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Old 22nd January 2013, 20:14   #1
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Default Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

This travelogue isn't going to be as long as some of my others, simply because it was too short a holiday. A 2-day weekend vacation? Isn't that too short, you may ask. Yes and no. Something is better than nothing, at least that's what we thought when we friends were planning on a short-ish jaunt out of Bangalore.

After some decision making, we zeroed in on Chikmagalur since it was closeby to Bangalore (relatively) and we could manage it without taking any leaves. I booked for accommodation at a coffee estate homestay, in fact a homestay I had already visited earlier, and was familiar (and mighty impressed the first time) with the staff and surroundings, not to mention, even the approach route. This place is called 'The Hidden Valley', is located around 25 km away from Chikmagalur, on the Chikmagalur - Mudigere highway.

For your reference, their full website is here in case any of you plan to visit :
http://thehiddenvalley.com/

There was a small change in the vehicle plan this time around . The highway monster - The Jet® would be cooling its heels at home instead of doing this trip, primarily because I had not tried out the Punto extensively on ghat sections yet (it is used mainly in the city), and also because I was trying to accelerate the odometer reading on the Punto to hasten the first service date. So this time it was the Punto which did the duties, which is why this thread didn't get into my Jet® series of t-logs.

The Jet®'s younger sibling hijacks this trip, and this thread
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The route plan was pretty obvious - we decided to take the tried and tested Bangalore - Hassan - Belur - Chikmagalur route while going, and the Chikmagalur - Kadur - Arsikere - Tumkur - Bangalore route while coming back.


The route on day 1 - Bangalore - Hassan - Belur - Chikmagalur - Hidden Valley estate
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The return route on day 2 - Hidden Valley - Mullayanagiri - Chikmagalur - Kadur - Arsikere - Tumkur - Bangalore
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Round trip route in summary
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Day 1 - Exploring Hidden valley estate, trekking to a closeby waterfall, loitering around in Chikmagalur town

It was a cold, foggy morning that day. Since I was the one taking the car, I had to pick up my 3 other friends and hit NICE road - Tumkur road intersection by 5:30AM. That Saturday being the beginning of a long weekend, I anticipated more traffic departing Bangalore city, but surprisingly there was little vehicular movement on Tumkur road, and even lesser traffic after we turned into NH-48 Hassan expressway. We didn't take too many breaks, except for breakfast.

The stretch between Bangalore and Hassan is being converted into an expressway, like most of you Bangaloreans might be aware. The bad part starts after Kunigal and lasts upto Hassan, where the construction is still going on. There are tons of places where both sides of the road share the same side of the road, umpteen detours into and out of the service road, unmarked speedbreakers, stray stones and boulders lying in the middle of the road, etc. It was unusually foggy that morning, making visibility poorer than usual. Thankfully, we covered this stretch after daybreak and were better off negotiating these obstacles. For safety's sake, they better complete the expressway quickly.

Some snaps of sunrise on Bangalore - Hassan expressway
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Back to the main topic - food! Speaking of breakfast, we decided to explore something new apart from the usual fare at Kamats and the like. Since we had time on our hands, we entered the Hassan city bypass and stopped at a restaurant (actually part of a hotel) called Sri Krishna Hotel. The food was mediocre, so we didn't bother hogging too much. We resumed our journey to Hidden valley estate, exiting Hassan at around 8.30AM. It was a warm morning, surprisingly so for peak winter season. I took the Belur - Chikmagalur - Mudigere road to reach the estate. The single lane stretch from Hassan to Chikmagalur was immensely enjoyable to drive on, and reminded me of the good old days when Bangalore - Hassan was a classic single lane highway with trees dotting both sides.

It was around 11AM when we reached Hidden valley estate. The estate turning was right on the main highway, just after Handi post on the Chikmagalur - Mudigere road, roughly 25 km from Chikmagalur town. I had been here previously, and knew the route to reach the estate so there was no need for making any calls to the estate manager. The last 2-3 km approach had no tar road. There was just a mud+stones+pebbles pathway which led to the main estate home where we were going to stay.


Taking a breather on the Chikmagalur - Mudigere ghat section. Strictly a Handler's territory.
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Taking the mud road to approach hidden valley estate
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The friendly manager at the estate, Suraj Appaji, was right at the front porch and received us immediately. Interestingly, our gang was one of the very first guests at this homestay when they had just opened up way back in late 2010. The staff and Mr. Suraj were delighted to see us return to the same homestay again. We even got the same big room that our gang had earlier used - a huge room with 5 bunker style beds, apt for groups like ours. The friendly german shepherd at the estate, Blackie, who was a 4 month old pup in 2010, was now a fully grown beast protecting the estate from trespassers and wild animals. With us though, he was still his friendly, playful self, just like the old days.


Arriving at the Hidden valley estate
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After we brought in the luggage and freshened up, Suraj had the cooks serve us some fruit punch as welcome drink. Based on his suggestion, we then departed for a short trek to a nearby waterfall in the middle of some uncultivated forest land, roughly 15 km from the estate. He gave us the directions to this estate, and we reached the place without much difficulty.

This 'mystery' falls was called 'Shankar falls' by the locals residing around this area. It is largely unknown to the outsiders, and tourists visiting it is out of question. The only tourists visiting here are people like us, who were staying at Hidden valley. The trek wasn't actually a trek for the first kilometre or so. There was a coarse pathway running inside the forest, and we just had to stick to the trail. After a good 700-800 metres, the trail started to venture between some dense shrubs and thorny vegetation. We could now spot the water stream running alongside us, so we just needed to stay on the trail to reach the source of the water - Shankar falls.

The beginning of the trail - the concrete walls exist to tap the stream water for plantation use in these areas
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Encountering the stream coming from the waterfall
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A picturesque setting of a small waterfall in a jungle ambience
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And another one
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Following the stream trails to reach the waterfall
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Hiking through bamboo and thorny shrubs. This time of the year, the western Ghats was just not the same without the rain and greenery of the monsoons.
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The waterfall arrived, and a bit abruptly at that. We could hear the sound of gushing water, but it seemed so far away when we were negotiating the thorny plants. Surprisingly we took the next turn and right before us was this magnificent sight of an unpolluted waterfall. It wasn't very high, probably 20 feet at the maximum.

Shankar falls, in all its glory
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And this shot probably got the maximum 'flow' blur effect
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We then proceeded to climb the rocks on the sides of the waterfall, and trekked to reach the top of the falls. What did we find? Nothing. Just some more rocks, and a continuation of the trail as we moved upstream.


Climbing the rocks to the side of the waterfall. A view from the side
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A view from the top of the waterfall after climbing up the rocks
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The source of the waterfall - following the water upstream led us to this - another small power-jet of water roughly 100 feet from the falls
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Some more views with the 'motion' effect activated
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None of us got into the water anywhere, and we were careful not to lose our stepping on the slippery rocks while trekking around the stream. Who likes to walk around in squishy, wet sneakers with hydrated shock absorber socks, yuck!

After this rather short hike, we started our return journey, taking an uphill trail different from the one which brought us to the falls. After another 30 minutes of hiking, we were back at the place where we parked our car. Here are some snaps from the return journey hike:

Some coffee berries from an adjoining estate property
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Making our way through the dense vegetation cover
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Last edited by KarthikK : 20th February 2013 at 09:10.
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Old 16th February 2013, 07:57   #2
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Default Re: Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

Day 1 (continued...) :

We got back to the estate by lunchtime. Suraj had already organized the lunch spread as soon as we parked the car and got home. The lunch was simple, typically homestay stuff - a few sabjis with pulkas, rice, dal, and some nice traditional desserts to finish with. The dining room was in fact a balcony facing a large open area of the estate, with a large pond directly in view.


The view from our dining table in the balcony
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To reach this place, we had to take a short flight of stairs next to the balcony
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This was the sitout next to the lake, where they usually lay bonfires at night
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A rusted pulley of an old well, now unused since there are other sources of water here.
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A closer view of the lake
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An antique lantern, something that I asked if I could buy from them but they refused to part with it *lol*
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After a sumptuous lunch, we took a short nap. By around 4 PM, Suraj took us on a walk around the 40 acre estate and explained the coffee plantation process, whilst displaying different parts of the estate. Here are some pictures from the walk around the estate:


The rustic remains of a cart, now a decorative piece at the entrance
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Lord of the estate
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They had a rabbit pen, but the rabbits were all asleep
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Heights of joblessness - taking portraits of poultry!
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Hiking through the estate trails
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Coffee berries in full glory
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More hiking
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On another plant, this spider was busy weaving its web of deceit!
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It was an unusually overcast day for February, which is a relatively dry month in these areas.
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Almost in minutes, the clouds started dispersing and the sky became clear blue again! Just goes to show how volatile the weather here can be.

There were ginger plants too, apart from Cardomom, pepper and coffee. This was only in an isolated flat land, away from the hilly coffee plantation area.
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A bunch of wild ants busy foraging for daily rations, spotted near the lake
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After returning from the hike, we stopped near the lake for a while, and Suraj took leave since he had to attend to other guests arriving for the weekend. In the lake, the estate had a pedal boat which we had some fun with. We tried timed (top speed) runs along the length of the lake, but after 2-3 attempts we had such a lot of leg cramps that we had to abort and get back to our cottage.

I wonder why ducks and geese keep following me wherever I go. I went to Acres wild last November and they were there. I went to another resort in Kodai, they were there. I come here, again I see these ducks and geese! Looks like homestays have started this trend of having geese in ponds as attractions.

We saw these birds at the bank. One goose was particularly ferocious and came charging at us with a somewhat barking sound, for going too close with the camera. Now who would expect these 'cowardly' and shy birds to do that? It was a first experience for me, and on googling later I found out that geese can actually pack a punch, unlike ducks which are 100% harmless. Remember to be careful the next time you go too close to a goose, especially if you have kids. They don't enjoy having their personal space invaded

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Here are some water-level pictures taken from the pedal boat ride:
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A close-up of a pair of geese
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Chasing the ducks and geese in the water. They were just too fast for us
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After the boating stint in the lake, we didn't have much to do. We played badminton doubles for around an hour (they had a court here) and then got bored of chasing the shuttle cock in the wind. This being winter, dusk arrived as early as around 5:45 - 6 PM. There were other guests at the estate, and some of them had come with kids too. It started to get a little noisy and disturbing for what was supposed to be a getaway to nature's confines. What I was particularly paranoid about was the kids playing cricket near the car parking area! I was more bothered about the Punto's safety since I didn't want some 'sixer' or 'square cut' to go dent my bonnet or door, so we decided to just go out for a while to Chikmagalur town to avoid the hullabaloo and also to pass time looking around the town.

In 15 minutes flat, we were at MG road, Chikmagalur. The entire stretch of road had car parking facility, so we just parked the car there and went about strolling the entire length of the road doing window shopping and nothing else. We got back to the resort for dinner by around 9 PM. By then, the noisy cricketing superstar kids were gone (god knows where to), while some guests were at the lake banks having a bonfire and barbeque night, discussing about Bollywood celebrities and their personal lives. How did we know? We could hear everything from the dining room balcony where we were served dinner.

Post dinner, I played around with Blackie, the German shepherd for around 10-15 minutes, and soon we retired to our quarters for a good night's sleep. It was essential to get some extra shuteye for another reason - we were doing a lot of hiking the next morning too!

Last edited by KarthikK : 20th February 2013 at 09:17.
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Old 19th February 2013, 00:01   #3
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Day 2 - More hiking, a visit to the tallest peak in Karnataka, and driving back to home sweet home

The previous evening when we were chatting with Suraj, we had discussed this plan of hiking up a nearby hill for sunrise. We woke up at around 5.30AM and freshened up quickly. After we got ready for the hike, the estate guide, a boy named Dilip escorted us to the base of the hill. This hill was called Devi Gudda by local residents here. It was a 10 km drive from the estate towards Aldur. We reached the place amid pin drop silence, with the only sound being that of the diesel engine clattering. The hiking trail we were going to take was used by some estate jeeps and pickups to reach surrounding plantations. We weren't taking the car up the trail and were instead hiking up there. There was barely enough space to park my car at the beginning of the trail, but I had to make do with whatever parking was available, allowing space for another big vehicle to enter the trail.

Lets go through a pictorial journey of what I was narrating :

The last leg of the journey to the base of Devi Gudda had these long sweeping curves along narrow estate roads.
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It was quite early in the morning, and we actually managed to spot 2 peahens, before they scampered away into the bushes
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The area adjoining the base of this hill had a small settlement, presumably quarters for the plantation workers, since this entire area had coffee plantations
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Impromptu parking lot
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The beginning of the hiking trail, before dawn
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Just as we were gearing up to start the ~2.5-3 km hike, sunrise started happening
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The hike was fun, and it wasn't steep at all. For young and 'fit' guys , this was like a walk for all practical purposes. What made it enjoyable was the winter cold in the early morning. I did manage to take some snaps of the coffee plantations on either side of our hiking trail. At times, the sunrise produced brilliant hues of sunlight falling on the coffee plants. Here are some photographs of those moments :

The hike was clearly a piece of cakewalk. I guess for the obese corporate visitors at the homestay, this is quite a task too. The homestay staff were referring to this as a 'Trek'. Laughably ridiculous stuff
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Sunrise in the coffee estate
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I did manage to take some HDR shots of the coffee plants and some of the hiking trail:

This one captures the sunrise against a foreground of boulders and plants
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This was a perspective vision shot of the hiking trail inside the estate
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And another one
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Some more snaps from the hike:

Coffee!
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More coffee!
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The day gets brighter, and we gain more altitude as we approach the summit
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The estate area was over I guess after the first kilometre, because the vegetation then became wild and uncultivated.
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By around 7AM, we had started approaching the top of the hill. There were just a couple of hundred metres left by then, and there was only some kind of dry, yellow grass growing up there. While the vegetation wasn't spectacular, the orange sunlight lit up the dry grass on the summit and turned it into a pretty sight nonetheless. There was a strong, freezing wind up on the summit that morning, but it was enjoyable.

We stayed on the summit for around half an hour, clicking pictures and just enjoying the cold breeze and morning sunlight. Here are some sights of the way up, and the panoramic views on the summit


On the way up, what could perhaps be water pipe pieces for some sort of supply facility
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Some sneak peek at the panorama visible between the leaves and trees
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Approaching the end of the hiking trail. The sun was fully up in the sky by now.
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Finally, at the top of Devi Gudda
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Here are some snaps of the scenic views from atop Devi Gudda:
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The strong winds were causing this effect
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Departing from the summit after spending close to an hour here. That pathway was the trail we took to reach here, and we would be returning by the same way again.
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We reached the car parking spot in an hour, and returned to the estate for our breakfast. We had another plan to cover before returning to Bangalore. We wanted to cover Mullayanagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka. That was 20 km away from Chikmagalur, but in another direction. We decided to depart from Hidden Valley estate after breakfast, visit Mullayanagiri and then proceed to Bangalore directly after descending from there.

Last edited by KarthikK : 20th February 2013 at 09:21.
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Old 20th February 2013, 08:18   #4
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Day 2 (continued...) :

We had our breakfast leisurely and departed from Hidden valley at around 10AM, but not before thanking Suraj Appaji and the rest of the staff for their supreme level of hospitality.

I was at the wheel again. Our plan was to visit Mullayanagiri peak in the morning, return to Chikmagalur town for lunch and then return to Bangalore by dusk. It was a typical winter morning- bright and sunny, blue skies with no clouds and a gentle breeze throughout the day. We started the ascent at around 11AM or so. I don't remember the time properly. There was a checkpost in the beginning of the hill climb, where they were checking for revellers carrying liquor or any such havoc-creating stuff.

Driving towards Mullayanagiri peak
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The mountain range was now visible right before us on the approach road
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The first section upto the Mullayanagiri - Kemmanugundi fork has wide roads and provides for some of the most enjoyable driving experiences with wide, flowing curves and some tight chicanes and hairpins thrown in too! The road passes through some eye-candy coffee estates, making the drive all the more enjoyable


The beginning of the climb - wide sweeping roads and curves
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Once you take that deviation to Mullayanagiri after roughly 18 km, the roads leading up to Mullayanagiri are extremely narrow at places, and we had to keep our eyes peeled for vehicles coming from the opposite direction since there are occasional 'bays' where both vehicles can pass each other. Everywhere else, only 1 vehicle can can fit in the narrow road width. This was the third time I was doing Mullayanagiri, so it was a refresh of memories for me.


A view of the mountain from the ascending road
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Looking down from the road
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Newbie drivers, beware before you consider going here. This is how the roads are (picture below), and a vehicle from the opposite direction can cause a cardiac arrest if you are not accustomed to driving on roads like these. The only way out is to use the occasional mud 'bays' that you see to the right of this picture where both vehicles can pass. Going towards the edge can make the soil crumble and drag you down to god knows where. Please practice extensively on ghat sections before embarking on a drive to the top here. I would peg this as being one of the most challenging hillclimbs for newbies, at least here in South India.

Narrow ascent roads leading to the summit
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More sights from the car window
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It must have been noon when we reached the kaccha car parking on the top. We had to park the car here and climb 300-400 steps to reach the absolute summit of the mountain. There was a small temple on the top, and a family staying there too (perhaps the priest). What was astonishing was that I was able to make and receive calls from atop the tallest mountain in Karnataka!!

It was a Sunday, and needless to say, it was pretty crowded on the top with tons of tourists. We strolled around for more photos, and enjoyed the fabulous views that the altitude provided for us. What was good was that there were no clouds, so we could see the landscape clearly for miles away.

The car 'parking lot' at the top
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The view from the parking lot
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The beginning of the ~400 step staircase leading to the top
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View from the sides of the stairway
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The stairs follow a winding route up the hill. 2-way climbing traffic is a pain here on holidays and weekends
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That road was how we got to the top : a bird's eye view from halfway up the stairs
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Some more views from the ascending route
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The 'Nandi' near the temple at the summit
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There were lots of ravines and crevices, providing good opportunities for having a go with the camera. Here are some photographs taken on the top of the mountain, when we were strolling around, enjoying the panorama views on all sides:

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A departing shot of the Bababudanagiri mountains
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There wasn't much traffic on the way up when we were descending, which was good for us. We finished the descent in around 30-40 minutes and reached MG road, Chikmagalur by around 1.30 PM. We parked the car and stopped for lunch at Hotel Mayura, the only restaurant we could spot in the vicinity.

The Punto takes a breather amidst the coffee estates after completing the steep hillclimb
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Last edited by KarthikK : 20th February 2013 at 09:25.
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Old 20th February 2013, 09:01   #5
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Day 2 (continued...) :

After a sumptuous lunch, we finally began the ~260 km return journey, taking the Chikmagalur - Kadur - Arsikere - Tumkur - Bangalore route. This is an old-world styled, wide single lane highway with trees on both sides. The stretch between Chikmagalur and Kadur was a flyer!

Shaded (by trees) single lane highway road from Chikmagalur to Tumkur is a delight
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We were at Tumkur town by dusk, say 6PM or so. From here, Bangalore was a just an hour away. Thanks to the traffic, we finally reached home an hour later than planned. An enjoyable weekend had come to an end, and so does this travelogue. Hope you enjoyed reading it!

My next travelogue will be in March - no spoilers intended but I'm going to an unusual island next weekend, for 3 days!

Last edited by KarthikK : 20th February 2013 at 09:30.
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Old 20th February 2013, 11:34   #6
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Default Re: Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 20th February 2013, 11:47   #7
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Default Re: Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

Superb Travelogue there. Wonderful place to simply relax and sooth the nature.

You can spend the whole day at the little stream. The place looks fantastic cut off from the world.

Thanks for Sharing.
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Old 21st February 2013, 08:16   #8
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Definitely agree. Some places around Chikmagalur are unknown to tourists and can be very peaceful getaways for even daytime picnics, like the stream we passed by.

Somehow this time, the green charm of the Western Ghats was missing due to this season. We need to plan up a trip here sometime in August-September for maximum beauty .
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Old 21st February 2013, 11:04   #9
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Default Re: Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

Nice TL karthik, as you keep churning them by the minute! And on top of it, you must be doing a draw of lots, as to which one to drive this time !

CKM is a quaint place. And there are many places to visit around. Also the road beyond Aldur going towards Koppa has stunning scenery. I have been to this destination 3-4 times, but still end up finding more reasons to go again!
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Old 21st February 2013, 14:04   #10
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Nice Travelogue Karthik. Very nice pictures and your detailed narration is always good to see. I agree with what you say. Most Homestays/resorts do use the term 'trek' for any activity where walking is involved. Mullayanagiri has become too commercial these days. Anytime you go, there will be a hundred people at the peak.

Btw, the coffee flowers are in full bloom from the past 4-5 days and this would be a lovely time to visit.
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Old 23rd February 2013, 00:28   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ampere View Post

CKM is a quaint place. And there are many places to visit around. Also the road beyond Aldur going towards Koppa has stunning scenery. I have been to this destination 3-4 times, but still end up finding more reasons to go again!
Completely agree with you. One can never get bored with this route.


Quote:
Originally Posted by addyhemmige View Post
Nice Travelogue Karthik. Very nice pictures and your detailed narration is always good to see.
Thanks a lot addy!
Quote:
. Mullayanagiri has become too commercial these days. Anytime you go, there will be a hundred people at the peak.
Yeah. Seriously after a point, we were doubting as to whether it was worth all the trouble of driving up on a crowded Sunday

Quote:
Btw, the coffee flowers are in full bloom from the past 4-5 days and this would be a lovely time to visit.
I missed this . The coffee flowers also emit some kind of fragrance, very close to that of Jasmine flowers. Heavenly time to visit. I suppose the place would have had a couple of introductory showers too by now.
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Old 23rd February 2013, 09:58   #12
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Default Re: Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

Nice write-up and pics Karthik

I am planning a trip to chikmagalur soon and I hope I will be able to make it to Mullayyanagiri. Awesome views!
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Old 26th February 2013, 07:48   #13
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Nice write-up and pics Karthik

I am planning a trip to chikmagalur soon and I hope I will be able to make it to Mullayyanagiri. Awesome views!
Thanks autocrat . Lovely place it was, just that there was quite crowded on Mullayanagiri. Awaiting a T-log from your Chikmagalur trip very soon
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Old 26th February 2013, 10:26   #14
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Default Re: Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

I don't know how I missed your travelogue for this long. I must say the last few hundred metres to Mullayanagiri is particularily nerve wracking if a vehicle comes up in the opposite direction. I was unfortunate enough to be in such a situation where I had to slowly reverse all the way to the hairpin bend to allow a Tata ace to go through.

Anyways, lovely travelogue and your Punto looks fantastic in the coffee estate backdrop. Looking forward to your next travelogue
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Old 26th February 2013, 10:42   #15
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Default Re: Touching the skies: A winter weekend at Chikmagalur

Another Fantastic TL Karthik, Been to chikamaglur and not having dosas in New Town Canteen? Suggest you to try that place on your next visit.

Needless to say am sure the new punto handled all these places with fair amount of ease. How different was her behavior compared to the Jet?
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