Earth Sublime

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Chugging off to Chickmagalur

This time round, celebrating our third wedding anniversary, we decided to check out Karnataka’s well guarded holiday paradise- Chickmagalur, about 251 km from Bangalore. Chickmagalur is a small town nestling in the Baba Budangiri mountain range. It could well be the coffee bowl of Karnataka, nay India for the place abounds with coffee plantations and estates, accentuating the beauty of the place.

We landed in Chickmagalur at 5.00 am. After a cup of coffee (what else!), we decided to head for the Baba Budan Hills, situated 55 km north of Chickmagalur. Without one’s own transport, one has to depend upon the local private transport. So, off we went on a jaunty old bus.

Actually, the hills get their name from Baba Budan, a sufi saint who resided here 150 years ago. Baba Budan is reported to have smuggled some coffee beans into India from Yemen and thus the coffee here has to be attributed to him. Baba Budan’s grave rests beside that of another Hindu saint. Muslims are known to come here from all over the world, during festivals.

The ride to the summit was truly spectacular unraveling bit by bit, nature in all her bountiful glory. When we finally reached the place, there was a nip in the air. From up here, we got a glimpse of the majestic Baba Budan range. The place was actually teeming with people and their vehicles. We visited the dargah of the great saint, Baba Budan.

Unfortunately, there is no accommodation here worth mentioning. That explains the general squalor all over the place. The summit can get very cold, situated 1895 meters above sea level and is normally off limits during winter. A trekker’s delight, there are trails all around leading perhaps to scenes of even greater beauty.

‘K’ for Kemmangundi

Time being short, we decided to head for the next place on our list, namely the Krishna Rajendra Hill Station at Kemmangundi. Kemmangundi, situated 1434 metres above the sea level is a delightful little hill station ringed by the Baba Budan range. This beautiful place is named after King Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar IV, who developed it as a summer retreat. After an hour long ride (again on the local bus), we reached Kemmangundi.

Kemmangundi presented a picture-postcard look. Flowers of every hue greet one all over the place with various species of plant life. For accommodation, there are some pretty cottages and a lone restaurant. This apart, accommodation can be found in Birur or Tarikere some 30 odd km from there.

There are great trails everywhere for walking. Also, there are certain vantage points from where one gets a beautiful view of the entire place. There are some more beautiful sights in store. Like the beautiful rock garden where one can take a break and relax.

Further on, there is also a waterfall. Again, we had to hurry as we had no accommodation and the last bus left at 5:00 pm. We decided to have a quick look at the Raj Bhavan which is located at the extreme top.

Here, one is greeted by rows of rose bushes and other flowers. There is also the red soil found here from where the place gets its name. This’s a great place to see the sun set. The bus arrived bang on time and a little shake and a little rattle and off we went to Chickmagalur where we planned to rest for the night.

The next day was reserved for a visit to the Muthodi forest sanctuary which is about 38 km from Chickmagalur. At around 7:30 am, the local private bus left. The ride was worth every penny as we swept pass acres and acres of coffee estates, negotiating steep curves with a river running alongside for company.

The entire journey left me awe struck and I felt it was the beginning of a delightful experience when we reached the Muthodi forest checkpost. The bus deposited us here and ambled on.

Go wild! The Muthodi Forest Reserve is one of the four main parts of the Bhadra Wild life Sanctuary, the other three being Tanikecoil, Lakkavalli and Hebbe. As if always the case with wild life sanctuaries, there was absolute silence here interrupted only by the bird calls and the antics of the langurs. Within minutes of arriving, we spotted a Malabar giant squirrel. Here again, one has to book in advance as there is limited accommodation (cottages and a dormitory). The same river (Somavahini) which we saw from the bus flows quietly through the forest, quenching the thirst of many a bird and animal. One can walk on the asphalted road which cuts right through the forest, a great place for trekkers and bird watchers. The forest cover protects one from the scorching heat and is a must-see for nature lovers. With no eateries here, one has to cart along one’s own food. There is a kitchen attached to the dorm though one has to inform in advance.

Peace prevails

The best thing about this place is the absolute peace and calm that prevails here. No noisy tourists, no pesky children. It is as if the outside world did not exist. One can also go on a jeep safari to have a look around in the forest. Having soaked in the delights of this green paradise, we took the last bus, which came at sharp 5:15 pm and off we went. As we took the 11:00 pm bus back to Bangalore, I was sure that I would want to repeat this truly exciting experience.


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