(All clicks in this post are personal, unless stated otherwise.)
A peek into the soul of nature is the most enchanting experience there is. A moment is all one needs. A moment is all that matters.
We took one such trip, on a cool October weekend, to Chikmagalur, into the hearts of coffee estates and misty mountains and dewy forests, a little close to the green and the azure and a little away from the ash and the copper.
We started off in a cab a little after midnight, from Bangalore. A slight nip in the air greeted us at the start of the journey itself. As our cab sped away into the night, the chill was positively palpable. Jackets were out. The sky turned a beautiful saffron as we approached the little town in the early hours of the morning, and the smell of brewing coffee floated in the air. We reached the town and began enquiring about places where we could stay.
A most delightful journey through the long winding roads, amidst the glittering green forests flanking both sides, speaking of the present and the forgotten, led us to our homestay. After driving through difficult loops, we reached a quaint little house. With a traditional slanting roof, a little garden, and two frolicking dogs, it was an abode of dreams. The backdrop was composed of dense forests and a tilt of the head gave rise to a looming mountain, covered with a snowy, wispy fog. A serene silence enveloped the entire place as if nature had granted it a transparent bubble, fragile and grand at the same time.
We rested and refreshed ourselves. Thereby, we ventured out into the town again looking for something to fill our empty bellies. Per a pamphlet, the Butter Masala Dosa from the Town’s Kitchen was one of the specialties. We tried that out. Thereafter, we set out on a course for a waterfall which we had heard of. As the car rolled amidst the old coffee plantations and ancient forests, one could feel a surreal sense of pleasure, of a deep-seated freshness calling out.
You know when they say the journey matters as much as the destination? Well, this trip was about the journey. Life has entangled us in its tempting enormity, only to make us realize it wasn’t that but magnificence we crave.
Eventually, we reached the Bhadra Tiger Reserve gates, with no sign of a waterfall. We were guided to a river, though. A little walk and there it was. An elegant stream of swirling waters. The rocks guided it gently, towing the water into a ripple. We waded into the water. It was blissfully cold and a splash of the manna served an unknown, magical purpose. The stones jutted out here and there, and the bed was sandy and loose. Trees covered both banks, and the river seemed to stretch on endlessly.
As we were about to leave it all behind, the sun peeped out of the undergrowth, a fiery yellow, and the evening transformed. We never found the waterfall, but that objective took us through another extensive estate, another mass of timeless beauty. None of us regretted the absence of the waterfall at the end of the day.
The night was suffused with the sounds of the forest when we were back at the homestay. A single light shone like a beacon at the tip of the mountain. The stars held the sky in a dazzling embrace, showering us with sparkling diamonds. I held my book and read. I slept peacefully that night, all cold and warm.
We had decided to scale the Mullayanagiri peak that day. It stands tall at 6332 ft., the highest peak in Karnataka. Another journey amidst the rising mountains. As the car gained altitude, several peaks focused into view. A humongous layer of rich, dense fog covered the mountainsides. We decided to trek a part of the distance. The winds blew with a considerable force. As we climbed, we could see the peak. The clouds, thin and light, traveled with great velocities towards the peak, covering it in its envelope once, and leaving it be the next moment. It was a dynamic flow of nature.
“Everything has a rhythm, everything dances,” as someone once said.
The peak. The clouds which mesmerized us from a distance passed through us now, leaving a shiver in my spine in its wake. This place had a strange sense of a story about it, of memories no one has etched about in stone, but sprinkled forth into the air. A stone structure surrounded a temple built on the top. This wall added to the crude elegance of the place. One could look down at thousands of years of history, and at the reminders of the modern marks we had managed to tarnish it with. The contrast was profound. The mountains and valleys and lakes stood majestically in the distance.
A quiet cave hid under the structure. The scent of moisture and earth tingled the senses. Water caressed the walls, forming a narrow stream. The shadows of civilization lurked about.
It was hard to bring our hearts to leave the place. All good things are transient, we knew.
Our next destination was again in pursuit of a waterfall. Waterfalls, or rather, non-existing ones, had been our lucky charms then. We reached the spot through the same forests and mountains that graced the region and our minds and hearts. As it turned out, there was a steep climb to reach the waterfall. We had almost decided to rent a jeep when that silly mind-trick called second thoughts deprived us of it. It was almost a natural conspiracy. After much thinking, we set about on a course for the place, trekking. The first few minutes were steep, as we took the shorter way instead of the road.
Didn’t I say that this trip was about the journey? That trek brought to light the most beautiful sights of Chikmagalur. The slopes were covered with plants, swaying gently in the wind, reminding me of Wordsworth’s dandelions, mustard-like in form, all gay and soft. A little into the walk, the landscape was covered with gentle hills, all consistently green, a satisfying sight. The beauty lay in the sobriety of it.
Then came another gem. The mountains were layered with different shades of blue, the colors mingling with each other and with the cottony smoke, which formed another stratum. It was an amalgam of the sea, turquoise, navy and wonderment. The layers kissed each other, parting another layer to awe upon. We went through bushy regions and finally reached the top.
The view was as great here, if not better. A single rock jutted out of the mountain, its surface seeming like a death mask. The plains lay beneath us, green and white and watery and lost. The waterfall turned out to be a disappointing little stream of water flowing down a rock. We absorbed the view and made our way back.
On the way, back down, we found an old, abandoned, broken structure. It was made of heavy stones. Lovesick couples had etched their undying affection on this tangible surface of time. I love such places, personally. They make you think of a story and history, of what it could have been and what it has become, of people, lives, and romance, a window into the past.
It was time to go back.
We started driving back towards Bangalore. We stopped on the road for a break. I stepped out. I could feel the cold, ethereal moisture on my skin, not enough to wet me, just enough to settle on the tip of my skin, tender. There was a dense undergrowth on both sides and the leaves were glazed with the humidity. A solitary bird drifted aimlessly, singing its rueful song. I walked on until it was time to go back. A sense of loss surrounded me. But it was time.