Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mullayanagiri Hills, Chikmagalur

After the thrilling experience at Hebbe Falls, we were back on the road to our final destination of the day – Mullayanagiri. At 6,330 ft, Mullayanagiri Hill is the highest peak in Karnataka. Yet again, the ride to our destination was very exciting but not without dangers. At a couple of places we noticed that parts of road were lost to landslides. Some crazy drivers coming at maddening speeds don’t help things either. Add to that the wet roads and you got a nightmare ahead of you. Inexperienced drivers better stay away.

Needless to say, the higher you climb the colder it gets. That we were wet from the waterfalls we visited, only added to our woes. The upward climb seemed not to end, as we take hairpin after hairpin bends on narrower roads. And finally after an agonizing wait and some anxious moments when we had to back up at a hair pin bend to give way for another car, we finally ground to a halt. If you thought, we just reached the highest point in Karnataka, then hold on. What lay ahead of us, we were just not prepared for it. Some 600-700 odd steps that led to a temple (Yes, if there’s a hilltop in South India, there’s a temple sitting on it) is the highest point in Karnataka. But we were all equally determined to reach the highest peak in Karnataka. We huffed and puffed out way to the top. Tiring as it may be, it was well worth the effort in gold.
From the highest peak in Karnataka we had a fantastic view of miles and miles of greenery all around. The clouds hovered somewhere below us and we could actually see them move around the hill we were standing on, completely obstructing our view wherever they moved to. Mullayanagiri, is truly an amazing place to be. And we probably were there at the right time. We only wished we could stay there a little longer. But considering we had to go back that dangerous road to Chikmagalur, we decided to leave early.

We rode back to hotel with a strange feeling in our heads. On the one hand we were a little disappointed that our wonderful little weekend was coming to an end, and on the other hand we were all happy souls within. Happy to have had an experience so few are fortunate to…
Getting-there: Some 30-odd kms from Chikmagalur Town

Must-Do: Drive slowly and carefully and stay off the cliff-edges.
Must-Don’t: Rash Driving, Drinking, Littering.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hebbe Falls, Chikmagalur

Wet and cold to the bone under the refreshing Kalahatti Falls, we were on our way to the next destination of the day – Hebbe Falls. The route to Hebbe Falls is really exhilarating and enriching. The ghat roads provide stunning images of this hilly region. The greenery out here is so overwhelming, it will take your breath away and make you ask for more.

The Z-point, the umpteen coffee estates, the misty mountains, the miles and miles and greenery, the numerous streams criss-crossing, the clouds that always seem to be either above or below where you stand but never around you, chillness in the wind is why a visit to Chikmagalur will remain etched in my mind forever.

Our cab stopped 13 kms before our supposed destination. Apparently, we now have to complete the rest of our journey in a Jeep. Skeptics that we are, we wondered why we needed to board a different vehicle and why needed to pay Rs. 750 for a 13 km ride. The “excuse” of bad roads didn’t sound very convincing, but we had no choice. It was a take it or leave it offer. And we took it.

Less than a kilometer into our Jeep ride, and the clouds of skepticism cleared from our eyes. The path – for lack of a better expression – is nothing like one has ever seen. The 13 km bumpy ride will help you re-visit every bone and every muscle in your body. But surprisingly when it finally ended, after what feels like an eternity, we wished it didn’t. After all, in the age of Volvo buses and swanky cars, how often do you get to have a joy ride like this one?

After getting down from our super sturdy Jeep, we realized the rest of the 1.5 km journey is to be undertaken on foot. Along the way one need to cross the river three times. And each you get out of ankle to knee length water, you need to check your body for free-riders! Yes, you guessed it right – leaches. Keep a twig handy to remove the leaches and try not to stop at any place for too long.

Between losing some of your blood and hurting your feet from all the walking, you are suddenly rewarded with a stunning sight! 551 feet of invigorating downpour. And suddenly you are oblivious to the sore feet and leach-bites. The closer you get to the falls the wetter you get from the water spray. However, one needs to exercise utmost caution treading through those sharp-edged and slippery rocks. What’s worse even the camera lens is not spared from the relentless spray.

This is by far my best experience with a waterfall, since I’ve got the opportunity to get so close to it. Also, the surrounding dense vegetation also adds to the charm of it. Truly, worth all the time, effort and money to reach this place.

Getting-there: 10 kms from Kemmangundi.

Must-Do: Keep some twigs ready to weed out the leaches. Also, could carry some salt to counter these blood-suckers.
Must Don’t: Littering. The place is thankfully pretty clean and plastic-free. Let’s keep it that way.

My Rating: 8/10

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kalahatti Falls, Chikmagalur.

After a dose of history and - in the words of a funny panda - sheer awesomeness at Armruteswara temple the previous evening, we were ready for our primary objective of coming to Chikmagalur. The hills, streams, waterfalls and mist all beckoned and we answered by hiring a cab and deciding to make a day out of it. First stop according to our over-enthusiastic cabbie was Kalahatti a.ka. Kallathigiri a.k.a Kalahasthi falls near Kemmangundi.

The most interesting and striking feature of Kalahatti Falls is that it flows through, over and between an ancient temple of Veerabhadreshwara believed to be built during the Vijayanagara empire. Also, legend has it that sage Agastya had performed penance here. The entrance of the temple has carvings of elephants, over which the water cascades. The water flowing through here is believed to cure illnesses if one takes a dip. But we Indians being what we are, come with bathing soaps, shampoo packets and all the paraphernalia to have a full-fledged bath.
Despite the freezing cold temperature of the water, we felt extremely temped to get wet. And finally we yielded to the temptation by getting under the powerful downpour. Such was the force of the water beating down on my back that I pulled a muscle. To top it all the uneven stony ground makes it hard to balance yourself against the onslaught.

One could also climb one tier up to witness another mini waterfall. The crystal clear water is difficult to be given a pass for a quick dip. Here you need to tread carefully, since we found quite a lot of broken glass bottles. This is the result of uncivilized burden-on-Mother-Earth creatures resorting to drinking and discarding bottles unsafely. Once we had all the fun, we decided to go back our cab. Quite honestly it’s not really the kind of place where one would want to spend a lot of time. The fun wears out after an hour or so….

Getting-there: You either need to have your own car or hire one. It’s on the way to the hill station of Kemmangundi.

Must-Do: No matter how freezing the water – take a dip!
Must-Don’t: Drinking and littering the place with bottles, shampoo and soap packets, pooja paraphernalia, plastic bottles etc.

My Rating: 6/10

Amruteswara Temple, Chikmagalur.

Located 67kms from Chikmagalur is yet another masterpiece from the highly skilled hands of the Hoysala sculptors. The Amruteswara Temple situated 10 kms from Tarikeri in Amruthapura stands testimony to the greatness of the Hoysala kingdom and their love for constructing jaw-dropping temples. Built in 1196 by Amrutheswara Dandanayaka under Hoysala king Veera Ballala II, the Amruteswara temple apparently built similar to the Veera Narayana temple at Belavadi – also in Chikmagalur.
Amruteswara is part of the Belur-Halebidu clutter of Hoysala temples, but less popular compared to their peers- thankfuly. It is also not being promoted as a tourist destination the temple itself is being maintained pretty well. The lack of tourists might also be one contributing factors to this. The Hoysala workmanship is prominent in every wall and every stone.
Ruvari Mallitamma is credited to be the Sculptor of this temple. The temple has a long hall with the trademark Hoysala pillars followed by a closed shrine, where the deity is still being worshipped. The idols here have all the skills and mastery that every famous Hoysala sculptor is endowed with. Ramayana and Mahabharata and etched into stone all across the exterior temple walls.
For all those who love poetry-in-stone, this temple offers a great deal to wow-about. One could make it part of the Belur-Halebidu itinerary along with Belavadi.

Credits: Wikipedia

Getting-there: Chikmaglur -> Birur -> Tarikeri -> Amruthapura. Local buses available till Tarikeri. From there, one would need to take an Autorickshaw. Nearest railway station is Birur/Kadur. It’s also 35 kms from Shimoga.

My Rating: 7/10