Getting away from Mangalore after the series of turmoil-ridden events that the city faced was imperative. Every trotter worth his salt wants to get away from the city and shed the dubious “reputation” that Mangaloreans acquired during the attacks on the Pub, the MLA’s daughter and the suicide of a high school girl followed by the criminal case against the Union minister Renuka Choudhury for allegedly calling Mangaloreans “Talibans”. Being fed up with the same coastal terrain, I packed my family into my small car and headed towards more pleasant climes. A perfect getaway from Mangalore’s dust and din created by these fringe groups.
It was piercingly cold at 750m above Mean Sea Level (MSL), and for a coastal animal like me it was a weather defying experience. It was neither Ooty nor any North Indian hill station I am referring to but a place just 120km away from the scorching summer heat of the coast.
I made plans to reach the highest peak — known as Mullayyana Giri which perches at a height of 758m above MSL. It was also the time for the ‘home stays’ in the nearby coffee estates opened after the receding south westerly monsoons. One of my friends owns a British-built bungalow, built in 20th century using French designs, handed over to his family by a British landlord. The ‘home stay’ came as a bonus.
The five-hour drive took us to the foothills of the Bababudangiri and Mullayyana Giri which is the heart of the coffee country of Karnataka in Chikmagalur district. Mullayyana Giri is the highest peak in this beautiful range of peaks. At that height only few high flying varieties of birds and some mountain goats are found and not many people go there except for hard-core trekkers.
Being a seasoned driver I found the drive moderately good but those who think of going to the peak should take care as the 3km stretch is nothing but loose soil filled with rounded iron-ore pellets making the four wheels turn aimlessly on a road which is not more than 10 feet wide and has 100-ft deep ravines on both sides. The low-lying clouds that cover the road make driving difficult due to reduced visibility and one can’t go at a speed above 10kmph. I nervously looked in the rear view mirror and saw my little daughter cocooned in a thick blanket, terror written all over her face.
But at the top it was a different view. The drive on the ‘treacherously pelletised path’ was worth it after all. It was exactly as my trekker friends had told me. Since the Mullayyana Giri rises right above the Chikmagalur city, standing at the peak it felt like as if we were floating over the city.
“No heavy-weight four-wheelers could reach that place, one has to either walk the distance or drive in a small but powerful car,” cautions the local priest of the Sithalayyana Giri temple. Only a handful of people come there every year despite it being one of the most scenic spots in the country.
The 120km drive through Charmady Ghats which is cited as one of the 18 hot spots for protection of biodiversity in the world, also has a bounty of water bodies throughout treacherous Ghat section.
Ask for a cup of coffee anywhere on the way and you get a beverage that could barely pass for coffee; so much for the coffee country! But the locals insist that the brew is the real McCoy and what the city slickers drink is adulterated chicory coffee which gives an artificial flavour and colour.
The local cuisine according to Sadashiva Rao (owner of the Honey Vale estate) usually consists of wild fowl, wild boars, quails and country chicken, the lake nearby also supplies large and meaty Catla and Rohu fish which is used as a cocktail snack rather than for the main course. It being cold, people consume more liquor than coffee and eat a good meal which keeps them warm and sober, he chuckles. No sign of a Sene here, then.
M Raghuram/ DNA-Daily News & Analysis Source: 3D Syndication