When I reached Chikmagalur last evening, I realized the beauty of this town lay in its situation rather than in itself. There are hills and peaks all around Chikmagalur and visible from most parts of town. The town is a bustling one but composed of mostly the working class. There is not a single decent restaurant within walking distance of the bus station. I walked the entire stretch of Indira Gandhi Road, Mahatma Gandhi Road and few other roads nearby without finding a clean place to eat. What’s more, for most of my walks in town last night, there was no power.
I cannot say why there are so many shops here that sell footwear. It is understandable why they sell coffee in many shops. Chikmagalur is at the heart of a coffee growing region and shops sell different varieties and in different forms. While arriving into Chikmagalur one is bound to notice many timber yards. The region contains many timber estates as well. I noted one temple busy with a long line of devotees. I noted a couple of mosques. I walked for 2.5 hours through these streets. There was only one interesting heritage building on M.G. Road. It stands hemmed between busy and common shop fronts. If you are not looking you will easily miss it.
At 6314 feet Mullayyanagiri is of a decent height. It is about 15 km from Chikmagalur. I knew that there was public bus transport to this place but I wanted to know about hikes to the peak and back. I could find no tourist information center to get answers. I finally called at the police station on M.G. Road. I was summoned inside rather brusquely as if for questioning. As planned, I asked all the questions and the policeman gave me the answers. Apparently, there is a path named Sarpadaari just after Kanchanganga Estate. This path goes to the peak. Buses going to B.B. Hills will do a requested stop at this place.
Armed with these facts, I took a bus this morning. I had to wait awhile for the bus. The ride took more than 30 minutes. The path is easy. It is a mix of loose gravel and rock. Most of it is open to wide views. Within a couple of minutes of climbing, beautiful views of the entire landscape are obtained. Much of the hilly ground around this path have been burnt down. Whether it was a bush fire or intentional forest clearing, I cannot say.
The summit was windy. There is a temple up there which I did not bother visiting. I walked a bit to the other side of the summit. Views of long undulating ridges open up to the left and to the right. The landscape is largely composed of cultivated timber estates. These are not wild and ancient forests. Here there are very few banana or areca nut plantations. It is mostly timber. Lakes in the distance add to necessary break and balance of scenery. The sky was blue and cloudless. I found the hike refreshing. It was to sample first hand the rich beauty of the land.
I was informed by a local at the summit that buses back to Chikmagalur are infrequent. The next return bus would be at 12 noon or 1 pm, he wasn’t sure. There are no buses to the summit. They stop at an intersection a little before the start of Sarpadaari. I decided to return to the road by the same route. I enquired some road workers. One said the next bus may not be before 1.30 pm. I decided to start walking instead of waiting for an hour and a half.
Along the way, the local forest ranger stopped by and gave me a ride on his bike. Raj looks after Mullayyanagiri and the peaks surrounding it. He dropped me at the main road where I could get frequent buses plying between Chikmagalur and Tarikere. He introduced me to some of the trees grown in these estates. Teakwood, sandalwood and rosewood are common. Silver oaks grow straight and tall with thin leaves and a thin crown. These are used in plywood. He mentioned many other tree names in Kannada which I am unable to recall as I write these notes.
The ranger spoke of longer treks to Bada Budan Giri if one follows the ridge. These treks do not venture into forests. Such treks are termed as casual and no special permits are needed.
I stayed in Chikmagalur last night, arriving here from Sringeri by bus (96 km, Rs. 57). From Chikmagalur, there are infrequent buses going to Baba Budan Giri or B.B. Hills. The bus can drop you off at a place called Sarpadaari. There is a bus that leaves Chikmagalur at 8 am.
I stayed at Chikmagalur at Hotel Raj Mahal. It is on Indira Gandhi Road, about 10 minutes walk from the bus station. Single room costed only Rs. 210. Clean and comfortable. They have a practice that you need to enter your details in a register and again in a loose sheet. The latter goes to the police.
Not much that is clean. I stuck to eating fruits, biscuits and bread.