Long road to the top

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Long road to the top

Standing tall at 6317 ft, Mullaianagiri is the highest peak in the state. To scale this peak from Chikmagalur, you need to take a long and winding road through the many coffee estates, appropriately called Sarpadari. 

Passing through a small arch which marks the exact point from where the trail starts, we began trudging up in a slow rhythm. With no shade from trees for long stretches, the going gets increasingly tough. Nearly two hours into the trek, you get to rest under a lone tree and realise from the vast vistas around that a significant altitude had been gained. The estates and houses fade from your eyes, while peaks loom large in the east.

This entire range of hills forms part of Muthodi division of the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary which was earlier Jagara Valley Game reserve. The topography is mainly grass covered with a few patches of sholas here and there.

Dedicated to saint Mullappaswamy

The temple at the summit is dedicated to Mullappaswamy, a saint who observed penance here years ago. The peak is named after the saint. A priest and his family live here and offer food and shelter to trekkers and visitors to the temple for a nominal price. The shrine built with stones is painted white with footwear to be kept out. The small red mantap stands outside, contrasting with the blue hills of Bababudangiri in the background. Seethalayyanagiri, another peak is four kilometres away to the west.

This place has a Math apart from the shrine of Mallikarjuna and is connected by road to Chikmagalur. As we walk back, the sun slowly descends behind the foggy mountains. The night at Mullaianagiri is memorable. While the dark starlit night above gives a heavenly feeling, the lights of Chikmagalur deep below seem to reflect the sky!

Trekking up to Bababudangiri

Bababudangiri is another target, 15 kms away. The initial trail is easy and you take a breather at Kavikal Gandi four kilometres way. The trail meets the road here and one can take a vehicle. After trekking for another seven kilometres, you pass by Bababudan hill  and reach Manikdhara, a place of worship. It is a custom for tourists to take a shower under the thin waterfall of Manikdhara here. The Bababudangiri hill was earlier known as Chandra Drona Parvatha. It is also called Datta Peetha after saint Dattathreya who lived here long ago. 

In the 17th century, Bababudan, a Sufi saint who is said to have introduced coffee to India also visited here. The cave shrine here is a holy place for people belonging to all communities alike. Presently, entry is barred because of damages in the cave.

From here to reach Kemmanagundi will take another gruelling trek, this time even extending to 20 kilometres. We start off by dawn and follow a jeep road to reach a large lake. Gutsy winds blow here all the time and owing to this, the lake gets its name of Gaalikere (lake of winds). The fading trail from here goes westward and merges with the landscape. At this point, one has no other alternative but to rely on intuition and memories of previous visits.

Climbing the many hills, descending the valleys and walking through the shola patches is bound to make one feel like a tiny speck in a vast mountainscape that never seems to end. In one dense shola we crossed a stream, Hebbe Hole, according to the map. Though it is not deep and wide enough for a dip, it is quite alluring to sit by its side and take in the scenery. As we hit the trail again, the ruins of an old bungalow greet us. This is the palace said to have been built by the Maharaja of Mysore as a summer resort.

Before one reaches the township of Kemmanagundi tucked away far below amidst the forests, one just needs to scale one more steep grassy hill before the 50-km trek acrosss the mountains comes to an end.

Getting there

Sarpadari, the start of the trek is 14 kms away from Chikmagalur and can be reached by bus/auto. Chikmagalur is 250 kms from Bangalore and is well connected by buses to other cities. Taking a guide for the route is advisable.

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