“The beauty of nature is holy,
Like Shiva’s shrine;
Come to these lovely hills,
Which fill you with spring’s sunshine”
This is what Rastriya Kavi (National Poet) Kuvempu sang when he first visited Kemmanagundi. Kemmanagundi (or Kemmanagundi) derives its name from three Kannada words - Kempu (red), mannu (soil) and gundi (pit) and means a place with red soil. Kemmanagundi once belonged to Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore, who built a summer palace here. He later donated it to the Government of Karnataka. Legend has it that Kemmanagundi was called “Chandra Drona Parvatha” in the Puranas.
Location: Near Chikmagalur, Karnataka
Distance covered from Bangalore (Two day round trip): 583 km
It was a beautiful Friday, the day before we started our ride for Kemmanagundi. We were super excited about this ride… specially me who was going for the first 500+ km ride after I earned Nandi. After our office on Friday, we that include Suraj, Sagar (Dubey Brothers) and I packed our luggage. By the time we were done packing, it was 1.00 am. As we were planning to start our ride at 4 – 4.30 am, we hardly had any time to sleep. Sam joined us at 3.30 am. Around 4.20 am, we left my place. It was still dark and chilly. All of us were super excited about the ride so who cares about damn weather. We planned to ride following route to reach our destination.
Not taking proper rest was taking a toll on our ride, Sam was damn sleepy. Not a good sign. We had to keep her awake till sunrise. After couple of stops and tea breaks, we somehow managed it. Riding on open highway (Bangalore-Tumkur Highway) with a picturesque sunrise was just an amazing experience. Just before Tumkur, we had to take right for Gubbi. This is where you say bye to six lane highway. It was all dark and colourless before sunrise which turned into a colourful canvas post sunrise. We were riding on two lane highway now.
It was around 7 when we reached Gubbi. The town was very quiet and not many people were out on road; a lazy Saturday morning. We had Tatte Idly for breakfast in Gubbi (I think having Tatte idly for breakfast during every ride has become a kind of ritual).
One thing which you will notice very significantly while riding towards Kemmanagundi is the ever changing colour of soil. I personally have seen Red, Black, Yellow and orange coloured soil before as well but this entire colour rainbow while covering such short distance was mesmerising. This moment, you see everything (even poles and trees were no exception) around you in fresh bright red shade, couple of ten kms and it turns into pale yellow. However, it doesn’t stop there and keep changing after every few kms.
After cruising on NH 73 & NH 69 and passing places like Tiptur, Arsikere, Banavara and Kadur, at around 12 pm, we reached Birur. From this town onwards, a new journey begins on country side roads. Our destination was still 30+ kms away from us. We were heading towards Lingadahalli, which is about 15 kms from Birur. Once you reach here, you can see Kemmanagundi on horizon.
It is hot and humid here but temperature starts dropping once you start moving towards Kemmanagundi. We crossed Kalatipura. After this village, upward journey starts. For first half, road is nothing but awesome. However, last 10 km will give you an experience of off-roading (Got the hint???). No road, just a red trail (Yup, road does look like a trail) surrounded by breath taking lush green beauty. Though we were enjoying it to the fullest, we were trying to get on top ASAP… Really hungry.
You can aaram se call Kemmanagundi ‘Gate of Western Ghats’ as it is the beginning of Western Ghats. Vegetarian canteen (which incidentally also serves non-veg) is the only place you find food in Kemmanagundi. After consuming food full of stomach, tiredness started coming to us. It was time to find Rain Basera (Place for stay). The only Govt. guesthouse in Kemmanagundi was full and we had to look for alternative which can squeeze in our budget. There are many home-stays available around Kemmanagundi (but expensive) and the only option we were left with was down the hill, Kalatipura.
Canteen watchman helped us by sharing one of the guy’s number who runs home-stay in Kalatipura. His name was Jude and he told us that he has a dorm which can easily accommodate four of us. Next thing we were doing was riding towards our night stay, about 10 kms away, in Kalatipura village.
Attached bathroom, hot running water, fresh bed sheets and amazing landscape was more than what one can bargain for 300 per head / day. Its 3 pm now. Stomachs full of food and tiredness from ride soon took over and we fell asleep.
Our original plan was to get up by 6 pm so we can go up the hill and enjoy the sunset. However, it was 7.30 pm when we got up (More tired than expected). Considering the delay we decided to not go all the way up. Instead, we went to another falls, apparently 5 km up the mountain, called Kalatigiri Falls. It is also a religious place and witnesses a small temple that is sandwiched between the waterfalls and rocks. Being a quintessential Indian temple, it retain idols and stone sculptures of the predominant God and Goddesses that turns this place into a pilgrimage destination as well.
It was pitch dark and we could hear only two sounds which includes running water and Crickets. While enjoying music, being created by wind blow, mixing with Crickets’ chirping, we realised that we were hungry again. Soon, we were back in home stay.
Jude, Homestay owner suggested Giri Gandrva Dhaba, which is about couple of kms towards Ligadahalli. There was power cut in the village and so it was pitch dark. Sagar & I left to buy some food. This dhaba, we got our food from, is right in the middle of nowhere. But, once you find it and taste its food, you will never forget it. We had awesome Panjabi food that night with some brandy and little wine. Don’t know what time I slept off.
Next day morning, we were again late by almost 3 hours (Woke up at 7.30am). We were still feeling little tired but after taking hot water bath, tiredness magically disappeared. We left Homestay at 8.30 am, had breakfast and started moving up the mountain, towards Kemmanagundi. We were half way through when we saw this small water fall. It’s fresh & crystal clear water was surrounded by lush green vegetation, right beside the red trail (remember the road description??). We decided to give it a stop for some time.
Next, we were sitting on wet stones surrounded by fresh water. It was soooooo refreshing. After spending almost 30-45 min here, we decided to resume our journey. That’s when the disaster happened.
My bike is not starting. Suraj, Sagar & I, we all tried fixing it but no use. We decided to roll it down the hill so that we can reach Kalatipura and find mechanic. Luckily, we found one, but he had no clue about how to fix a Thunderbird. It was not before he wasted almost an hour and half trying to fix Nandi. He suggested taking it to Lingadahalli, 7 km from here where we will find bigger garage. We bought rope which villager use to tie Buffalo, tied my Nandi with Sagar’s bike and started our journey towards Lingadahalli. Riding on a bike tied up with another bike was a difficult in the beginning and a different experience but it worked.
In Lingadahalli, we found this Garage on T Junction. Mechanic’s name was Munna. He started working on my bike. After almost 3 hours, he figured out that it was a snapped wire inside the headlight dome, which was causing all the trouble. It was already 3 pm and we decided to start our return Journey.
We stopped in between to refill our tanks and stomach. We didn’t have much time before we lost daylight advantage. We planned to cruise non-stop for about 100 km to get max out of it. Rest of the journey was event less and we reached home by around 10 pm.
Where to stay:
If low on budget –
1. Try Govt. guest house at Kemmanagundi (Advance booking is required but almost always full)
2. Jude’s Homestay – Kalatipura, Contact no. – 9008135416, 300 – 400 per head budget
Other expensive options (1000 – 4000/- per head / per day) –
1. Ozone Valley - Contact No. – 9448971207, 9448727717, 08261-215078; 1500 – 4000 per head
2. Joes Homestay (Hill View Cottage) - 09164676308(mobile), 9449414130(mobile), 0934360488, 08261686450, 08262222329, Tariff starting from 1100 per head
Where to fix your bike: (Though, I wish you never face this)
Photo Courtesy: Sam