So what if it’s called Tiny Girl Town?

Posted on April 17, 2009

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It still manages a couple of larger-than-life beautiful waterfalls and potent, mean cups of coffee.

For those dazed by my literal obscurity, I went to Chikamagalur (henceforth, Chikax) this weekend.

New photographs, friends and the discovery of nicely-photographable friends were the chief exploits of this trip.

Oh, the head-chief exploit? The kind of adventure that comes when thirteen madcaps board a tempo-traveller type vehicle, or fit themselves into (sort of) a jeep meant for six people. But more on that later.

Junta from Hyderabad and hometown bumped along one Friday morning, down the National Highway Number 4, and turned somewhere along the way to Chikax. (I wouldn’t know – I was busy straining my neck muscles, sleeping in absurd postures. This is the problem with having painfully long limbs (PLLs). Another recurrent problem with PLL is that I am left with a very restricted choice of eligible men. But that is another post.)

This knot of crackpots then proceeded to swarm two reserved “serviced apartments”. (read, owners of said apartment on vacation, therefore, to-let)(does anybody remember the times when large, recently done-up office-spaces had makeshift cardboard signs reading ‘to-let’ and you’d wonder what kind of moron it takes to misspell a simple word like ‘toilet’?)(or was that just me?)

But doing no disservice to the service apartments: they were very comfortable, with enough space for the many humans who turn into corpses minutes after lights-off.

Hotel Soundarya in the heart of Chikax made pots of money because of one motley crew of starved youngsters who overworked their staff, by ordering two of everything on the menu.

Do not be surprised if in the near future you are accosted by headlines of an uprising, screaming, “chefs in mini M’lore burn aprons in protest”.

Post feeding our faces, some of us decided to uplift ourselves from the status of the grubby and impoverished by a simple mechanism called “having a bath”. God bless you, M/s. Cold water!

However, since the “some” that opted for this simple mechanism were female, the boys and I (who finished early, having stuck to the “simplicity” of the mechanism) had enough time to finish one languid drink, and three utterly going-nowhere games of Uno.

We then haunted the M/s. Channakeshava & Co. temple. Lovely looking from the outside – where I stood. Going by the spate of pictures in Picasa, I gather it was just as beautiful on the inside.

Then it was return to the dwelling in the dark, followed by a beautiful, nearly-full moon that was blotted by frayed clouds.

The night was then rounded off with very many pegs. The nailed, hammered and smashed then proceeded to play Uno, Fuzzy Duck (and other highly inaccurate just-how-drunk-ARE-you? games) and generated lots of noise. And after objection from someone living three buildings away, it was decided the ambiance was perfect for… ghost stories!

Everybody swore by everybody’s relatives on both maternal and paternal sides. A few dared to put a few living ones at stake (I suppose they don’t favour these relatives).

Skid marks and dubious smells later, half the party left to chase recently-made-elusive sleep. Many drunken giggles and tummy-clutching laugh sessions later, the rest of us went to sleep. Surprisingly peacefully.

Morning came at around 11:30. Ambitious plans made the night before, to start for nearby Kemmanagundi at 6:00AM (HA HA!) were justly junked. After – literally – raiding Hotel Soundarya, we went to Kemmanagundi, or red earth hill(/hell/planet/button).

A breathtaking ride – and I don’t mean just the nausea a few of us lily-stomached had.

The hills were as scenic as ever. And as usual, every photograph taken of these scenes was as cliche and redundant as “failed to do justice”. The last red and golden tinges of autumn clashed with the fresh green tendrils of spring. An explosion of baby flowers amongst listless, dying leaves. Phoenix trees that were being constantly being reborn from ash.

A trek from the hilltop to the nearby Abbey falls, was just as pretty. With red earth coating everything into a breathing, throbbing sepia. Aptly punctuated with rivulets of cool water (special respite for my unequipped-for-trek feet that came armed with a pair of humble white “Rockster” chappals).

I think the biggest reason why the grace of the Abbey Falls – or any waterfall – cannot be replicated in a photograph for me, is because of the conspicuous absence of one crucial detail: the spray and the mist that I feel against my skin. In the era of NGC, GettyImages and FlickR, the reality of the picture-perfect scene is what is the most awesome about it.

Many many awe-struck and jaw-dropped moments later, Hemanth, a dear friend, decided to make more of the jaw-drop. Having slipped from a slippery rock in an act of, let’s see, sheer stupidity, he managed to make quite a spectacle of his upper-lip and forehead. (Not to worry. To his own wonder, he is alive, coherent, and can type perfectly sound sounding SMSes.)

After this, heaven-knows, bad sign, we slowly trundled back toward motorable road to get back to civilization, just in time for an elaborate dinner and a repeat telecast (with improvements) of last night’s tonnes of fun.

Ha ha.

Our guide, as it turned out, was scum. Sorry. A festering colony of scum caking a fetid pond. Many leers and gruesome stories of rape later, he arranges for us, an excuse for a jeep that shows up very late.

Thirteen of us. In a box of a jeep meant for six. Do the math.

Since we weren’t naturally born contortionists, two of the more daring of us decided to position themselves on the hood of the overheated jeep. I think it was steam that obscured the vision of the inebriated driver, and not the boys themselves.

I was precariously perched atop two people’s laps, my PLLs sticking out of the jeep. I tried very desperately to remember the “Guru Brahma” chant my mother taught me many years ago, since faith was the only thing available for me to cling on to.

As expected, for every overheated uphill RPM the wheel managed, it successfully did five backward and downhill into pitch darkness. And like every really old bugger of a manager, overworked RJ and over-abused motor should, the jeep gave up.

Our second-ride showed up in no-less mint condition. By that time, I think we’d covered much of the road by foot, and most of the guide’s family tree. I believe each of us imagined torture techniques that would make Hitler shudder. Varun’s was probably the most vivid, given his very, very sore toes.

Oh, and there was a fight about what the guide must be paid. After a lot of name-calling, abuse-hurtling, and being on the verge of nobody reaching respective hometowns in condition other than mince and/or gurney, we bailed.

Lovely ride back with an eerie, full moon. Back in time for salty dinner, accounts, more jokes, a couple games of Uno, before everyone decided sleep was the best idea they’d had all evening.

The next morning, we bounded back homeward. Bright, sunny day, and realization that hometown had turned hotplate over the weekend. Ta-ta, bye-bye to the Hyderabad junta at Railway Station. A nice full-stop to the trip was weird tasting pasta, but brilliant cold coffee at local adda, La Casa.

Everybody has reached home fine, more or less.

Varun has hopefully seen a doc about his toes.
Hemanth has seven stitches.
Abhinand and Pranav, I believe, are still nursing burnt bottoms.
Aditya has now gone to Hyderabad for some serious chill therapy.

I, however, am recovering from severe blows to my bank account.

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Posted in: Memoirs, Rant, Travel