Bengaluru to Sakleshpur: The echoing green

Sampling Malnad cuisine, scenic coffee plantations and nature trails

The Mallali Falls near Sakleshpur. Photo: Ramya Srinivasan
The Mallali Falls near Sakleshpur. Photo: Ramya Srinivasan

It took my eyes a while to adjust to the all-encompassing greenery. The scenery was a cache of every imaginable colour of green. Raindrops fell vigorously on the foliage. Modest homes, freshly whitewashed, peeked through this panoramic view.

Five years ago, Sakleshpur, the sleepy coffee town nestled in the Western Ghats, was barely on the tourism map. But now it comes up frequently in conversations with friends and family, its scenic plantations, nature trails and trekking options a welcome, non-commercial alternative to Coorg and Chikmagalur, the stalwart coffee areas of Karnataka.

Just 221km from Bengaluru, I found it a compelling option for a quick family vacation.

Our home-stay, Kaanana (jungle in Kannada), was tucked amid dense coffee and pepper plantations, overseeing acres of bright green paddy fields. The room itself had minimal decor, no TV or Wi-Fi, a reminder that you were visiting for just two things: to spend time with nature and to treat yourself to authentic Malnad cuisine. 

And what delightful food fare it turned out to be. Over the course of the weekend, we had the chance to relish a delectable no-oil, no-frills spread with vangi bhath (brinjal rice), with a liberal sprinkling of crunchy groundnuts, palya (steamed vegetables mixed with pulses and coconut), sambar and spicy rasam, with traditional vermicelli kheer to sign off. The famous Malnad akki roti (rice-flour bread) and kadubu(steamed dumplings stuffed with split gram and jaggery mix) replaced the conventional wheat-flour roti and idli  for most of the meals. And as I savoured them, one bite at a time, I could see why.

On Saturday, the first day, we ventured out to the Manjarabad fort. Built by Tipu Sultan in 1792, this star-shaped fort seems to be yearning for attention from the tourism department. For though it won my heart not just for its imposing architecture, but also for its enthralling view of the Ghats, its upkeep leaves much to be desired.

The next stop was the Sakleshwara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Though it’s smaller than the typical south Indian temple, its tiered spire and intricate architectural details are inspired by the Hoysala dynasty that ruled from the 11th-14th centuries. An ideal spot for some quiet reflection, it was the perfect way to end the day.

On Sunday, our second day there, the Mallalli Falls in the misty Pushpagiri hill range, 54km from Sakleshpur, were on our itinerary. The battle with nausea through the serpentine bends of the Ghats and a precarious jeep ride proved to be well worth it as a gushing sound welcomed us well before we spotted the waterfall. 

Swaddled by thick forests, the place resembled a bushy monster with an elongated, ruffled white beard. Not willing to let go of the sight, I continued to click pictures till my husband shook me out of the mesmerized stupor. It was time to drive back to Bengaluru.

On the way back, engrossed in thoughts of Sakleshpur’s sights, the husband tried to mock-snap me back to city reality, “It was all a little too green, wasn’t it?” 

But as the city’s chaotic, dusty streets and traffic-clogged roads neared, all I could think was, “I’d take that any day.”

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.

Ramya tweets @ramya_vasan 

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