Exploring the other side of Chikmagalur.
The cicadas camouflaged on the areca palms had begun their ever-soothing orchestras with regular interludes. A small patch of infant ginger shoots grew besides a thirty-acre coffee estate; the offshoots bore raw coffee beans in shades of green and pale brown. Heart shaped leaves of pepper had entwined the slender silver oak trees spread far and in between. A serpentine road paved with stones and tar glided through the wet forest like a slithering snake. Raindrops gently trickled on dry leaves, waterfalls gushed out of small channels and milky streams flowed ruggedly deep in the canopy of the deciduous forests. Monsoon had created a rhapsody with the sound of the waters and songs of the birds. We embraced every moment of our drive through the incredibly scenic Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary situated in the Chikmaglur district of Karnataka.
The last light of the day was fading away. I admired the panoramic vistas of the mountains and passing grey clouds from the courtyard of the Redwood Homestay, nestled somewhere in the remote interiors of Bhadra. A loud but pleasant shrill of a peacock calling out from the woods woke me up from the mild slumber I had drifted into. I sat in the verandah sipping a cup of piping hot ginger tea when a busy spider caught my attention. It was building a king size mansion from the sloping terracotta roof all the way down to the fence, oscillating tirelessly. It occurred to me that most of us are like the little spider- spending our lives in spinning dreams and then toiling back and forth to accomplish them! Wouldn’t it be nicer to be a butterfly instead- stopping every once in a while to savour the sweet nectar of simple pleasures available in abundance around us? It turned out that the quietude of Bhadra had awakened the philosopher in me!
After relishing the simple yet delicious home-made supper served by the extremely warm hearted couple, Prafula and Sathish, I stepped out in the chilly breeze for a quick stroll in the courtyard. Pitch darkness had engulfed Bhadra. Except for a small bulb that lit another homestay at a distance, I could see nothing! Bhadra was as gorgeous by the moonless night as it was by the day. When I returned, the spider had finally retired in his dream house. I followed suit, tucking myself under the cozy blanket on this gloomy and chilly night of mid-august.
Retro : The first day of our trip had been disappointing. Our plans to visit the tallest peaks of Karnataka- Mullayangiri and Baba Budangiri had been strangled under the perpetual queue of vehicles on the narrow one-way that waited impatiently and honked frantically. We decided to retreat midway and while doing so, caught sight of a hairline road creeping on a secluded mountain range on the opposite end, with no trace of motors or mortals.
With much reluctance we had decided to explore it. Driving through a gradual decent, we passed through dense and virgin stretches of Muthodi and Bhadra forests. We sighted treepies, racket tailed drongos, orange thrushes, minivets and barbets apart from other common birds. However, animal sighting was nil apart from a barking dear, a few langurs and fresh droppings of a large carnivorous animal. After a quick stopover for a simple lunch at Muthodi Forest Camp, we had driven further in search of a tranquil place to spend the night. Unfortunately, even the most ‘off-the-map’ homestays were running full. With no network connectivity but guidance from a few locals, several attempts of to and fro on the rubble road and crossing the jungle safari tracks, we had finally located the quaint Redwood homestay by late noon. It had been a spontaneous decision but a chance worth taken!
Not too much had changed the next morning on our re-attempt to visit the peaks, just that the crowd had become a bit sober. Mullayangiri, otherwise known for its alluring sunrise, was a complete show-down due to drizzle and thick clouds.
26 kms away, Baba Budan Giri waited to blow us away with its enigmatic, canvas-like landscapes! We drove endlessly on the gravel road till the topmost drivable view point. One needs to trek on a mud trail to proceed further towards the peak for astounding views of Chikmagalur and beyond.
Purple, white, yellow and pink flowers bloomed over the thick carpet of grass spread all over the rolling hills and steep valleys. A small pond rested peacefully at a corner, trembling every now and then in the whiff of unrestricted winds.
An overrated Manikyadhara Falls sat at the far-end corner of Baba Budan, surrounded with filth, stench and tons of people waiting for their turn to bath under it. There is a small tomb next to the falls, perhaps of Baba Budan. With no agenda at hand, we basked on the mat of grass, soaking up the fresh early morning sun. I closed my eyes and traversed over the mammoth rolling peaks and emerald forests on the wings of a butterfly before I could return to building dreams like the little spider that I had met on the verandah of Redwood..
- The spectacular peaks are best enjoyed through trekking. Alternatively, one can drive to the peaks.
- Bhadra-Muthodi belt is great for birding in Feb-Apr. Govt runs jungle safaris. Muthodi forest camp can be an option for stay .
- Places to cover – Baba Budangiri, Mullayangiri, Kemmanagundi, Hebbe Falls, Bhadra and Muthodi Wildlife sanctuaries. Pay a quick visit to Shettihalli Church ruins in Hassan while heading to Chikmaglur from Bangalore.
- Recommended seasons – Sept to Feb
- Where to stay : Plenty of homestays and resorts available. Advance booking recommended. I stayed at Redwood Homestay, Bhadra. Loved the location, food and hospitality. Contact Sathish KM on 9449941116.
- Avoid weekends and long holidays.
- What to eat : Malnad style food at homestays, freshly brewed Chikmagalur coffee.