Sharanya Misra

Early one Saturday Morning our entire household could be seen in a flurry of activities. We were headed to a popular hillstation in Karnataka – Chikmagalur – and with 4 senior citizens and 3 children in our group of 12, a lot of planning had been put in place. At about 7 o clock, loaded with bags full of water, juices, packaged snacks, parathas and pooris with achars, we finally managed to push off on our journey!

Enroute:

Chikmagalur is about 290 Kms from Whitefield, Bengaluru and takes about 6 hours on average by road. The earlier you leave to skip the Bengaluru traffic, the faster you can reach. There are also express trains from Bengaluru which take about 3 hours to reach the Kadur/Birur stations. Chikmagalur town is about 30-45 mins from there. If travelling by road like us, about half-way to the destination is a restaurant called Dhruv Taara where we stopped for breakfast. It’s a decent place with neat enough bathrooms – an essential necessity during such a long road trip. The food and service was very average and the place is crowded, but it’s also HUGE and has enough seating to accommodate all. As a pit stop, it was good enough for us.

First Impressions:

Reaching the Chikmagalur town was a bit underwhelming initially. While Bengaluru had been cold, here the Sun was looking down on us with all its might. Had we really reached a hill station, we asked! But as we began to climb up the ghats that surround the town and move towards the resort, the climate and surroundings changed and how! The breeze became colder, and everywhere around were tall trees offering their shade. Immediately, we knew we had arrived. Reaching the resort from the town took us nearly 40 mins.

Hill Station Feels @ Chikmagalur
Hill Station Feels @ Chikmagalur

Stay:

We had reserved 4 Lanai Standard Rooms at the Honeydewwz Exotica Resort. The Resort in itself needs a special mention. Everything, literally EVERYTHING there enhanced our entire experience of Chikmagalur. The place itself was beautifully landscaped and lush green. The rooms were spacious with lush green views. The Lanai Standard rooms were enough and more for 3 adults to live in extremely comfortably. The staff was extremely courteous and went over and beyond in every possible way to make our stay comfortable. Any request we made of the kitchen for my small kid was immediately accommodated. Baby chairs were available during every meal. There are indoor games, pools, play area, lots of garden space and a coffee plantation right opposite its gate. Some of the rooms such as the Bourbon Deluxe even have spectacular views of the hills since they are on the second floor. Having gone with elderly parents I did not go for them,  but realised later that there is an elevator for those rooms. The food at the resort needs an extra mention. All of it was simply delicious without being overly heavy or spicy. We had absolutely no complaints. The breakfast buffet spread and coffee was spectacular each time. I loved having the local food options too – Bisibelle Bhath, Pineapple Kesari Bhath and Kadabu with Kurma. I tasted Kadabu for the first time and it was heavenly with the Kurma. I would recommend this resort to anybody and everybody headed to Chikmagalur, looking for a superb place to stay.

Honeydewwz Exotica Resort @ Chikmagalur
Honeydewwz Exotica Resort @ Chikmagalur

Some of the other places I had come across during my research which you could check out are Trivik Resorts & Java Resorts. Trivik is located at a beautiful place high up in the mountains but is definitely a much more expensive place. It is nearly 30 mins more from Honeydewwz and up some very steep ghats. Another lovely, homely place and more secluded to stay is the Halli Berri Resort which is located right in the midst of coffee plantations and forests.

Honeydewwz Exotica Resort @ Chikmagalur
Honeydewwz Exotica Resort @ Chikmagalur

Activities:

The resort offers a nature walk early in the mornings around 7 am and a guided tour of the coffee plantation at 10 am. Now here is where I must mention the big truth about the western ghats. There are leeches everywhere! Based on what the naturalist there mentioned, the resort gardens themselves have been doused in Calcium to keep these blood sucking insects at bay, but the forests are filled with 100s of them. As a result, we decided to give it a miss because we were simply not prepared enough with relevant clothes or footwear to face this onslaught!! Those brave souls who did go came back bloody and trying to get leeches off their bodies. This is not to scare anyone with thoughts of going into the forest but just to inform so that you can be better prepared for them! After multiple assurances from the naturalist that we would avoid the leech zones in the coffee plantation, off our group went for a tour.

Ready to harvest coffee beans!
Ready to harvest coffee beans!

Chikmagalur is in fact the very first place that coffee was brought to and grown in India!! There is even a hill honouring the man who did this – the Bababudangiri Hill. This particular plantation that we went to had both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans being grown. The naturalist explained how a coffee plant needs intense and unwavering care for the first 4 years to yield the first crop of just a few beans, but thereafter needs minimal care to produce beans year on year. There were red coffee beans everywhere, ready to be harvested. Some lay on the plantation floor, drying and brown. This was my first time visiting a coffee plantation and it was very unexpected to be honest. I have always visited tea plantations which are extremely organised and look like vast rolling green hills. Coffee plantations are unruly forests on the other hand. There are bushes growing everywhere, often teamed up with pepper vines. I would highly recommend taking a guided tour of a coffee plantation because most naturalists have some very interesting information along with the history of coffee to share, which makes the tour worthwhile! Back at the café in the resort we had some magnificent strong robusta coffee – it was heavenly to my senses!

Drying Coffee Beans at the plantation
Drying Coffee Beans at the plantation

From there we were off to do some sightseeing. Two of the places I had heard a lot about were the Mullayanagiri Peak and the Jhari Waterfalls. The Jhari Falls is one of the most popular falls in Karnataka and is supposedly extremely beautiful, surrounded by dense forests and coffee plantations. However, private cars are not allowed till the falls. About 4-5 km from the falls one has to take a jeep for about Rs.600. The jeep ride too I have heard is not for the faint hearted. Now as you must have guessed, we did not go to the falls. 4 senior citizens with heart ailments are not the best audience for a Fall like this one for sure. We were advised by everyone around looking at the demographics of our group to give this one a miss, hence we did. Instead we headed directly to the Mullayanagiri Peak, the highest peak of Karnataka with a height of 6317 feet! This too needed us to keep our 16-seater tempo traveller behind and take a jeep to the peak. We parked the vehicle right at the Mullappa Swamy temple housing Lord Shiva, which gives its name to the peak too. The temple was very quaint and calm, peace emanating from its stone walls. After spending a few very calming minutes there, we headed into our jeep for a ride that we are unlikely to forget anytime soon. The road ahead to the parking spot for the peak is narrow, steep and full of vehicles from both sides. We were grateful we had the experienced jeep driver driving us there! When at last we reached the peak, it was everything I had been waiting for, simply picture perfect. It was all that I want at a view point in a hill station – There was a cold breeze with some drizzle (which in some time turned into proper rain too, thankfully we had carried umbrellas), there were vendors Maggi (we devoured 5 plates), corn was being roasted on red embers of coal, tender coconuts were being slashed open, their water dripping out onto the road and numerous other shopkeepers sat selling hats and jackets, chaat items and everything one could need up there. In that small parking lot, people thronged, spoke loudly, cars honked, and yet everything was serene and gorgeous. Since we were there at lunch time and there is no other restaurant up there, we filled ourselves with Maggi, settled the elders onto stools near the shops and headed up the mountain. There are about 500 steps to the peak. We didn’t climb them all, but perched ourselves about mid-way up there. The view was spectacular. Everywhere around were distant hills peeking in and out of the rolling mist. The air was pure and chilling. It was a breath-taking view, being so high up there, a feeling of surrealness and disbelief enveloping us even as we made sure to click one pic after another, trying to capture the essence of what it truly felt to be up there!

 

Mullappa Swamy Temple, Chikmagalur
Mullappa Swamy Temple, Chikmagalur
Steps up the mountainside to the Mullayangiri Peak
Steps up the mountainside to the Mullayangiri Peak

From there we decided to just go to one other spot before we headed back to the resort. This was the Hirekolale Lake. Surrounded by mountains, the lake was very calm, with no hustle and bustle. With just the sounds of nature to give us company, we took a long stroll on the side of the lake, had some yummy sugarcane juice freshly made by an Uncle there, and then returned to our resort to end the day.

Hirekolale Lake, Chikmagalur
Hirekolale Lake, Chikmagalur

One final thing we did on both days in the resort was to take part in the bonfire every evening. There are 2 gazebos in the resort where bonfires are lit in the evening. There are speakers there too and they encourage us to connect with them through Bluetooth and play songs of our choice. On both days we had much fun dancing away into the night with the fire keeping us warm and energised! One thing that we did NOT do for lack of time and energy in the end was to go shopping in the MG Road in Chikmagalur town. Coffee and spices are quite popular and can be picked from there.

Final Impressions:

Chikmagalur is a lovely little place to visit for long weekend getaways. One final piece of advice I would like to give is to stay as high up as possible and avoid staying in the town itself, because the beauty and weather of the place is discovered only within the hills. Do not miss the Mullayangiri experience, and definitely do not miss out on visiting this historical place that introduced coffee to India!

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