Nestled among the picturesque Nilgiri hills is a sprawling plantation with quaint houses by a waterfall. As you sit on the wooden seats by a campfire in the courtyard, you can listen to the gurgling stream accompanied by the sound of chirping birds... That is Oland Plantation for you.
Oland Plantation is situated in a charming village, Kolakamby, in Coonoor, about 30km away from the popular tourist destination Ooty.
Stay at Oland Plantation
As it was an impromptu trip, the thought of a place to spend the night struck me late. The booking was made online but could not reach the plantation over the phone. So, we set the location on Google Maps and made our way to the plantation.
This plantation is about 20km away from the Coonoor town and is situated near the forest region, which is part of the Coimbatore division. The road towards the plantation was deserted during the night.
After travelling some distance from Kolakamby, we reached the police check-post. Due to the Maoist presence in the area, our names, mobile phone numbers and place of residence were noted down. After that, the cops clearly told us the way ahead to the plantation.
As we took the road down from the Mannar police check-post amid the tea plantation, a wild rabbit crossed our way. After travelling for 1km down the steep hill, we reached the plantation to find Sam at the doorstep. The plantation is taken care by Thiruvananthapuram native Sam and his family.
Spread across a sprawling ground of 120 acres, the organic plantation cultivates tea, coffee, black pepper and other spices. It is under the ownership of Pavan Sukhdev, UN Environment Goodwill ambassador and Indian environmental economist.
After parking our vehicle at the courtyard of the Estate House, which includes the restaurant, we went to the family cottage in the Pepper House. We were also instructed not to venture out due to the presence of bison and other wild animals.
The Pepper House has three bedrooms and our stay was in the upstairs Family Room. Four of a family can be easily accommodated in this room which has an attic, akin to the ones we have seen in English movies.
After dinner, we spent some time talking by the fire and it was late by the time we slept.
I woke up in the morning to the mellifluous chirping of birds at the plantation. The sound of a waterfall, situated in the plantation, had caught my attention in the night itself. So as soon as we were ready, we got out to see the waterfall. But right before us was a bison. Not one, but a herd of bison.
The waterfall is located near Pepper House. The water flowing down from the mountain rocks was icy-cold.
The Hornbill House is situated very close to the waterfall. Made of eco-brick stones, this house is flanked by tea plantations on one side, and by the waterfall and the steam on the other.
Climb up the steps, and go around the jackfruit tree to enter the house. The Hornbill House is divided into Jackfruit House and Waterfall House. Mere words are not enough to describe the spectacular view from this house. Even while lying on the bed, the Waterfall House lets you enjoy the beauty and splendour of the cascading water. The upstairs Jackfruit House offers a mesmerising view of the tea plantation along with the forest
Gautham Menon directed ‘Dhruva Natchathiram’, starring Vikram, and Karthick Naren's Naragasooran’, featuring Aravind Swamy and Indrajith in important roles, were filmed at this plantation.
Trekking through the forest
As we had planned the previous night, Sam turned up by 7.30 am for plantation trekking. After drinking organic tea, cultivated in the plantation, we set out.
Walking among the orange trees as the morning rays lit up our trail amid the chitter-chatter of birds was a pleasant experience. We were thrilled as we were told that hundreds of birds have been spotted here and that we could even catch a glimpse of the Great Hornbill if we were lucky.
A herd of bison moved away on seeing us but a little Nilgiri Tahr accompanied us on the way. While walking ahead, we noticed the quills of the Indian crested porcupine on the ground and the holes dug by the bears. Some overhead screeching noises made us look up and we found a family of Indian Langurs. They were swinging from the tree branches.
As we reached the lower end of the coffee plantation, we found a small temple by the stream. Sam told us those tribal folks held prayers and puja at the temple once a year and I felt that I should return to see all that.
We crossed the stream, and as we climbed down one hill to trek up another, we could see our cottage faraway. Only then did I realise that we had covered so much distance on foot. That's how thrilling the trek was.
Finally, we reached the Mooperkad tribal hamlet, where around 60 families lived. One of the tribals, Ravi, told us about their lives and way of living. All that information was new to us.
Ravi told us that we could reach the Kerala border by walking for 1.5 hours through the forest. We found it hard to believe as we had walked for hours on the road. But a quick check of the map confirmed that this could be right.
By the time, we reached the plantation it was past 10 pm.
But if you want to fully enjoy the pristine beauty of the Nilgiris, you need to stay at such charming places, away from the hustle and bustle of the Ooty town.