The International Writers Magazine: India Destinations
The Grand Oak, Coorg, India
Marianne de Nazareth
It's a pretty comfortable five hour drive from Bangalore, if you are looking for a quick getaway from the chaos that the city has descended into. The Grand Oak is the bliss, that stressed souls need.
It's just a two day break from mundane city life. A break that takes you into the soothing arms of Mother nature in a matter of five hours and almost immediately, you can feel your pent up stress start to ebb away.
Large Robusta and Arabica coffee plantations envelop you, as the car begins its climb into the hills. As far as the eye can see it coffee and more coffee with tall trees in between, with pepper vines climbing up and the odd Coorg orange tree as well, surround the car. Along the boundaries of the estates are silver Oak and large clumps of brightly flowering bougainvillea. In fact the Tata Coffee Estate had just one variety of a watery purple bougainvillea flowering in elegant profusion along it's boundary for acres. Jump out and get a clipping on your return, it might just sprout and give you a plant!
After reaching Gonnekoppal, the directions said we had almost reached The Grand Oak. "Look out for the sign posts from there," said Chitra and we did just that, and followed the sign posts to the property.
||Brightly coloured domesticated Lantana against the shiny beauty of ficus leaves greet you as you enter The Grand Oak. It gets difficult to drive onto lush lawns, but that's the wonder of The Grand Oak -- from the gate onwards the lushness of the estate is visible everywhere. As we park, the tall and gracious owner, Chitra Ganapathy, greets us with warmth. Bags get taken into the room in a flash and in minutes we are seated in the cool verandah, on cane chairs chatting like old friends and sipping delicious coffee which is a blend made especially by Chitra.
In the distance the cicadas have set up a chorus and the plop of a fish in the nearby pond completes our picture of serenity.
We enjoyed tucking into Coorg cuisine for a change, for a sit down lunch, rather than the staple Butter Chicken and Palak Paneer served at resorts. Paputtu kolicurry(dish made of rice & chicken curry) pandi curry kadumbuttu ( rice dumplings with pork curry) meen burthade (fried fish) were some of the Coorg dishes we enjoyed for lunch/dinner. For 'after's' we licked the platter clean of Gajjar halwa (carrot halwa) served with a generous dollop of vanilla ice-cream.
|Walking around the property with Chitra, once the sun dipped, began and ended near the piece- de- resistance of the whole 13 acre estate. The lake! The whole property was dry and barren when she bought it in 1999. Fifteen years later, we were visiting and admiring her hard work. "Digging the lake cost me around 2 lakhs," shares Chitra and what an investment it is, as all the rain water is diverted into it. That keeps all the wells and water bodies on the property full to the brim and as long as the lake is untouched, water levels stay fine in the estate. All around the lake Chitra has put down fruit trees, and what a great variety. From figs to Lychees, Jackfruit to Thai pineapple, Love apples and Bangalore Cherry, no wonder the birds are everywhere. And her guests are welcome to feast for free. "Eat as many Love apples as you want," said Chitra. " Otherwise we just feed them to the fish!"
In fact Chitra tells me about a guest who put her arms around the lychee tree with excitement, which was loaded with lychees in that season!
Just take a book and sit on the bench under the Bangalore cherry and enjoy some quiet solitude. Or let your eyes glaze across the water and relax. Just be, that could be the mantra of The Grand Oak.
The rooms are well maintained and in no way comparable to a home-stay. You get resort value for home-stay charges.
Beautiful furniture, fresh and clean linen and duvets that don't give off weird odours. Most home-stays have a very basic bath and toilet , but these are up-to-date with showers and all the gleaming accessories needed. A dreamless sleep is assured once the lights are switched off and you are embraced by the silent velvety darkness of the night.
For breakfast you could be indulged with - freshly cut pineapple or watermelon, and Akki roti kanda curry (rice roti potato curry) or dosa pallaya paggi, or delicious Nuputt ballathaneer (freshly made string hoppers with jaggery in coconut milk. Everyone sits at a large table like in a family home and eats together!
So if you have a few days off and need a break: Check out the website for bookings: http://www.thegrandoak.in/
Address: Om Ganapathy Estate, Kirgur. Ponnampet. Kodagu. Karnataka. India
Distance from Bangalore: 225 Kms - approximately, a five hour drive by car from there. Comfortable buses also fly to Gonikoppal and Ponnampet.
For more information call Chitra on +91 94480 44079.
© Marianne de Nazareth
mde.nazareth at gmail.com
Tucked N - The Smoky Mountains
Marianne de Nazareth
We were searching and trawling the net, to be able to spend a day in a cabin in Pigeon Forge, Knoxville.