SMELL THE COFFEE
WORDS: SHARMEEN HUSSAIN
PHOTOGRAPHS: T KRISHNA PRABAKAR
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Mangalore, Hyderabad, Mysore
GREAT FOR A monsoon retreat and white-water rafting
Devendra, the operations manager at Tata Plantation Trails, recalls – with a bizarre degree of fondness – the time he almost got killed by an elephant. “I was driving up the road to my house and, as I turned a bend, I was faced with a huge tusker. The agitated animal charged, but stopped just short of my car and then walked away into the bushes. That day, I thought I was finished!” he says, a smile playing around his lips.
At the Tata Coffee Estate in Coorg, elephant encounters are common. The 17,000-odd acres of thick vegetation are attractive, to say the least – it’s no wonder, then, that wild denizens wander in and hang about. In case you’re wondering why anyone would hazard a visit there, it’s because it’s actually pretty safe and quite gorgeous. When it rains, the property is particularly inviting – green is the order of the day, and blankets of it swathe the grounds. The plantation takes on a glossy sheen and the air is thick with a delicious mist.
Once owned by British planters, the estates and the huge bungalows within changed hands a number of times before being taken over by Tata Coffee Ltd. Now the plantation and the bungalows – some with more than a hundred years of history behind them – are handled by Tata Plantation Trails and are open to the public. And, once you visit, you’ll be glad they are.
The Thaneerhulla Bungalow, one of seven bungalows that have been restored for public use, is particularly cosy, with wooden floors, views of the plantations and a butler service so you can really live the planter’s life. Right ho, Jeeves! If you can manage to extract yourself from the soft-as-marshmallows bed and blankets, there are bird-watching tours and plantation safaris to be enjoyed, where you can learn more about the coffee-growing process and discover the other plants like pepper and vanilla that grow within the property.
The Tata Tea Plantations are also nearby, and are great for a morning visit if only to watch the tea-pickers, with their baskets slung over their backs, making their way methodically through the bushes.
Outside the property, other adventures await. During the monsoon months, the nearby KKR River (Kithu-Kakkatu River) in Upper Barapole is particularly good for a spot of white-water rafting. Run by the very professional folks at Coorg Whitewater Rafting Pvt Ltd, one session will take you through five rapids with varying degrees of difficulty. A quick training session beforehand in a much calmer pond will equip you to tackle the white waters before you hit the rapids, which will test your paddling skills and stamina.
Your appetite will start to groan for attention after all that hard work, so it’s a good thing Thaneerhulla has great food on offer. Meals back at the bungalow are served hot in the common dining area where you can indulge in bonhomie with your fellow guests. Once you’ve filled your tummy, curl up in a planter’s chair with a cup of steaming coffee (or a glass of rum like the locals do) and a good book, and watch the clouds roll in over the forest.