The road from Mysore twists up the hills that define Coorg. A palette of colours flit across, be it the red robes of Tibetan monks at Bylakuppe, the rusty brown Mangalore tiles that lend a roof to homes or the greenery split by streams that gurgle down the mountains.
And then there is this extreme shade of green that greets you once you drive past Madikeri town and Club Mahindra. Take a right turn, climb higher into the Western Ghats and after trundling into the Rainforest Retreat, all you can do is marvel at nature’s bounty and listen to the symphony of a million cicadas. Rainforest Retreat is part of the Mojo Plantation that was launched in 1994 thanks to the efforts of the scientist couple, the Goels – Anurag and Sujata. Their objectives were twin-fold – escape the rat-race and practice what they preach: be it organic farming or supervising a tourism initiative that remains friendly to the environment.
The eco-lodge spread over undulating terrain, has two deluxe guesthouses, a plantation cottage with independent rooms and tents. Solar power runs the basic appliances here and gobar gas is the preferred ally for cooking. For those who sigh on seeing clips of the Amazon on National Geographic, this place can be a soothing balm provided you can accept that living inside a plantation that has an overwhelming air of being a forest would mean that there is no television and nor will mobile signals work.
Windows that open to damp air and dense foliage might goad the city-stressed tourist to curl up with a book but for those with the itch to explore, there are varied treks. Be it the plantation trail with Archana Shetty, who manages the resort with a smile and a kind word, or the walks through the adjoining jungle, there is enough to see and savour.
The place teems with various species of birds, animals and insects, including the world’s largest moth – the Atlas moth. Also be prepared for the occasional leech that draws blood. There is nothing to panic though and with helper Ravi’s family staying inside the leafy zone, assurance comes in a variety of languages – Kannada, Tulu, Kodava, Tamil, Hindi and English. Ravi, with ancestral roots leading all the way to Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, along with Jeff, who is doing an internship as part of his eco-tourism management studies in the United States, and Antonin, a French farmer, do yeomen service at the resort.
Meanwhile the affable Goels voice their concerns about a globe that is increasingly losing its green cover and their efforts to conserve nature, is truly inspiring. The Indian food can be bland at times, tailored as it is for the largely foreign clientele but the hospitality and the lessons of nature that you get to imbibe, is something that will stay with you forever.
Room rates range from Rs. 1500 to Rs. 4000.