The Chickmagalur trip

"Why only chick, appa?  What about dog, hen?", asked my curious little one on being told we were going to Chickmagalur for the Ganesh chathurthi long weekend.

The idea behind a family trip originated during the first birthday party of a relative.  A Whatsapp group was hastily setup and after a series of messages, and places varying from Pondicherry to Coorg, the destination was agreed upon.  The choice of accommodation was limited, considering the last-minute planning.  We finally managed to get four rooms with twin-sharing for fourteen of us - eleven adults and three kids - with age ranging from 1 to 71.
A Tempo was hired and the morning of Ganesh chathurthi found us waking up the Lord at an unearthly hour of 6 AM and offering the traditional kozhukkattai.  The plan was to leave at 6 AM, but thanks to the proverbial Muphy's law, it was 7.30 AM when the last pickup was done and we were off.

The driver chose the Outer Ring Road, past Hebbal and Yeshwantpur to get into Tumkur Road, and then took the route to Hassan.  The traffic was light and we made decent progress.  We stopped at a wayside hotel for breakfast and had a hard time, finding where the "hotel" was - since the service was in open air!  The food was good though and the service awesome, and to top it up, the bill came to Rs.490/-

It was ten when we resumed and barring a stop for fueling and a five stops at various Toll gates, it was non-stop drive to our destination. The roads are pretty good and scenic too.  Thanks to "google mami" (as our little one calls the voice behind Google maps), we reached the destination - Mountain Valley Homestay - with not a single wrong turn!

It was 1.15 PM and we were just in time for lunch.  Our hostess Amreen was ready for us with the food and a map for the evening ahead.

We were shown our rooms. We still had to figure out how to fit 14 of us in 4 rooms, but to start with, we dumped our luggage in the rooms and had lunch.

Did I mention that the forecast for the weekend was "heavy to very heavy rains with thundershowers" with the probability being 100%"?

The prediction was not wrong - it was overcast and there was a light drizzle.

The food was homely and palatable to all age groups.   An hour of rest was inevitable and it was close to 4 PM, when we decided to follow our hostess' advice and visit Mullaiyanagiri, the highest point between the Himalayas and Nigiris.

Google Map was to guide us to our destination since our driver was not familiar with the sight-seeing spots in the place.  It was about 15 km from our stay.  The map was accurate, but the network was non-existent after some distance. As we started descending the mountain, it began to get increasingly misty.   The road was narrow and winding.  Though there were only a few vehicles on the road, it was still tough negotiating the bends.  At some point of time, we wondered why we were bothering to keep going since it was evident that we would get to see nothing when we reached the top.
Somewhere near Mullaiyanagari
Somewhere near Mullaiyanagari

We reached a clearing when we were about 3 km from the top of the hill.  Our van would not go beyond this and we needed to take jeeps.  There were a few jeeps waiting.  But we had three sleeping children in the van and a continuous drizzle to deter us!   But we did manage to take a few snaps before deciding to retreat.

We were back in our homestay to hot tea and some snacks. We made ourselves at home and enjoyed the evening.   We split ourselves among the rooms so that we could accommodate ourselves.  As it turned out, we managed to get an addition room for the first night, since another booking got cancelled/postponed.

It was close to 10 AM the next morning, when we embarked on the second phase of our sight-seeing. The weather was true to prediction and wet.

View from Kavikalgandi
Our first stop was Kavikalgandi (check post).  From here, there is a climb of 50 steps to reach a scenic viewpoint.  The climb was good, but not the scene, which was quite misty!
Honnamana Falls

We paused to take a few snaps from the road and then proceeded further.  We did not stop at Buttermilk Falls since it involved a trek and continued.  We stopped at Honnamana Falls on the roadside and braving the drizzle, walked around and took snaps.
Yours faithfully with his little one

We then proceeded to Bababudan Giri Datta Peeta.  The route was quite bad, since road work was happening on part of the stretch.  Like the previous afternoon, there was a time when we wondered if it was worth the trouble since it was already noon (and looked like 6 PM)!  But a U-turn was impossible on the road and we braved ahead till our destination.  The visibility was just 2-3 metres when we alighted in the drizzle.

A few of us went ahead and took the steps down to the caves.  I had been there a few years back as part of an office outing.  Then it had been evening, but the ambience was similar - dark and gloomy.  We came out and took some snaps and then returned our vehicle.

The drive back was accomplished with only one incident of the one-year vomitting and we were back in our hotel - for a late lunch.

The adventure was too much to stomach and we aborted any plans to do a similar session post-lunch. Instead, around 6 PM, we went to Mahatma Gandhi Park (Rathnagiri Bore) and were just in time for the toy train ride.  
Boarding the Toy Train

Yes, even adults could do the ride.  It was a short ride but fun, accomplished in near-total darkness.  We looked for the musical fountain, but possibly the bad weather meant, it was cancelled.

It was time to checkout and return, after we had had our breakfast the next morning.

The homestay was quite good, barring the access road, which gets quite bad when it rains (which it does most of the time).  Vehicles can get stuck and our van decided to park close to the main road for this reason.  There is also lack of facilities for drivers, especially in terms of bathing.  Perhaps the targeted audience for the place are self-driven vehicles.

Yagachi Dam

On the way back, we stopped at Yagachi Dam.
As it was continuing to drizzle, we skipped the "aqua sports" facilities.

Belur temple

Instead, we stopped at Belur - the historic temple site.  The rain was quite heavy when we alighted, but fortunately stopped soon. The temple is as magnificent as even (it was my 3rd tip you see), and no amount of photos can capture the beauty and the grandeur of the temple or the efforts of the artisans.

Anyway, an hour in the temple and we were back on our return. We stopped at a small hotel in Hassan for lunch and continued thereon.  It was immersion time in Bangalore and the traffic was quite heavy once we entered the city. But our driver was amazing and managed to get the vehicle through the narrowest of gaps.  We were home by 7 PM, after an exhausting but enjoyable trip.