I am a hopeless romantic with a tendency to fall deeply in love. But my love isn’t limited to people; I also have a penchant for falling in love with places. I fall head over heels for hills and muddy trails that smell like the rain – sometimes literally, because muddy trails and heels do not mix well. Getting to know a new place is a little like dating – you explore what you like and hate about it, wonder how compatible you are, and then attempt to decide if you could settle down there or if you need to keep looking. My visit to the Western Ghats of Karnataka was nothing short of love affairs that keeps replaying the most beautiful moments in my mind.
What started as a spontaneous trip to the Great West ended in an unrequited love affair with the places that completely stole my heart. In the realm of finding love, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself shallow, but I recall being hopelessly enamoured by the beauty of the Western Ghats. It’s incredible how the memories I have of the cities in the Western Ghats of Karnataka stitch together in moments that I can smell, taste, and experience more than I can narrate. The soundtracks played in the car during my journey still have the power to transport me back in time.
So, here’s to all the places I’ve loved before.
Agumbe: The Wild Love Affair
We were an unexpected match, but I think it’s going to be one for the ages. It was the winter of 2017 when it all started. I booked a cab from Bangalore to see what you had to offer. I tried to keep my expectations low for our first meeting. I had my apprehensions – I was told you house a huge population of snakes! However, my earliest memories of you centred around the popular TV series, Malgudi Days, which was said to be based on you, which made me believe you had plenty of admirers.
I remember being enchanted by the serenity of the Jogigundi Falls and the surroundings. The tumbling waterfalls and chirping of the birds filled the air with a vibrant spirit. My friend and I had a cup of piping hot maggi as we soaked in your beautiful views. I remember feeling like there’s nothing more picturesque than the sights of the waterfalls you had, but I was wrong. We trekked through the Agumbe village to reach the sunset viewpoint. I will never forget my reaction to seeing your views for the first time. I was gobsmacked!
But you have had your share of tribulations. You are renowned as India’s only remaining rainforest, which tells me that you have been through a lot on this ever-changing planet. All your vistas are profoundly unique, yet they have one thing in common – the ability to uplift my mood, energise me, and enhance my connection to the natural world. So, while we only had one lovely week together, I’m hoping it’s the beginning of many.
Places to visit in Agumbe: Jogigundi Falls, Agumbe Sunset View Point, Barkana Falls, Onake Abbi Falls, Gopalkrishna Temple, Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary.
Best time to visit Agumbe: Being in an evergreen landscape, the weather here is defined as subtropical humid. Although monsoon is the time when the entire region becomes denser, greener, and mistier, it is safe to avoid the rainy season since the soil is loose and the forests and nearby villages are often flooded. Winters are very chilly and cold and summers are hot and humid. So, the best time to explore is between November and February, when the weather is cool but dry.
[Also Read: Agumbe: Cobra Capital of India | A Complete Travel Guide]
Chikmagalur: More than just a coffee date
I remember the first time I met you. I was young and naive to the likes of you, and my parents didn’t quite approve of our meeting. I wanted to try the coffee you are famed for, but they said I was too young for it. At first, I had to agree. Sipping on the coffee harvested from your estates in one chilly evening, I realised it was more bitter than I expected. I didn’t know if I was ready to let that bitterness into my life. Of course, a little bit down the road, I decided to give you a chance.
I don’t know what it was that lured me to you. Maybe it’s your welcoming scent or the way you instantly make me feel alive. It could also be your pristine mountains like Baba Budangiri, magnificent waterfalls like Jhari falls or your green gorges and mouth-watering cuisine that kept pulling me closer to you.
In 2019, I decided to take a road trip with my friends from Mangalore and camp at Mullayanagiri, the peak of your humble abode in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. I recall sitting up by the fire, looking at the stars and the fireflies rising from the meadow. As it got late, the chorus of insects and frogs quieted and there was a different quality of sound, a deep stillness. I felt like I was gradually blending into your landscape, and that’s when I knew, I left a piece of me with you.
You showed me that first impressions over coffee are never enough. Some escapades require more time to truly appreciate the beauty one has to offer, just how I was besotted by your bounty. I know love is more than skin deep, but wow, you’re gorgeous! Some of the best moments we had were quiet ones without anyone else around. I’m not sure when we’ll see each other again but, until then, I’ll look at the photos and smile.
Places to visit in Chikmagalur: Kalhatti Falls, Dakshinamnaya Sharada Peetham, Ayyanakere Lake, Jhari Waterfalls, Kudremukh National Park, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Seethalayanagiri.
Best time to visit Chikmagalur: Chikmagalur enjoys a very moderate climate with good weather throughout the year, making it conducive enough to explore anytime. The summers are warm and pleasant, while winters are chilly and misty. During the monsoon, the region receives heavy rainfall. If you want to explore the plantations, forests, and do all kinds of nature activities, the winter months between October to April make for the best season to visit Chikmagalur.
[Also Read: Chikmagalur: The Coffee Land of Karnataka]
Coorg: The One That Got Away
I didn’t pay much attention to you until my family said we could take a trip to Coorg. I was curious to know what you looked like. I remember feeling so lucky getting to sit in the front seat for the whole journey beside my dad, stopping along the way for hot Koovaleputtu, a steamed jackfruit cake, and arriving drowsy late in the evening after driving all day.
With the native essence reflecting from the local lifestyle and traditions rooted deeply, your culture stands out. I was enthralled by the distinct features and characteristics of the Kodava culture, from the language, dress, religious practices, ancestral homes, songs, dances, to the festivals. That’s when I knew I was in for a unique cultural experience.
I recall the ethereal feeling when I walked into the Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe. I heard the ringing of gongs, drums and chanting of hundreds of young monks as I admired the sheer architectural brilliance of an 18m-high gold-plated Buddha. The instant peace I felt there was something I crave to experience again.
When I learned about the devastation wrought by the 2019 flood, my heart plummeted. You, as a city, rallied your citizens at a moment of crisis and emerged stronger than ever, demonstrating your resilience in the face of adversity. Your resilience gives me the courage to confront my worries, your compassion allows me to connect with others, and your generosity allows me to discover happiness through charity.
Coorg, you are far more than simply a beautiful city that grabs people’s hearts.
Places to visit in Coorg: Madikeri Fort, Raja’s Seat, Namdroling Monastery, Dubare Elephant Camp, Iruppu Falls, Nagarhole National Park.
Best time to visit Coorg: Being at a great height on the Western Ghats of Karnataka, Coorg enjoys a tropical hilly climate. The weather here remains pleasant all year round, with foggy mornings, warm days, and chilly nights. The winters are colder than the rest of the year. Any time is good for a trip here, but if you want to do a complete outdoor adventure, February to April or November is the best time, when the temperature is perfect.
Witness the magic of the Western Ghats in Karnataka by booking a car rental to take you to all these places with a local driver. Install Savaari cab booking app for offers and discounts on outstation rentals.