Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chikmagalur trip - Hunkal Woods

Chikmagalur trip

This is going to be a full fledged trip log. Noticing how my recent trip posts have been rather short, this time, I want to let the floodgates open :D

One among our gang was heading off to Australia for an MBA and so we thought we should do a weekend trip someplace before he leaves the country. The destination was basically chosen over a cup of coffee at Barista, thanks to an enlightened soul called Murali. No sooner than the words "Hunkal Woods" came out of his mouth, Girish was on his phone talking to the owners of the Hunkal Woods estate in Chikmagalur and inquiring/negotiating about the tarrifs. This was 6 days before to the planned start of the trip. Over the next 3 days, 6 people had confirmed and we had a booking confirmed, thanks to Naren, who made the payment. We decided we'll rent a mazda so that none of us will have the headache of driving, considering that the destination is 280kms away, and also everyone gets to travel together and have fun along the journey as well.

2 days before the start of the trip, my boss offered me his Scorpio for the trip, which I gladly accepted! It took less than 4 hours to convince everyone that Scorpio would be enough to seat 6 of us + our luggage comfortably and it works out a lot cheaper than if we'd book a mazda. With everyone onboard and agreed on the plan, it was just a countdown to the weekend. Just the day before the start of the trip, Karan confirmed that he too would join us for the trip, taking the count of people to 7. This meant that the seating of everyone within the Scorpio was a difficult one. After some heated discussions, (Me and Girish wanted to drive, Sac wanted all people together in one place during the journey), we decided that we'd go in 2 vehicles - the Scorpio and Naren's Santro. I'll later come back to this decision and illustrate how good this decision turned out to be!

Plan was to start at 5:30am from my place. Everyone was to assemble at my place before 5:30am. Karan and Girish were the first to arrive right on time. Naren, Sac and Murali arrived 15 minutes late. VV was to be picked up on the way. So, it was 6:15am, by the time we put all the luggage into vehicles, distributed snack packs among the vehicles, etc, picked up VV and hit the NICE road. We thought we'd beat most of the heavy traffic on NH-4 by starting early - but, boy, we were so wrong. We were held up for a good 20 minutes on NH-4 thanks to some jackasses who had come off on the wrong side of the highway just because their side was jammed! Girish, who was riding shotgun (ah! new term learnt on this trip - riding shotgun amounts to riding in front passenger seat) skillfully guided me through the extreme left lane (to be read as gutter shoulders) and we were out of the muck sooner than we'd normally have.

Then it was a long stretch on NH-48, till we reached CR Patna to make a stop for breakfast. The road was patchy, with 4-laning work going on. But with low traffic and extreme power of the Scorpio, we could easily maintain speeds above 100 kmph. We reached the breakfast spot at 9am. I was warned by people from the Santro that I was driving rather rash, overtaking on blind curves, etc. Somehow, people in my car never complained about anything like that. Although Murali mentioned that, by now, he was "intimately familiar" with the ceiling of the Scorpio! That, I attribute to the patchy roads and hard suspensions on the vehicle :D We finished breakfast and continued, now with Girish on the wheels. Mr. Girish has an interesting driving style for handling curves. I don't know whether he does this usually or he was doing it specifically because I told him that Scorpio does not handle curves well at high speeds. He goes to the right lane and then cuts across to the left on a leftward curve (opposite on the rightward curve). As we proceeded, the weather slowly changed from being pleasant to cloudy and then it began drizzling. We reached Chikmagalur, after driving thru on and off rains. It was 11am. The destination was still 25 km away. Since this was the last big town, we bought some essentials and continued. This stretch of the drive was very scenic - we could already sight the lofty peaks around the Chikmagalur area - the top of the peaks kissed with dark grey clouds - quite a sight. Finally, after 24 km of so, we saw a board indicating to take a left for Hunkal Woods. This road was 3km long and was the worst possible road to drive on. The road was estate maintained and the rains had basically turned the road into a mud slush. Poor Santro got could not continue at some point - it was not getting any traction and the wheels would just spin furiously in the mud. It took some out-of-box thinking and extreme driving from Sac to get the Santro past this point. (This was why I mentioned that it was a good decision not to get a mazda. I'm sure the mazda would have got stuck here till winter!) The moment we landed in front of the estate bungalow, where we were to stay, it started raining - a beautiful welcome. Top of that, we were served the best coffee there was! It was 12:15pm. We spent some time to shake off the travel weariness, sipping coffee and onlooking the gentle rains. We got our bags and set bases in the rooms of the bungalow. We chatted with the caretaker there for a while, discussing about the options we have of things to do there. We chose to go on a trek to a view point after lunch. The lunch itself was simple, tasty and sumptuous.

We started off on this rain-trek, (without Sac, who had a bad stomach ache) with jackets on, carrying umbrellas. I was particularly worried about 2 things - taking my DSLR in the rains and LEECHES. Camera was in a good quality bag, and I carried an extra plastic cover to protect the bag. I borrowed gum boots from the caretaker there to "protect" me from the leeches. Till then, I had not seen any leeches and was feeling ok. About some 15 minutes into the ascent, they started appearing. There were everywhere. Climbing up our legs with dogged determination of finding some skin! Like those black alien things in Spiderman-3. It was at this moment, I realized this phobia of mine - leeches! Most of the trek was spent in checking for leeches rather than clicking photos! It took us almost 2 hours to reach the view point. Such pristine splendour of mother nature on display, we had our mouths wide open when we first saw the sights from the view point. We could see all of the peaks around the area, covered with a thick green blanket and crowned by clouds! We spent some 15 minutes there, clicking photos, looking at various peaks with binoculars, etc. The descent was less eventful and we reached the bungalow by 5:30pm. Each of us checked ourselves for any leeches stuck on us, a few of us did have one or two of them. And then had a bath. We had another round of the scintillating coffee and started playing dumb charades. From 6pm to 9pm, time just flew by, playing dumb charades, feasting on some hot snacks. After another simple yet tasty dinner, we played indoor cricket and then retired to sleep.

Next morning, I was the first to wake up by 6:30am. VV and Murali were awake by 7am. Time for another coffee - we never got tired of drinking coffee on this trip! I ventured out for a walk with my camera for some photos. Wandered around the bungalow for about half hour, clicked some snaps. It started drizzling, so I had to run back to the bungalow. By now, most people were up and some were thinking of another small trek. We had a heavy breakfast after which Murali, Girish and Naren started for another small trek. I decided to give this a skip and stayed back with Karan, VV and Sac - we played some cards, table tennis and had bath. It was almost noon by the time the trekking trio returned back.

The trip was coming to an end and none of us wanted to go back. Yet, we unwillingly packed our bags, had a nice simple lunch, wandered around the bungalow on our own for a while and then started back at 2:30pm. The drive back was unusually sombre with everyone keeping to themselves - listening to music on ipods, sleeping, etc. We reached back home by 9pm .

This place was absolutely fantastic. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone going to Chikmagalur. I cannot wait to go back there this winter - yes, I've already decided - I need to get back there, at a time, when there would be no leeches so that I can get some nice snaps :)


  1. bravo amigo well written!

    "The destination was still 25 km away. Since this was the last big town, we bought some essentials and continued. "

    I don't seem to remember this bit clearly...u mean like medicines, soaps n stuff like that? :P

  2. I call this happy writing! Sounds like a great place. Thanks for the recco - planning a getaway soon!

    Also, that is one helluva cool boss you have man!


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