Lovely roads to sylvan Sakleshpur

Inside the coffee estate at Jenkal

As a child, I have fond memories of my parents driving me and my sister to enchanting spots, barely a few hours’ drive from Bengaluru. 

After college and subsequent employment, I returned to this city and found a vast concrete jungle, completely unrecognisable, devouring the city and its environs. My wife, daughter and I made innumerable pilgrimages to places that held special spaces in my memories — and returned disgusted with the crowds, noise, garbage and the complete environmental mismanagement.

I wanted the green, unpolluted road less travelled with solitude, bliss and freedom from cellphone signals. A friend connected me with a coffee planter, Hanbal Madan, who had transplanted a 140-year-old heritage home on to his estate near Sakleshpur and was running it as a homestay. Sakleshpur is about five hours away from Bengaluru via NH 75. It is an oasis of tranquillity in the Malnad region, in desperate danger of being damaged by the tourist traffic from neighbouring Coorg, if found out.

Jenkal, the homestay, was fully booked on the day we were to arrive in Sakleshpur and Madan generously offered to put us up at the Munzerabad Club, a study in colonial history.

Charming and quaint, contemporary architecture and comfort blend seamlessly with the opulence of the Raj at the Munzerabad Club, eponymously named after the fort built by Tipu Sultan, almost next door. We spent a wonderful evening with very hospitable and agreeable people.

The next afternoon we drove out to Jenkal, which literally means ‘Bee Rock’. This wood and stone home is situated at the foot of Jenu Kallu Betta (Bee Rock Hill), which is one of the most challenging climbs in the region.

All around you are lush green hills, even though you are in the middle of a very large coffee estate. Civilisation is many miles away. The doors are made of solid carved wood. The furniture is a mix of the ancient and the contemporary. The wood stove on which your meals are cooked was inspired by a design originating from IISC. The paths leading from the cottage are teeming with wild boar, bears, elephants, panthers and the occasional tiger.

There are innumerable streams that you may dip your feet into and let the fish give you a pedicure. Take long walks. Soak in nature and enjoy your holiday!

Civilisation, as in Sakleshpur market, is only half an hour away. The choicest spices, honey and herbs, as well as estate fresh fruits, are all available aplenty here. 

The Malnad cuisine will make sure that you return at least a couple of kilos heavier. These people really know how to cook and how to take care of their guests.

There are many hidden gems like Jenkal in and around Sakleshpur. I have found mine. I hope you find yours.

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