We have arrived in Coorg, the coffee growing area of Karnataka, to stay with Mickey and Sapna, (old school mates of my friend Mridula). They live on a 130 acre plantation in the heart of the jungle in South India. This farm has been in their family for three generations and, as a young girl, Mridula came here to spend holidays with her friends. Over the years the family estate has changed and diversified and Mickey and Sapna have recently built four comfortable guest cottages in the grounds of the coffee plantation
This will be our home in the jungle for the next few days.
We had travelled five hours south west from Bangalore, passing through urban city sprawl, new luxury residential developments, (some already built whilst others remain in varying stages of promise), a huge university and medical school complex set up by a well known guru, various Karnataka tribal villages and then, perhaps the most unexpected surprise was to arrive in a town decorated with Tibetan national flags and bunting. Kushalnagar is the Buddhist town established for Tibetan refugees by the Indian Government. (We decide we’ll explore the town and the famous Golden Monastery on our way back).
Eventually we turn onto a small side road that heads up into the hills near Siddapur. Cutting through the jungle on either side we finally emerge into plantations of coffee trees and smaller pepper vines as far as the eye can see. There’s a lot of stopping to ask directions from locals and an opportunity to see interesting faces of South India; smiles, frowns, smiles, weather-beaten expressions, eyes full of the experience of life. In addition there’s the opportunity to hear the dialects of this quite remote region of India. Mridula and the driver speak ten languages between them, (everything from Malayalam Kanadana and Tamil to Hindi and Telegu ), but even then it gets complicated and at times hand gestures are more easily understood.
Our hosts, Mickey and Sapna, help us to settle in. There are hammocks under the trees in the fenced off gardens(that’s to keep the elephants and wild life out) and our own outdoor thatched dining area. A tributary of the River Cauvery runs through the grounds attracting all kinds of wild life from kingfishers to turtles (and elephants on occasion). Monkeys note our arrival, keep a watchful distance and are no doubt ready for mischief.
The sound of silence is deafening. Then the ambient sounds of nature begin to intrude; the chitter chatter of wild life.
There is a continual background of bird song and the more I listen the more I begin to tune in to distant and varied sounds. Mickey tells us there are 350 bird species in this part of Coorg. It’s an absolute dream for wild life and especially bird enthusiasts. Parrots, Kingfishers, Wild Fowl, Pigeons, Owls and very noisy Grey Horn Bills. Red Whisker Bulbuls nest here all year round and Robins settle here after their long journey from Siberia.
I find a hammock to lie in, breathe gently and listen to the birdsong. Already I feel an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility.