally jump at...But then again, you are also probably one of those kinds who does not know how to get an assprint permanently embossed on your chair. So trust me, you would not understand!
Late last August, we decided to take a break from the oft-repeated off-beaten tracks of Goa and venture into something that we have not tried too much together. I could only muster up a couple of days off and so the war between coffee kingdoms was won by Chikmagulur. Honestly, I have been very keen on doing Coorg, but we thought it would be better if we could try that when we have more time on my hands and more dough in our pockets (I don't know whether that will EVER happen!).
Chikmagulur, for the slightly intiated, is Cafe Coffee Day County. For the totally uninitiated, is nestled between the big and beautiful mountain ranges of Baba Budan Giri, about 260 kms off Bangalore. Known for its rich coffee estates on its outer fringes, it is actually a quaint little town with little country clubs where the rich coffee lords and their plump wives get together and drink anything but coffee!
We took an overnight KSRTC Volvo bus from Bangalore (started at about 11.30 p.m) and the journey to Chikmagulur took around 6 hours. So in the wee hours of the morning, we found ourselves in the middle of a quiet bus stand. Luckily, I had earlier managed to get some contact details of hotels on karnataka tourism website and had done a phone booking at what seemed (online!) to be a decent place called Planter's Court. It turned out to be fairly decent hotel, with a nice Udipi restaurant bordering it. That place served the best coffee that I have had in a very loooong time(Not counting Mum's..) - strong, dark, not-so-sweet and more importantly, non-stringent!!
Armed with a very scanty knowledge about the town , we set out to check out 'Ratnagiri Park', which was part of the town itself. This park had its own little toy train, tree house, a pond and the likes. Pretty much the standard stuff, but the main attraction was the breathtaking view of the surrounding hills.
It was about mid-afternoon, when we made our way to the bus-stand again to enquire about how to get to either Mullainagiri or Baba Budan Giri.
From whatever little information we could gather from the locals, the former was the highest peak in Karnataka and the latter was the main point of attraction. Given the time we had on our hands, we decided to rent a jeep to head to Mullainagiri. The ride was quite torturous thanks to the generous monsoon-induced potholes on the road. Couple that with the absence of any sort of barricades on the mountain paths, beyond which there also seemed to be abyss all fogged out, the ride was quite a memorable one!
We reached the point from where we had to trek up a flight of stairs to get to a little temple. This was supposed to signify the highest point in Karnataka. The trek turned out to be a bit more arduous than we expected, simply because it was VERY chilly AND it was raining!! We didn't have windcheaters and since we didn't want to get out sweatshirts wet, we had to endure the climb wearing only our t-shirts. Needless to say, we were soon soaked to the bones due to the rain! Not to mention, we were virtually unprotected against the cold wind. We eventually managed to get to the peak and as it turns out, the temple itself was closed! We would have ideally lingered on there for longer, but for the rain and cold wind...So we got our asses back to firm ground soon!
Dinner was at the Club house in the hotel itself...Being a Sunday night, there seemed to be a lot of the usual family dinner outings in progress..Most of the tables there seemed to house people belonging to either one of these categories:
a) the newly-wed kinds crouching towards in barely-visible corners.
b) the quintessential nuclear family types ( You know..with the husband staring jealously at the men who get to smoke, the wife stealing glances at the fake jewellery of the woman in the next table, the children looking ever so bored even while staring at the TV screens)
c) the oh-so-long table - with all the uncles on one side and all the aunties on one side and the conversation same-sex based!
d) And One table for the resident "tourists"! Us! Our camera, our extra layers of clothing in otherwise warm room, the hoots of excitement at finding a peg of premium whiksky for less than 50 bucks et al - think all these gave us away ;)
We began Day 2 with what else but filter coffee!! After a nice Udipi breakfast, we headed again to busstand from where we were to take a bus to Baba Budan Giri. After a wait of nearly an hour in the bus, which was spent in reading aloud a play and gathering some "why-don't-you-just-shut-up" glances, we began our nearly two hour journey to the hills..
The picturesque ride was quite worth all the effort! The road winds and unwinds through the green ranges..
We passed a few estates and were told that the monsoon is not the best time to visit these estates because of the impending danger of leeches! The mid-day mist seem to a large icing on the big green cake that the ranges were! We reached the point beyond which we had to take a jeep to reach the waterfall, which was about 3 kms up...We could have trekked this journey, but for the lack of time - we had to be back by 4-4.30 in order to catch the return bus back to Chikmagulur...
More than waterfall itself, the instant thing to greet you were the amount of clothes strewn around near the waterfall!
We suspected it to be chaddis which people flung after taking a shower in the waterfall! There were also these stones which were being worshipped as a deity...In true southie style, people broke coconuts before this deity..Of course these seem to be offerings more for the monkeys in and around the place than for the God!!
The view of the valley from this point was so breathtaking and it was made even more enjoyable by the hot chai and pakodas! We then headed to this cave shrine which was popularly known as the "hindu-muslim" temple! It actually turned to a beautiful dargah tucked away beneath the ground in a cave, where natural rock formations were being worshipped..Although Photography was prohibited, I couldn't help sneak in a couple of shots of the place!
We began the journey back down and were back in Chikmagulur by the dusk...Dinner was back at the Clubhouse..But it was a lot quieter that day! And this time, we ensured we didn't look the part of tourists so much! After sleeping for a few hours, we were up before dawn to catch the bus back to Bangalore...It was a trip unlike anything we have ever had and we are sure to remember the beautiful town and its heavenly surroundings for a looong while!