Monsoon, Mists and Magic at Chikhaldara

Ruins of Gavilgad
The prettiest that India looks is during the monsoon. Its was during one such season that we decided to head up to Chikhaldara, Maharashtra. Chikhaldara enjoys its distinction in being the only hill station in the Vidharba region. It is next to the Melghat tiger Project and is teeming with flora and fauna. Chikhaldara is yet to be touched by full fledged tourism and retains a lot of ancient charm. We made the mistake of not taking enough money as is the case in the age of debit cards.The only ATM nearby was in the town which was a good drive away down the mountain. This trip was a spontaneous one made in 2011, here’s to hoping that a few banks have made it up the mountain by now.
A farmer after his afternoon siesta
A convoy of cows returning home
Chikhaldara is around 230 kms from Nagpur and the drive is scenic and pleasant especially in the monsoon with farms and plantations along the route. This hill station has only 4 resorts next to the sleepy village of Chikhaldara. Prior booking is required which is also something we did not have. But some luck and some negotiation got us a ‘queen’ room for the night.
Dew Drops caught in a spiders web
The room was strictly mediocre and housed a wild rat who was adamant to fight for his territory. We realized that the original occupant of the room was a rat only when we came back from dinner and found our ‘water cool keg’ (a relic from 90’s India) chewed up. Since we were suddenly out of water and in mortal danger because of a rat. We took our complaint to the ‘resort’ manager who with a very matter of fact face informed us that ‘this is the jungle madam, this place belongs to the animals. This was only a rat, here you will find tigers too’. But he obliged to send us some water to the room. The next morning we were face to face with the errant landlord of the ‘queen’ room. I am told rodents hide when they see humans, this rodent was kind of like Popeye after a dose of spinach. But it got us to vacate the room and enjoy Chikhaldara early in the morning.
Mists rolling onto a lake
It was misty outside and we were in our pyjamas. The idea was to see the lake next to the resort before the mist rolls away. But the mist kept beckoning and we kept going further and further in mesmerized by the mountains and the lush green enveloped in mist. Each blade of grass was refreshed and each flower was at its brightest. Breakfast was at a rustic tea shop with wooden benches. The menu was vada pav with a hot cup of tea. Food takes on special flavors from the surroundings and a simple meal of the Maharashtrian staple pitla bakri can tantalize your taste buds up in this mountain kingdom.
Flowers fresh from their morning rendezvous with dew
We later piled up in the car and drove to Gavilgad fort which is high up on the mountain. In the rains it is pure magic to watch the clouds roll by, touching everything and quenching every leaf. Gavilgad fort is in ruins but this adds to its charm as it was once a bastion built by the Persians and was considered unassailable. The view from some of the vantage points like Prospect point and Devi point is breathtaking as you peer down a misty valley . Suddenly when the mist rolls away you get glimpses of the winding river, writhing away on its way to meet the sea.
The unassailable fort
There is lot of history and mythology that Chikhaldara offers. It is said to have got its name from an episode in the Mahabharata where Bheema killed Kheechka. You can almost hear the thunderous roar of these two stalwarts from mythology as they charge into each other at one of the prominent waterfalls. This jungle hill station has lots to offer in its folds and promises to be a rejuvenating experience for whoever ventures here. Chikhaldara is also a great place to go and loose yourself and your troubles as you go deeper into the mist.
Deep in to the mist

A discovery for India Unexplored Lonely Planet. Chikhaldara

Chicory Coffee and Chikmagalure

The air gets thinner and the rich aroma of coffee mixed with chicory caresses my senses as I wait at the dusty little bus stop. A crowd of men patiently wait the next bus to take them into the neighbouring towns, the traffic is composed of jeeps which ferry to and fro from the mountains blanketed with coffee plantations.

The faint sun glints off the stainless steel utensils hung in the bazaar while a sweeper quietly sweeps the road adding to the dust circling around the road. Sounds of hymns and prayers arise from the temple nearby, a woman in a red saree hunches over making a ritualistic design with rice powder welcoming prosperity into her home.
The coffee grinder goes full throtle grinding up coffee beans and chicory into the perfect elixir of the south indian morning. The ground beans make it to the coffee filter a must for every home in the region, the bigger the filter the bigger the family. The coffee powder thus concocted is pressed, squeezed and mixed with milk and sugar only to be built into a froth with a practised art passed down through centuries. It is then pored into multiple steel pint glasses set inside tumblers, so that you can practice the frothing whooshing action that you witnessed for yourself before sipping the filter coffee which is a foriegn pleasure. The legend that any tour guide in the sleepy town of Chikmanglur will endorse tells a story of Baba Budan who smuggled the first beans of coffee from Arab merchants and planted it amongst the tall teak trees laced with pepper vines.
Since then the coffee was embraced as an integral part in the land of chai drinkers. The mountains which nurse the coffee beans have etheral feeling to it much like the heady sweet coffee. The tall trees punctuated with coffee plants where an occasional peacock flits through transports me to a prehistoric time which I have just dreamed about. The ride up to the coffee plantation in the back of an old jeep acted as the perfect time machine.


The plantation with the quaint guest house reeked of coffee as it got roasted and dried and packed. A gurgling stream which cut through the plantation imparted its earthy taste to the coffee beans and they swayed and danced among the leaves. All I could hear was the monkeys chattering in the trees, the brook babbling and the birds chirping. As I sat sipping my aromatic chicory coffee, they told me the story of coffee.

An inspiring fragrance