It had been a while that the road had beckoned. The drudgery of city life with its blinding lights and deafening sounds had pained the heart much. Therefore, when the misty hills of Chikmagalur beckoned there was only one thing to do – answer the call of the road.
If you stay in Bangalore or have visited the city you would know that one of the chief attractions of the city for a traveler is the fact that it is surrounded by places of great natural beauty, diverse endemic flora and fauna, distinctive food and traditional hospitality, and warmhearted local people who make your short weekend getaways worth remembering for long. Chikmagalur is one such popular yet quaint destination. This short travel story talks of our experiences in the misty Chikmagalur.
We set out on a Saturday dawn, three wayward souls in a car full of music and good conversation. The road is smooth and it is an easy drive. I have always maintained that it is the road or the journey that has always appealed a lot more to me than any destination has ever. This road too was a revelation. As you drive away from the city, eyes open up to wide green pastures, bright blue skies and small patches of heavy vegetation along the way. The last quarter of the journey is especially green and soothes your soul. There is a heavy scent of wild flowers, so I recommend that on this road, bid a short farewell to your AC, roll down your windows and let the chirp of the birds and the smell of the forests overwhelm you. We had booked ourselves in the hidden gem they call the “Arabidacool Bungalow”. Perched in the middle of the gorgeous TATA Coffee Plantations spread over 360 acres of pristine hills this old and refurbished bungalow offers an absolute punch of nostalgia and colonial comfort. If living like a pampered landlord is your thing, this sure is the place for you.
For us however the reasons for our love for Arabidacool were different. My friend Gargi is a quintessential diva, she is often surrounded by people who love and care for her and pine for her slightest attention. In the rustic hills and rocky gardens around the bungalow she found herself in company of a long-lost friend – her own self. She took long walks, smelled the flowers, fancied the swing and stared at the hills and the forests and let her mind wander to faraway lands and smiled ever so gently in the company of nature. She found herself after quite some time. Debraj, the boisterous child-man drew his inspiration in the adventure. He jumped all over the place with the excitement of a child – The bonfire, the butterfly, the paintings of planters adorning the living room wall, the impeccable china, the charming fireplace everything fed his fancy. A short walk in the forest at the dead of the night with the chill hitting the bone and the bewitching moonlight casting a silver shadow on the forest was his discovery. By his own admission, he never wanted to go back. He felt at perfectly at place in our quaint forest home.
I am clearly not a great admirer of nature. After trying to beat my own restlessness with some photography and some walking around, just like magic I got my corner. This bungalow is over 100 years old and was once owned by Planter Macqueen , lovingly referred to by the local folk as Macqueen Durai ( Or King Macqueen) for his benevolence and love for the region. In a hidden corner of this beautiful home I tumbled on his library. It was almost like heaven. The smell of old books, the almost invisible pencil and pen written notes on the pages took me back in time. To read a book that has belonged to many before you is always an experience. In the pages, in the touch, in the smell, these books tell many more stories. I even left a small unnamed note within the pages of one of the books that I read, for the next curious reader who would may be get as excited as I did, years down the line during his or her stay at the Arabidacool. I spent my time reading and thinking, staring into the sky and thinking some more. I had my time travel curled in the reading chair.
Well, we also ate lovely local food, went for a coffee trail and made friends with the affable Kumar and his staff who manage the estate. We asked questions about coffee and pepper, received knowledge about snakes and wild boars and spend the two days alternating between extreme laziness, deep intellectual exchanges and trading secrets in our silence.
Lost in the woods!
I cannot give you a general to do list for this place. Here, that is not how it works. This place is different. You come here driving for a good 15 minutes through a hilly mud road from within the forest and then once here you chose who you want to be.
The property also offers multiple group activities should you wish to participate. You can call in, in advance with your food preferences and ask for specific services if you wish to. However, my recommendation would be to do none of that. It is sometimes a blessing to be at a place that is new, a place that lets you be, a place where the trappings of self-consciousness are shed to reveal a different you.
Chikmagalur and Arabidacool, you hold me bewitched. I left a me hidden in your misty forests.
Shakuntala is an entrepreneur and runs a venture Maaati.com , in which she closely works with traditional artisans from corners of India and gets to the consumer markets Indian handmade products of diverse source and designs. In her personal life she is a book worm, hippie, lover of art and history, and strong feminist rolled into one. Her business partner, Debraj collaborates with her via his photographs in most of her travel writing, otherwise she is a self proclaimed Technology-Bum, and can not handle most things that come with a switch,!