The last weekend, the OH and I escaped for a couple of days of relaxed nothingness in the hills. We took Friday off work and went off to Ooty for three days. And, boy, was it beautiful?!
We have been to Ooty a couple of times and have seen all the tourist spots there (the OH has gone there LOADS of times, sometimes on work. Now, who would want to work in Ooty? But that is a different matter altogether!). This time around, we wanted to do something different from the usual. We wanted a lot of peace and quiet, nothing commercial, and a lot of greenery around. So, we headed off to Acres Wild, the organic cheese-making farm in Coonoor. I can’t thank Sandhya enough for suggesting this place to us! Thank you so very, very much, Sandhya! 🙂
I LOVE Ooty and wouldn’t mind visiting it any number of times. I love driving down to the place rather than taking a train to Coimbatore and then hiring a cab to Ooty from there. Of course, passing through the beautiful, beautiful Bandipur and Mudumalai forests on the way has everything to do with it! 🙂
We have never had a chance to visit a hill station in the rains, but were able to do so this time around. And, it was totally worth it! There is greenery all around in Ooty as well as enroute, and the views get even more spectacular!
This is a tea garden that we spotted in Ooty. Isn’t is oh-so-pretty?
The minute we reached Acres Wild, we were charmed. It is such a lovely place, nestled in the midst of the hills, quite secretively, away from the crowds, and full of peace and quiet. It is THE perfect place to nurse your soul back to health. We knew we had come to the right spot right away.
The farm has three cottages – Colby, Haloumi and Cheddar (all named after cheeses) – with a total of five rooms to be let out to guests. Apart from that, there is a cowshed that houses about 10 cows, a cottage for common dining, the house of the owners Tina and Mansoor, and a cottage where the cheese is made.
This is the cowshed. Lovely, no?
Much to the disappointment of the OH and my glee, we were told that there are no televisions or computers in any of the cottages, and no room service. That ensured that we were not stuck up in our rooms the whole day. 🙂
There is a games room and a small library inside the premises though, which guests are allowed to use. There is a common TV set in the games room, too, which guests can use if they get too bored, though there is really no possibility of that.
The cottages are small and neat, equipped with basic facilities like a washroom, a kitchen, a refrigerator, a few vessels, salt and sugar, milk, and an induction stove. Guests are welcomed to bring their own supplies in case they wish to cook in their own cottages.
In fact, I loved the way Mansoor and Tina make every guest feel welcome, and encourage them to do anything they want to – from roaming around their sprawling property and exploring the process of cheese-making to planting saplings or milking the cows. I loved the fact that there are no restrictions here – you can pretty much go wherever you want and spend time as you want to. You can play with Tina and Mansoor’s Labrador, too, if you choose to.
There are sit-outs built all over the place, and you can just sit there in the quiet and soak in the atmosphere around you.
Every so often, the clouds rise up from the hills. Slowly, slowly, slowly, they envelop the entire place till all the things around you are covered.
This was the view from our cottage….
… and this was how things looked after the clouds had taken over.
There are flocks of birds all over the property, and it felt extremely good to wake up to their twittering in the mornings. A nice and welcome change from city life. 🙂
There is a pond in a corner of the property, which is full of natural water from a stream, and it makes a lovely place to sit and relax and read. You have got to be careful of the leeches, though. I ended up being bitten at several spots on my legs, and now have deep holes where they bit me. The OH somehow escaped. Gah!
You get to listen to the squawking of the ducks and the geese as they gobble up their food and watch you sitting by the pond with a cautious eye. It makes for a pleasant change from listening to the horns of vehicles. 🙂
There are flowers all over the estate, and you can spend hours just looking at them. Some of them are wildflowers, and some have been cultivated.
This is the flower of the tea plant. It has a faint, haunting smell that is nothing like tea!
I fell in love with the cottages, small and basic as they were. And, of course, the view from the window. Someday, I would love to settle down in such a place, in such a cottage, sit by such a window and write to my heart’s content.
The view from the window reminded me of Ruskin Bond, and how he says that sitting by a window is crucial to his writing and how he cannot imagine a house without a window looking out to a wonderful view. 🙂
The place also reminded me a lot of Frances Mayes and Under The Tuscan Sun. I began to understand what it would have entailed to buy a ramshackle villa in the midst of hills and then restore it, plant trees and bushes of your choice, and watch it slowly coming to life.
Mansoor told us of how there was absolutely nothing around except trees when he first bought the property. He and his wife were the ones to get the roads and the cottages constructed, take an electricity connection and put up more plants around the trees.
Acres Wild is a place where sustainable living is practised to the maximum possible. Skylights and solar lights are used in the cottages, to minimise the use of electricity. Even the bricks used in making the cottages have been made on the estate.
The vegetables used in the food that is served to the guests is grown on the property itself.
The cows on the estate are allowed to graze on the grass and plants growing there – which grow without any artificial pesticides or fertilisers – and the milk from these cows is used in making the tea and cheese that is served to the guests.
The dung from these cows is used to prepare gobar gas, which is then used to cook the food.
Impressive, isn’t it? Both the OH and I were thrilled to see this way of life, and endlessly discussed how we would love to resort to the same, too. Oh, well, someday….
We got a glimpse of the way cheese is made as well, which is quite an interesting thing to watch.
This is soft cheese hung up from the ceiling to remove the excess water from it. Acres Wild serves a dollop of fresh soft cheese to all its guests in breakfast every morning. They have different flavours of soft cheese, and they are yummylicious!
This is the pantry where cheese is stored till it ages and is ready to be cut. The smell here is overpoweringly cheesy. 🙂
As charming as all of this was, we were scared to the pits of our stomachs to know that snakes, wild elephants and bison are often spotted on the estate. Not that they harm anyone, but still, it is frightening, right? The most recent addition to this list of predators on the estate is a leopard – a guest spotted it slinking around in the night near our cottage.
One pitch black night during our stay there, when we were walking down to the dining room for dinner, armed with flashlights, we heard a sound of something moving around in the bushes very near us, followed by the sound of something running at lightning speed and jumping into the valley nearby. The OH saw a big, cat-like animal, but was not sure what it was in the darkness. I did not see it, and neither was anything captured in the photographs that the OH desperately tried to click when I was perspiring all over out of fear. Darn the man!
Till date, we do not know what that was, but the footprints that we saw at the spot the next day were quite big and cat-like, and much like a leopard’s. Our hosts reassured us to no end that the leopard was harmless, and that it does not attack humans or animals taller than itself, but my heart was stuck in my throat that night, till we returned to our cottage, switched off the lights and slipped under the duvet.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience – full of emotions ranging from awe to happiness to fright.
A highly recommended visit, for sure.