Day 1- Soaked in Coffee!
Chikmagalur was the destination this time. Just about a 4-hour drive from Bangalore city in the south-western part of Karnataka, is this tiny little town which resembles a bean shape on the map of the state. The drive was easy and the roads were good. The monsoons were almost over but a few showers added the much needed ‘zing’ to the exotic holiday we were about to have!
As we approached Chikamagalur, the air grew intoxicating with heady aromas of coffee wafting up and spreading its veil over the hills- it was a perfect treat for caffeine addicts like us to receive a welcome such as this! The town at the foothills of the Mullayanagiri range, is located 3400 feet above sea level and is surrounded by hills that are popular tourist destinations. ‘Chikkamagaluru’ literally means ‘The town of the younger daughter’ in the native Kannada language. The town is said to have been given as a dowry to the younger daughter of Rukmangada, the legendary chief of Sakrepatna and hence the name. As one can guess, there is indeed a town called Hiremagaluru which means “The town of the elder daughter” which is about 5 km from Chikkamagaluru city.
We had made arrangements to stay at the Taj Gateway which treated us to the delights of local cuisine and countless cups of local filter coffee, the only kind you would get in any of the hotels here. No branded stuff could come anywhere close to the richness of this local bean that monopolized its presence over the entire town by its sheer aroma and flavor.
We arrived just in time for lunch! On the suggestion of the chef, we decided to try the Malvani cuisine at the hotel. And I simply fell in love with it. Being mostly carnivorous in nature, this extremely spicy cuisine suited my taste buds in every way! Though Malvani food comes mostly from the Konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa, some western parts of Karnataka also serve the same and we were the lucky ones to be treated to its delights. The spices suit meats and fish the best, although there are many vegetarian delicacies as well. But we went for the seafood and the fish curry with rice and I swooned at the complexity in flavor and aroma. There were a myriad spices blended so well that it was difficult to decipher each one by name. It was balanced with the tanginess of raw mango and dried kokum. We ate to our heart’s content and in the end were served with a pink drink (sol kadhi) that was meant to soothe our innards from the hot and spicy fare!
Day 2- Climb every Mountain!
We ventured to climb Mullayanagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka, 6330 feet above sea level. We drove up into the clouds which carried us 6000 feet above sea level! I felt I was living the tabloid dream, walking on clouds that draped around us like white walls of smoke. The hills around seemed as if they were on fire! We then walked up some 200 steps that had been carved into the hill to reach up to the highest peak where there is a Shiva temple built.
On top of the hill, we were greeted with a small little hut built for the sacred Nandi (bull) to sit and offer itself as the footstool for its Lord. The view from there was majestic. The townships far below looked like tiny Lilliputian civilizations! I stayed till I was drunk with the air and sights around. We headed back to the hotel…it was a cold night as we sunk deeper into our blankets to enjoy a good night’s sleep after the tiring climb and descent.
Day 3- Catching the scent of a trail…
We had inquired at the hotel about the source of their supply of coffee beans because we had made up our minds to take lots of it back home – it was too good to be left behind only as a memory! So we went into the town in search of the famous coffee brewers called ‘Panduranga’. We found the shop having sacks of roasted coffee and chicory waiting to be blended and taken according to the choice of palette. After an hour, we emerged from the shop having bought everything we would need for the next 3 months!
Well… it was time to get back to routine. And this little town nestled amidst greenery, coffee and spices had offered us just the perfect blend of everything we needed for a refreshing, rejuvenating and ‘intoxicating’ holiday.
Check out at 12 noon.
Driving time- approx 4 hours. Destination- Bangalore City. ETA- 4 pm.
I kept pushing away the nostalgia that was creeping in, and decided to sit back and enjoy the ride home.