Eight months ago, I had undertaken a trip to Chikmagalur which on retrospect was the third best trip of my life. So when the opportunity beckoned to partake in another Chikmagalur trip, this time with near strangers, I did not think twice. The fact that the "team" were all like-minded people with interests in Travel, Photography and Nature appreciation, made the decision a no-brainer.
It was half past 11 PM when we left Bangalore behind and on to Tumkur Road. Sometime during my sleep I entered a dream. The misty environs, the cool crisp air, the lush green cover, the smell of earth and everything good made me not want to wake up from the dream. But it was not to be, since I realised it was not a dream and I had indeed woken up into the cradle of mother earth. I could indeed see the mist, feel the cool air, smell the damp earth, taste the dew drops and hear the crickets chirping. Where else can you find a place close to Bangalore that can stimulate all your senses but Chikmagalur?
Kemmangundi was in our sights as the first stop. But with locales that can make you stop every minute of the way that was not to be. We stopped at the sound of waterfalls. Yes, we heard it first before we saw it. Dawn hadn't broken into Chikmagalur yet and the 3 metre visibilty meant we heard the falls rather than see it. The visibility was so poor, two of the entry-level DSLRs failed to capture the spectacle. Anticipating better things ahead, we moved on. In the drive up the hill, we witnessed many water streams criss-crossing our way.
At the break of dawn we alighted at Kemmangundi. During all the photoshooting of the environment, the gang got split up, thanks to incorrect infomation from the people there. Z Point was our proposed destination, but my gang ended up at Raj Bhavan. Raj Bhavan in itself offers good views not withstanding the mist.
With some help and lot more asking-around, we headed towards Z Point. Kemmangundi literally translates to "A Place With Red Soil". Now I couldn't vouch for that fact because all I see is green. It was as if a mammoth green carpet was spread across all "creation". The approximately 4 km walk to the vantage Z Point is sprinkled with magnificient views of the Baba Budangiri Ranges. To complete the visual splendour is Shanti Falls. This fresh water source on the way to the top quenches your thirst like nothing can. The closer you get to Z Point, the harder it gets to breathe - not out of exhaustion, rather for the breathtaking beauty of the place. It is so overwhelming that you wish you had never come here, for saying goodbye to this place is a difficult task. I had missed Z Point the last time I had been to Chikmagalur, but I guess I could not have seen it at a better time than this.
Getting-there: 53 kms from Chikmagalur. Hiring a car will be a better (only?) option, unless you have your own transport.
Must-Do: Get there as early in the morning as possible. Watching sunrise is not an option, because of the fog. But the fog adds to the beauty of the place, early in the morning. Carry sufficient water for at least a one hour trek. Check out both Raj Bhavan viewpoint and Z Point. Also check out Rock Garden on the way to Z Point.
Must-Don't: If you are carrying water bottles with you, make sure you bring it back with you to base camp. Please don't litter this paradise.