Last week was a week of hectic events for the family. Prasad’s critical projects deadline, daughters back to back performances , exams , my assignments , some unexpected guests , this that.. uff ..Too many things happened all together and we were just rushing to finish everything on time . Finally when we winded up everything .. phew !!! We just wanted a break !!! We decided to spend the weekend in a resort amidst nature, away from the hustle bustle of the city.We started looking out for some nice destinations not too far from the city and ended up short-listing “The Golden Wood – Eco resort” at Harley Estate, Sakleshpur, for our relaxation. The choice finalized based on those good reviews online that this home stay is located in a vast coffee estate space secluded from the city with panoramic view, good ambiance, good food and service.
Sakleshpur is about 240 kms away from Bangalore and is about four and half hours drive from the city. We took the NH48 till Nelamangala and then NH75 to reach the destination. The roads are really too good till Sakleshpur except for the last few 8-10 kilometers to the estate. The reason for poor stretch of road is due to the work going on the “Yettinahole project” where big pipelines are being laid to bring water from Sakleshpur to Bangalore.
We started early on the Saturday morning at around 7:00 am, a breakfast stop in between and were at the estate by 11:45 am.We were welcomed by Ms. Chandini D M, who is the Director ( Marketing & Administration ) of the Estate.
Ms. Chandni explained the history of the estate which dates back to the British rule and was started in 1867. Hence it retains the British name “Harley Estate”.
The coffee plantation is spread across 550 acres of land and has passed through five generations of coffee production as of date. A majority of the coffee grown in the estate is exported and retailed in India under the Classic Coffees brand. Classic Coffees, is a leading company engaged in the cultivation, processing, export and retailing of fine gourmet coffees.The plantation holdings includes the Harley and Kalladevarapura estates, located in the pristine, coffee growing hills of Sakleshpur (Manjarabad region) and Chikmagalur. Domestic offerings from the brand includes Classic Pride, a premium Arabica-Robusta blend,
and Classic Mountain, a pure Arabica offering. Classic Coffee is admired across the world and has won several awards in prestigious forums. For example, Robusta from the estates has been awarded as best Robusta from India for six years running.
The estate boasts of lush green eco-system with natural waterfalls, a couple of lakes, a large variety of flora and fauna, being home to over 200 types of birds and various other wild life like Bison, wild boar and it is also a part of the Elephant Corridor, where wild elephants come during certain seasons to eat jackfruits and to drink water. The rich heritage and the deep sense of natural abundance surrounding them is the concept behind the home stays .The intent of building the homestay concept at the estate is to promote eco-tourism and cater to those looking for a relaxed getaway in completely natural surroundings, with exposure to coffee cultivation adding a great dimension to the stay. The homestays are built around planter’s bunglows located on the estate, done up in a way that they offer the best of modern conveniences & amenities while retaining their old-world essence and feel.
After the brief intro about the classic coffee and the estate .. we were then driven in a jeep through the lanes of coffee plantation to reach a wide open field area for lunch. The ride reminded the kids of the roller coaster ride of any theme park as they enjoyed each ramp, curve, jump… amidst greenery.
The wide serene green space amongst the coffee estate was tranquil and captured all our attention; clear blue skies above, one side you have the gushing natural waterfalls and open lakes which was one of the highlights of the day. We all enjoyed a few moments in the waterfalls then walked through the field before we sat for the lunch.
For the lunch we were served the authentic Malnad vegetarian cuisine, where most of the vegetables, rice and some spices are home- grown in the estate itself. We enjoyed the Kadubus, ubbu rotti , salads, veg sabzis, and rice.
Post lunch we headed to The Golden Wood .. our homestay situated at an altitude of 3,400 feet above sea level .. in the midst of Harley Estate .You have different options for stay at the resort… Whispering woods, Brick cottage, hill top courtyard, farmer’s home and brick cottage ( which we chose for our stay) . Today the resort has 8 cottages but its in expanding stage to accommodate more guests. A British style bungalow is also under construction .
The ambience of brick cottage is very interesting. The look and feel of the stay gives a refreshing organic texture to it.
The adjacent whispering wood has a small library and games section which was easily accessible for us to use. All the cottages are eco-friendly , plastic free. The electricity used within the resort is generated by solar or hydel power. Shampoos , soap etc given to the guests are manufactured specially to the golden Woods .There are no televisions / internet / wi fi … but it was good as we were here to enjoy nature and spend some quality time with family .
After freshening up .. off we went for a tour through the estate.The months between January to March is the harvest season for coffee plantation and we were excited to see the process of coffee production.
We started our tour with the understanding of the two varieties of coffee grown here: the Arabica and the Robusta, saw the blooming white flowers, then tasted the ripe coffee fruit, witnessed the plucking of the coffee fruits …..
The collected coffee fruits are then brought in sacks to the collection center.
At the collection center the ripe and the unripe fruits are segregated.
The ripe fruits are then fed to the de-pulping machine which removes the peel of the fruit and collects the coffee beans from it which is the key ingredient for coffee production.
The further processes are defined based on customer requirements. Some variants requires washing of seeds in which case the pulp is washed off while in other cases the pulp is dried along with the seeds. From here it goes for sun drying which is 2-3 days of process. Once seeds are dried properly it is segregated again based on their size, batch information and quality. The next steps are roasting and grinding.
We were treated with some awesome coffee tasting session at the end. We tried their premium coffee brand “Classic Coffees” with different powder-to-water composition levels and filtration methods of brewing.
We ended the tour with a breathtaking view of the sunset behind the hills from the top of the coffee plantation. We decided to explore this section little more the next day and returned back to our cottage.
At around 7:00 pm we had a bonfire setup in front of our cottage as the evenings get little cold at the estate. We enjoyed some family time by story-telling, playing antakshari and dancing. The dinner was served at the top of whispering woods and the food was really good.
Next day, we started the day leisurely with watching early morning sun rise from our room ,chirping birds …bike riding and playing some badminton .
Post breakfast we went to see some more areas of the estate which we could not cover the previous day… the hill top courtyard, the farmer’s home, more coffee plantation, the flower garden, the British style swimming pool which is now more used as an reservoir and the hi-tea serving area at the top of the plantation hill. It was really interesting and beautiful.
We also visited a 2000 years old Lord Shiva temple in the area at Devaranda which is about 22 kms from the estate.
We returned back to Bangalore the Sunday evening fully rejuvenated and firing to face more hectic weeks ahead.
To conclude I would say that, Golden Woods Eco-resort is a very good option for those who like a relaxed holiday / an adventurous holiday / romantic getaway amidst nature …whichever .. i am sure you would be rejuvenated . Surprisingly .. though there was no TV / internet / mobile .. kids didn’t make a fuss of anything and enjoyed the stay max. For Bangaloreans, the USP could be that it is less than five hours of awesome drive to the resort and can be planned for any weekend/ day. For more details , tariff, booking etc .. do check out there website http://www.goldenwood.in/