‘Kabini‘ – heard the name for the 1st time when the TV commercial for Orange County Resorts was playing again and again a year ago. The flute bit (check this out)was enchanting and inviting. The next course of action followed naturally – Google ‘Kabini’. 200 odd Kms from Bangalore Bengaluru, amidst forest area, natural serene place and the name of Orange County were reasons enough to lock this for the next holiday. Having missed the opportunity in summer, didn’t want to miss the second opportunity which came last week in the form of “Durga Puja” holiday and there we were off to Bengaluru en route to Kabini.
Signs of “Your kind of Airport – Coming soon” welcome you as you touchdown in Bengaluru. For an airport which was just thrown open to public I guess 3-4 years ago, going for an expansion so soon means either the traffic has exploded or the planning was woefully shortsighted. Both are not of surprise in Incredible India! Weather in Bengaluru is one among the many things I love of the city and as expected it was pleasant and just great. As we navigated out of the airport one hoped that the distance of 208 kms would be covered in 4 hours. The reality was different.
A light shower started glazing the Bengaluru – Mysore highway as we drove past the town Ramanagara where folklore has it that “Kitne Admi The?” the most enduring line of Bollywood and many memorable scenes of the iconic film Sholay were shot with the rocky terrain of this town as backdrop!! As we take a turn from Srirangapatna and on the final stretch towards Kabini, the scenic beauty just enthralls you. Away from the hustle bustle of the city and its smoke, a lazy charm engulfs you as you drive on what is just ‘R’ of a Road!!! As you keep seeing the signs of Airtel, Sun Direct and Videocon on top of houses, one cannot but feel impressed at the Dish TV penetration in small towns of India. DTH – Direct to Hinterland???
Maddening traffic before hitting the outskirts of the Bengaluru city, a 30 min. lunch break and the last ‘No Road’ stretch of 40 kms leading to the resort means we took in all 6 hours to cover 208 kms.!!! You need more than a normal welcome as you reach the resort after the long drive and we were not disappointed. Within few minutes in the resort, the journey and its tiredness are all forgiven and forgotten. The staff and the Nature start working their charm on you!
The resort is right at the banks of River Kabini and has a breathtaking view.
The rooms are in individual hut style and meshes completely with the ecosystem. We are told that they have been styled in the “Kadu Kuruba”style which is the local tribe in this part of the world.
An Activity instructor briefs you of the various activity options for the next 3 days. But he missed one important activity which was on top of our minds – Just lazing around! There was another activity which seemed missing. The jungle safari and the lake safari which take you to the Nagarhole forest reserve for some wildlife sightings of the ‘natural’ type have been banned by the Supreme Court. Though the ban has been lifted recently the local government is still skeptical of the ‘wild’ human types creating inconvenience to the actual wild types. So we had to make do with the captive elephant in the resort for some time pass. Sunset cruise in the lake, bird watching walks, Ayurveda therapy,…,… are all there to fill your time. A Coracle ride in the river brings you memories of Maniratnam’s classic ‘Roja’. One cannot escape thinking of the captivating sequence of “Chinna Chinna Aasai (Choti si Aasha)” as the coracle swirls in water aided by the breeze. Take a row oops bow – Maniratnam, Rahman & Santosh Sivan!!
The resort has a captivating “Reading lounge” with a collection of books centering around wildlife, nature,… I found it an amazing place – tranquil, with a stunning view of Nature and a collection of books. And free flowing Coffee!!! Yes, pure coffee from the hills of Coorg of the ‘filter’ type is served hot and you don’t need a better incentive to keep walking up to the lounge again and again!
Invariably there were light showers in the evenings making the coffee tastier. In one of the evening we were shown glimpses of the “Kuruba” tribal culture with some folk songs and dance by the local men. Just realized that it’s a routine they have to go through every now and then for the urban ‘matter of fact’ people like us seeking some peace of mind there. However their enthusiasm and commitment were infectious.
Food at the resort was great with the chefs paying personal attention to your specific needs. As the ‘holiday fat’ kept on adding itself to various parts of the body, you realize that it is time to wind up and leave. A line about the staff. The resort has some great people who were extremely genial, highly motivated with great passion for serving the guests. They went out of the way in making our stay extremely comfortable and memorable. Many ‘Namaskaras‘ to this tribe’ and may it get bigger! (The staff has been trained to greet you with “Namaskara” whenever they see you)
The way back was more predictable as it always happens. You know what is coming ahead. Except for a pleasant surprise when we stopped by at the town Maddur for lunch. As I was launching myself into “Maddur Vada” a local snack at “Adigas” – suddenly I could hear the enchanting sounds of “Santoor” instrument in the air. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma the great exponent of Santoor was walking in to have a bite there. The boy who was waiting his table had little clue that he was serving a living legend of our country – well can’t blame him. He is not of the Doordarshan generation and between Balaji’s emotional hatyachaar there is no ‘Bhaje Sargam Har Taraf Se’ fillers these days! The excitement of having the legend for company compensated for the food at Adigas which was certainly disappointing.
On the Jet airways plane while returning– one couldn’t help think of the days when India had 2 world class domestic airlines. One (Kingfisher’s) future is uncertain and the other (Jet Airways) is living in past glory!
Kabini? Kabhi Nahin! Was the refrain as we endured the 6 hour drive on our onward journey. But the place, the resort, its people, the sights, the serenity, coffee …,… meant it was all worth it. After all you don’t want to miss a place where Nature also unwinds and takes a break!!!
Please take a look at the short video I’ve put together when you have the time :