Living in India’s mega cities can be frustrating with the constant noise and terrible traffic. Bangalore while small in an Indian context still has a population of 8.4 million which puts it on a par with Mexico City and Jakarta and more populous than New York and London. The population combined with the poor infrastructure, terrible traffic and constant noise can make it a frustrating place to live so every opportunity I get I escape to the beautiful Indian country-side for some peace and quiet.
A couple of weeks ago during a long weekend we packed up Roxy and headed off to the West Coast. Our original plan had been to return to Sai Vishram, (about which I had posted here) however they were taking advantage of the quieter Monsoon season to carry out some renovations and weren’t taking any bookings. After a bit of research we found a new place called Wild Woods Spa and Resort in Shiroor about 12 kms away from Sai Vishram. It had very good Trip Advisor reviews but we also checked with the Sai Vishram manager as we have found Trip Advisor to sometimes be unreliable. He gave his thumbs up so we booked ourselves in.
Finally reaching Shiroor after an 11 hour drive from Bangalore, we turned up a side road which headed away from the coast and deeper into the countryside. 15 mins later we spotted the manager standing in the middle of the road waving to us and turned into the unobtrusive entrance to the Wild Woods Spa.
Wild Woods is the brainchild of Mr. K P Shetty, one of those lucky people who discover their passion in life and pursues it every opportunity he can get.
K P Shetty loves plants. He has plants from all over the world. And Wild Woods is where he is able to indulge himself. Set on about 24 acres, 3 hours from the nearest city, Wild Woods is a Botanical wonder land. If anything could be the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of living in a big city this is it.
The resort is filled with trees and plants from all over Asia, Bananas of all different types, creepers from Bali, Palms from Thailand and numerous flowering shrubs which attract enormous colored butterflies even during the monsoon. This area gets a lot of rainfall so everything is lush and green.
A beautiful fast flowing and clear river, cool with the run off from the jungle-clad hills forms the boundary on one side.
A small country lane bisects the property and on one side, set in about 2 acres is the accommodation made up of individual thatched and tiled cottages built from the local red laterite stone.
Amazingly for such a remote location, (there is not even any cell phone signal) the rooms have everything you would expect in a 5 star hotel. Large four-poster beds, safe, minibar, satellite TV, air-conditioning (although not needed when we were there as it was lovely and cool), hairdryers, tea and coffee making facilities, and large selection of toiletries. Every detail has been thought out even down to the 2 golf umbrellas in each room to ensure the guests stay dry while roaming the resort.
Across the road is another 22 acres of lush tropical forest and gardens where Mr. Shetty is building a Spa and more accommodation. The architecture is beautiful, incorporating the local laterite stone with antique wooden pillars and intricately carved doors salvaged from old houses.
The trees are home to numerous monkeys and birds, and butterflies flit from flower to flower.
Meals are taken in the large communal dining hall. Open on 3 sides and surrounded by a fish filled lily pond, here is where the resort really stands out. I have been to many places where the accommodation is nice and the food only average but here Mr. Shetty is truly blessed. In the kitchen Chef Rana and his assistant Chef Sudarshan conjure up some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten ( aside from the Boss’ of course). Served in buffet format, every meal was different and for the 3 days we were there not a single item was repeated. What is even more amazing is that the Chefs, although being from North India and Calcutta, were able to cook up authentic local food as good if not better than anything we have had in Mangalore or surrounding areas.
Where possible they use ingredients grown on site or from the local area so everything is very fresh. I believe the nutritional value in this food is so much higher than what we have in Bangalore and I actually gained 2.5 kilos (weighed on the scales which are found in every room) in my 3 day stay.
Mr. Shetty arrived from Bangalore on the 2nd day of our stay and delighted in guiding the guests around the property and explaining the different plants to them. We discovered a little green-house in the back section which had some of the most beautiful orchids. Mr. Shetty said that he had an even bigger collection in Bangalore which he will be transferring to Wild Woods.
The surrounding countryside is also beautiful and I went for a couple of runs through the villages, frightening the local children and puzzling the parents. One goat-herd seeing me running past, waylaid me on the way back and asked me where I was from and why was I running, as his 3 half naked children looked on in amazement.
In the hills behind the resort are two waterfalls, stunning with the monsoon rains! We wanted to take a closer look and Mr. Shetty instructed one of his staff to accompany us as a guide as the trek was quite challenging.
The, at first reluctant, guide initially tried to dissuade us with tales of blood-sucking leeches the size of your arm, but after stopping at a remote farm house for some leech repellent (a cloth ball soaked in salty water) he soon warmed to the challenge of dragging the city folk up the jungle slopes to the waterfall viewing point. At times crawling on our hand and knees through thick thorn filled undergrowth, and pausing frequently to dislodge the odd leech from between our toes ( the guide strangely enough being the main target of the leeches), after an hour and a half climb, the jungle parted to reveal a thundering cascade, pouring down the side of the mist clad hills.
A glorious display of nature’s might!