There are months and months when my husband and I drag ourselves to work and the kids drag themselves to school with no break at all to relieve the tedium. And then there are times like these! We were back from Ramgarh Sunday night and the very next Saturday, we were packing our bags again. This time for a quick weekend getaway to Chikmagalur with the husband’s office team.
Which incidentally means it has been a whole year of blogging since it was about this time (when we went to Bhatkal) last year that I started writing. So pats on the back for me.
I have been to Chikmagalur three times before this. The first was with our wheels-on-feet bunch of bachelors and spinsters soon after we started working. We had barely any money and no cars. What we did have was a truckload of enthu and the will to rough it out. So we had booked a rickety SUV and been driven up here. And then not known what to do!
We visited the abandoned mines at Kudremukh and wandered through the dense jungles nearby – a foolhardy proceeding and one which makes the older me shudder! We also visited the BR hills and stayed mostly in a small lodge in Chikmagalur town. Overall, we came back vaguely disappointed.
The second time was when we stayed at the newly opened Serai. The Serai is owned by the Cafe Coffee Day group and had been built by cutting out a clean swathe of plantation and forest land and building a small oasis of urban luxury in the middle. The greenery set to one side, the Serai was clearly courting the type of urban traveller who couldn’t do without city comforts even in the wilds. Fresh out of Orange County breaks, this didn’t appeal to me at all and I wrote a pretty scathing review here.
The third time we stayed at the Taj Gateway which is a beautiful old property with scattered villas and carefully tended gardens. They actually have a special section where they rear plants ONLY for butterflies to feast upon. Unsurprisingly, they have a profusion of colourful butterflies all around!
They also had entertainment in the form of magic shows, tandem bikes, basketball courts plus a niceish pool and a very generous gardener (Mr. Mohan) who gave me plenty of cuttings.
There was one more thing that Chikmagalur had to boast of at the time. Chikmagalur is situated less than 40 kilometres from the Bhadra tiger reserve. Bhadra being one of the bigger success stories of Project Tiger and home to over 30 tigers. One of these had recently acquired the habit of visiting coffee plantations in the vicinity and thereby causing much distress. Not to mention causing me some anxiety. I was all on edge every time we had to walk from the restaurant to our room at night and clutched the kids close to me instead of letting them run about as they were wont to do. Everyone else found this hugely amusing. When I went to enquire at the front desk about the safety aspects of visiting Mullayanagiri nearby, they assured me with barely suppressed mirth that the huli was never to be seen before seven. I may have been worrying too much but could you blame me considering I had read these news reports less than three weeks before our visit?
So that tiger was accounted for after it killed a woman a month and a half after our visit(yes, really!) and we packed for our trip this time without any misgivings. It was beastly hot in Bangalore and we were very glad to be out. We were staying at the Serai again but I was OK because after all I knew they had AC.
So we got there after a brisk 5 hour drive and Oh My God!!
The last six years have been kind to Serai. And turns out they had a plan. So they cut away part of the plantation. But they cut NOTHING else! The green? It’s all back! A picture is worth a thousand words and I will let them do the talking. And what better than a before-after. Have a look!
Also, it may have been based on traveler feedback but there was not a plastic bottle in sight! Glass jugs with filtered water in the room for drinking and tea making. No plastic bottles even in the restaurant. Good job!
We also really enjoyed our estate walk and learned a lot.
We saw woodpeckers nests.
We learnt how fruit trees are planted in coffee plantations to lure monkeys away from the tempting coffee berries.
And silver oaks are planted all around the coffee bushes but their branches lopped off to give the right amount of filtered sunlight to the bushes below. In fact, people are specially called in from Kerala to do this lopping off by leaping from tree to tree! That would be something worth seeing and I wonder they don’t advertise it more.
The life cycle of the plants is closely monitored and cutting and replanting happen constantly. By dint of all this, Cafe Coffee Day is completely self sustaining, furnishing their urban cafes using timber grown right here.
Overall, I was very impressed. I had a great stay and I would love to recommend Chikmagalur town, the hills nearby and these lovely resorts to everyone.