Come summer we want to pack our bags to hill stations and this time it was Chikmagalur. I came across that few folks from meetup.com were leaving to Chikmagalur and I readily joined them. Our cars left from Bangalore and zoomed through Channarayapatna, Hassan, Belur and it was nearly past 2pm when we reached Chikmagalur. Most of the houses situated among coffee plantations now functions as home stays and so was ours. They offer solitude, with simple home cooked meals, surrounded by coffee plants and extremely humble owners. There was no respite from sun but thankfully there were lot more trees and greenery unlike the city.
Chikmagalur has a variety of places to offer as sight seeing. There are plenty of water falls, peaks to climb, lake to sit by and watch, wildlife safari trails, coffee plantation trails, few temples; something for everyone. More than visiting the place itself, it is the drive through winding hills and forests that one can enjoy. Every place is miles apart, you need to have your own vehicle and significant amount of time goes in driving to the place. With evening falling in and me being a sunset lover, we decided to drive down to AyyanaKere
Contents - Read all the way though.
The second largest lake in Karnataka and so it seemed filled with water even during this parching summer. But a native told me that during monsoon the lake will be so full that some of the steps leading to the lake will be submerged. It is around 25kms from Chikmagalur town and when we reached the place there were hardly anyone around. It is not really a tourist destination and the approach road is narrow. But the place looks clean and nice cemented benches are provided to sit and enjoy the peace. The lake is surrounded by mountains and there is the tall conical peak of Shakunagiri to the right. The serenity of the place, the wind brushing your face, the sunset playing colors; all made it one memorable evening. We decided to leave once the darkness started to envelop. This place is pretty isolated; so solo travel is not really advisable and so is staying after dark.
This peak needs no introduction! Tallest peak of Karnataka, trekkers paradise and has made its presence in lot of movies. This being summer, I was not expecting a green pasture covered mountain. We drove halfway up and from there around 400 steps takes you to the top of the peak. Driving to the peak needs skill and a brave heart. Many vehicles stopped at Sitalayangiri about 2kms from the peak. The rest of the 1.5kms drive, believe me is more like a question of will we make it to the top? Every time a vehicle comes from the opposite direction, one has to get down and navigate so neither of them fall of the cliff; there are no railings. At one such point when I had to get down to navigate, I opened the car door and gasped as there was no place to put down my feet.
In spite of the narrow roads, the peak is crowded and there are plenty of vehicles at top, with refreshment shops selling summer coolers and it is a pakka tourist center. The place is a pilgrimage center too and you can see people climbing without slippers while you are on comfy shoes and puffing through the steep stairs. At the top is the temple of Mullapa Swamy who seems to have meditated there.
Just when we were settling down to enjoy the breeze at the altitude, clouds gathered and started to trickle. We descended the steps and the drizzle started to pour. Considering the narrow roads and muddy at places, we were worried it could turn slippery and decided to get down as quickly as possible.
Sun disappeared and it was clouds, rain, pattern of droplets on the window pane.
Kemmanagudi Z point
Come evening and I was once again looking for a sunset point. One of our co-traveler suggested Z point and the excitement on his face as he described it gave an assurance that a wonderful evening was lying ahead. We drove again through winding roads and through thick forests. We passed through the Bhadra wildlife limits and took our vehicle further up the hill. Pass the checkpost there is a guest house maintained by the horticulture department, a rose garden and a cafe. We wanted to catch the sunset and hence we decided not to stop here. Moving further it was water and mud and we had no idea if the vehicle can go further up but still took our chance and drove further up. A little way up comes a small parking place and we continued to walk from there.
A small leading trail first leads to Shanthi falls. Some of the tourists were excitedly taking bath there. Past them it opens to the Shola grasslands of Western Ghats. The moods change, no one around and a single lane path taking you to the peak. Miss a step and am sure I would have rolled down the cliff. I took help of other mates a number of times. The orangish setting Sun peaked out of the clouds for a short while. And we reached the vantage point from where you can see the Z point. In the below picture you can see the Z point and the teeny tiny trek path by the side.
We settled down at the peak; sometimes having no one around gives the best feeling. The sun was setting, the wind was heavy and my friend added that sometimes wind can get so high that it feels like pushing you off the cliff. We decided to walk back before the sun completely goes down.
It is good to go there as a group. The lights of the horticulture guest house looked like fire flies among the forest. If at all I go back to Chickmagalur, I am staying here! It is nestled among forest, cut off from city and the view from here, nothing to beat that.
Chikmagalur is a nature lovers paradise. Next time need to cover the waterfalls and drive through Bhadra. It is not really a weekend getaway. Plan and relax for at least five days and explore the various peaks. Before leaving, we did the customary buying of filter Coffee from Panduranga whole sale coffee shop. And now everyday morning it’s filter coffee brewing at my house.. 🙂
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