The Western Ghats in India is a bio diversity hotspot and receives torrential rain during the monsoon season. The western ghat region of Karnataka is locally called “Malenadu” which translates to “Land of Mountains”. Monsoon in this region is a beautiful time and definitely needs to be experienced.
The Heady magic of Monsoons
We decided to spend a few days in Malenadu exploring familiar roads and places in order to experience the monsoon. The idea was to soak in the effervescent green that sprouts everywhere during the monsoon and enjoy the change that can only be called the monsoon effect.The plan was to head to Chikkamagalur(CKM) and then figure out the where/what/when based on conditions. Ended up exploring and enjoying the journey to the following places:
Awe inspiring Jog Falls
Gates of Linganamakki dam were wide open and 50k cusecs of water was flowing through Jog every day. It was a majestic sight to watch the raging brown waters plunge down the precipice and transform into swirling mists of white. Ended up spending more than 2 hours at the falls, which felt like a few minutes. It’s just mesmerizing watching the mists dance around the water, interspersed with heavy, light and fine rain, that just boosted the entire experience. Joga in all its might during the monsoon is like a raw surge of energy flowing through you. Words can’t describe it, definitely needs to be experienced.
on a boring Monday afternoon, decided to drive up to Mullayanagiri as the sun was out and I was hoping for a relatively clear view from the top. There was absolutely no traffic to the top and the most of the road has been fixed with a few small sections still WIP. Pity the folks who drive up these beautiful curves during the weekend madness. By the time we reached Sitalayanagiri, a dense cloud bank rolled in and even after 20 min, there didn’t seem much hope of getting a glimpse of the rolling green hills. Decided to drive back home after a quick coffee stop at Estate Cafe 😉 (halfway up to Muthodi wildlife sanctuary)
Belur & Yagachi
It was a lazy Saturday morning and we weren’t really in the mood to drive up the hills. Hence decided to check out the water levels at Yagachi. After a lazy one-hour drive via Kalasapura – Belavadi – Halebeedu to Belur, we finally reached the gates of Yagachi. The dam gates were open and some amount of water was being let out.
Been a while since we had darshana of Sri Sharadambe and hence decided to drive up and back yesterday. This place has been my abode of peace, quiet and tranquillity and there has never been a time when we haven’t felt calm inside the temple premises. The early morning drive up to Sringeri was just beautiful. Windows down halfway, no music, just the throaty hum of the 3 pot diesel, the quiet pitter patter of rain and the occasional bird call. Stopped before Balehonnur to watch a couple of Grey Malabar Hornbills flit around the trees. Reached Sringeri, spent some time in the temple, watched tunga rush past the steps, paid my respects to Sringeri mahaswamigal and drove back to CKM.
Stopped many times in-between just to listen to the sounds of the trees, wind, rain, streams, river and everything else. Silence decided to surprise me with its quiet companionship as I sip on a glass of piping hot coffee in the middle of nowhere.
Bisle Viewpoint & Mallalli Falls
Bisle has been on my list for a while now. The itch to visit Hettur grasslands has been growing and hence decided to drive to Bisle as well. Added Mallalli to the list as well since it was just a hop, skip and jump away. Early morning start from CKM and the blissful route from Belur – Sakleshpur was just perfect. Even better was the amazing landscape and beauty around Bykaravalli.
As I headed towards Bisle from Vangoor, we could see that there was no hope of catching a glimpse of anything as there was a lot of mist rolling in. Decided to head towards Mallalli and was rewarded with the roar of water cascading down the boulders. Majestic as ever, Mallalli was another shot of heady monsoon magic.
It had been a few years since we drove during the monsoon and we didn’t want to miss out this year. Even though the routes and places were mostly known, the experience was very different. The best part of driving in the monsoon is the dance with rain.
Starts with a drizzle, quickly increases the tempo and turns into steady rain and without missing a beat, it just pours down. If we have to pick the best experience from the above, it has got to be Jog falls + rain. Without the rain, we don’t think the experience would have been the same and we are happy that we made the decision to drive to Jog on a Sunday.
Route & Road Conditions
Route: CKM – Lingadahalli – Tarikere – Shivamogga – Sagara – Jog Falls
Status: Beautiful roads all the way through accompanied by lots of rain.
- Bhadra – Shivamogga is nothing great and as you get close to Shivamogga, you need to be patient.
- Shivamogga – Sagara – Jog is just butter smooth roads with fields of phosphorescent green that beckon you
Distance: ~200 kms
Time taken: ~3 hours 15 min with a 6 am start. Really pushed the car on the way to Jog but was a relaxed drive on the way back
Route: CKM – Kaimara – Sitalayanagiri – CKM – Estate Cafe
Status: Beautiful narrow roads all the way up with hints of rain.
- I Prefer driving CKM – Mallandur – Muthodi as the traffic is much lesser, the roads have a lot more character (beautiful twists, lotus ponds, plantations, dense vegetation and the occasional hillock), never any hurry to get somewhere.
Distance: ~40 kms
Time taken: ~1 hour of very relaxed driving on a weekday afternoon
Route: CKM – Kalasapura – Belavadi – Halebeedu – Belur – Yagachi – CKM
Status: Most stretches have good to very good tarmac but need to watch out for the occasional pothole that jumps at you.
Distance: ~85 kms
Time taken: ~1hour 45 min of very relaxed driving
Route: CKM – Aldur – Balehonnur – Jayapura – Sringeri
Status: Beautiful roads, especially Aldur – Balehonnur stretch.
- Jaypura – Sringeri section seems to have been widened and it’s a pleasure to drive now.
- Apart from some very deep craters on the way to Aldur, roads are great and have withstood the deluge well.
Distance: ~90 kms
Time taken: ~1-hour 25 min with a 6 am start
Route: CKM – Belur – Moovala – Arehalli – Sakleshpur
Status: Beautiful roads, especially the 7 km stretch before Arehalli that is sandwiched between plantations
Distance: ~65 kms
Time taken: ~1 hour 15 min of relaxed driving
- Till Bykaravalli its butter smooth roads but the irony is that the vistas that you drive through will ensure that you are just about crawling forward. Beautiful green fields interspersed with grasslands.
- In and around Hettur the road is a little narrow and makes you wonder if you are headed in the right direction.
- Post that till the Mallalli turoff, roads are good and rain kept me company all the way
Distance: ~70 kms
Time taken: ~1 hours 45 min with lots of stops for photos and sightseeing
Route: Mallalli turnoff – Mageri – Kundalli – Mallalli Falls
- Mallalli turnoff – Mageri is good roads that twist, turn and climb their way up
- Mageri – Kundalli is the tricky part where there is a steep descent and a climb up to Kundalli. Roads are very narrow and will be hard for 2 vehicles to pass by. Most of the shoulders have been washed off and you need to be careful when you are driving up a steep curve – cant see the road shoulders hence important to stay on road.
- Road is doable in any vehicle but dense vegetation, steep gradients and lack of habitation makes this stretch before Kundalli a little challenging
- Kundalli – Mallalli falls is a mixed bag as you have some very good roads and then the last 4 kms before the turnoff to the falls is in bad shape with lots of craters
Distance: ~17 kms
Time taken: ~ 45 min with lots of stops for photos and sightseeing
- Mallalli Falls – Somwarpete has decent roads with rolling hills giving you company all the way to Somwarpete.
- Somwarpete – Shanivarasanthe – Arkalgud is again good to very good roads with the occasional pothole at the curve of under that old old tree
- Arkalgud – Hassan surprised me. SH21 is as good as good can be and was a welcome break after all the twists and turns
Distance: ~105 kms
Time taken: ~2 hours with some stops for photos and discussions
Best Time to Visit
July – August – Mid September is probably the best time to visit Malenadu region to enjoy the beauty of rain soaked mountains. Watch the golden sunlight raise the mist from shola forests, walk in fine mist like rain, watch brown waters swirl and surge through the hills, walk down trails to waterfalls that crash down rocky precipices. If you have never experienced monsoon in the western ghats, then you definitely are missing out on one of the best experiences of a lifetime.
Preferred Pit Stops
- Sri Meenakshi Bhavan, Shivamogga – dont miss the mouth water butter dosa
- Aramane Vaibhava Restaurant, Tarikere
- Town Canteen, Chikkamagulur
- Siri Coffee, Chikkamagaluru
- Estate Cafe, Mallanduru