A delayed flight from Calcutta to Bangalore. Bumper to bumper traffic and awful snarls that take forever to get us out of the Bangalore city and onto the highway. Rains and a vehicle with a fractured suspension. Language issues as we negotiate the final bends and twists, trying to reach our destination: a coffee estate about 14 km off Madikeri in Coorg.
Busted after a 15 hour long day, all we can do is check in and crash.
But then a good night’s sleep followed by waking up to bird call and a clear day in the hills can repair many a disheveled moods and muscles. The setting isn’t half bad either. We’re at Old Kent Estates, a heritage property that dates back to the 1800’s.
I amble out of my cottage to come to the main building which houses the dining facilities for a cuppa and a chit-chat. Both turn out to be well-brewed. A straight throwback in time, Old Kent is as colonial as an estate can get: British architecture nestled in the lap of an expansive garden and woodlands. I’m told the property was developed by an army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Wright, who was as much a writer and poet as an army man and supervised the transformation of what was a jungle with big game to a thriving estate and a home for his family.
It was in the mid 1960’s that the property changed hands and came to be owned by its present owners - The Thaikappa family who hail from Tamil Nadu. The family restored the property to its original charm and opened up its doors in 2011 to discerning guests and nature lovers.
Having narrated the property’s umbilical cord, the bearer excuses himself and leaves me to savor a piping hot breakfast and a tall glass of fresh juice. An overarching sense of quiet envelopes me, broken only by the gentle rustling of the wind and the conversation between babblers. My wicker seat at the verandah sits atop a well-kept, vibrant, floral lawn embellished with wrought iron chairs. In bloom are roses, poinsettias, angel trumpets, hibiscus, bougainvilleas and palash. The verandah’s walls are dotted by handsome antlers, a testimony to its hunting days.
The resort seems to be sparsely occupied at the time, allowing me to walk around freely and have a dekho. There are a total of eight cottages, each one with an utterly delightful name that hasn’t been altered in centuries. Mine’s called Cannock Chase and my immediate neighbors are called Glenmore Forest and Foxley Wood. Every cottage is more or less the same − a flight of stairs, a tiny sit out, a large, tasteful room attached to a bathroom that has three bathing areas including one for a foot bath.
The one activity that the resort offers is a plantation walk and I immediately book myself for it. The afternoon sees a sharp shower but luckily the sky soon clears up to go back to its unspoilt pastel blue, in time for my walk. We carry large umbrellas, just in case.
The estate is spread across 200 acres as is evident from thousands of coffee plants all around. Even though it is still afternoon, it is fairly dark inside the plantation as the sun doesn’t quite cut through the thick bushes. Every once in a while though a sunbeam manages to breaks through, almost lighting up the green canopy. Since we’re in mid-October, the coffee cherries are still green and unripe, not yet suitable for harvesting. Old Kent grows two varieties of coffee: the more delicate and fragile Arabica and the sturdier Robusta which was discovered a hundred years after Arabica. My guide explains that there are two coffee beans to be found inside each cherry which will be harvested by December and then dried and roasted by January. He reveals that in the summer season, the woodlands are filled with small white flowers that give out a sweet jasmine like fragrance. Even the thought of it is heady.
Thanks to the afternoon shower, the tracks are a tad slippery and one has to tread carefully. The other thing to be weary of are leeches. Every now and then we stop to shake off a few that have made it to the tip of my footwear. Covered shoes are a must. I now understand the need for a foot bath in the bathrooms. As we tread on, the guide also points out the pepper creepers that abound. These black pepper creepers that have beautiful green leaves climb to quite a height, the seeds still green but due to turn black in a couple of months. Tucked between these thick plantations, one can also find orange trees and cardamom bushes right on the ground. My guide slits out fresh cardamom for me to taste. The flavor is exquisite.
We’ve been walking for over 2 hours and other than one instance of a car honk, it feels like we’ve truly been away from the madding crowd. It’s close to 6pm when we start making our way out of the plantations and onto concrete road again. We step out of the wilderness only to catch a riot of sunset colors streaking the sky: violets and magentas splashed with fiery orange brushstrokes and the last remnants of a pale blue. It’s a masterpiece!
Places like Old Kent aren’t meant for everybody; they aren’t urban fun or happening. But if you are the sort who enjoys the jugalbandi of a distant rumbling thunder and the rustling wind, the contrasts of a spectacular sunset and an inky dark moonlit night; of lost tales told in local tongues and dialects and the silences in between, you’ll not want to leave Old Kent in a hurry. After all, it does live up to its promise of nature, nostalgia and tranquility.
Photo Credits - Booking.com; Banner Center: oldkentestate.com; Banner Right: Booking.com
A delayed flight from Calcutta to Bangalore. Bumper to bumper traffic and awful snarls that take forever to get us out of the Bangalore city and onto the highway. Rains and a vehicle with a fractured suspension. Language issues as we negotiate the final bends and twists, trying to reach our destination: a coffee estate about 14 km off Madikeri i
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