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Sunday, September 23, 2018 05:39:44 AM
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Villa with a view: A tryst with nature at Chikmagalur

A beautiful plantation estate in Chikmagalur and mornings that become memories

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Kalyani Prasher
The worst thing one could do is shake me awake before the sun has even made up its mind about rising. Naturally, this is exactly what my friend proceeded to do on the very first day of my holiday.
"Wake up! Just look outside!"
I didn't want to look outside. I wanted to look inside, into the very nice dream I was having about relaxing.
I was in Chikmagalur for my birthday, with the sole agenda of chilling, and I was not going to be bullied into sightseeing while still in bed.
Very early into my career as a travel writer, Chikmagalur popped up as an attractive destination. All the photographs we saw sitting in Delhi were simply superb - coffee plantations, misty mountains, birds, peace, quiet - the whole deal. So, I've wanted to go to Chikmagalur for about ten years now. This year, using my birthday as a suitable excuse, I decided to - as a sportswear brand advises frequently - just do it.
As I hurtled towards my dream destination from Bangalore airport, I started to become suspicious that the photographs, because of which I was making this long journey, may have been thanks to the talent of the photographers. The drive from Bangalore to Chikmagalur is probably the most boring journey I've been on, the only saving grace being some excellent filter coffee along the way, in an open air café, for Rs 10 a cup. Life got interesting towards the end of the five-hour journey, when you could finally see the hills of the Mullayanagiri range, a part of the Western Ghats.
What the drive to Chikmagalur lacks, the short drive from town (a charming small town with lots of old buildings) to Primrose Villas, a beautiful small hotel set within the 125-year-old Baganeheddal coffee estate, makes up nicely. The 700-acre plantation is like a forest through which snakes a path, just wide enough for a single car, slowly taking you up to the hotel. As we wound our way up, we saw tiny white flowers covering the Arabica plants: a rare sight, the coffee bloom comes on the ninth day after it rains, so we happened to be at the right place at the right time.
Even better than driving through the forest is to view it from the lobby, or the villa, where glass has been used cleverly in its architecture to showcase the best feature of the hotel: its location. The glass walls everywhere offer soothing views of the lush green forests of coffee, and, the mountains beyond, with the highest peak at 6,500 ft, greeting you from every corner of the resort. However, I did not want to partake of this fantastic view at 6 am. So I awoke later, enjoyed a breakfast of mushroom-and-cheese omelette and cold coffee at the villa, and proceeded to dream about lunch. Food was definitely the highlight, after the views, at our villa. The service is another plus: you never hear any complaining voices or grumbles. You can eat what you want, as long as you inform them a day ahead, whenever you want it - wherever you like.
On the second day, we decided to visit the Bhadra Tiger Reserve, a two-hour drive away from the resort. The unprofessional people manning the reserve had to be woken up from their slumber during safari hours. They told us we could only do an hour's safari because it was just the two of us. By far the worst safari experience in India, or the world, Bhadra is totally avoidable.
It was with some relief that I returned to our haven, Primrose Villas, and proceeded to drown my sorrows in strong spirit, with some peanut masala on the side. We decided to wake up early the next morning - at 6 am, for a plantation walk. I reluctantly agreed.
This is when I finally saw the view that my friend was trying to wake me up for. Through the day, the Western Ghats looked pretty from the villa, rising behind a cover of thick verdant green. But now, there was real drama unfolding. Mist covered the entire forest in front of me - it was a sea of white, hanging in the air like clouds. There was complete silence, save for birdsong and the sound of a mild breeze. I was in one of my favourite paintings of all times: I was in the German artist Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.
This was the best way to begin my new year. As we left for the plantation walk, we spotted many birds and the landscape was stunning. But that 6 a.m view from my villa, remained the highlight of the trip. Such beauty is best treasured just once. And, then, it's forever in your memory. n

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