I love not man the less, but Nature more-Lord Byron
I saw this rugged jeep parked in the side, acting cranky to start. I was walking around checking out the mountains, glancing at the jeep every now & then. He was whispering something to me, I went closer & he said. Take a deep breath, sit up straight, and open up all your senses as you may not be able to do this when I take you for a ride. It was a 10 Kms off road drive through the forest on the rocks, passing the trees, mountains all around. Sunil parked the jeep at one corner and said the white dot up there, which is where we are going to. Right there, at that moment I was just telling to myself, days of research poured in finding a place like this was just more than the worth of my time.
Sunil hails from Bangalore/Bengaluru who found this property few years ago in Sakleshpur after a continuous research & traveling all across south India looking for a place like this. He is a certified River Rafter, Scuba Diver, Sky diver and what not; who has traveled to many places across the world and has immense knowledge of birds, trees and animals. 80 years ago, this place was always spotted by herd of tigers and hence the villagers named it Hulibana (Huli is Tiger and Bana is to meet); Sunil didn’t want the history to be changed and retained the same name; in the interest of travelers to understand it better he named it Hulivana.
Villas here are built by the rocks found in forest, mostly by the water stream. Sunil was explaining on how difficult it was to construct the villas by carving the stone to the right shape and have them fit in the right place. Room in the Villa opens up to two French windows on the side and in the front with the view of trees & water stream, wooden flooring and also a fire place inside. Wash room is one of its kinds with pebble flooring & electricity here is generated with hydro turbine during monsoon when there is more current in the water.
I had this quest to get into a forest alone, never thought I would have it conquered this soon; all thanks to Hulivana setup here. We took a short walk towards a water stream close by, Sunil mentioned about civet cats & I was all excited to see them. I stayed here alone for some time, finally spotted a civet cat for the first time in India (shy animal I must say, as soon as the cat spotted me; he ran away) I had the place to all myself, to sit, to meditate, to think, to dance, to sleep. Although there was fear of elephants passing by, I was just watching these unique creatures: Water Striders who walk on water continuously creating ripples in water.
Later in the evening, we went for a short trek around Ettina Bhuja (Back bone of a bull as the shape of the hill looks like it), I saw an olive green colored scorpion, and excited again as he was my first visitor too. Mesmerized by the view of 360 degrees of mountains everywhere which was topped with thick dense Kabinala forest, the slopes looked like slides connecting from one to other; I just wish I had the power to slide over from one mountain to other one. We sat down discussing the crazy elephant chase stories that has happened around these places and then spotted this bird called “Shikara” which would hover in one place against the wind for few seconds and then keep flying, hover and fly.
Breeze was churning up my bones, somewhere deep in the forest I could hear water rushing through, Sun was getting prepared to slide through those mountains, it was amazing to see the mix of color change on the sky & the hill top. We headed back where fire flies were throwing the light all around and moon was pouring the light from the top. Coffee & Popcorn was waiting for me in a moon lit sky, I have to mention about the hospitality here. Everything was very well organized; from the day email hit my inbox on the confirmation of availability to me reaching my next destination safely.
Over coffee, Sunil was talking about this drink prepared by locals using Jaggery & a seasonal fruit; I just couldn’t deny tasting it. Later in the night by the bonfire, I took the first sip and I knew this would give some buzz around; we started sharing our travel stories. Sunil shared about his stories from seeing dead bodies floating in Rishikesh to his adventurous trek in Himalayas. With the little buzz in my head, all these stories were circulating around me virtually!
Woke up with the noise of water stream passing by the room which felt like a virtual massage running through my veins from head to toe, chill breeze sliding through the window which made me snuggle under the blanket gazing at those French windows looking at the trees.
Headed for a trek to Deepada Kallu (Deepa is lamp & Kallu is Stone: as the hill looks like a lamp) and Jenukallu gudda (Jenu is honey, kallu is stone & gudda is hill), seemed like there was a thunder storm coming up and the first step I took, there was a drop on my forehead. Every step I take I had to photograph every corner of this place, sun just didn’t want to come out and was playing around with the clouds and the hills. Looked like an ocean of endless mountains, bed of thick forest on them, I just wanted to float on that bed and snuggle under the rug of those clouds.
Clouds were on a war to pour rain,
I did feel a drop on my brain.
I looked at them & said, not today; pretty please?
They were too nice to me & got into peace.
Instead sun was peeping out shedding the ray,
it was such a memorable day.
Cold war seems to be over in blink of an eye,
People ask me why I travel, and this is why!
These are “Shola”, patches of trees that grow amidst the valleys surrounded by grasslands; they are found in only few specific areas in Western Ghats & nowhere else in the world! When it rains water accumulates in the valley which leads to the growth of these trees, these trees hold the moisture & remains green all through the year!
We then trekked upto Jenukallu gudda which is at the height of 4500 feet, first steeped mountain I have climbed on. Fear of heights to turn back, slippery stones, and grass to hold on which can even come out if you held it harder. Totally worth the entire struggle to be on top to see the view of cone shaped mountains, clouds covering them, sunlight spraying the sprinklers; 2 eyes were just not enough to enjoy this beauty & neither these words are enough to describe them.
Sipping a cup of coffee watching the hills around and the thickest of forest, my lungs were all cleansed with the fresh air that got in. I have said this before in my earlier post on Chikmagalur & will say it again, whenever I come to Western Ghats, I feel there is still lots of hope for nature to remain the way it is and this is what pulls me to come to this place again & again & again.
Deep in a rain forest they say, even deeper into the soul of a forest I would say!
Add this to your list of the place that you need to see before you die, you wouldn’t regret! Trust me.
Some facts about Animals & Insects Sunil shared:
- Elephants: Post monsoon elephants go through some hormonal changes which lead to pressure in their brain that gets them disturbed to attack human beings. Mostly seen on male elephants but are common on female as well.
- Fireflies: There are many kinds of fire flies which can be distinguished by the pattern of the way they shed the light. Say there were 2 kinds of fire flies with Bigger & Smaller patterns: Bigger one changes themselves to a smaller one and goes near smaller like mating and eats them as prey. Smaller one change themselves to bigger one, goes closer near bigger one & mate. Confused? Read again, Confused again? Keep reading. I had to ask 2 times to understand the process 😉
- Cicadas: These insects that make noise in the night, gets all together of more than 100 which almost sounds like somebody is screaming, the noise is so loud they have a membrane in their ear that covers automatically. God’s a little too partial to them, isn’t it 😉
- Honey Bee: Since honey bees sting is barbed, when the bee stings a mammal & pulled out it tears its abdomen & causes immediate death.
- Water Strider: These unique creatures that walk on water gets attracted to ripples formed on water, when an insect falls and creates a ripple that is when these striders hunt them & eat.
*I was hosted by Hulivana; luck was all on my plate!