Coffee Table Tales

Tripoto
2nd Jun 2018
Photo of Coffee Table Tales by Sounak Ghosh

Set at the base of the Mullayangiri range of the Western Ghats, Chikmagalur is a small town about 250 km from Bangalore. The town itself is quite unassuming but the district, the town’s namesake is a treasure trove for travelers, with hidden gems strewn across it.

Day 1

The plan for Chikmagalur was a shelved one which had suddenly come to life over bouts of drunken weekend gossips. This time I had teamed up with an old crony from school, Ishan Roy and a couple of his friends, who over the course of the trip became very close to me as well. A long time ago we had a lengthy discussion over the phone about the new Zostel that had come up in Chikmagalur and that we ought to be checking it out sometime. But being in different cities, that “sometime” never came until this time. It was a stroke of luck that I was in Bangalore for a couple of months and this is when the old plan came back to life again.

It was early June and the monsoon had still not set with all its fury. When we started from Bangalore early morning on a weekend, it was quite sunny and honestly, I was a wee bit disappointed. Afterall, being a pluviophile deep within I always hoped to get experience the monsoon of the Western Ghats. Four hours and an uneventful drive later the skies started darkening as the Google map showed that we were only a few kilometers away from Chikmagalur. It was almost noon by the time we reached Zostel Chikmagalur, a picturesque property set amongst lush coffee plantations.

Zostel Chikmagalur.

Photo of Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh
Photo of Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh
Photo of Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh

It was supposed to be a breezy couple of days, an itinerary on steroids, even though it is a gross injustice for such an idyllic location. We set upon the day’s itinerary without further ado. The first place on the list was Devaramane, a secluded peak with commanding views of lush valleys and rolling grasslands, locally called Sholas. The road to Devaramane made us drive through dense forests, coffee plantations, and beautiful hamlets. The red-tiled roofs of the village huts amongst the dazzling green made these villages look like straight out of fairy tales. Approaching Devaramane, I was finally greeted with the first splashes of rain, Monsoon in the Western Ghats, a long-cherished dream come true for me.

Photo of Devaramane Viewpoint, Devaramane, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh

On the way to Devaramane

Photo of Devaramane Viewpoint, Devaramane, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh

The Little Red Car

Photo of Devaramane Viewpoint, Devaramane, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh

Devaramane is a place that has the power to evoke spiritual introspections, a place for poets and lovers alike. One can sit on the grassy peak and while away the hours, float away in the dreamy ruminations. When we had reached Devaramane, the rain had stopped, after almost an eternity of getting lost in the intoxicating conversations and pensive thoughts, the heavens started to open up once again. I looked up to realize that dark clouds had obscured the horizon and it was threatening to drench us. We decided to leave Devaramane for our next destination, Hirekolale lake, some 46 odd kilometers away.

Beyond the Horizon: Devaramane.

Photo of Hirekolale lake, Chickmagaluru, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh
Photo of Hirekolale lake, Chickmagaluru, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh

Happy Feet.

Photo of Hirekolale lake, Chickmagaluru, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh

Hirekolale is one of the most serene lakes that I have been to. It served as the main water source for Chikmagalur before the construction of Yagachi dam. The lake is surrounded by rolling hills covered in pristine dense forests. Sitting by the lakeshore and watching the sun slip behind the hills with an interplay of shades of red and orange turn to deep shades of purple and blue over the canvas of sky was magical! The visiting hours to the lake are till 6 pm as there have been leopard sightings near the lake, which I believe live in the surrounding forests. So, we decided to leave even though this was an ideal place for camping, campfire, and star gazing.

The picturesque Hirekolale Lake

Photo of Coffee Table Tales by Sounak Ghosh

Although we had completed the day’s excursions, the evening was quite enthralling at Zostel, with all the fellow hostellers unraveling their day’s stories over hot cups of local coffee. This is perhaps the best thing about traveling, getting to know people, share stories and making new friends.

Day 2

Morning brought an azure sky with a white patchwork of clouds, a concoction of fresh smell of the earth from the overnight rain and blooming flowers being blown about in the cool breeze. We set out early, our first stop was the famous Baba Budangiri, some 40 kilometers from Zostel. The drive to Baba Budangiri is a beautiful one, through verdant rain forests. Legend has it that Baba Budan, a Sufi saint smuggled seven seeds of coffee from Syria on his way back from the pilgrimage to Mecca in the 16th century. On his return home, he planted the beans on the slopes of the Chandragiri Hills. Such were the humble beginnings of coffee cultivation in India. Since then, coffee cultivation has been commercialized and Chikmagalur has come to be known as the “Coffee Land”. Baba Budangiri is a holy site for both Hindus and Muslims alike. On the way to Baba Budangiri is the Jhari Waterfalls and the Mullayangiri peak.

On the way to Manikyadhara from Baba Budangiri

Photo of Mullayanagiri Peak, Pandaravalli, Karnataka by Sounak Ghosh
Photo of Mullayanagiri Peak, Pandaravalli, Karnataka by Sounak Ghosh

"In my rearview mirror, My life is getting clearer" - Bon Jovi

Photo of Mullayanagiri Peak, Pandaravalli, Karnataka by Sounak Ghosh

Further on, from Baba Budangiri, about 4 kilometers lie the Manikyadhara waterfalls, again a holy site. The hills abound Chikmagalur abound with legends and myths. There is a popular legend that says saint Baba Budan came here in search of water and after his prayers, the place was blessed with water that flows from this waterfall. This place is a sacred spot for both Hindus and Muslims and it is believed that a bath in its waters can cure ailments. As part of the beliefs, one must leave one of the clothes here, which over time has left the place littered with garments, an eyesore amongst the scenic beauty. Even though the falls failed to impress us, the viewpoint is scenic with mist and clouds rolling up the mountains making it a scintillating place for photographs.

Hello World!

Photo of Coffee Table Tales by Sounak Ghosh
Photo of Coffee Table Tales by Sounak Ghosh

This time I had been constrained by the sheer lack of time yet on the hindsight I felt lucky that we could squeeze this trip. On further reflections, while driving through the rain-soaked greens of the forests, I realized that the rains though had upset my plans (rather I was caught unprepared in terms of gear and clothing), it had given me another excuse to visit Chikmagalur. I wanted to trek through the Kurdermukh National park to the second highest peak of Karnataka, have another shot at Mullayangiri, stay at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and probably a lot more which for the time being have to wait for another time. Till then, Dasvidaniya Chikmagalur!

Dasvidaniya Chikmagalur!

Photo of Manikyadhara Waterfalls - ಮಾಣಿಕ್ಯಧಾರಾ ಜಲಪಾತ, Bababudan Giri Road, Nagenahalli, Karnataka, India by Sounak Ghosh
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