When you travel alone, you discover things around you, you discover people and places and you discover yourself. You also learn to enjoy adventures and conversations and cherish them.
My first ever all solo vacation was to Chikmaglur and this was in 2009. I was just learning photography and experimenting with my first ever DSLR, so I decided to get away with my camera as my companion. I had done a couple of international solo trips before this, but, there was work and family catch ups interlinked, so it was not all alone time. I was the kind of person who didn’t like eating alone at restaurants or figuring out plans and days on my own, so the challenge was exciting and experimental. I spent four days in the heartland of the coffee country Chikmagalur in one of my best homestay experiences till date- Nature Craft Homestay. This was a beautiful bungalow, set in the midst of coffee estates and with cute little cottages set around the courtyard. Run by Ansar and Ninad, I also got to interact with Ansar’s parents and their adorable little children, Rani and Dhani.
I had taken a bus to Chikmaglur and Ansar picked me up from the bus station. We drove through picturesque landscapes and hairpin bends and arrived at the homestay. I got a big room closest to the house, as I was the only guest at the time. The food was scrumptious and that’s an understatement, I am an eggetarian and the feast I had in front of me for dinner was the largest meal I had ever been served and each and every dish was just perfectly done. Aunty, Ansar’s mom and Ninad had made the dinner and just the thought that I had four days’ worth of such good food stretching in front of me was a very happy thought. It was a chance find, but Nature Craft is a place I went back to, because after four days there, I had found extended family. The kids were witty, fun and delightful and I ended up doing their homework with them and they ended up staying with me in the night…
Ansar was amazing at fixing up my itinerary and got me a trusted driver who knew the roads and places and he played my guide. I had a list of places to visit and in three days, I had covered all the important attractions.
On day one, after a super breakfast, I headed out in an Indica to the peaks. Mullrayangiri and Kavikalgandi were the highlights with some beautiful views of the Wester Ghats stretching out in front of the eyes. The drive itself was fascinating and as we scaled the mountains, their majestic beauty breathtaking. Baba Budengiri, another popular destination was shut down so we didn’t get a chance to go there, but we went to this place called Gaali Ker, which translates to windy-lake. It was this lake that was on a mountain and was surrounded in clouds and mist, which was my favourite memory of the trip. A lake, on a mountain, surrounded in fog and I was lost in the midst of it… We managed to stop for a late lunch in town at the only multi-cuisine veg restaurant which my driver recommended and I managed to have a thali of wholesome food, having worked up an appetite with the mountain air.
Day two was an outing to Belur and Halebid and a Jain temple. This was a whole different feel altogether; history and stunning architecture combining together for a sense of awe and the walls of the temples telling stories as relevant today as they were aeons ago. The temples were regal and earthy at the same time and gave a sense of timelessness, creating a time-warp in the head. The light tunnels inside the temple and the playful dance of sunlight and shadow gave my camera a whole new dimension to explore.
The last day was spent in the house, walks in the estate and in the evening the family volunteered to take me out into town for shopping and to eat local masala dosa and visit a well-known park, nestled amidst the hills. The town is fairly small and has a few shops selling coffee and nick-knacks. It was not a great shopping area, but good enough to carry back some gifts.
This was my first solo trio and I found so much of peace, joy and realization that I can travel anywhere I want to and meet people I like, explore places and just spend time with myself. It was great for my photography too as I found landscapes and structures and came back with happy memories that will stay with me forever.
So to more solo trips, to adventure and conversations!
Shreya Krishnan is Director, Communications & CSR, First Advantage, India