Kemmangundi- what a heavenly place, unknown and unexplored.
We chose monsoons to visit the place. A group of six- Kantharaj, Vinay,Anurag,Ramu,Anil and yours truly Sudhir- drove upto Kemmangundi (1434 m)in an Innova. Bangalore to Chikmanglur was a routine highway drive. Just before Chikmangular, we took a detour to Belur. It houses a fascinating ancient temple that dates back to 1117 AD built by a Hoysala king. After spending some time there we reached Chikmangular where we stopped for lunch. Lunch over, time to hit the hills. From thereon, we did not take the standard road via Tarakere. Instead, we took a narrow uphill road via Kaimara , a dangerous proposition in the monsoons.
We negotiated around 4 landslides and were scared also the tyres would get stuck in the mud. Most of the time we were engulfed by fast moving clouds. Only once were we rewarded with a scenic view when the cloud cover lifted for a couple of minutes. The landscape is anyway full of forests and waterfalls.
The distance from Chikmagular to Kemmangundi via kaimera is about kms. It took us about 2 hours to reach Kemmangundi. Negotiating the treacherous narrow road ( or should I call it a path) was an experience in itself.
About the place
Our booking was in a PWD bungalow. There are no hotels or resorts out there, which in fact is a blessing.
The bungalow was neat and the caretaker courteous. We were served with tea and biscuits. After getting refreshed, we went out exploring the surrounding or rather whatever you could see in the heavy cloud cover. Did I mention it was raining all the time, but that did not dampen our spirits. Dinner in the bungalow was simple, but piping hot. It was a mercy as by that time everyone was shivering. The fare was rice, sambhar, rasam, one vegetable and chicken.
Next day, early morning we went for a trek to Z-Point. At one point, a tree had fallen across the bridle path, but somehow we managed to go through it. And then it happened ! Ramu started dancing on that narrow path shouting “leech, leech”. Four leeches had stuck on to his ankle. One of us was carrying a dettol bottle and sprinkled some on the leeches which then fell off. Suddenly we realized that leeches were climbing our shoes and trying to get in. With some difficulty we managed to scrape off the leeches from our shoes. But that was enough for us to beat a hasty retreat. It was back to the bungalow. A leech experience to remember, indeed.
After refreshing, it was breakfast and then idling around the bungalow and lots of talks on leeches. Had an early lunch as we wanted to cover Mulayangiri hill on the way back. Mulayangiri is the tallest peak in Karnataka (1930 m). It was raining heavily and the road was narrow and steep. It is a 8 km drive uphill. The mist was heavy and there was a steep drop on one side. We prayed that we would not encounter any oncoming vehicle. We were lucky as at most places there was no way to turn back. Finally managed to reach the top. When we got down from the vehicle, the rain hit us in the face with full fury. The wind must have been blowing at more than 90mph. There is a temple at the top, but we were unable to climb the steps, such was the force of the wind and rain. We scrambled back into the Innova and drove down. The first tea stall we came upon in the plains, we stopped for hot tea. At Chikmagular, we stopped at Kanthraj’s sasural and had hot tea and tasty pakoras. The drive back to Namma Bengaluru was good inspite of the rain.
Getting there: Kemmanagundi is 260 km from Bangalore, 225 km from Mangalore (the closest airport), and 55 km from Chikmaglur. Trains halt at Tarakere, the nearest railhead. State Transport buses come to Kemmanagundi from Bangalore, but the most convenient way to get here is to drive. Take the State highway 48 via Kunigal, Hassan , Chikamagalur. The roads are ok.
The other route (the not-so-scenic) to kemmangundi is via Tarikere. Take the NH206 all the way thru Arsikere, Birur and Tarikere. After Tarikere, the ascent begins, but this is not a steep one as compared to the chikamagalur one. Roads are motorable here.
Best time: Kemmanagundi is pleasant throughout the year. However, I felt the monsoons is the best. You are always on cloud 9. However, if you wish to see the verdant landscapes, then November to February is the best.
Accommodation: You have a number of government guest houses and need prior booking from Bangalore. There is one canteen type of eatery, which is no good. You can carry your foodstuff and ask the caretaker of the bungalow to cook it for you. Alternatively, you can stay at neighbouring Chikmaglur and Shimoga, which have a range of budget and deluxe hotels.
Places to see: Kemmanagundi is more a place to lie/sit back and relax. There aren’t many places to visit/see here. If you are a avid hiker (or somewhere close to it), you can visit Z-point.
Z-point is about 8 kms from the guest house. You can take your vehicle upto Shanti Falls, which is 2 odd kms from the guest house. The rest of the journey to the Z-point has to be covered by foot. Make sure you have good shoes (Chappals are a strict no-no) as the path gets tougher and trickier as u ascend. Its also a good idea to do this trek early in the day when there is lot of light and remember, it gets dark in the hills sooner.:-)
Hebbe Falls is worth a visit. You cannot drive down in your vehicle, so you need to take the Jeep (available at the horticultural society’s guest house), for a charge (Rs. 400-500).
At the top of the KRHS is the Raj Bhavan, from where you can have a panaromic view. Its a nice picnic spot with nice lawns.
Apart from that, there is some semblance of a Rock Garden.