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13 Incredible India Vacations
India Today - Travel Plus, August 2004

Spice Scents

Masheer, pachyderms and the scent of spice…. tour this little corner for a very special brush with the wild.

Day 1: The scent of rain-drenched earth assailed my senses as I alighted and headed fro Orange County. The window of my room opened to a picture-perfect duck pond framed against beautiful blue grey skies. I congratulated myself on the choice of a real break from the cards of life. The rains area good time to visit these parts. Add coffee to it, and you are truly invigorated…After a hearty lunch, I took a casual walk around the lake, lulled by the sheer sense of good-feel…

Evening, I set off for another leisurely walk. The cloudy skies, cool breeze and diffused light created the perfect mood. I followed the red-earth trail around the plantation, with coffee, pepper, cardamom and vanilla plants strewn all over. (Many routes are marked in and around the resort-you may want to take a guide.)

Day 2: At daybreak, accompanied by the resident naturalist, I set off for some bird-watching. The previous evening I had seen a small placard that said the marsh sandpiper is spotted during the monsoon. The rare bird sports a white breast and underbelly, and brown plumage off-flash of this rare avian but before I could even cry out excitedly, the beauty was off, lost in the dawning skies…

We meandered through an aromatic spread of spice plantations again: I was addicted. We finally arrived on the fringes of the Dubare reserve forest – the demarcating line is a trench, and at some places, an electric fence! My companion explained that these measures are only partially effective; the elephants still find their way in. monsoon is the season for jackfruit and with the elephants particularly relishing the fruit, the wondered if we would see some action. After breakfast I set off to the banks of Cauvery to try my luck with the famous masher fish. Within Orange County we were allowed to fish in the lake or at the banks of the river within the resort area, however this wasn’t for serious anglers-the idea was to get the fish to bite and set them free. As I stood contemplating, my neighbour pulled in a huge masher that resisted furiously for a few minutes before completely giving in. the fish, as per eco rules was immediately set free to roam back to his companions. After a light meal I retired to a hammock…

I woke with a start-the light drizzle fell like gossamer on my face. Shifting to the cottage, I watched the rain gather momentum and roar down in torrents. Later that day, I went for abhiyanga, a complete body massage with medicated herbal oil- the rains are the best time for this, I was told. The soft music in that dimly lit massage room was a treat to the soul. At the end of it all I felt as light as a feather, floated in to the restaurant for some steamy rice with the spicy Coorg pandhi (pork) for dinner, and it was time to slip in between the warm blankets.

Day 3: With a breakfast basket I left the Dubare elephant training camp. Located on the banks of the Cauvery river on the fringes of the Dubare reserve forest, the camp is accessible by boat. Every morning, the camp holds an ‘elephant-human interaction’ program, which is when visitors are allowed to participate in cleaning and feeding the pachyderms. The camp elephants are not stall-fed- it makes more sense to let them feed on their own in the forest, I was told. Of course, for the old and sick a special diet is provided for.

After meeting up with the friendly beasts, we left for a short elephant ride within the park. It was amazing the way these humongous herbivores marched with absolute silence. Towards the end of the ride, I spied a pregnant female elephant behind a bush-imagine the large sized beast even larger! Indeed this was quite a sight. Later Dr.Shivaram confirmed that the pregnant female was 72 years old and was on her 21st month of the 22 months gestation period! A while later, I sat on the banks of the river pondering on the ways of the wild. As I looked on, a tribal child using a bamboo stick as fishing rod caught a fish that measured close to a foot! I recalled my attempts at angling with humility and promised myself that I would improve my angling skills on my next trip to this beautiful nook full of giant fish, elephants and sweet smelling coffee.




 
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