Thursday, 11 February 2010

Rugged charm of Karnataka’s wild, virgin forests

Rugged charm of Karnataka’s wild, virgin forests

- By Ritu Dalmia in DC 07-FEB-2010

Sometimes I think we Indians, even residing in India, including myself, have not seen enough of India. Every year I make plans to go to destinations like Africa, I dream about Namibia, I wonder what is the best time to go to Japan, and for some strange reason we just take India for granted. Well, this has changed.
My new year resolution for 2010 is to see at least two new places in India every year, and just to prove how serious I am about this, I promptly on the first day of the year left for Karnataka with a group of friends. What a trip. I left every destination wanting a bit more, just with that just small bit of me wanting to stay back yet another day, sure sign of a successful trip I guess.

Where we stayed: The Bison jungle retreat was not easy to locate, but what a charming place once we found it. Located on the shores of river Kabini, overlooking the Nagarhole wildlife park, it would be safe to say it is the best place to stay in the region.
The ambience and style is inspired by lodges in Africa. Tents have been imported from Kenya and are mighty comfortable. Service is slightly iffy, but saying that, the charm of the place more than makes up for it. Make sure you make an appointment with Babloo for a head massage. Our friend Mr Chin who experienced it first hand swears that Babloo was “the best thing that happened to the Bison”. In terms of location, it was perfect to explore the lush green forests of the area.

What we saw: Many Asian Tuskers, a pack of wild dogs, wild boars, spotted deer, crocodiles, woodpeckers, mynahs hawks and the babbler.
What we ate: It is shameful even to recount the packets of bread that must have been used every morning for breakfast, devoured with fried eggs and green chillies. The shahi tukra and the chicken biryani deserve a special mention.

How to get there: Fly to Bengaluru and drive via Mysore. Approximately five hours by car, provided you get out of Bengaluru within an hour.
Highlight: Coracle ride on the river Kabini in true “Mani Ratnam” style (yes, I even heard some of the group members crooning away Dil hai chhota sa).

Siddapur, Coorg
Where we stayed: The school estate run by super efficient Rani Aiyappa is what a perfect home stay should be. Nestled in a 250 acre coffee plantation, Rani started this just to earn some pin money and now it is a full time job for her. Her beautifully manicured garden is such a treat, nearly as special as the meals served by her well trained kitchen. Rooms are spacious and have an old English charm to them. The house is over 100 years old and part of it still retains the old-world charm.

What we ate: Now this is going to be a very long list. Each and everything that we ate was pure delight, every lunch, every dinner was a long affair. However, the Pandy curry (Coorg pork curry) deserves a special mention because the entire vessel was licked clean by us.

What we saw: Actually I saw nothing, I was more interested in lazing around in her garden, and reading, and waiting for the next mealtime. The others went to the elephant orphanage expecting to give a pedicure to the elephants, but I believe they were quite disappointed.
Highlight: Walk through the plantation with KK, our co-host and Rani’s shy husband.

The writer is a chef and owner of Diva

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