Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rainforeat Retreat

We have been on four trips here in India: one to Delhi and Agra, one to Mysore, one to Puducherry, and one to Madikeri. We got back from the trip to the coffee plantations of Madikeri yesterday. Madikeri is a one of the three parts of Coorg. Coorg is a region in southern Karnataka, which is the state that Bangalore is in.

We set off right after school on Friday, and drove¹ for three hours to Mysore, where we stopped and checked into a hotel. Since we had already explored Mysore we just stayed at the hotel. The next morning we drove for three hours to get to Madikeri.

Mom was interested in checking out some local culture because her guide book said that Coorg had never been captured by the British, but the one museum we found was pretty pathetic. Then we drove up some mountains to reach our hotel, named Rainforest Retreat, which is a cardamom, vanilla, and coffee plantation where I want to someday honeymoon, retire, or vacation. The owners are biologists and have a completely organic plantation.

The hotel part of it is just a rainforest with three or four cabins, a few tents, multiple hammocks, a badminton court, ping pong, and a pavilion where you could buy spices or check out books hidden in it. Everywhere there were canals, filled or unfilled, with logs that you walked over to get to the other side. Because it is pretty far out of town, they give you all three meals at another covered space, and provide entertainment in the form of treks, plantation tours, and the chance to help out with the plants. While I was there, we did a hike, tour, and picked tea all in a day. (See photo.)

The plantation tour was fascinating. If I hadn’t had a tour and was just walking down the plantation by myself, I wouldn’t have known it was a plantation because there are so many weeds and it was so untamed. The owners of the hotel have owned the place organically for 15 years. Many people believe that when farming organically, you must allow pests to take over your plants, but what these people did was really cool. They took the example of one such pest who has a name I can’t remember. These bugs like to live inside cardamom. The owners tried to find a natural agent that would repel the bugs. They mixed many different plants and sprayed their juices over one of these bugs. Some juices killed the bugs and some just made the bug want to go away. They sprayed the latter over the cardamom plants. The bugs then wanted to move somewhere else, and the farmers provided that somewhere else by letting weeds grow everywhere. Then the spiders and pest-eaters could eat the bugs because they could get into the weeds and not the cardamom. Due to this new food source for the pest-eaters, they multiplied and ate even more pests. After a while the owners stopped spraying the plants with the natural and organic agent, and the bugs moved back² but in a smaller quantity than before. That way, the plants weren’t damaged but you didn’t destroy an ecosystem of rainforest life.

If you ever go to India, a trip to Coorg and the Rainforest Retreat is definitely worth it, and I say this as someone who gets carsick in a stationary vehicle.

¹Foreigners don’t usually drive here because many Indians drive so crazily. The remaining options are to hire a driver to take us to Madikeri or take the bus. My stomach usually gets sick on buses so we chose the first option.

²Remember: no bug is a pest unless there are large numbers of them

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