April 27, 2011

6300 Feet Above Sea Level...!!

Beautifully nestled in the lovely Baba Budan Giri ranges of the Western Ghats is Mullayanagiri. At more than 6300 feet above sea level this is the tallest peak in Karnataka. An impromptu travel to Chikmagalur ended in us trekking this lovely peak. A 20 kms drive from Chikmagalur through the lovely coffee plantations and the winding roads lead us to the base of Mullayanagiri. The roads need a special mention here as they were narrow and the deep valleys looked scary.

The drive was quite adventurous with exceptional scenery all around. As we went higher, the lovely peaks of Baba Budan Giri spread out and the marvellous scenic view made the drive worth the risk. Though we were not interested in any treacherous trekking, we did climb up a couple of small hills to get better views of the wonderful landscape. The only colours that were visible were brown(of the hills), green(of the vegetation) and blue (of the clear sky).

A long ascend of more than 500 steps in a zig-zag manner took us to the top of Mullayanagiri. With the steps being cut out, it was comparatively an easy trek. However the blazing sun did not make things easy for us. A beautiful temple was peacefully perched atop the hill and the 360 degree view from top of the peak was breathtaking. The expansive landscape spread out below the clear blue sky  made for an enchanting view. 

The photo session and a visit to the temple was followed by the long trek to the base of the hill. Mullayanagiri is definitely a trekkers delight and the view from atop is sure to leave every single soul awestruck.

Signing Note : The highest point in Karnataka is definitely a delight for trekkers and photographers...!!

Distance- 265 Kms
Route- Bangalore- Kunigal- Hassan- Chikmagalur- Mullayanagiri

April 18, 2011

Sakleshpur- A Sojourn Amidst Coffee Beans...!!

Running short of options for a weekend getaway is not so unusual and the situation was quite similar when we planned for one. A lot of googling led us to Sakleshpur, a small town in southern Karnataka, famous for coffee and pepper plantations. 20 kms away from this place lies a small home stay by the name Coffee Valley.

A train journey from Bengaluru landed us at the deserted Sakleshpur railway station at 4 am. That was indeed a spooky stay of almost half an hour before our pick up car came. With absolutely no trace of human beings around we found it to be quite adventurous. A bumpy and foggy ride through the coffee plantations to the home stay was exhilarating. Nestled beautifully amidst the coffee plantations and small hills, this cosy place is off the common travel routes and chances of you getting there without the owners help is highly unlikely. It was quite a foggy day with continuous drizzle and the whole place looked quite similar to the beautiful picturizations from the Kannada movie, Mungaru Male.

The hosts were very friendly and after a lovely coffee made from the beans from their plantation, we headed to our rooms. The rooms were situated behind the owners house. There were in total 4 rooms with all the facilities. After some tasty dosas, soft idlis, tangy chuntney and hot coffee for a mouth watering breakfast it was time to burn it down with a lovely walk through the coffee and pepper plantations. It continuously drizzled and the whole experience was quite romantic. Being situated amidst the plantations, all that we could see were coffee beans and pepper. It was wet, green, misty all around and the aroma of coffee beans and the spicy pepper was refreshing.

A short drive from there and we were deep inside the green hills with chilly weather and blood sucking leeches for company. A small trek through the semi-wilderness lead to a small temple on top of a hill. A couple of photo shoots later, we were further trekking up a hill. The mist had engulfed us by then and with the drizzle turning stronger we could hardly see anyone beyond a distance of 50 feet.


The view from the top was absolutely stunning and the feel of getting drenched on top of a hill with just the mist surrounding us was bliss. Our host was quite helpful as he led us to all these unknown places. It neither looked touristy nor did it have any sort commercialisation. We just soaked into the natural surroundings and gaped at the mesmerising scenery. 

The hill we climbed

The trek down turned out to be with a lot of companionship in the form of leeches. With very few human beings around, they must have been quite surprised to find some tasty bloods walking around. A scenic return drive and we were back into the world of coffee and pepper. More lazy walks through the plantations, a sumptuous kannadiga lunch and it was time for a party in the wilderness. The night was chilly, windy and rainy. With pitch darkness outside, we were happy to enjoy the warmth of the rooms. 

Next day blossomed with some more refreshing coffee and a lovely chat with the owner about his plantations. The whole morning was spent listening to the birds chirping and the water droplets dripping. Any traveler who visits here would definitely pen down a few lines. After lunch it was time to pack, head back to bangalore and be content with the machine coffee. 

This is definitely an off-beat destination, with absolutely nil tourists, no view points, no famous waterfalls, no itineraries and no trekking routes. The attraction of Coffee Valley near Sakleshpur is that it is devoid of tourism activities and commercialisation. It is all about soaking into the aroma of coffee and enjoying the misty and wet climate of the western ghats. It is best reccomended to visit the place during the monsoon season.

Signing Note: Get soaked into the aroma of Coffee...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Kunigal- Channarayapatana- Hassan- Sakleshpur- Coffee Valley.
Distance- 250 kms

April 1, 2011

Swaying Palms and Floating Boats...!!

image courtesy- Kerala tourism
 On being transported from the world of traffic snarls, chaos, hectic work and continuous meetings to the world of lagoons and greenery, all of us stood awestruck when we entered one of the numerous houseboats parked on the very famous Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha. There are various types of boats like the 2 bedroom boats, 3 bedroom boats, boats with an upper deck, boats with A/C rooms etc. Everyday large number of such boats go on a lovely backwater ride with tourists gaping blissfully at the mesmerising scenery. Vembanad lake, the largest wetland ecosystem in Kerala has been the tourist hub of the state for past many years. Travellers from all over the world have a fascination for the renowned houseboat ride on this lake.

As we embarked on this quaint form of transportation, all that appeared in the vicinity were the numerous floating rice boats a.k.a kettuvelloms, the swaying palms on the banks, different varieties of birds and the placid lake. The boat propelled forward with no specific route (not for the driver though) over the massive water body which lay spread in all directions. Photo clicks, video shoots, blowing kisses at the gorgeous firangi women on other boats, trying a hand at driving the boat were some of the activities that we enjoyed during the initial 2 hours of our sojourn.

The well crafted boat sailed beautifully on the gleaming lake and went past the little villages, the tiny canals, the luring toddy shops and the green paddy fields. Due to the openness of the landscape, we were treated to some wonderful breeze under the hot sun which made us sway like the coconut trees on the banks. After a round of games that included cards and dumb charades it was time for some bacardi blasts and a sumptuous lunch. The lunch was prepared by the in-house cooks and the whiff in the air said it all. The mouth watering seafood delicacies were spread out and within a flash it was time to lick the fingers. 

As the blazing sun set, the gorgeous Kettuvellom was anchored to the shore.  In fact many other boats were also anchored at this place and it seemed the right spot for some village walks. We trod through narrow passages and went past the small houses besides the lake to go down into the paddy fields. The green blades of the paddy turned yellow with the sun setting beautifully in the background. A lovely walk on the narrow paths of the paddy field reminded me that the last time I did this was ages ago. All that I could see was the orange sun spreading its rays over the spread-out field. The rustic charm of the country side was clearly evident. A visual treat indeed!!

A visit to the villages of Kerala must include a visit to the toddy shops ( A big NO for the eves though). We however didn't venture into the shops but managed to get a few bottles of toddy. Toddy tastes best and fresh when it is had in the mornings. It turns sour as the day progresses. Nevertheless toddy is toddy and we happily gulped it down. Nestled nicely inside the comforts of the Kettuvellom, we stared at a few diminishing lanterns in the distance. These were either of the many anchored boats or of the houses besides the lake. That was in fact a very romantic sight. The place also had a small jetty and we had an extended photo session there.
A maverick dance (toddy does keep your spirits high) and a tasty dinner ended the day's itinerary. The anchored boat floated happily through out the night and we slept not so peacefully with horror stories and mosquitoes for companionship. The next day began with a typical Kerala cuisine for breakfast after which we were on our way back to the shores. It was one of the most laid back holidays with absolutely nothing to do other than staring at the floating waters,the swaying palms and taking in the fresh air amidst the green surroundings.

image courtesy- Kerala tourism
If you feel holidaying is all about just soaking yourself in natural surroundings while being floated around on a rice boat and eating some delicious sea food in Kerala style, I feel Vembanad Lake is the apt destination.

Signing Note: Life can't get lazier than this...!!

Route- Bangalore- Salem- Palakkad- Cochin- Alappuzha
Distance- 620 Kms

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