Sometimes, the cacophony of urban life can be overwhelming. And all you want is to get away from the shrill noise of the daily grind for “just two days”. Dvara Coffee Estate and Bungalow in Mudumalai, Tamilnadu, offers just that — a breather.
Thorapalli village, en route to Gudalur, is a pleasant six-hour drive from Bangalore via Bandipur. Parthiban, the manager of Dvara, was waiting near the check-post. Since private vehicles are not allowed inside the forest, where Dvara is located, guests are first taken to a stopgap-place and offered cold towel, water and the use of a clean restroom before being transferred to a sturdy four-wheel drive. Dvara provides parking space for your car and accommodation for the driver too if you have one.
The drive to Dvara from here is hardly a kilometre. But the terrain is rough. Your body rattles as the jeep navigates huge boulders and dips in the ground. This is a jungle. Cosy is alien here.
Dvara, an old restored bungalow, sits on a 55-acre property within the buffer zone inside Mudumalai forest. Coffee is planted in 25 acres, and the remaining land is left undisturbed for the forest animals.
The narrow no-road-pathway suddenly gives way to a bubbling stream. It is picture-postcard perfect. One has to drive through this stretch of water to reach Dvara. During the rainy season, the stream becomes un-motorable. There is a hanging footbridge a little distance away for the pedestrians.
Dvara is reminiscent of ancestral homes where you go to get pampered and recapture the carefree days of your childhood. Here, you can spend your days shooting the breeze, re-reading your favourite authors, eating delicious homely meals, take guilt-free mid-morning siestas, go for long walks, watch the birds and spend the night gazing at the stars and listening to the whispers and roars of the forest.
The two-storied squat structure is unpretentious. Airy, spacious and flooded with natural light. The red oxide flooring is cool to the bare feet and appealing contrast to the cream-coloured building. There’s a swimming pool overlooking the jungle and a seating area under tall trees near the edge of the property. Sitting here, you can catch sight of herds of deer and peacocks or the giant Indian Squirrel playing catch with the monkeys.
There are eight rooms in the bungalow that can accommodate 16 plus people comfortably. Four rooms are on the ground floor alongside a dining room. A wooden cabinet filled with books on one side and fine China on the other – just like in your elegant grandma’s house — separates the living and dining areas. There are four rooms on the first floor along with a recreation room with a card table and an old radio (that’s still functioning), Raj-era furniture, embroidered cushions and framed antique posters/advertisements and paintings of birds on old stamp papers.
The rooms are spacious and snug with queen-sized beds and plush mattresses. The decor is uncluttered. Each room has a balcony overlooking acres of trees. I spent my early mornings here with a cup of coffee and a pair of binoculars watching birds I didn’t know existed. It was like inhabiting one’s own 3D bird paradise. My favourite was the Malabar grey hornbill with its yellow beak and grey-coloured body. Up close the bird resembles Walter Matthau, the American actor/comedian.
The rooms have attached bathrooms with 24-hr hot water supply. There’s a shower but no bathtub. Don’t forget to pack your hairdryer and conditioner if you are particular about such things. There’s a television in the room (in my opinion it shouldn’t have been there), but there is no WiFi. Net connectivity is nil inside the bungalow. There is a sweet spot near the swimming pool from where you can make calls if you are lucky. BSNL works fine, but not so the other service providers. But all this should not deter you because within a day you will realise life can be blissful without the constant presence of mobile phones.
Dvara has a limited staff strength of 12 in lieu of its location, because of this constraint there is no room service. Meal times are also set for the same reason. The menu is fixed too. However, they always plan a menu, taking into consideration the likes and dislikes of the guests. The food served here is Anglo Indian and local Baduga cuisine. The Railways Vegetable Curry and the Madras Chicken Curry are a must-try. Chef Manjunath might not look TLC- fancy, but he can make a mean spicy chicken and Mutton dish. The staff has been trained by Bridget Kumar, the Queen of Anglo Indian cuisine and a repository of old Anglo Indian recipes.
Chef Manjunath, a Mangalorean, also made me the most delicious Mangalore ghee roast since I wanted some. Remember what I told you about getting pampered. The staff are courteous, efficient and invisible till you need them.
THINGS TO DO
At Dvara you can imbibe nature as much as you want. Aiding you in this is naturalist Kuruvi Sidha. Member of the Irula tribe and who has lived and breathed the forest for three-decades, Sidha, will take you on guided nature walks and bird-watching in and around Dvara. He can recognise more than 250 bird species just by its call and regale you with interesting stories. More than 145 bird species have been identified in Dvara alone. Just to name a few, I saw the White-browed Wagtail — a little black and white bird with a long tail that wags incessantly; the Himalayan Flameback is a golden-backed woodpecker with crimson crown and crest; the Jungle Babblers are also known as the Seven Sisters because they are always in a group of seven and the Black-hooded Oriel with the brightest yellow coloured body I have ever seen on a bird. The colours, characteristics, and mannerisms of these winged creatures make you forget time.
At Dvara you are asked not to venture out on your own at any point. And you are warned to stay indoors between 6.30 pm and 6.30 am. This is the land of the animals. They have the first dibs on everything. However, you can always sit on the verandah or on the lawns and watch the jungle life just beyond the fence. All you need is a pair of binoculars. And in the night you can while away your time by listening to the sounds of the jungle or spotting flying squirrels, owls, deer with diamond eyes and so on. Ask, Lokesh the Man Friday, to give you a powerful torch. At Dvara, the jungle forces you to slow down, stop and listen.
How to reach: Bangalore to Bandipur. After the check-post at Bandipur take the road that goes to Gudalur to reach Thorapalli. The drive would take around 5.5 to 6 hours.
Reservations: +919894611958 or +917339111222