Text & Photographs by Poyani Mehta
Meriyanda Nature Lodge in Coorg, Karnataka is a running spice plantation of 50 acres (coffee, cardamom, black pepper). Last May (summer break at school) we chose to vacation there after much deliberation with the aim to make it a ‘ Detox Holiday ‘ for us since it was a no A.C., T.V. and Wi-Fi zone in the entire estate. As soon as we set foot in Meriyanda Nature Lodge, we were greeted with a rush of tranquillity, rustic and serene ambience. It is built on a steep hill with nine beautiful compact wooden cottages on stilts, spread out. Tall rosewood and teakwood trees, bushes with colourful flowers, shrubs and green foliage surround them. Each cottage balcony overlooks the vast plantation or valley wherein we are surrounded by the different shades of green trees and forested land.
Awakening every morning to the musical ragas, of the varied bird and insect hosts, I sat on the rocking chair sipping a hot cuppa of chai and coffee, closing my ears to all other sounds I listened to the melodious chirpy calls and whistles. A perfect musical ensemble with acoustics it echoed in the sky. Many a time I too whistled a tune and thought they were whistling back but alas! No a bird was serenading its special one. Watching this display of synchronized sounds I remembered the movie ‘Rio’, of the Amazon jungles where a musical bird orchestra of sounds generated much love and excitement were at play, were Russet woodpecker at work, Black feather tracker tailed Drongo on the branches, Hornbills with yellow beaks flying high, water birds.
Long walks in and around the green plantation with a long walking stick in hand made from the fallen branch of a tree, playing with our ball and frisbee, reading our books, rocking lazily on the hammocks and swings and jumping on the huge trampoline for kids and adults (excitement and adrenaline thumping fun) was our favoured pastime for the five days of stay.
The past monsoon had wreaked havoc and infrastructure was hit due to torrential rain and flooding causing devastating landslides in hilly areas with loss of life and property. With the help of the government, the local people are rebuilding the lost infrastructure hence the approach to Meriyanda Nature Lodge for a short period of time has changed. They are building a new accessible road. Initially, the new entry and exit route was a rather bumpy rough ride which later on turned into excitement. We were ferried to and fro by their private jeep with a drive through a shallow stream which was a thrilling affair.
A visit to the stream that passed by their property is a must just to sit, meditate or take in the beautiful scenery. Playing and splashing cool water on each other while sitting on tree trunks, rocks and stones strewn around were hours of fun. Standing still on cool small pebbles in the water was like a pedicure, of course sometimes the black tadpoles swimming around was a screaming fest. for kids. A picnic can be enjoyed. The last evening of our stay the hills, mountains and sky were enveloped by the deep grey clouds ready to pitter-patter rain over us. The petrichor from the wet earth let loose a fresh fragrance.
Earlier on itself, we had decided not to venture out of the property except to go and see the Dubare Elephant Reserve in Kushalnagar and the Omkareshwar Temple in Madikeri. The drive to and fro via lush green verdant smooth curvy roads was added pleasure. At Dubare we helped in bathing and feeding, touched the elephants and luckily for us we got to see the Jenu Kuruba Adivasis.
Many have joined the mainstream life but a few tribals still live isolated in the forests and jungles of Dubare, Nagarhole and Bandipur National parks. They are expert honey gatherers. They come out for a few days, dressing up in varied colourful costumes, dancing and singing to drumbeats, painting their bodies and wearing masks and walk around the reserve and close by village asking for alms and food, in general, do not create a nuisance for the locals or tourists. These are the very same people who have a connect with the wild elephants and help train them before sending them to various states of India.
The highlight of Meriyanda is their food and the saying ‘Happiness is a full belly’, is the apt mantra followed at the Lodge. We were spoilt for choice where food was concerned, servings of one tantalizing dish after another under the expert care of Chef Ramkrishna and his magic fingers. He is proficient in cooking most cuisines and would take particular care in knowing what the guests would like to savour for the day, cooking special customised meals prepared fresh.
Food is made in small portions at Meriyanda since they believe in the adage of zero wastage. He is ably assisted by Chef Prakash and his dedicated team/staff. Breakfast, lunch and dinner we excitedly waited for and were served mouth-watering scrumptious food. We would wait in anticipation for the dessert after each meal, for instance, Beetroot Rolls, Shahi Tukda, Carrot halwa, Avocado coconut cream to name a few. As a parting gift just before leaving we were presented with two avocadoes from their vegetable patch to take back home since we missed out on eating Avocadoes on toast which we earlier had asked for. Rather sweet of him. Once in Mumbai, we made a delicious Guacamole Dip which was finished in a jiffy. Thanks a ton Chef! 🙂
Tip for guests: No doubt mobile cameras are handy, but if a photo freak /clicking photos is a passion then do carry a DSLR camera for minute image capture of birds, flora and fauna.
Suggestions for Meriyanda Nature Lodge: Suggest to keep colourful booklets in each cottage mentioning the flora and fauna in Meriyanda. It would be highly informative and helpful to the guests. Naturalists to come and talk about plant life on the estate Sign plates with names of flora and fauna in the plantation. It would do good if they kept a few dogs and cats (Indian desi breeds) at the estate giving a pet-friendly vibe Cottages should have windows that open to let in fresh air and oxygen or cross ventilation
Psst: Wi-Fi is available in spurts in the dining room and lobby, though I think we can do without Wi-Fi for a few days.
Try and stay for at least three days or more days to enjoy the aura of Meriyanda Nature Lodge.
Please Note: This is an independent, non-paid reader-driven review.
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