So it's been over a month to my last trip (ride to Gudibande and Lepakshi) and I was desperate for a getaway. It was also the end of the year and it was time for me to continue with the tradition of a year-end trip. Much to my surprise, a lot of was common and a lot was different about myself from that first solo trip to Gokarna back in 2016.
It has been over a year since my last multi-day backpacking trip to Hampi and it was time to put my new self to test. So soon after I decided to do this, I locked in on the weekend before Christmas i.e 22nd & 23rd but couldn't find accommodation at all. And I was hopeless to find accommodation the following weekend anyway. So the only chance to visit Chickmagalur was during the weekdays. So I quickly looked up accommodation, took what I could find, looked up and made bus bookings, packed my bag and I was off.
I chose Chikamagaluru because sometime towards the end of April, I was on a whirlwind tour, driving in and out of the Western Ghats along with my college buddies. Hirekolale Lake in Chikamagaluru was the last stop before we drove back to Bangalore. Knowing that Mullayanagiri was the highest peak of Karnataka, I wanted to climb up but due to less time in hand, we rushed back to our busy lives. Ever since then, It has been on my mind to climb up the peak and sing "Imagine Dragons-on top of the world" at the top of my lungs. So, soon after I decided to go on a backpacking trip, Chikamagaluru and Mullayanagiri Peak were a no-brainer.
Image from April-2018
Day 0: 26 Dec 2018, Bengaluru, India.
Boarded a bus from the Majestic bus stand at 11:30 PM. I booked a late night bus on purpose as Chikamagaluru was only 5 Hours away and it is a small town, I didn't want to get stranded while the town is snoring away in sleep. But much to my surprise, the bus was actually on time and I was soon shivering with the ice-cold weather of Chikamagaluru.
Day 1: 27 Dec 2018, Chickmagalur, Karnataka.
First Sight was a line of autos just outside the KSRTC bus stand. I checked in Maps and Zostel (at which I had my accommodation booked) was around 8.5 Kms away. I turned around and asked one of the auto guys in a faint voice and broken Kannada.
Me: Anna, Zostel hogtiya.(Brother, will you go to Zostel)
Auto Driver: Haudu
Auto Driver: INR 200
It was a jaw-dropping response. Freaking 200 bucks for 8 Kms? So I thought I'll find some other way to reach Zostel(Things you can do when you're traveling solo ???? ). I walked a bit from the bus & auto stand. It has been a long long time since I hitched a ride. So I thought, now is the time to put that skill to use. But the town was so deserted that there were hardly any vehicles on the road apart from buses.
After walking about 500m, came a mini truck who was carrying milk cans. The driver stopped looking at my hand stretched out. A few more words of Kannada and explanations about who I am and what I was doing this early here later, we were off. But that was a short ride, I realized that Chikamagaluru as a town is only about 4 Kms in radius and it was only trees and roads heading towards various beautiful places in the Western Ghats. So, I was on the road again, eagerly waiting for another ride to reach my destination. I was already out of town so I couldn't find any ride for quite some time. Utter darkness, sounds of crickets and the chilly wind was a surreal experience, something I am experiencing after a long long time.
I soon stopped a KSRTC bus going towards that side and asked if I could get down at Zostel. The conductor was clueless about the location so he suggested I check the map and let him know when we reach there. I paid INR 30 and sat in the seat and in about 10 mins I reached Zostel. Zostel if you didn't know already is a backpacker's hostel chain and is considered to be a backpackers paradise when it comes to accommodation. They allow people to crash in at the common area irrespective of how early you come before the check-in time which is usually 12 PM.
Most people know and take the road to Mullayanagiri Peak. But only a few know that there exists a trek route that let's one reach the peak, called Sarpadhari Trek route. So I had planned to trek to the peak by this route and I thought I'd find someone at Zostel who was also planning the same. So I woke up after a short nap, freshened up and asked a few folks if they were trekking to Mullayanagiri via Sarpadhari. And much to my surprise, not even a single person was planning to do that, everyone preferred to drive up instead.
I didn't want to trek alone, though I could've it wasn't the most sensible thing to do. The trek is known to have steep slopes and strong winds. Added to that the temperature was expected to be about 27 oC and supposedly there were no streams nor any local vendors selling stuff midway. So I dropped the plan of solo trekking altogether, so I booked a bike online at Royal Brothers Chikmagalur, hitched a ride back to the town, took the bike and started my ride for the day.
First stop was Hirekolale Lake ;). Picking things up from where I last left them :D. It was probably 11 AM by the time I reached the lake, navigating through the mild traffic of Chikamagaluru. The road after Uppalli had huge tall trees on either side that not just shielded from the scorching heat but also made me froze me. And at one point, there was a small stretch of road that didn't have trees and made way for a panoramic view of the Mullayanagiri Peak and the entire range, probably all the way up to Baba Budangiri.
A short ride after that, facing a series of cold and hot winds, I arrived at Hirekolale Lake. The place is not so famous with tourists coming to Chikamagaluru, so you'd find it mostly free of people. This is a natural lake and mostly a seasonal one at that since the lake wasn't this full, the last time I came here. The lake offers another teasing view of Mullayanagiri peak and a possible place for a beautiful beautiful sunset ????
The lake also has a bridge, that is too old that it is scary to walk on it now. At the end of the bridge is a small structure which is now locked. It is supposedly a valve room to control the flow through downstream gates.
After a brief stop at the lake, I started the ride to the peak. You can choose to continue on the same road to reach Mullayanagiri peak, refer the blue mark in the map below. The road in the red encircled area is pretty bad. Many times I looked back and doubted the choices I make sometimes ???? (an existential remark ???? ). I clearly heard my back cursing me for taking this route and not listening to those kids who suggested me not to take that route. But I believed maps over the local, know-it-all kids who appeared to have skipped their school class for a swim in the lake. This reminded me of the dark, skiddy stretch in my road trip to Pune last month.
Finally, I had some respite from all the off-roading at the end of the first blue arrow. The road appeared to be well laid, there was little traffic as the road was narrow but everything is better than that stone-ridden mud path I just rode on. But that joy was shortlived. The road was under construction, you will be mistaken if you think the construction was only for a small stretch. It continued all the way to Mullayanagiri Peak. There was heavy excavation going on throughout the stretch, which filled the road with dust. And since the traffic was considerable, every passing vehicle threw a hand full of dust on me. And by the time I reached the peak, my black jeans had a new shade altogether.
I mistook Seethalayyanagiri Peak to be Mullayanagiri Peak and stopped there. But after a short trek uphill, I realized that there was another peak beyond Seethalayyanagiri Peak. The peak had strong wind, view of the Hirekolale Lake and a beautiful view of the meadows around.
Then another short ride on dust and stone ridden road later I reached the parking lot. I parked the bike and started climbing what seemed to be the stairway to a tomb dedicated to Mulappa Swamy who is believed to have meditated in caves just below the peak. (Every blog speaks about Mulappa Swamy in exactly two sentences. Both of which I've written above. I couldn't find a single resource nor any information at the temple about why and what he meditated for and why is he revered so much that a temple is built for him atop the highest peak in Karnataka. It looked like another open-ended challenge the peak threw at me.
I sat down after paying my respect to the Mulappa Swamy and closed my eyes. The cold floor was so relaxing and the shade provided the much-needed break from the sun sucking the energy out of my body. It made the perfect moment to meditate and I did, A good 20 mins of peace, my highest ever ???? at the highest peak of Karnataka.
I had planned to visit the waterfalls on the way to Baba Budangiri. First up was Honnammana Halla Waterfalls. By this time, my black jacket and jeans turned red and people asked me if I had fallen somewhere and if I needed help with first aid or something. I chuckled. Coming back to the falls, it wasn't a fancy one, neither tall nor significant enough to be called a prominent place. I felt more so because I've seen falls like these during monsoons in Pune & during my journey back to Goa from Hyderabad after vacation and almost all of them were unnamed for obvious reasons(too many of such small falls to keep naming). This is a place to click photos and so I did.
Next up was Jhari waterfalls, there was a huge line of cars and people waiting to be boarded into Jeeps that will take them to the falls. They charge about INR 700 per jeep which can carry up to 6 people. I skipped it thinking it would be another made up attraction like the previous falls. But I later learned from other travelers at Zostel that it was much better than what I thought of it.
The ghat road to Baba Budangiri was much much better than the one to Mullayanagiri Peak. The road was well laid and the views of beautiful meadows accompanied me throughout the ride to the top.
Baba Budangiri is the second highest peak in Karnataka and is a pilgrimage site for both Muslims and Hindus. Surprising isn't it? I really enjoyed the ride in this area. The meadows were really beautiful and I just couldn't get enough of the beauty until I reached the end of the road.
A metal staircase constructed along the cliff and an INR 2 ticket will take you to Manikyadhara Waterfalls.
Another insignificant waterfall in the ride I'd say. However, don't get me wrong when I say it is quite significant for the people here.
I was curious as to why there was so much prominence given to something that is as simple as a bucket of water falling from a rock. Look at it yourself,
According to the tales people shared, saint Baba Budan along with his 4 disciples came to the site in search of water. After their prayers, they were blessed with water flowing from the mountains in the form of this waterfall.
With that, I rode back to Zostel, zipping past hair-pin bends, accompanied by the continuous views of the yellow-green meadows and the chilly wind. I had to return the bike in Chikmagalur itself but I had dust all over my body and desperately needed a hot shower. So I went back to Zostel, freshened up and rode back to Chikmagalur town. Had a heavy dinner and hitched a ride back to Zostel explaining the purpose of my visit to curious uncles(at least 4 of them) who were kind enough to give me a ride. My phone almost died, so I put it to charge in the room and joined the fellow travelers at the Bonfire.
Everyone shared interesting stories, appreciated the calmness, the clear night sky, a solo traveler from Mumbai particularly mentioned how she saw only one star in the night sky back in Mumbai. A few more stories and a late night walk later, I called it a day!
All in all, it was a short but fun filled trip. I honed my hitchhiking skills a little and I think the most significant improvement has been in my communication. I lost the hesitation to talk to anyone and I have become more expressive than ever. The cherry on the top being my Fluency in Kannada- Amateur ???? I am glad I am no longer zero ????
So, that's all folks. Hope you enjoyed the ride.
I'll be back with another travelogue in continuation to this. I visited Belur-Halebeedu the next day and I have a bunch of questions to answer before I could put the travelogue in front of you.
Asta La Vista.
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This travelogue was originally posted on: The Dump Yard
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