Monday 22 November 2010

Kemmangundi - The picturesque hill station

Kemmangundi in the state of Karnataka, India, at a height of 1434m above sea level, is known for its valleys that plunge into deep lush bowls of tropical forest sprinkled by rains and waterfalls. This sprawling hill station was the summer house of King Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and within Tarikere Taluk of Chikmaglur District. It is ideal place for trekkers, is about 250 km by road from Bangalore with impressive waterfalls, misty mountain peaks, natural streams, thick-pile carpeting of vegetation and a few insects -thirsty leeches and chirping crickets. Major attraction is Hebbe Falls: the descending narrow route of 8km will take us for views back up to the falls and cliffs, where water gushes down from a height of 168 meters in two stages to form Dodda Hebbe (Big Falls) and Chikka Hebbe (Small Falls).


Starting on a friday evening is ideal for Kemmangundi-Mulayangiri trip. We took NICE road from Bangalore city to reach Neelamangala and reached Chikmanagalur in 4 hours as there was no heavy traffic. Staying at Chikmangalur that night was more viable since driving to Kemmanagundi after dark hours is not advisable. there are a few lodges. Next day morning, drove towards Kemmangundi via Lingadahalli (45km) instead of taking the Mulayanagiri route. Locals will guide you to Mulayanagiri route, so ask for Lingadahalli on the way. Take a left turn just after an IBP petrol bunk on this road- last option to fill fuel tank.

Accommodation options are either at
Horticulture Guest house (if you are lucky to get a booking) or the bigger Raj Bhavan. You need to call at LalBagh, Bangalore (Tel: 
(080) 265719252657018126570824) to book your rooms. There are also limited home stay options. At the guest house, the once-pleasant rooms have some scuffing and bathrooms are stained. Bring your own bed linen or sleeping bag. Though tatty, these rooms are cheap and cost Rs 200 for a double room.There is a restaurant and it serves veg and non-veg food options but with a limited menu. The kitchen cooks up whatever it happens to have in stock. if you need more creature comforts there are a few home stays in and around Kemmangundi. We settled at Ozone Valley, a nice homestay which is on the way from Lingadahalli. This family-run homestay will stay and food at 1000/- per head. Negotiable during off-peak season, provides comfy sleeping options with clean attached bathrooms.

After rejuvenating at the water falls you can take a jeep back if you ran out of fuel, otherwise you can trek back. Jeep drivers charge you 400/- one way and it is a 4WD jeep track and the jeep will be tested its climbing skills at various point en-route. You may hit your bones against the metal inside the jeep. The walkaholics among us walked back and the exhausted took a jeep back. We had lunch at the guest house restaurant and they were ready to keep their 'CLOSED' board after 6 of us hogged most of the food available there. After resting for a while, we warmed up through the waving trees and mud roads to pit ourselves against Z-point. This is a must-visit place at Kemmanagundi - 2km from the Horticulture restaurant. Walking 30min through the winding route along the lip of the vast green mountain is the only way to reach here.

Raj Bhawan: RajBhawan is a better horticulture guest house - the best accommodation you can get at Kemmanagundi. This ideal honeymoon destination, offers a spectacular view of the surrounding hills. Sunset seen from this location is memorable. The Horticultural Department of the Kemmangundi maintains a beautiful rose garden here in Kemmangundi with a wide range of rose blooming in this garden. Raj Bhavan is at a further 15min drive from the guest house and the rooms are good value and nicer than the gloomy corridors and lobby suggest and this hard-to-beat option has helpful staff, zealous room service and superb food.

Mulayanagiri:Next day morning we started start to Mulayanagiri - this is a scenic drive but a tad dangerous due to the potholed roads . Bad tarmac and winding road- but the the view on your side is breathtaking. We took two hours to reach Mulayanagiri since we stopped often to enjoy the nature.The Mulayanagiri peak with a height of 1,930 metres (6,330 ft), it is the highest peak in Karnataka. Climbing endless steps was a test on our knees but the scenery is magnificent. After scaling this peak, it was time for lunch and we headed towards Chikmangalur town. Kemmangundi is amazing for its cool temperature and this was particularly realized when we reached sweaty Chikmangalur at 2pm.

What to carry: Some winter wear and trekking gear. A torch and umbrella will be handy and a pair of change clothes as the waterfalls are tempting.
Precautions: Salt, tobacco, Odomos etc for preventing leeches. Turmeric powder to stop bleeding and itching once you are bitten by a leech.

When to go: Any time when you feel you are stressed and need some cool and fresh air. Oct to Feb will be relatively colder. The maximum and minimum temperature range varies from 18 to 28°C

How to reach: There are two routes from Bangalore: Bangalore –Nelamangala – Kunigal- Hassan –Belur –Chikmagalur –Lingadahalli –Kemmangundi (Reccommended) Bangalore –Neelamangala- Tumkur-Karur-Kemmangundi. Either way it takes almost the same time. Hassan route - roads are good in surface and traffic is more whereas Karur-Tumkur road surface is bad but traffic is less.
By Bus: You will get KSRTC bus from Bangalore to Hassan and Chikmangalur, from there you have to take another bus to Kemmangundi. Owned/rented vehicle is more convenient as the public transport is not very frequent from Chikmangalur.