This time folks, I think we outdid ourselves. We took on a bit too much and it got rough at the end but I am happy to say that we experienced some wonderful things in the hills and plains near Chikmagalur. In the process we were treated to some cheap thrills that proved quite expensive and we saw some sights which will be with us for the rest of our lives…we also learnt what true Indian hospitality really means when Mr Ansar and his family welcomed us into their home.
The trip started with a hiccup we left in the wee hours of Sunday amidst rain and general turmoil. Thereafter scarcely a quarter of our journey was over when the train stopped due to a derailment of a goods train somewhere ahead on the same line. We had to think fast, we had made bookings at a homestay from that day itself and we wanted to reach as soon as possible. Therefore we got off at Tumkur where the train had stopped. The Mr is an expert in these sort of adventures, after weighing several pros and cons we hopped into a taxi and off we went. At the end of the day we lost 2 hours and 2k but we reached ‘Nature Craft’ at lunch time. Now, there are many words of praise for this homestay /coffee estate on the internet, still I cannot but add my own words too. After a rough and disrupted journey it felt as if we had entered a place akin to heaven! A little peaceful haven amidst wilderness…a tranquil wonderland. Our hosts were the most gracious and considerate.
In fact, most often we would be offered what we want even before asking for it. I might be sitting outside the door of our room watching the cock chase the hen around and just wishing I had a cup of coffee in my hand and viola up comes Ansar saying…”would you like a cup of coffee?”…The most entertaining was the capers of a great dane and 3 mixed breed pups who frisked about all over the estate. The mite was mortally scared of them but they provided a lot of joy for me as I was reminded of my carefree days when we were not forbidden to touch little pups in our colony….sigh. I have instilled such terror in the hearts of my kids (due to the stray dog menace in Bangalore) that they are deprived of the simple pleasure of petting these adorable pups.
On the first day we set off to explore the surroundings of the plantation in which we were staying. We were accompanied by our host and his 2 cute little daughters. The road was flanked by coffee estates and paddy fields with the myriad greens soothing our eyes. There was a tiny lake nearby and to my surprise, there tucked away amongst the fronds there was one of the entrances to the Bhadra wildlife sanctuary which boasts of tigers among other animals! We walked some distance into the sanctuary (the Mr knew about the sanctuary but he had left it out of our itinerary this time). We ambled back to ‘Nature Craft’. The place is named ‘Nature Craft’ after Ansar and his father’s pet project of creating riveting woodcraft which unfortunately they have given up now for the lack of proper skilled labour. Nature craft is a small estate, however a lot of honest labour goes into the maintanence of a plantation of even this size as was revealed later by our host and I can vouch for it that coffee growers deserve every penny of what they earn.
We returned from our brief sojourn to a delicious biriyani dinner cooked by Mr ansar’s mother (her culinary skills have been praised by other visitors too). By the end of the day, it was difficult to imagine that we had started it in Bangalore rain lashing at us as we boarded to taxi for the station! By the way, you should NEVER go to Chigmagalur by train as there are several Volvo buses of the highly advanced kind from Bangalore which can easily take you there, as we were told by our hosts.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off for i Mullaiyanagiri and Babu Budana giri hills. The former is the highest peak in Karnataka and to tell you the truth, we were impressed! It compared very well with the Himalayan foothills, we have not seen any South Indian hills that can match the height of the north Indian hill stations but this was something else. The wind was so full of force that nothing but grasses could grow on the mountainside. We were astounded to find some cows calmly grazing in the howling wind near the hill top temple!! Of course had proof of their presence because of their droppings on the stairs leading up to the shiva temple at the top.
The next stop was Babu Budanagiri. The cave dargah there was closed for renovation, however the atmosphere at the place was calm and serene and a constant stream of people were arriving there to pay obeisance. It seems that there was some sort of communal strife at the spot, following which part of the cave collapsed, (divine vengeance, no doubt, when will people stop fighting in God’s name, I wonder). Legend has it that one tunnel from these sacred cave leads to Mullaiyanagiri and another to Mecca. In fact, a person even tried to set of on the Mecca route to check the facts but came back quite blind/ insane. Whatever it is, these stories lend a strange mystery and fascination for the place! Higher up from the cave is the Manikya Dhara falls the surroundings of which provide a breathtaking view of the hills all around. The falls of course pose a problem, some strange theory does the round here that one can wash away one’s sins by bathing here and throwing away one’s old clothes by throwing them down the mountain face!! Thus the entire mountain face below the falls and even, I believe the tops of the trees in the plantations below becomes full of discarded old clothes (and incumbent sins??). No one is willing to see reason here and it is a pity to see the pristine surroundings so littered. While returning we saw another waterfall that gushed forth with great speed. We also stopped at a small lake near Manikyadhara and watched the mist descending on the lake. Incidentally we also walked through swirling clouds at Mullaiyanagiri and watched the mists come in at Manikyadhara too. We returned to Nature craft after buying some coffee at the Chikmagalur market.