Sunday, February 06, 2005

Honey Valley

I had phoned Honey Valley from the bus stop, but got cut off as the owner was explaining how to get there. I would of phoned back but the bus was getting ready to leave. I knew that I should get off at a village called Kakkabe (turns out the next village, Kabinnakad is closer) and the only way to get ther are by jeep or by using your plates of meat.

So I arrived in Kakkabe and asked a local what way to Honey Valley and they pointed me down the road and so I started walking. A long wway later I arrived at Kabinnakad, the next village. Then I walked upto Honey Valley with my backpack, trust me, phone and get the jeep up!

As I arrived, sweaty and breathless, three large dogs ran down barking loudly to meet me. One dog, placed its front paws on me chest and stared into my face. I stood very still!

The owners, Suresh and Sushella, calmly explained that the dogs tended to get excited at new people. That may be the case, but it's not going to wash the pawprints from my t-shirt!

The dogs were called Rocky 1,2 & 3 \. They often come on walks with you, if it wasn't too near feeding time, in which case they totally ignored you.

Honey Valley is situated in the Kodagu region of Karnataka, about 1200m above sea level. This means that it is slightly cooler than down in most cities. It also used to be one of the largest honey producers in Asia until the bees were chased away by bigger bees (or something). Now it has changed to tourism and coffee bean production. Also has a few peppers, banana, papaya(top right) trees dotted around. Honey Valley consists of a variety of huts and some old houses. Recently they have been expanded with a new dining hall and kitchen and extra rooms. We were there for the inauguration of the new kitchen, they can now cook chapatis at warp speed!

It was a nice change from the cities, to be out and about in the countryside. Supplied was a book of walks with directions and maps, but I still got lost numerous times. Still that's half the fun.

On my first day I climbed up a hill adjacent to Honey Valley. Here there are huge plants.
I eventually got to the summit and was well chuffed.
I could take arty black and white photos up here.
Although there is plenty of colourful plants around, also lots of flowers and creepers along with the occasional spider.
This red leaf caught my eye, whilst above the foliage was thick.

It was very green with good views. The dogs like to pose on rocks, even when you ignore them.
Still some good views to be had, and blue skies.
I came across the remains of a cow?
Up at the summits you could see a long way.

There was a walk down to a natural swimming pool, which was covered in skating beasties, but it didn't seem to deter the hardened swimmers for getting a dip. Another walk was along a mountain ridge where good panoramic views were visible. A lot of the walks were through shaded forested paths, crossing small streams, the trees providing some relief from the sun. One day a few of us tried to get to the top of a waterfall, but lost the path and we had to blaze a trail through the forest! Luckily we came out in a patch of plantations eventually. It was strange to be about 5m from a clearing and not realise it util you popped out the other side of the bushes, so thick was the vegetation in places. Still be regained our bearings and climbed back up to a familiar ridge for a packed lunch of tomatoes, bananas and bombay mix. I ate a humungous dinner that night, as I hadn't planned to miss lunhc and had to nick some food off the others.

There was a good mix of people there when I arrived and I ended up staying longer than I initially thought I would. After all that walking you certainly work up a good apetite. The only trouble was dinner wasn't server until about eight, by which time I was gnawing my own hand as the full moon rose. When I first arrived in India I was amazed at the amount of rice people were putting away, but now I seem to be the same!

Dinner is server in a communal dining room, with lots of passing of plates amongst the hunger people. You have to be quick to get in their first, but thankfully they refill the empty plates.

Sometime we had a bonfire and a few beers after dinner. Staring up at the stars, it was hard to believe that I was still in India with peace and quiet. Usually about that time the dogs would start snarling and barking at each other, although they also enjoyed peacefully sleeping round the warm fire, in their calmer moments.

One day the dogs came along for a walk and started their usual snarling at each other. But this time it was a full moon and they decided to really go for each other. As two dogs locked jaws and tumbled about, the third came in and nipped at their legs. It looked bad as one came past with a gashed lip and dripping blood while the other had a bloodied nose, however they were sitting side by side the next day.

On my last day I decided to go up a mountain, and so set off early after breakfast.
Passed an isolated little farm house in these beautiful surroundings. After a week of walking I made the summit in under two hours, somewhat suprising myself (although it was probably the smallest peak). I walked along a steep sided ridge to get to the top, passing a massive bee! (it was THIS size, stretches out arms) I got to the summit just in time to get good views in all directions. Just five minutes later the weather moved in and the clouds poured up over the mountain peak. I sat in an area where the clouds were streaming across, the hope of some cool cloud vapour, but it didn't seem to make any difference. I headed back down and past an area where I had previously caught a glimpse of some wild deer, but none today, so back to the ranch for a hearty lunch, as the light danced in the clouds. I stopped off briefly at a stream, with moss like a forest to the passing ants.

In Honey Valley you can see quite a variety of birds, but most of the time you can only hear them, especially those woodpeckers. Also butterflies meander through the forest and the flowers, but getting them to stay still for a photo is a bit harder, but sometimes they briefly obliged.

Honey Valley is surrounded by coffee plantations, which are harvested and then dried on the grounds. To go for walks you have to walk past the drying coffee beans and the occasional sunbathing lizard and past the vibrant flowers. These are laid out for around ten days to dry, but have to be gathered up each night to prevent the damp getting to them. I even ended up drinking a lot of coffee which sure tasted a lot better than the stuff for meetings in work!

After a while I decided it was time to leave though, and so back to the hustle and bustle of the cities, next stop Mysore. Just as I was about to get on a bus an Indian couple, Deepak and Laxmi, who were also staying at Honey Valley drop past me and very kindly offered me a lift to within 30kms of Mysore and they were heading back to Bangalore. so that served as a gentle re-introduction to the noise and clamour, and more pleasant than being stuck on a bone-jarring bus for hours.

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