Ok, so it’s time for the quarterly “team” building activity to be completed. Considering that the last time it was the cool climes of March, we’d gone to Amgol. Much fun and beer was had by everyone. The rains, that usually bless Bangalore around April, playing hooky this year, we planned on come place cool. Factoring in pre-conditions like weekend travel, interstate taxes and the memory of sore butts traveling 12 hours to Amgol last time around, we settled on Chickmagalur district. Having talked to the experts and read up the other expert, we decided upon the Jainkhan estate. To clear up, this is not a combination like the Jain Chicken that you get in Gujarat. This is the real deal. The name is derived from the huge number of bee hives that the estate had earlier. So there. That is something that is cleared up. The estate itself is a little difficult to find. After you reach Chickmagalur town, drive towards Aldur. Take the road that leads to Koppa for about 7 km and then just before Herur, you’ll get a left turn to the closest town, Basarikatte. You’ll then need to ask someone for Jainkhan estate, which is another 4 km uphill from the town.
What I didn’t understand though are the clocks at this estate. All of them showed different times. Which didn’t change. Throughout the day. For some reason, all the clocks at the estate had stopped. Not that it mattered to inveterate slackers like us. We had an excellent time, pretty much doing nothing. The matter of most consequence achieved over the weekend was; nothing.
Having started in the night from Bangalore, we reached the district by 5ish. However, finding the estate itself took a little longer and post an excellent breakfast people promptly parked themselves horizontally. I was out and about though, the sky being an excellent shade of blue with a lot of clouds and clear visibility of the rolling hills beyond. The estate bungalow is about 30 years old – though the style is very colonial – and is situated on a short piece of flat land framed by the Western Ghats on three sides. From the veranda – where white tailed swallows had made their nests – you can sit in an easy chair and doze off to the sounds of the birds twittering, the insects buzzing and the far away sounds of people working the estate.
The only fly in this Arcadia is the fact that the estate is at the back of beyond. Which is the whole idea some might say. But if you miss out something (read booze) it is a royal pain getting out. However, the excellent manager at the estate, Sadashiva was very helpful in procuring the said Ambrosia.
After a while, the smells of cooking roused the rest of the party and people started flocking towards the veranda. Everyone was in a pleasant torpor and a lazy game of carrom and even lazier conversation ensued. This was pretty much a place holder as people evidently were thinking about lunch. Now let me digress. Food here is absolutely, lip-smackingly wonderful. The entire menu is simple, homely and most important of all seemingly inexhaustible. The natural conclusion would’ve been a pleasant siesta. However, Sadashiva invited us to join him on the rounds of the estate.
The estate itself rolls over a 100 acres of hills. As we walked across part of it, we gleaned such bits of wisdom as identifying a Robusta plant versus an Arabica; what are the watering needs, what birds flock to the estate (we heard the peacocks, but didn’t see them) and what it takes to run a coffee estate. We then walked around the perimeter of the estate and a short hike later found ourselves on a small hill behind the estate. The entire length of the Chickmagalur district seemed to spread out under us in an emerald carpet. In fact, for the more active of our brethren, this hill affords a nice way to fill in a morning. The hike itself is not strenuous and there is shade for the most part.
We walked back in the fading light to be treated to a spectacular sunset. The fading light also signalled the start of our Bacchanalia. In a manner of speaking. Most people hitting the “high” note pretty early. A fire was lit and then with warmth within and without, we held forth on heavy topics that ranged from why the Male of species always has to make the first move, to whether the country is going in the correct direction. Thereby proving that men indeed can’t focus on one thing completely. A few blokes did try to disprove that focusing entirely on the alcohol and eschewing all extraneous efforts. A quarter moon shone briefly before exiting the stage for the fireflies to complete a perfect evening.
The morning brought a wonderful skyscape again, with fingers of mist probing the ranges down the bungalow. It also brought another fabulous breakfast. People prolonged the inevitable and only the thought of the Avanthi Estate (also owned by the same owner) near Magundi and the river sped up matters a bit. However, the river itself was a little disappointing with the lack of water and the fact that there were folks washing clothes on either banks.
Jainkhan is also at the foothills of Merti Gudda, a 1695 meter hillock. There are drives that go all the way up, but you can trek it from the base too. You’ll need to enquire with the Forest Department before you go. You can do that at Chickamagalur or in Bangalore. Since there are no water sources, it might not be a good place to camp.
We then started off for Bangalore with most folks still being as active as a sloth bear in hibernation. The bus ride home was remarkable for the spectacular sunset that greeted us and the 7 times that “Mungaru Maley” soundtrack played. So the next time you are in the mood for lazing, head up to the hills – though the coffee perks you up, there are plenty of reminders around you that the clock is not ticking.