Why you must trek in Kemmanagundi (even if you’re not the trekking types).

Our first view of Kemmanagundi.
Our first view of Kemmanagundi.

Remember my posts on Bhutan, in which I lamented my decision to trek to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery? Despite my earnest desire to go trekking more often since, my loathing for any activity that combines walking with breathlessness and increased heart rate overcame the enthusiasm.

View from near the Rose Garden.
View from near the Rose Garden.

And like all other times when life has made me eat my own words – especially when they involve ‘hate’, ‘don’t’ or ‘exercise’ – this time too, I had to down my loathing with a generous helping of humble sauce. Kemmanagundi is to be blamed for it. This popular-with-government-officials hill station of sorts in Chikkamangalur district cast its spell on a non-trekker like me as well. And my, what a spell it was – lush green hills as far as the eye can see, grassy pathways formed naturally over the hills, flowers in brilliant reds, pinks and blues, and a freshwater spring or two.

The trek to Z point, from where one can see the sun setting into the Arabian Sea.
The trek to Z point, from where one can see the sun setting into the Arabian Sea.

The trek isn’t for very long – at least, not if you take your vehicle up to the most accessible point. One can finish it in a couple of hours both ways. I ventured halfway out, and then decided against going any further because the path involved scaling down slippery patches of mountain and I had a big camera bag with me. (Let this be a lesson to everyone.) I am told, though, that the sun setting over the Arabian Sea makes for a magnificent sight.

Catching the sunset from regular terrain while the rest of them watch it disappear from Z point.
Catching the sunset from regular terrain while the rest of them watch it disappear from Z point.

The trek’s not the only attraction at Kemmanagundi – there are view points, water bodies, temples and more around the place. The most pleasurable bit, though, is the greenery and serenity that comes with it – winding mountain roads with an overarching canopy of giant trees swaying in the wind.

Blooms soaking up the mountain sun.
Blooms soaking up the mountain sun.
The local farmer's market in the compound of the jungle lodge we stayed at.
The local farmer’s market in the compound of the jungle lodge we stayed at.

And that sums up everything I have to say about the place – there wasn’t enough time to explore it more extensively, considering it was weekend trip with more time spent biking than exploring. I do say this, though – if a quiet getaway to connect with nature is your thing, Kemmanagundi is definitely a destination to consider.

The trees form natural filters, letting only wisps of sunlight through their canopy.
The trees form natural filters, letting only wisps of sunlight through their canopy.

Getting there: Drive down or bike it – it takes about 6 hours, with stops. The road closer to Kemmanagundi is quite bad, so that takes a chunk of time to get through. There are also overnight buses available. The nearest train station is Chikkamangalur and there are several trains that run every day.

Go if: You enjoy trekking, need some quiet time and want to feel one with nature.

P.S: There are plenty more pictures on my Instagram feed. Check them out to get a bigger picture of what the place is like.

A noisy ride to the quiet seaside.

Kudle Beach, Gokarna.

Some call Gokarna the poor man’s Goa. Not true. It’s more like the peace-loving, crowd-hating man’s (or woman’s, for reasons of political correctness) Goa. What the temple town lacks in the bustling beaches and rowdy partying associated with Goa, it makes up for with the peace and serenity of a day by its clean, sandy beaches and clear blue waters.

I had been hearing about Gokarna for years and had made several plans to go there, but i could never really see them through for some reason or the other. By the end of the repeated disappointments, i was like Pavlov’s dog – when somebody even so much as mentioned the ‘G’ in Gokarna, my heart reacted with palpitations and my brain with an irrational fear that i would never make it to the place. It just gave me a bad feeling, like it wasn’t meant to be. You see, for a person like me who plans for holidays and never, NEVER cancels them (it’s been a slightly different story since), to plan for a place at least four times and not have it materialise is sheer trauma.

The jinx broke in 2010, when us work friends decided to holiday there over a long weekend.

We took a bus from Bangalore, almost missing it and near-tainting my spotless record of having never missed a train, bus or plane ever. The town is sandwiched between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea and the only way to get there is through the ghats – not a pleasant journey for those who feel the need to empty their stomach with every lurch around bends and every climbing, winding road – unless you want to take the train to Karwar and hire a taxi to Gokarna. It was quite scary, the way the bus swung from side to side; and if you have a driver who sometimes veers off the path in the ghat section like ours did, your heart will be in your mouth by the time you reach the town, with an uneasy feeling that the rest of your organs are not where they should be either.

Opening out to the sea, Hotel Gokarna International.
Opening out to the sea, Hotel Gokarna International.

Having survived Driver Uncle’s Milan circuit ride, we headed to Gokarna International – a hotel by Kudle beach. The location was perfect: step out of the reception and you’re on the beach with fine sand to caress your feet and clear blue waters beyond for a swim. Om beach is the more popular destination with most tourists, so we had Kudle almost all to ourselves.

Paradise Island, a boat ride away from Kudle.

We vegetated, mostly. When we could muster enough will to venture out, we went to Paradise Island and spent an evening there, but otherwise the trip was all about unwinding and letting the sea take over our senses and wash away our city life-exhaustion.

Peace out.

Go if: you have two-three days to spare (more if you really want to soak in the place), want a people-free holiday and no pedlars/hawkers to come and disturb you. Avoid the crowds and head to Kudle. It’s delightfully peaceful.