Once out of Bangalore, the drive to Hassan is smooth. Commerce in this path is very less and it was empty, even the last time I went there. In Hassan, and from there to Belur they are widening the road to increase tourism to the Hoysala temples. On the 100th kilometer, the Mayura restaurant of KSTDC surprised me; it is clean everywhere. The Masala Dosa was tasty at tea when going, and the vegetarian thali at lunch, coming back. I saw waitresses for the first time in India in a restaurant of that category; wearing aprons, looking clean and neat, and very competent. The cash was handled by a young lady.
In Chikmagalur, our escort for the Mullayyanagiri trek - Santosh - proudly said that the main road (KM Road) was built by the British. He could be right, and the town seems so deferential to it, they have not done anything to the road since. All roads in the town are like that, so I wonder if they have ever had even a small accident; the roads are so slow and bumpy. The road up the hill to Seetalayyana Gudi - which is the base from which they start the trek to Mullayyanagiri peak - is so narrow and they drive so fast. As we went up a truck came down, rumbling and shaking, and our jeep flung to the edge, maybe just a millimeter from the precipice. And the driver - Rehman - did not slow down a moment. I asked him if that scared him. From the backseat, I saw a smile line stretch the side of his face. He was silent and stayed so till the end of our little trek.
In contrast to deluged Bangalore, it was not raining. It was warm, but grew pleasantly chilly as we went up. The hills all round and the vast valley below were all various shades of green, brilliant, and the dew on them made them silvery. The hills are covered mainly by shrub that make them look from the distance like smooth green carpeting. The trees are gone. The exposed rock is black, reddish and appears very rich. The breeze constantly pushed clean air at us. It was not much of a trek, about four and a half kilometers, but when we arrived at the peak and went into the small temple with the beautiful Linga, we were very fresh and high from the exertion.
There are large estates all round. Santosh (like the guide when we last went there) pointed out a particularly large one down below and explained the features: swimming pool, palatial estate house and many other things. He is a strapping young man, very good looking, though a nervous guide. He was very anxious about taking us down the same path that we had taken and we walked down the boring road. He cannot come to Bangalore to train and go higher; his mother will not let him. As we walked down, the weather changed. A thick mist came upon everything. We could see only a few feet ahead. All the green and silver changed to gray, throwing us into a thoughtful mood. It started to drizzle when we touched the base, but when we drove into town it was still dry.
The most fun I had the following morning. I was looking for jogging space. Coming down the side of Taj Garden Resort, I jogged a few minutes on a housing estate awaiting construction. Then I noticed a narrow road leading off to the country and took it. The next forty minutes were exquisite. In that time one scooter, one autorikshaw and one truck passed me, making the clean air suddenly acrid. That was just for a few seconds. I passed a villager or two. All round me was a vast green valley. As I jogged up and down the gently rolling path, the complete expanse of lakes, green fields, uncultivated rough land, and trees were all at once open to my eyes. At the distant rim were the ghats, in a contrasting blue against white cloud. I took in large breaths of crisp, clean air. And as always at such moments, I ached to leave the city for a life in the country.