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.

No-brainer destinations: Nandi Hills

Nandi Hills at 6:45 a.m, surrendering to the invasive power of the mist and clouds.

As a young adult, one sees Nandi Hills as a place not just covered in mist, but also in a fog of secret meetings and clandestine one-on-ones with the opposite sex. You’ll find young couples dotting the low walls, reclining against random trees, holding hands and walking around and sometimes even sitting close together on benches that offer a million-dollar view of a valley surrounded by hills.

A private, and romantic?, moment.

As one grows older, things change somewhat. Nandi Hills becomes the default destination for when you want to go out of town but not really. It’s a quasi feeling of leaving Bangalore and going someplace else. It is to us locals what the Louvre is for Parisians. Government officials take advantage of weekends to park themselves in the guest houses on the peak; families pack endless baskets with food for themselves and the monkeys and spend the day picnicking; and newly married couples come to spend time away from the prying eyes and perky ears of in-laws and family members.

The Huddlers and The Tease. I can’t believe the monkey in the corner’s sticking its tongue out at someone!

I’ve been to Nandi Hills twice in my adult years. Once to watch the sunrise, which of course we missed because we started late and it was a foggy day on the hills. The second time, to celebrate a friend’s birthday at midnight, standing at the doorstep of the mid-20s to welcome her. I saw a different side to the place on both occasions – bright, quiet and scenic by day, and hiding dark, brooding shadows in its cloak by night.

The night we drove down to Nandi Hills for a friend’s birthday, it poured cats and dogs. Worried about the zero visibility, we had to take shelter under the roof of twin shops in the middle of nowhere. The only light came from the headlights of the car – everything else was steeped in darkness. There was a lot of lightning as well. This picture was taken when i was trying to shoot the car’s headlamp against the darkness around it and lightning struck just then. This is how much it lit up the entire surroundings. Freaky!

Regardless, the drive to the destination is scenic and peaceful. On the way, you may want to stop on the roadside to inspect the crop of grapes and taste the juice of the just-ripening green fruit, take a little detour and explore fields of string beans and cabbage, or even stop by for a photo shoot amongst rows and rows of roses in shades of the setting sun.

Vine-ding roads towards Nandi Hills.

To prolong the feeling of a lazy day ‘out of town’, you could do a brunch at Royal Orchid, Yelahanka. Stretch, yawn, put your feet up, order something cold to drink and something warm to eat, and enjoy the music (if you’re lucky, it won’t be the kind that plays in elevators).

Sunset by the roses.

Do not make the mistake of heading back to the city during peak hour. It’s absolute chaos. Whatever peace you will have assimilated through the day, you’ll lose while waiting for the traffic to inch ahead. But that’s okay, because that means you can always head back to Nandi Hills and maybe catch a moon beam or two.

You’ll find lots of lone cyclists like this one on the way up to Nandi Hills.

Go if: You need a day away from the city, want to see nothing but greenery around you, enjoy feeling like dating teens or a newly married couple and want to take stunning pictures of the vista.

Getting there: Nandi Hills is a two-hour drive from Bangalore. Hire a cab, drive down or take a local bus up to Chikkaballapur and a cab from there.