Ticking off Melkote, Shravanabelagola, Halebidu and Belur from our travel list for the day, we headed towards our destination for the day was River Woods Homestay, an hour’s drive from Chikmagalur.
River Woods Homestay
Evening had set in when we left Belur and by the time we reached our homestay, it was dark. We could hardly make out the route we were taking. The winding roads meant we had reached the Western Ghats, the last 5 kms to the homestay were totally deserted and in the darkness, it looked a little eerie too. As we neared the homestay, the route became slushy, thanks to the post-monsoon season. We were met by the manager of the homestay to guide us, the route was so isolated and dark that for a moment we even thought, we were being kidnapped !
In a few moments, it was all forgotten as we pulled in to the drive way of River Woods Homestay and stood before the charming looking cottage. We were shown around the cottage, we freshened up and then ready for our campfire and barbeque. Steaming hot grilled potatoes any one?
The carnivores need not worry, they have chicken and other options as well. As for the potatoes, we loved them ! Dinner done, we retired for a restful night.
We woke up early to a fresh, dewy morning. The rains had just stopped a couple of days before we arrived, making every thing a delight to the eyes.
River Woods is located in the middle of a coffee estate and the tastefully done homestay has a very pleasant old world feel to it.
This was our first time at the Western Ghats and the coffee estates, we were fascinated by everything, the huge mountains, coffee beans, the refreshing weather and the experience of staying at a home stay. We went for a walk in the coffee estate near the homestay, taking in the freshness of the dew.
A branch of the Bhadra River flows near the homestay, we took a walk upto the river. The just ended rains meant, the river was flowing heavy and muddy.
While we were there, our family was attacked by leeches ! They didn’t realise it until we returned to the homestay and found their feet itching all over. Leeches are common in these areas especially after the rains. If you are subjected to a leech attack, put some common salt on it as a quick remedy. As a precautionary measure, you can buy anti-leech socks which help keeping leeches away.
Getting rid of the leeches, we headed for breakfast. One of the best things of a homestay is home food, you can get a taste of the authentic local cuisine. We, of course, loved the food. Breakfast done, we were ready to set out on a sightseeing tour of the Western Ghats.
Non-dualism in every sense
42 kms from River Woods Homestay is Sringeri, the sacred place where Adi Sankara set up his first Mutt and preached his Advaitha philosophy. Nestled in the lush green Western Ghats, Sringeri is the kind of place you will want to visit again and again.
The moment we entered the Sringeri temple, it started raining heavily, if you were an artist, you would want to paint the scene – the ancient Vidyashankara temple stood against the back drop of the rain clouds, the River Tunga flowed below and the Western Ghats beyond !
The Goddess Sharada temple, originally built during the time of Adi Shankara and newly renovated in recent times, stands next to the Vidyashankara temple. After a quick darshan of the Goddess and Lord Vidyashankara, we walked across the bridge connecting the temple complex and Guru Nivas, where the current pontiff resides.
From the bridge, we could see the River Tunga, quietly flowing amid the greenery of the mountains.
Guru Nivas is a peaceful place, if Sankara’s philosophy was all about finding the Divine within you, then there is no better place than this to contemplate on it. How would you like taking a walk in these woods while thinking of the divinity in everything around you?
When we reached the main hall of Guru Nivas, the place was reverberating with Vedic Chants. As we sat in the hall listening to the rhythmic chants and watching the pontiff performing the harathi, we felt some kind of a pull, making us become one with the chants and that’s when it hits you, what we call divine is nothing but the your conscious energy and that is present everywhere, you are no different from the Universe of which you are a part, non-dualism in its true sense.
Still in the trance of that experience, we returned to the temple to have the annaprasadam. If you want to feel God, eat the food at the Sringeri Temple, that is all we can say about the food, the rest, one has to experience it for themselves !
Winding up our visit to Sringeri, we then resumed our journey towards Kudremukh bio-diversity range. The idea was drive though the mountain range and visit Horanadu.
A splash of white over green !
We drove on through the greenest of green regions, stopping once in a while when we spotted some picturesque scenes like this:
The route got greener by the mile, our driver told us we were driving through the Kudremukh range of mountains, the Kudremukh National Park was also part of the range. Enroute, he pointed to a place from where one could trek to Gangamoola or starting point of the Tunga and Bhadra Rivers. These two rivers start at the same point but flow parallelly to each other and again merge near a place called Koodli near Chikmagulur to form the Tungabhadra River, ending their journey in Andhra Pradesh, where they merge with the Krishna River.
A short drive further, the scene changed, all of sudden, the green turned white as a heavy cloud took over the hills and the valley !
It was the most beautiful landscape scene we had seen in our lives so far ! The mighty Western Ghats were blanketed by the clouds, just about managing to peep from under the cloud cover.
The road was hardly visible and within minutes, we found ourselves inside the cloud !
We got down from our van and walked on the road. We could feel the chillness and the water droplets on our faces, it is one experience that we will remain etched in our memories.
As we watched, one set of clouds passed and another set took over and finally after about 15 minutes, the greenery slowly made its way back.
It looked like someone had laid a fresh, green carpet over the hills !
We passed by more of such sights as we headed towards Horanadu. Somewhere by the roadside, we spotted a gurgling stream.
When we got to check it out, it turned out to be a waterfall from the deep forests on the mountains.
Unused to such scenes, it felt like we were in some fantasy land where clouds and waterfalls appeared out of nowhere magically.
For coffee lovers, visiting Chikmagulur is like a pilgrimage. Though Coorg coffee is popular, it is Chikmagulur’s coffee that is supposed to be the best. For a major part of our drive, we passed through coffee estates. The coffee addicts in the family were looking for a cup of this heavenly bevereage when we found a place where they not only sold nice coffee but they also had a coffee roasting machine.
Once our piping hot coffee was ready, we savoured every drop of it, the pure, refreshing air and the smell of freshly grounded coffee serving as accompaniments. Add a scene like this to your coffee, the taste just doubles !
Evening was setting in when we reached Horanadu to visit the Annapoorneshwari Temple. For foodies like us, she is the Supreme Being ! We had very little time to spend at the temple, so it was just a quick visit and then we headed back.
Horanadu temple is famous for the annaprasadam, Goddess Annapoorneshwari being the deity bestowing food on earth.
We reached our homestay in time for a warm, absolutely delicious dinner. Early next morning, it was time for us to bid goodbye to River Woods and head back to Bangalore. We had an amusing experience as the previous night rain clogged the pipes with slush and muddy water flowed out from the taps, it was rural living at its best.
Breakfast was another delight and we couldn’t thank the cook Ms.Amaravathi enough for the wonderful food she made for us or the manager of the homestay who went out of the way to make us feel comfortable. Before we realised it our family holiday into the beautiful green world of Chikmagulur was over and we were going back to our respective routine.
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