So a location was zeroed in on, reservations were made at a resort-in-a-coffee-estate, and off we went.
For some weird reason, I decided to chance the Tumkur road ('should be ok early in the morning') and regretted it all the way upto Kunigal, where the alternative Magadi-Kunigal drive would've met the NH-48. There's construction work all the way upto Nelamanga, bad surface, awful traffic, and dust. And early in the morning is ideally when you want to feel the fresh air through open windows.
A little ahead you cross some windmills on your left - in fact the road goes all around them and you get a 270 view of the hillock with these huge white beauties atop them.
Hassan itself is dusty, with broken roads, and traffic. Its a major agri-trading town and that shows in the businesses you see around there. We did a quick refill at an ATM and got out of there as quick as traffic would permit.
The Hassan-Belur stretch is an absolute beauty - both in terms of the rolling tarmac (painted shoulders and all!) as well as the scenic countryside you pass through. Another set of windmills on the right, a couple of very pretty lakes, the huge reservoir of the Belur dam, and great weather kept us company. The road became a little iffier after Belur, but the view from the window got better and better as we got to Chikmaglur. It started drizzling a bit as well.
Chikmaglur has gotten a lot more crowded since our last trip there nearly seven years ago. One ways and quite a lot of traffic meant some time spent crossing the town. Once past, it became apparent why this region os called the Scotland of India. Coffee, tall trees, rolling gren hillsides and gentle rain.
To get to Hunkal woods, we had to keep going straight past the Kymara junction - where I'd earlier taken a left towards Kemmanagundi - for about 20 kms. The traffic dropped as we drove on the curvy roads around the cloud covered hills.
So off we went on the trek through coffee, some bush, waterfalls. There were some steeper sections, and a couple of leeches to spice up the trip :)
Just before we got back, Nizam took us on a slight detour to a coffee drying yard where the guy running the place passionately explained the pulping, cleaning and drying process, the difference between Arabica and Robusta, and let us know that their coffee had won a prize announced by "Ely, of Australia"!
We got rid of the leeches (salt really works!) as well as the kids' squeamishness, had a bath, and were wondering if we should have another round of coffee (its on the house, unlimited) when the lady who runs the kitchen there herself brought very welcome mirchi bhajjis with a gentle knock on the door.
The bonfire was a little tough to get going, given the wet ground below, but it was worth the effort. Dinner was another nice affair though the kids were beginning to get sleepy and we retired early.
Soon we had walked to the grassline. Courtesy the acclimatization the previous evening - and Nizam's assurance that the juice from the bitter-lime fruit he'd plucked as we started would keep leeches at bay - the kids were feeling much braver. I was anyhow wearing gumboots, and Shuhba seemed to not care. The views of the rocks - which seemed to be covered with soft grass - kept egging us on to go further and further. We stopped near the edge of the plantation (place that used to be wooded till a few years ago - 'Tiger Woods' ?) for yummy Rava Idlis and very fresh coconut chutney.