Being Women

Exploring The Magic of The RainMaker: Kalasa, Chikmagalur

Kalasa in Chikmagalur is a delight during the monsoon. Explore the place with our photographer and writer Aditi.

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than monsoons in the Western Ghats? Every year, as the moisture-laden winds of the southwestern monsoon gush inland, they strike the uninterrupted barrier of the mountain range running parallel to the western coast of India. This hurdle results in heavy rainfall in peninsular India.

We decided to travel to the rainmakers’ kingdom, Kalasa, in Chikmagalur to experience the monsoon in its full glory! This is located in the Malnad region and receives some of the highest rainfall, earning it the sobriquet ‘Cherrapunji of South India’!

Two-thirds of the 300-odd km from Bangalore to Kalasa were covered in good time but the last 100 km were the winding ghat roads where a safe speed and steady hand are crucial. Amidst the August downpours, the city grayscapes gently gave way to the country greens. We took small pitstops admiring farmers shielding the rain with makeshift plastic raincoats or fairytale-like wooden houses in sync with the natural backdrop of the mountains. We crossed many a seasonal waterfall and numerous small rivers gushing to the brim with tea-coloured, sediment-laden waters and also tried counting the different hues of green around us.

We reached Kalasa as dusk drew in. I had chosen a remote homestay, the road to which was narrow and slippery, with zero mobile connectivity, and with gaping depths on one side. It had stopped raining, but the world was engulfed in a misty cloak, causing poor visibility. Every bend posed a new scare, with the motionless trees looming scarily in the eerie silence. One false turn, and we could dive deep into the bottomless valley below. Our Ecosport was holding well, but we got lost twice, and after a lot of instructions from friendly locals, we finally reached Thangali Homestay. After an early dinner, we hit the hay.

The next morning revealed what the mists had hidden earlier. A quaint group of cottages perched on top of a hill with sweeping views of the green valley kissing the cloudy horizon. Post breakfast, we set off to visit El Neer, or Tender Coconut Falls, on a 4×4 drive. The bone-rattling ride seemed to run over streams and mud paths alike. A short trek took us to the falls, which thundered in full force. While trekking, I suddenly discovered a leech stuck to my calf. I panicked and almost lost my footing. My friends held me immediately, saving me from tripping over the cliffside. Some handy salt from the driver was poured on the leech to shake it off. My extreme fear of creepy crawlies could have resulted in a bad accident, and I thanked God for allowing me to live to tell the tale! We reached a safe spot where part of the falls crossed a gravel path and took a refreshing shower in the clean mountain water.

Back at the homestay in this coffee country, piping cups awaited us. I set off with my camera to explore this wet wonderland. A host of tiny creatures greeted me. Brilliantly coloured snails glided across moist branches while gleaming insects shone like jewels. God had cleaned this beautiful land with a fresh shower, and every living being danced in joy.

The evening, however, proved more adventurous than the morning. The constant rains cancelled the bonfire plans, but the homestay owner offered a small burner with coal and wood to warm us inside the dormitory. It was quite cold, and we surrounded ourselves around the fire with hot pakoris and coffee. It became atmospheric as the lights went out, the rain thundered on the tin roof, and the sudden gusts almost soaked the beds placed beside the windows. Without thinking much, we clamoured to close all of them.

Later, I went to the washroom at the end of the long room. I only remember entering with a slightly giddy feeling and just opening the tap, and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor. My friends, sensing my long absence and getting no response, banged on the door and finally broke it down to find me slumped on the floor, completely unconscious. After they rigorously massaged my feet and hands and splashed water on my face, I gradually regained consciousness and stabilised. What had happened was school-level science theory, which we had all ignored. The sealed windows and the burning fire created carbon monoxide. This poisonous gas mixes with the haemoglobin in our blood and forms carboxyhemoglobin, which decreases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood in our body. Later, instead of some sympathy, I had another good reproach from my father about not knowing this basic scientific phenomenon!

One moment, it was peaceful quietude when one’s soul became aligned with earth and sky. And soon this tranquilly was broken by a frenzied orchestra of frogs, crickets, and large raindrops loudly splashing into puddles! The dark night looked magical through the cold window pane. Tiny lights flickered from distant huts, mere specs in this vast, moist world of forest and hills. A longing grew in my heart to not return home the next day. I penned down my thoughts in my diary and lay awake for long, absorbing this dance of the rain and earth!


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