Every year, the first thing I think of doing when the rains begin to fall is to head to Chikmaglur. Its hills have a magic. When it rains there, it falls without mercy, and doesn't give you any chance to escape. Umbrellas, raincoats, nothing can help you stay dry. The moment you are out, you are at the disposal of rain gods waiting to hammer you.
The places to see are plenty. And there is never a minute of boredom. Every time I go, I return to same places, do the same things, and stand in the same strong winds on the top of the hills and giggle at the wind hitting on my face. Visibility is always down to a few meters, sun is never to be seen and you can never tell looking at the sky what time of the day it is.
I am so used to it now, it doesn't require any planning. Till Friday evening, it doesn't even cross my head. And then suddenly a few phone calls are made, willing travellers are always there, and we are off. Early next morning, there we are, in Chikmaglur, checking into Planter's Court as always, for a few hours of snooze. There is no hurry to head out early to see places - it feels the same, be it 6am or 10am - cloudy, windy weather with a constant drizzle or a powerful downpour.
A quick breakfast and coffee from locally grown beans at 10am gets us ready to go. We are off to the hills of Bababudangiri and Mullayyanagiri. It is a pleasure driving on those meandering roads splitting the thick forests, later coffee estates, and eventually grasslands at higher reaches. There is just one car and too many drivers, a fight is inevitable. Finally we come to some kind of timeshare agreement. It is all exactly the same way we had done last year. And we know we will do the same thing in the coming years too.
The romance of Mullayyanagiri is queer. Who would think that stormy, windy, cold weather would be refreshing, lovely and delightful? But it is so. We feel like little children in a playground. We laugh, jump and make merry. We challenge the wind and walk against it, until the wind gets furious and starts stripping away our jackets. Every step is an effort, and fun. More giggles.
A little further ahead, fun continues to follow us at Bababudangiri. How green can a place be? If you want to know, Bababudangiri is where you should be. It is green to the left, green to the right, at the bottom of the valley and on the top of the hill. No, the sky is spared from getting painted green, but there just thick fog up there and no sky. Wind acts up, makes some drama, pretending to chase the mist away and show us bits and pieces of the valley below and the sholas ahead. But that's only for a few seconds. Before we get to say 'look there...!', a big mass of low lying cloud has occupied the space between us and the vista.
The evenings are reserved for Hirekolale Lake. In summers, the lake looks like a polished metal surface reflecting the hills surrounding it. Now it is a different story. Water level has gone up to the maximum. Its all brown and muddy, and the wind makes fast moving ripples on its surface. The beauty never dies, be it summer or rains. But the mood is completely different.
Next morning we brainstorm on what to do. Everyone knows the answer, everyone knows where to go, and everyone has the same preference. But we need something to yap over the breakfast. And without even bothering to check where we are to go, the guy with car keys shifts the car into gear. We are on the way to Charmadi, the thickly forested road that leads towards the sea. No, we don't intend to get to sea which is pretty far, it is the forest that interests us. Wet green hills, winding roads of the hills and deep valleys. Streams running down in a hurry. Every 10 minutes we stop the car, mutely contemplate on the unbelievable beauty of this natural world in the uninterrupted rain, and the mist torn at places. Yes, predictably, it is the same places we had stopped last year, and even the thoughts are the same.
Time runs fast. It never understands when to run fast and when to go slow, and does exactly the opposite of what is desired. Evening comes even before we know that the morning hours are gone. We have to head back. And we obediently do, not knowing when is the next chance to repeat the same things. All it needs is a flash of lightning in someone's mind on a conducive Friday evening. It could well happen next week, or it may be another year's wait.