Camping in a Native American tipi, Soma Basu reacquaints herself with nature at Pullaveli

Before setting off for Pullaveli, the only information I gathered was that the place derives its name from the Tamil words “Pul” for grass and “vazhi” for pathway — referring to the grazing lands that preceded the coffee cultivation that was started over a century ago.

At Pullaveli, it was love at first sight. Escaping from the heat of Madurai, I rarely search for value points in my destination. But here, I got a double bonus. A vast open air green house complete with a waterfall, a river, birds and butterflies, trees and animals and silence as value addition. This is just halfway up the Kodaikanal mountains, a place that has remained untouched by tourists.

Actually much of Pullaveli turns out to be a private area. It is a huge estate spread over 2,000 acres winding across a hill at an elevation of 3,000 feet in the Palani range. It belongs to a family of coffee growers. The seventh generation in business harvests much more than coffee today.

To boost eco and spice tourism, a part of the landscape is now open to the public for camping, trekking and a whole range of exciting activities. “It is a place where you can deepen your connection with Nature,” say Viswanath and his wife Priyancka, smitten by the experience of ‘readymade’ camping in Yosemite National Park, California. It was the urge to share their experience that led the Pullaveli Coffee Estate to offer people a chance to live in harmony with Nature.

The journey to the tranquil zone, however, is a tad arduous. We had to abandon our small car on the Thandikudi Ghat Road and take the narrow pebbled track to the right. This stretch of the journey is best done either walking if day time or in a jeep, even though it means a bone rattling ride.

But once you endure it, the sight, sound and smell of Pullaveli will make you forget everything. A treat awaits every sense here making it a perfect recipe for health and happiness.

It was refreshing to trek in the surrounding evergreen forest, home to over 100 varieties of trees, birds and butterflies. The estate primarily produces shade-grown Arabica coffee. If you are still ignorant about how coffee is grown, processed, roasted and custom-blended to get you that perfect cup, this could well be a lesson in learning.

From the moment I reached Pullaveli and went up to the waterfall, the Kodavanar river and a rope bridge across it, I remained busy with my camera. The penetrating silence was interrupted only by the sweet twitter of birds. The sun shone mild occasionally hiding behind clouds. The temperature was a pleasant 21 degrees and I couldn’t have asked for more. Excited about encountering some wild life, we walked along the edges of the thick vegetation and were excited to spot some faint but big-sized paw marks on the ground. We were told wild boars, barking deer, gaur, lion-tailed langur, macaque and sambar too are visitors here. But we only see the bushy-tailed giant squirrel perched on a tree top. I recognise pepper vines, vanilla, nutmeg, oranges, ‘virupakshi’ hill bananas, cinnamon, jackfruit and clove in the woods.

There was no need for a pair of binoculars either to get a look at the colourful avian visitors. As we played the guessing game, mynahs, nightingales, egrets, eagles, spotted doves, magpie robins, Malabar hornbills, whistling schoolboy, wood peckers and red-vented bulbuls, peacocks and jungle fowl gave us company.

More than a day trek in Pullaveli the best way to get close to Nature is camp overnight. The thrill of getting into sleeping bags on air mattresses inside the traditional tipis can be more than just fun.

The camping site spread across 25 acres is set against rolling verdant hills, amidst flowering and fruit trees. Return re-energised in mind and body.

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