We planned and even started off the latest in the series of ‘Keeral’ trips with the destination set to Goa. We even booked a place to stay there for a change, but circumstances (to be specific ‘Traffic’ and professional unpunctuality) made us end up at Chikmagalur, a good 700 kilometres away! First of all, we were left hung out to dry by some idiot in Calicut who had promised to rent us an Innova. We were delayed by around 8 hours when finally we managed to get a replacement car (a Qualis!). The plan was that Kurian and Hazer drove to Bangalore, meet the rest of the gang here and leave in the evening. But we ended up leaving Bangalore at 11.30 PM instead. And to our luck all the roads were jam packed with lorries and buses owing to the Diwali rush. So we made a quick decision to change routes and head towards Chikmagalur without having much of an idea about what to expect there.
Bad luck didn’t seem to end with the traffic though. It was around 5am now and I had been driving for around 3hrs and thinking about handing over the wheel to Hazer. But then the roads became suddenly better and I thought maybe a little bit more. Well bad judgement! As we were cruising along the superb roads, suddenly a huge gutter appeared from nowhere and before anything could be done, the car was in it with a huge thud. I knew something was wrong then and there as the steering suddenly had a jerk. We had to stop and luckily the town of Hassan was just 4 km away. We decided to limp on till there and get help. But that would mean another 3 or 4 more hours lost because the earliest of the earliest workshop guy would open shop max at 9. So we decided to do a gamble and change the front tyres because we had a feeling that the problem was that the wheel-rim was bent. Bad luck didn’t end there either, we did not have a lifting jack in the car to prop it up and change tyres. A good lorry driver lent us one though and we managed to do it and bingo problem solved! :(
The road from Hassan to Chikmagalur was awesome and picturesque. We stopped over at the town, had our breakfast, still having no clue as to what to do next. We called up Kurians friend and he told us about a few worthwhile places around. So we set off to the first one in the list – ‘Kemmangundi’. The road was all kaput, but the spectacular vistas made up for it more than enough. It took us a lot of time to traverse the 50 km to the place, but I would say it was great to be forced to drive slow as we could soak in the brilliant atmosphere around. We booked a place to stay there and head off to a place called ‘Point Z’. The road was motorable only for a little bit and after that you have to trek. I went along for a while but seeing the steepness of the mountains to climb I chickened out and went back to the car while the others continued. It wasn’t much of a miss though, since the peak was covered with mist. The one hour I spent waiting in the car was a totally different experience! It was mystical, alone in the forest, no access to mobile networks, knowing the nearest human is at least 5km away. I tried to soak in the experience as much as I could before my tiredness got the better off me and pushed me to sleep.
The night was spent in a dilapidated cottage playing cards and gossiping. Two years on and we still had something about college to talk about! The food was not that great and damn expensive – but that didn’t stop us from spending close to a thousand bucks there! The other major incident was the fight against the leeches. Each time somebody removes one from his leg, the next guy would start yelling ‘Leech!’ It seemed to go on endlessly. After a lot of blood and a lot of salt we managed to win the battle (it seemed).
Next day morning the plan was laid to go off to Kudremukh. We stopped over again at Chikmagalur town to have lunch and continued on to the next leg of the trip. We ended up driving most of the day, but again the roads were good and the surroundings smashtacular! At Kudremukh we went to this place called as Gangamoola which is the place were the mighty Tungabhadra river starts. It was again a nice place, but with more leeches. This time we were more careful and didn’t let too many of the slimy little things to prey on us. The only place to stay in Kudremukh is a forest department dormitory unless you are an employee of the iron ore company there. It was a very cheap option and also had the added thrill of staying right in the middle of the forest, though nothing noteworthy really happened there.
Next day was an early start since the guys had to reach back in Calicut by atleast 8PM before dropping us in Mysore. The roads again were beautiful by all means. We were able to do 200 km easily in 2-2.5 hours. By lunch time we had reached Mysore, had food at a mallu hotel there and it was time for us to split. Being totally unplanned we weren’t able to enjoy all the places to the fullest. We calculated that out of the 84 hours of the trip, around 50 was spent driving! But I’m not complaining at all! :) All the places we went to had a lot more to offer and I’m sure we’ll be back, well prepared next time!
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