With the year winding down to a closure, it was that time of the year to come together once again to lose ourselves amidst nature and friends… no holds barred. 15th and 16th of December were the chosen dates for the annual outing with office colleagues and friends. What started as a small team experiment 5 years ago with a motley group of 20 odd folks was now being organized at scale. This year, we had 73 people raring to leave some part of them back at home and (re)discover themselves and their friends. The experience had gained so much popularity that we even had 2 expatriates joining us this time.
The day started very early on 15th December. I was at my pickup point at 5:20 AM, only to be informed that the bus had hit some logistical hurdles and will be 60 minutes late. And so I waited… in these early hours, the delay seemed longer than usual. Finally the bus arrived and upon boarding the bus, I could sense that most of my colleagues were exhausted. It was not the early morning wake-up call, but instead the heavy lifting they had to do to load all the refreshments needed for the journey. Most of them spent about 45 minutes carrying all the stuff into the bus and understandably they were sapped. Not the best of the starts to a team outing!
In any journey the people you meet matter more than anything else …!!!
It was a good 6 hour journey from Bangalore to Chikmagalur, which is where we were headed. And this long journey is when most of us get to know each other better. As we crossed Nelamangala and hit the highway to Hassan, most of the team had regained their energy and spirits. Peppy music and crazy dance moves only helped increase the adrenaline flow. At about 8:30 AM we reached Swathi Delicacy for breakfast. This is where all 73 of us from the three buses had the opportunity to greet each other. An excellent breakfast set the mood for the rest of the 4 hours of the journey. Once we got into our respective buses, the fun started. Most of the seats in the bus were empty since it was more fun standing and dancing in the aisle. I enjoy seeing how some of us let go of our inhibitions amongst strangers. In every such group there will be a few who just about reach the precipice of letting go, but don’t have the courage to take that one final step. Getting such folks into the groove is not only fun, but an achievement by itself.
I am someone who prefers rock music even in my grave. Hence such team tours are the opportunity for me to get to know the latest dance, trance and item numbers. The pick of the season were two regional songs. One was a Malayalam song titled “Jumikki Kambal” and another was a Kannada song titled “Moorre Moorru Peg”. Both the songs were so much fun. And of course even this year, the most popular stars during the journey were Sunny Leone and Honey Singh… only for their dance and songs! We had an expat in our bus and he was bonkers thinking how a bus turned into a dance floor. It was something he had not experienced at all in his part of the world. The music had to stop once we lost internet connectivity somewhere on the outskirts of Hassan. It was dumb charades; truth or dare; and other such civilized team games thereafter. Truth or dare was the pick of these games since it got people [well at least some of them] to speak about their first dates, crushes, secrets and a lot more. It was a clear sign that we had broken ice as a team.
We had booked our stay at “Jhari Eco Stay”. We had to cross the check post and get into the forest area before reaching the resort. Surprisingly the cops at the check post were very strict and meticulous in checking our bus and bags for liquor. It seems liquor is not allowed into the forest region. The policeman who entered the bus frisked most of the bags, especially the ladies bags. He definitely suspected that we were carrying liquor but was disappointed not to find any of it with us. I hope he did not lose his sleep trying to crack the mystery. We enjoyed the serene beauty of Chikmagalur for the rest of the 18 kms after the check post.
Jhari Eco Stay is a good 3 km from the road that leads to its main entrance. The resort had arranged for two jeeps to ferry us since buses were too big to traverse these 3 kms. We had to travel in batches of 15 in each jeep. The adventurous few hiked the distance. The resort as such was very nice. The staff were hospitable, the facilities were clean, food was decent… most importantly the resort was truly nestled away from all civilization. Except for BSNL, all other cell phone providers were defunct here. This was a big relief for many of us. A picturesque waterfall just beside the resort capped it all. Here we were away from all the noise, concrete, glass, pollution and off course work.
We took time to have a good lunch and refresh ourselves. Close to 3:00 PM, we set off on a small trek to one of the private waterfalls in the resort. We underestimated the trek to the water falls. The distance itself was only about 2 km, but the terrain was taxing. For a large part of the trek, we had to hold onto ropes to avoid tripping. Even the ropes were non-existent very soon. It was then that team spirit surfaced! This was a trek which many of us had not done in our lives. Pits, creepers, roots, slippery rocks, muddy slides, thorny bushes were just a few of the hurdles that we had to cross. Our fortitude as individuals and as a team was put to test out there. Almost all of us relied on the person ahead and behind for help at each of these hurdles. This mini adventure brought down all the designations / hierarchy and proved to be a humbling experience and a great leveler. At some points, we literally crawled to counter the rough terrain. Reaching the water fall was finally worth it. Taking a dip in the ice cold water was exhilarating. This bought out the child within each of us. In no time we were screaming; singing; spraying water at each other; laughing and of course shivering all along. We took turns to stand right under the falls and allow the water to beat us with all its force. We spent more than an hour at these falls and reluctantly had to trek back to the resort. Darkness descends very quickly in these parts and we did not want to take any risk. The return journey was equally eventful. It was even more tiring since we only had some boring showers to greet us back at the resort.
… but without the dark, we’d never see the stars…
Darkness engulfed the resort and its surroundings soon thereafter. The cool breeze; the sound of the swaying trees; the chatter of insects; the distant sound of the waterfalls; a thin mist covering the sky… these are somethings we crave for everyday in our cluttered cities. And here it was in abundance for us to relish every part of it. Night always comes with its mystic and the ambiance was extra special for us tonight. A bunch of people kicked off the evening with a high octane dance performance. The subsequent campfire; music; barbecue and beverages set the ball rolling for the rest of the evening. It was a perfect setup for a party which kept us screaming for more and more of it. The build-up and teasers since morning culminated here with the entire team dancing, singing, laughing and bonding like never before. With time people found their calling for the evening: some danced their way into the night; some formed groups to laugh and chat about everything and nothing; some were just screaming their lungs out; a rare few preferred to reflect alone with their drinks. Ohh boy… these 4 – 5 hours were what many of us were looking forward to. Dinner was frowned upon since no one really cared about anything else than what was already going on. Finally towards 11 PM, we were forced to stop since we could not play music any longer. We had an early start today and we were expected to have an early start tomorrow as well. Hence some retired to their tents and beds. The mist cleared to reveal the clear skies and the moon. The rest of us relaxed in this tranquil setting as the night wore on. We lost track of time as we shared a lot of our personal stories to our new found friends. I finally hit the sack closer to midnight. The short and disturbed sleep was interspersed with thoughts about the entire day.
The first wake-up call was at 5:00 AM on 16th December. Our only event was an early morning hike to Mullyanagiri peak. After last evening’s jamboree some of the people could not make it for this early morning event. Hence it was just about two third of us who hopped on to some jeeps and buses and headed towards Mullyanagiri. The journey was filled with beautiful views of the vast expanse of Chikmagalur. The hike to the peak was a walk in the park… especially after last evening’s experience. Here we only had a few steps to climb and nothing else. The views from the top of Mullayanagiri were breath-taking. We lost track of the number of pictures that were clicked atop Mullayanagiri. A temple and a small cave were the only attractions there. Very soon there was nothing else to do there than to return back to the resort. And so, we headed back to the resort where we were welcomed by our lazy friends who could not make it. It was close to 11 AM by when everyone had freshened up and completed their breakfast. It was time to head back to Bangalore… albeit reluctantly. We posed for one final team picture near the entrance of Jhari Eco Stay and bid a vociferous good bye.
The return journey was largely sedate. People were too tired to do anything other than sleep or listen to music on their gadgets. We had lunch at Adyar Anandha Bhavan near Hassan. Towards 6 PM we entered Bangalore and were greeted by the Saturday evening traffic snarls. This was perhaps the only dampener to an otherwise wonderful outing.
Thanks to a group of 15 self-motivated volunteers who put this entire two day event together, we now know each other better. We relived the experience during the next couple of days at work by looking at all the pictures and recollecting the fun time we shared. I will remember this outing for many years to come. Such team events, memories and experiences are amongst what I cherish the most in my professional life.
Quick recap of other such two day official team outings in the past, including the current one:
- Stay at “Jhari Eco Stay”. Do not miss the private water falls within the resort and a trek to Mullyanagiri.
- Stay at “The Last Resort” at Chikmagalur. Hebbe waterfalls and trek to Z-Point in Kemmanagundi are good attractions. Note that the trek to Z-Point can be taxing.
- Stay at “The Hidden Valley Resort” at Chikmagalur. Shankar waterfalls and a trek to a peak near the resort will keep you busy.
- Ghattikallu is another good place to explore. However lack of planning and incessant rain played spoil sport during this outing. Hope you can do better!
- Breakfast is good at Swathi Delicacy. Lunch can be had at Hassan… A2B is our preference.
- If you have time, you can visit Bellur, Halebidu or Shravanabelagola on the way back to Bangalore.
- Best time to travel are just after the monsoons… i.e. October to December.