Cardamom, coffee & more

Cardamom, coffee & more

While it may have the dubious sobriquet of “poor man’s Ooty,” it would be an injustice to refer to scenic Sakleshpur like that, writes Bindu Gopal Rao.

Sakleshpur is a hill station located in Hassan district. A biodiversity hotspot nestled in Western Ghats, Sakleshpur has a salubrious climate and the landscape is stunning as it is surrounded with lofty green hills of coffee, cardamom, pepper and arecanut plantations. 

While it may have the dubious sobriquet of “poor man’s Ooty,” it would be an injustice to refer to this scenic place like that. The southern range, which includes Bisle Reserve Forest and the region around Sakleshpur is listed as one of the 18 most bio-diverse spots in the world.

 Sakleshpur is 40 km west of Hassan in Karnataka and sandwiched between two other famous coffee plantation areas of Coorg and Chikmagalur. As far as the name of the town is concerned, it is believed that a broken Shivalinga was found in this town in the past which was called as Shakaleshwara. 

Another theory is that Shakaleshwara means a town with all types of wealth, such as spices, river and salubrious climate. This lesser-known hill station of Karnataka offers a refreshing getaway from the busy city life. Its rich biodiversity, temples and forts make the place a great tourist spot. 

Sakleshpur has verdant green surroundings and has some excellent trekking trails. Jenukal Gudda, the second highest peak in Karnataka is located at Maragunda, 24km outside Sakleshpur. It is said that on a clear day, you can get a glimpse of the Arabian Sea coast in Mangalore from the top of this mountain. 

Another place for trekking, picnics, and outdoor camping is Agni Gudda (Fiery Mountain) and the surrounding rice terraces here make for a compelling sight. 

A trekker’s paradise

Another place to trek is in the Bisle Ghat or Bisle Reserve Forest. The Green Route “Trek on the Railway Track” is a stretch of track from Sakleshpur to the Subramanya railroad station and used to be popular as well but is currently not allowed so make sure you do not trek on the tracks. 

The railway segment from Sakleshpur to Kukke Subramanya road junction is known as Green Route trek and very popular amongst the trekkers in Western Ghats. It is spread over 52 km which comprises of 58 tunnels, 109 bridges and about 25 waterfalls. You can also hop on the passenger trains running on this route to enjoy the verdant views of the town. 

The Manjarabad Fort, constructed by Tipu Sultan, is located on the outskirts of Sakleshpur on National Highway 48. An interesting aspect of this Fort is the little hollow entrance in the centre that is believed to be a tunnel from this fort to another fort in Srirangapatna near Mysore. The entrance has a near-intact mural mapping the fort’s design. 

The Fort is a star-shaped structure built on a hilltop and has eight corners facing eight directions. Carefully camouflaged, the Fort was intended to be a place of complete security for the king and is currently under the fold of the Archaeological department. Sadly, the Fort is not well maintained. The climb to the hill is not very friendly but for those who can make it can enjoy some amazing views. 

The Sakleshpur Temple, after which the area is named, can be found right at the entrance of the town. This small house of worship is an excellent representation of Hoysala architecture and is a remnant of the empire that ruled this region from the 11th to the 14th century. 

The Planters’ Club is an exclusive space at Sakleshpur and is available only to the planters. You can take a plantation tour of the coffee estates and get a technical know-how about the farming of various crops. 

Natural diversity

Since it is covered with a number of coffee estates, this place is home to almost 55 species of migratory and resident birds and is a bird watcher’s paradise. 

Sakleshpur accounts for around a third of India’s cardamom production and hence, there is an abundance of cardamom plantations here. This apart, there are numerous pepper and areca plantations also. 

Do look out for local flora especially the bright reddish orange pagoda flower known as ratha pushpa (clerodendrum paniculatum), a wild flower found in these parts. 

The undulating green hills, lush green coffee estates and the sheer magnificence of nature is what will stay with you long after you have left Sakleshpur. 

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