Serenity in Nature's Paradise

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Arpita Bhattacharjee

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Total Trips: 10 | View All Trips

Post Date : 21 Sep 2023
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During the visit of my in-laws, aunt, and uncle to my home, I was encouraged to plan a trip. I presented them with two options, and they expressed a preference for nature over history. Consequently, I chose Chikmagalur, blessed with Karnataka's highest peak, over Hampi, which carries the imprint of the golden era of the glorious Vijayanagara empire.

Our trip spanned 2 nights and 3 days. We booked two cars for the duration and secured a hotel in Chikmagalur city, nestled at the foothills of the Western Ghats. The city serves as a convenient base for exploring the hilly terrains of the Malnad area, offering numerous peaks and waterfalls for sightseeing. While it would have been convenient and exhilarating to stay in resorts or homestays in the hilly areas, we couldn't find any reasonably priced resorts, and our past terrible experience at a homestay discouraged us from booking one.

​​We embarked on our journey on a Friday morning at 10:30 am. Having enjoyed a hearty breakfast at home, we stopped for lunch at the Empire restaurant, conveniently situated just before the Hassan toll gate. The food was not only delicious but also accompanied by excellent service. We arrived in Chikmagalur at around 4:15 pm. Without stopping to check in at our hotel, we proceeded directly to Jhari Falls. It is situated approximately 23 kilometers from Chikmagalur city and took us approximately 45 minutes to reach.

​It's worth noting that private cars are not allowed for the final 3 kilometers leading to Jhari Falls. We were informed that the options to reach the falls from the parking area were either through a chargeable private jeep or by trekking. However, we were advised by the private jeep driver that trekking was not permitted. The cost of a jeep ride, accommodating only 4 persons despite its 6-seat capacity, was Rs. 800/-.
 
We made our way to the falls along a steep and rugged road that wound its way through a private coffee plantation. The road conditions were quite poor, and it is strongly advised to exercise extra caution, especially if elderly individuals or orthopedic patients are considering travelling on this road. Both my father and father-in-law decided against visiting Hebbe Falls, as it is also accessible by jeep.

After the jeep dropped us off at the parking area, we began our walk towards the falls. The waterfall was just a few meters away from the parking spot. The walking trail led us through a lush, dense forest and coffee plantation. Near the lower part of the waterfall, a pool had formed. As I approached the pool, I was gently soaked by water droplets from the falls. It was a moment of pure happiness, being surrounded by untouched nature.

​Similar to many other waterfalls, the best time to visit Jhari Falls is during the monsoon or post-monsoon season. We visited during the post-monsoon season, and the visiting hours are from 6 am to 6 pm.
 
Upon our return to Chikmagalur city, we checked into our hotel. When we arrived at the hotel restaurant after freshening up, we found that it was about to close. The hotel manager recommended that we order food from Swiggy and Zomato. It appeared to be a common practice in Chikmagalur to order meals online. We placed an online order and had our dinner that way. Meanwhile, other members of our group chose to dine at the hotel restaurant, Vishnu Delicacy, which is one of the highest-rated vegetarian restaurants in Chikmagalur.

We enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at the hotel and began our journey to execute our plan for the second day of our tour, which included visiting Hebbe Falls and the Z Point trek. Hebbe Falls is located 65 kilometers from the hotel, and the drive took approximately 2 hours to reach the parking area near the falls. The waterfall is situated within one of the ranges of the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary.
 
We traveled in a shared forest department jeep that brought us to a point approximately 1 kilometer away from the waterfall. The cost was 500/- per person, and we had to wait until there were 10 persons to start the trip. The 30-minute journey through a muddy and bumpy road was an incredible experience as we traversed through the valley of open hills. These hills were adorned with vibrant flowers and carpeted with small bushes.

The jeep dropped us off at the edge of a coffee plantation. From there, we began a 1-kilometer hike through the forest, eventually crossing a bridge over the flowing waters of the waterfall. This part of the hike was relatively flat, lasting around 15-20 minutes, and was easily manageable for both children and elderly individuals.

Upon reaching the falls, I couldn't resist walking into the pool to get closer to the waterfall. As splashes of water gently fell upon my face, it felt like stepping into heaven. I spent some time gazing at the waterfall, which cascaded down with tremendous force, allowing me to detach from the outside world and the crowd at the pool. After an hour, we returned to the spot where the jeep had dropped us off. We were granted one hour to relish the beauty of Hebbe Falls before being taken back to the forest range jeep staging area.

Once we returned to the forest range car park, we decided to skip our lunch and opted for some snacks and tea/coffee at the only canteen situated in the hilly forest. They also offered Veg Pulao on the menu. Unfortunately, mineral water wasn't available, so we had to rely on the water from their purifier. The water quality was acceptable, not bad at all. The Hebbe Falls operates from 6 am to 6 pm.
 
We continued our journey to Z Point, approximately 8 kilometers from Hebbe Falls. Z Point is situated in the rural hill station known as Kammangundi, which was once a summer retreat for Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV. To commence the trek, there's a checkpost near Kammangundi Rajbhavan (guest house) where a fee of Rs. 100 per person is required.

The trek covers a distance of 3 kilometers, with the first 1.5 kilometers being a relatively easy walk on flat terrain through the forest. The challenge arises in the latter part of the hike, which becomes steep. At the 1.5-kilometer mark, you'll encounter a small waterfall named Shanthi Falls, which you'll need to cross. The path near the waterfall is narrow and slippery. Initially, the trail is wide, but it gradually narrows down. It can be somewhat risky when hiking with older adults and children. It is advisable to avoid non-grip shoes.

Be cautious of leeches while trekking through the forest. It's recommended to wear covered shoes, high socks, and full-length pants to prevent leeches from attaching to your legs. Keep a brisk pace and avoid stopping, as this minimizes the risk of leeches getting onto your body. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law had two leeches attach to her toes due to not wearing covered shoes. We also found a leech on my mother's kurti. Luckily, we had sanitizer with us, which proved effective in quickly removing the leeches from our bodies.
 
Reaching the top despite these challenges is truly worthwhile, as the view from the summit is breathtakingly scenic. The Western Ghats are enveloped in lush greenery, creating a mesmerizing panorama. Although the Z Point trekking hours are from 6 am to 6 pm, it's advisable to complete the trek by 5 pm. When we returned to the entry checkpost, dusk was setting in.

​Upon arriving back at the parking area, we all checked for any leeches that might have attached to our bodies. This marked the end of our second day of sightseeing in Chikmagalur. We began our journey back to the hotel, which took approximately one and a half hours through winding hills, coffee plantations, and dark forested roads without streetlights. It was an adventurous journey.

We were thoroughly exhausted that day and decided to order food online for dinner. While enjoying our meal, we discussed our plans for the next day and communicated them to our car driver. Our early morning agenda for the following day was to visit Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary.
 
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary can be accessed through two entry points: Lakkavalli and Muthodi. We opted for the Muthodi Safari, which was approximately 31 kilometers from our hotel and took us about an hour to reach. We had gathered information from our hotel manager that the first safari commenced at 6:30 am and lasted for an hour, while the second one started at 7:30 am. Our plan was to arrive at the Muthodi safari office before the second safari began so that we could join it. However, due to unforeseen delays, we were concerned that we might miss out on the jungle safari.

Our car driver skilfully navigated the narrow, hilly roads at high speed. We arrived at the jungle safari office at 8 am and were relieved to find that we could still purchase tickets for the jeep safari. The cost was 500/- per adult and 200/- for children above 10 years old. As this was one of the main attractions of Chikmagalur, we were overjoyed to have the opportunity to embark on this thrilling jungle safari.

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary spans 500 square kilometers across two districts of Karnataka: Chikmagalur and Shimoga. This sanctuary is enveloped by the lush greenery of the Western Ghats and is characterized by dense tropical forests and sprawling grasslands. Our jeep driver informed us that within this vast 500 square kilometer expanse, approximately 40 tigers roam. During our safari, we were fortunate to spot various wildlife, including deer, sambar deer, barking deer, peacocks, peahens, and bison. 

The safari was an exhilarating experience as we constantly scanned the dense forest from the open jeep in search of these wild animals. Wildlife tends to retreat when they hear vehicle noises or detect human presence, so our driver kindly asked my child to remain quiet. Throughout the safari, my child uncommonly remained hushed with the hope of spotting even more animals.

The Muthodi safari operates from 6:30 am to 8:30 am and then from 4 pm to 6 pm.

Afterward, we returned to our hotel, enjoyed our breakfast, and checked out. Our journey led us to our final destination of the tour, Mullayanagiri, which is the highest peak in Karnataka, just an hour drive from Chikmagalur.

We reached a point on Mullayanagiri where driving in our private car became risky, so we decided to hire a jeep to reach the summit. The journey involved navigating a narrow and steep road, which proved to be an exhilarating experience, almost like driving through the clouds. Upon reaching the peak, we had to ascend approximately 450 stairs to reach the highest point in Karnataka.

We began the ascent with my child, who displayed boundless energy throughout the hike. When we set off, the entire landscape, including the peak, was cloaked in a thick blanket of clouds. We trekked through the ethereal mist, with a light drizzle adding to the enchantment. Upon finally reaching the summit, the clouds parted, revealing a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding Western Ghats, a sight that left us in awe.

We enjoyed a cup of tea upon returning to the jeep parking area. They were also offering hot Maggie and boiled corn for sale.

On our journey back to Bangalore, we stopped to visit the renowned Channakeshava Temple in Belur. This 12th-century Vishnu temple was constructed by the Hoysala king, Vishnuvardhana. The temple's architecture and intricately carved sculptures vividly showcase the creativity of the Hoysala dynasty's artists. The poetry in stone and the exquisite sculptures within the temple symbolize the rich art and culture of the Hoysala dynasty. It becomes evident while exploring the temple why it took 100 years and the efforts of 1,000 artists to complete its construction. Temple guides are available at the entrance to provide insights into the temple's architecture and sculptures.

​I purchased some prasad laddu from a stall near the temple monument and spent most of my time at the temple capturing photographs. However, I eventually found myself running short on time as the temple's rich architecture had so much more to offer than I could cover in the limited time I had.

Since we couldn't find an opportunity for a proper lunch, we opted for substantial snacks in the evening from a restaurant located just before the Hassan toll gate. Unfortunately, the food at the restaurant, particularly the Chinese dishes, did not meet our expectations. Nevertheless, this restaurant will always hold a special place in my memory because everyone celebrated my birthday, crossing my 30s and entering my 40s, in the outdoor seating area outside the restaurant building. I even had the chance to cut a birthday cake made by my aunt.

Reflecting on this tour, I can only say that this 2-night, 3-day tour has opened my eyes. As a native of another state, I wouldn't have believed that South Karnataka holds so many hidden gems, whether in terms of its breathtaking natural beauty or its marvelous architecture, for travelers to explore.