Amidst the craggy mountainscapes of the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats is nestled the average everyday Indian town of Chikmagalur. The town and the entire district wear a small-town calm; the shops are small, the buildings are sleepy, the signboards are only in Kannada and the people have an air of of small-town innocence. Wikipedia rather ungenerously describes Chikmagaluru district as “not known for well maintained roads”. There’s a lot of other things about this place that make up for that part, though.
Like coffee. Coffee invigorates. Coffee energizes. So we made sure we stayed away from it for two lazy days in the coffee estates of Chikmagalur! Actually, ‘coffee forests’ would be a more fitting term to describe the acres of plantations in Chikmagalur. Reams of rich deep green carpet the landscape. The coffee berries are out in full force now; some are a resplendent red agaisnt the deep green – it’s a sight for the sore soul. Others await the merry sunshine to blush into that shade of red that warms the coffee-planter’s heart.
The jeep safari to our camping site rattles us down to our bone marrow. ‘It’s daily business’; our driver nonchalantly brushes off our observation on the difficulty of driving on a road on its last lap of existence.
The brooding clouds add generously to the magical eerieness of the campsite. We walk to the sunset/sunrise view point – it is splendid. We are at the very edge of the cliff and there is a sheer drop to the valley below. We sit down on the bare rocks. On closer inspection, we see that the ‘bare rocks’ are of course, teeming with life that’s very capable of crawling up our legs. Ants and a variety of bugs make themselves confortable in the damp mossy forest floor. Bright red spore capsules, all of a centimetre tall, provide a contrast to the moss’ glass green (Darn, should have gotten Kiwi to take a close-up snap!)
There’s all kinds of food – delicious Nutella-Banana sandwiches which overnight turned into Ant-ella sandwiches with some insistent ants drowning in the Nutella. (I wonder how it would be to drown in a Nutella river, or pond if you like?) There’s a big citrusy fruit we do not know the name of and the largest cucumber I have ever seen generously donated by the caretaker Ranganna. We also manage to pull together something that remotely resembles sambar rice and veggies.
It’s time to pitch tents – never knew it was so much fun. And time-lapse photography takes grip. You can see the very funny results here.
Engineering brains are put to good use as the guys build a tripod that supports an umbrella to protect the camera while capturing the clouds at a rate of 1 shot a minute… results here! I quietly rue the lack of a chicken that could have roasted gently over a warm fire ably aided by the tripod. Yeah, good roast wild chicken would have done marvelous justice to that tripod! I know at least one other member of the group felt the same way too! :)
Some unnecessary brain exercise follows – for the record, I hereby state that the longest game in the history of ‘bluff’ lasting 3.5 hours was played in a 4-person Wildcraft tent under stormy conditions on a remote hilltop in a coffee plantation somewhere near the town of Aldur which is around 12 km from Chikmagalur. Needless to say, the nuances of faking things was lost on yours truly. Indeed, I was the richest player with the thickest stack of cards through most of the game!
Time blinks by. Time to return, the townsfolk looking at us quizzically, wondering why we city-folk want to be there anyway. A change of scene and scenery? To get away… from what? The trick, as we city-folk know, is to get out of there before the inconveniences get to us.
Chikmagalur – Camping, time-lapse photography, building tripods, cooking and chopping and cleaning! And cards! Hey, this wasn’t such a lazy trip after all, was it? :)
Credits: Photo and Videos – Kiwi