Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Trip to Kemmanagundi

It was in July 2010 when we planned for a short trip to Kemmanagundi, a small hill station in Karnataka. Kemmanagundi is about 275 kms from Bangalore and if one wants to see the lush greenery of the Malnad region, visiting during monsoons is the best time.

We started from Bangalore at 8:00 PM towards Kemmanagundi. I was driving my Ford Ikon with wifey as companion. We took NICE road from Bannerghatta road and continued till Tumkur. Must say the NICE road has made life lot easier for travellers going out of Bangalore. The drive till Tumkur was a breeze and I touched 130 kph occassionally.

After reaching Neelamangla, we took the Bangalore-Mangalore highway all the way to Hassan. The road was extremely good and it was a pleasure driving in this stretch. Our first break was at Cafe-Coffee day at Hassan. After having nice and hot capucchino coffee and chicken tikka sandwiches, we resumed our journey towards Belur. I could feel the chill in the air, which was ample proof that we are near the hilly terrain of Malnad region. Could see the mountains loom like giants far away, and looked mystic in the darkness of night.

We reached Chickmagalur at 4:00 AM and started looking for a hotel. Much to our chagrin, none was found and we decided to wait tilll morning to start for Kemmanagundi. I had to fill the tank of my car as well, so we just sat in the car and dozed off a bit.

At 6:00 AM, the petrol bunk opened and I filled in adequate petrol for the journey. Then at 6:30 AM started for the hill climb to Kemmanagundi. The directions were very well marked, and there is no possibility of one losing his way out here. The road was too good and I was feeling very happy driving there. The weather too was clear and gave me some ample chances for photography.

I took a couple of shots, and resumed our journey towards the Manikyadhara falls. The Manikyadhara falls were nothing to exalted for, because all I could see was small drops of water trickling down. Did not spend much time there, and enquired about the way to Kemmanagundi. The local people suggested the normal route to Kemmanagundi is through Lingadahalli which one takes from Chickmagalur and had good roads. But I could take a road to Kemmanagundi about 7 Kms down from there, and it would be 25 kms to Kemmanagundi. Little did I know what awaited us and our car 7 kms from there :)

We came back 7 kms and there was a right-turn at the junction, which pointed towards Kemmanagundi. For the initial stretch the roads were good and I was driving steadily and enjoying the views around. The lush green hills all around made me feel I was somewhere in Scotland :)

Then started the rains! And what heavry rains it was. Those who have not visited the Malnad regions during the monsoons will not understand the fury of the rains in these parts. And then the roads narrowed down to just 6-7 feet of loose gravel and mud and a steep drop of few thousand feet on the left side. No divider or fender at the side, but just a steep and straight drop. And the fog and rain ensured my visibility was restricted to just a few feet ahead of me. Anyway, with a stern face (was feeling little worried) I continued driving and came to a place where the gravel ended and started a boulder strewn path, partially washed away by the rains. My car already had taken few hits in the underbody and I was sure it would not make it in this road (if we can call it one). And the road was so narrow, I could not reverse my car either. Without much ado, started forward and slowly reached Jagara Pass. On the left I could see the Jagara valley and the Bhadra tiger reserve somwehere down there. Also here is lake Galikere lake somewhere, but in that situation forgot searching for the lake and concentrated on the driving part :) The scenery was amazing here, and the rains stopped and the fog cleared up somwehat here. I was going to take some photos here, when wifey reminded the roads were too narrow here, and if we face any oncoming vehicle, we will be in trouble. So continued on my way till Kemmanagundi. It took me around 3 hours to complete the 25 km stretch. Those looking for extreme off-roading and adventurous drives can try this road.

There is a Govt. guesthouse in Kemmanagundi, and luckliy we got a room for about 400 bucks. Damn cheap I must say. And hot water in the bathroom, clean bed sheets and what more would one need :) Had a hot water bath and after a delicious lunch of Veg thalis, started on our way to Hebbe falls.

Hebbe falls is one of the most exciting treks in Kemmanagundi, where one has to trek the hills for 8 kms to reach the falls. Alternatively, one can rent the jeeps available and go there. Nobody should take their own vehicles to Hebbe falls since there is no road, just a 5 feet wide boulder-laden patch with mud and gravel strewn across and steep drops to one side. It is really lifetime experience riding the jeep to Hebbe falls because you feel anytime the jeep may topple and you may be history :))

Me and wifey reached the junction point from where one needs to walk towards the Hebbe falls. We had to cross 3 small streams to reach the falls. And once we reached the main falls, we were mesmerized to see the majestic falls falling straight from about 80 feet. I will let the pictures talk of Hebbe falls :

Having spent sometime watching the mesmerizing Hebbe falls, we started back to the place where our jeep was waiting. After another heart-to-mouth ride, came back safely to our guesthouse. For travellers to Kemmanagundi, the jeep charge around 600 rupees for a to-and-fro journey to Hebbe falls.

It was about evening, and having given up all hopes of shooting the sunset (sunset from RajBhavan is famous for its beauty) since the weather was cloudy, thought of having a hot water bath again and have some beer. Went to the restaurant and inquired about availability of beer and was confirmed about the availability but for some extra price. One 330 ML can of KF strong costed around 75 bucks...well did not care about it and got myself 8 cans, and after ordering chicken masala and rotis for the dinner, came back to our room.

Chatting with my wife sitting in the veranda and sipping on the KF cans, while looking outside and watching the dark hills looking like huge monsters in the night, it gelt like heaven and frankly speaking at that moment, I did not want to get back to the heckles of city life in Bangalore. After finishing the beers, went to sleep peacefully and soon was asleep due to the fact had not had a wink of sleep for more than 24 hours now.

Woke up early morning and wanted to go to Z-point to catch the sunrise (another attraction in Kemmanagundi). Went outside and saw to my utter dismay it was raining cats and dogs outside. SO giving up all hopes for treak to Z-point and shooting the beautiful sunrise, went back to bed and was asleep again.

Got up by 10 AM and it was time leave for Bangalore. Settled the bills and with a heavy heart started towards Lingadahalli. Since it was raining cats and dogs, me and wifey discussed among ourselves and came to the conclusion since it was raining so heavily, the mud must have been washed away and driving in that treacherous road would be like suicide. So we continued towards Lingadahalli. This road was like a highway when compared to the one through Jagara Pass and soon we reached Lingadahalli. Now the way would be through Arsikere->Birur->Kadur->Tiptur->Tumkur->Bangalore. The roads were good all the way till NICE road junction in Neelamangala and we reached home at Bannerghatta Road by 6:00 PM.

Some shots from the trip :

Clouds amidst the Baba-Budangiri range

The beautiful valley

Clouds and mist

The rolling hills

Fog and mist

The majestic Hebbe falls

One of the major attractions in Kemmanagundi

Hebbe Falls



View from the PWD bungalow

Fog and mist

The Baba Budangiri Range

Dark monsoon clouds







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