Some trips are like happiness, it happens when you least expect it. There we were, looking at each other, a totally boring weekend staring at our faces from the side, when the phone call came. The usual banter about bikes, jeeps, wheels, tyres and what not and in between was thrown in a casual question,
“Heard there was some last minute cancellations at Balur?”
“Going?” our good friend asked without batting an eyelid.
The man knew what the woman would say even as he told his friend, “let me check with the wife.”
In less than two hours the kids were readied, bags packed, windows and doors checked and the family was out, dirty dishes in the sink be damned. The new beast all revved up, we were on the road by 2.30 in the afternoon. The road is good and straight till Belur, then turns a bit rickety and narrow thereafter. Night had fallen, even though the hands of the watch stuck together to indicate it was just 6.30, but then as Gulzar saab said, “Raat pahaadon mein kuch alag hein” .
The rustic beauty of the Kannada villages seeped in through the darkness and we finally found our way to the century and half and more old Balur Estate.
The duo of Hamza and Rakesh were waiting and quickly settled us into the warm and large bed room . Attached was what must have been a dressing room , which was now converted into a children’s bed room, a very welcome change, I should say. That is indeed a luxury , when you are a family of four, travelling together. Two cups of steaming tea was ready by the time we had freshened ourselves up. The gentle breeze cooled our faces and minds as we idled on the chairs outside, looking at the silhouettes of the hills that bordered the property. Being the partner’s friends had its own perks, we did not have to say a word about food, it was as if Ratnamma, the charming cook knew what our tummies would be craving for. Spicy pork fry and chicken, hot chappathis, steaming rice and home made curd, my eyes almost popped out watching my non-foodie man stuffing himself with the tasty home made spread.
The early morning air in the mountains does something to your souls as it does to your lungs. It is an almost zen-like feeling just sitting there under one of the trees, engrossed in a book, the breeze trying to lull you back into sleep and the sun trying to warm you out of stupor.
The first instinct was to do what the promoters of the property said, “Do Nothing”, but the call of the hills won, no surprises there anyway. Previous evening, Hamza had told us about the view point in the tea estate. “You could do a trek up there or drive up in a 4-wheel drive jeep.” There was not even a question of what the choice would be. In the pre-beast days, the legs would definitely have got a much needed stretch, but this was too good a chance to miss for testing the mettle of the newly added member to the family.
The path up was strewn with rocks of all sizes in different stages of array or disarray, the bends were sharper than the smallest hairpins and overgrown shrubs relentlessly tried to leave its scratchy imprints on us. Each bend in the road took our breath slowly away as we finally reached somewhere close to heaven.
The pain that was nagging my back , the aches that I thought was a reminder of my added years, and the bits and pieces of stress and restlessness that has become part of the city life, all seemed to go up and disappear into the sprawling hills that surrounded the summit that we reached. Words just cannot do justice to the view there. Look anywhere around, your breath stops, almost. Undulating hills in varying shades on green, till your eyes can reach, clouds white on one side and dark and heavy on the other and the gentle caress of the breeze…. the feeling is something beyond pure bliss. We came back only because we had to, but with a promise to ourselves and to the hills that we will back soon, to spend a night here.
Another sumptuous lunch, by then pork was a staple, added was akki rotis and some yummy egg masala. After a brief afternoon nap, we drove down to a lake in the estate that looked serene, but thirsty for some rains. A small stream broke itself into a small fall over the rocks to provide some fun for the kids. Along with the evening, the realization falls that you actually have nothing to do. There are no TVs, practically no connectivity for your phones or laptop, it is a true break from the routine life. Son started feeling a little bored as expected , daughter as usual made friends with the few kids who were there and was having a lovely time.
The unexpected break was truly refreshing, the only regret was the added kilos to our girth. This is a place that has no frills about it, and they don’t lay any claims to having any either. The promise is a trip back into nature, away from the hustle and bustle of what is considered normal these days. It is also a lesson that absolutely nothing is going to happen to the world and even your close family and friends would not even miss you, if you just switch off for a few days.
As for linger, I have to specially mention the hospitality of Hamza, Rakesh and Ratnamma. They are there for you, always, anticipating your needs at each step and ready with what you want even before you think of it. They do all this without the intruding on your privacy and that is truly something, when people either tend to ignore your needs or go overboard.
You can also stock up on some organically grown spices, I haven’t smelled cardamom like this ages. But the real discovery of the trip, if you ask me is this, made at Rakesh’s home….
One sip…..and girl, what a kick!!
pictures courtesy – the husband, as usual 🙂