My Garden Bathtub

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Alison in her garden bathtub, heated by the summer sun

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Plantation Pundit

Plantation Trails Woshully Bungalow

Our last “foodie” stop on our trip was in another mountain area, north west of Coonoor and back in Karnataka state but right on the Kerela border, referred to as “Coorg” although that seems to be a colonial era term and is not found on any maps. Significantly we would be entering a dense chunk of the Tata Empire as guests of their hospitality division surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of their agricultural division which they proudly announced that they sold most of their coffee production to Starbucks.
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Acres Wild


The view from the upper bungalow at Acres Wild Farmstay, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu

Our journey after Melkote began with being picked up by a driver and his car as we said our goodbyes to the Kouragi family and thanked them for hosting us. We had arranged through a travel agent that specialized in culinary focused travel to visit a cheese maker, and to visit a coffee plantation before we had to leave India. We had four nights left, and two of them would be spent at Acres Wild, a “22 acre, family-run organic cheesemaking farm and farmstay” according to their website. First we had to get there.
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Insisting on Truth

According to their website’s home page the Janapada Seva Trust is “a voluntary organisation functioning in and around Melkote a mofussil town” [meaning rural and not originally part of the East India Company regions of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras] ” in Mandya District of Karnataka, India since 1960. Inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Sarvodaya philosophy the Trust has been striving to create a non-violent, egalitarian order of society. Its core area of work is welfare, education, rural industry, environment and agriculture.”

“Over the years the Trust has built a fine infrastructure for its activities. The accent of the Trust is on self-help and people’s involvement, the Trust seeks support not so much from the State as from people who care.”

We were told by it’s founder, Surendrah Koulagi, that it all began when a 10 year old boy learned about Ghandi’s Salt Satyagraha, or Salt March, that took place in 1930 as one of the first acts of a self-declared sovereignty from the British Empire by the Indian National Congress. When Mr. Koulagi began to understand the philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience, the power found in the action, and the simplicity of its message (“Satyagraha” is a synthesis of the Sanskrit words Satya (truth) and Agraha (insistence on)) he wondered what other important things could be accomplished by a simple insistence on the truth.
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Melkote

…or Melukote, or Narayanadri, or Vedadri, or Yadavadri, or Yathishaila, or Thirunarayanapuram. We were guided to this small town north of Mysore and west of Bangalore by friends who had visited many times in the past to support the work of the Janapada Seva Trust. Part of the Trust’s work involves organic agriculture, and I wanted to learn what that was like for them in a very different environment (not to mention the different crops) than Maine. In addition, Alison and I always enjoy visiting out-of-the-way areas when we travel to try to get a better feeling on what “normal life” looks like. Melkote, although beautiful in many ways and full of ancient wonders and important institutions, does not get the daily visits from tourists that a city like Mysore does. It does host a significant festival (Vairamudi) once a year attracting many people (hundreds of thousands according to Wikipedia), but perhaps primarily Indian and religious. Our hosts told us that Melkote attracted the odd backpacker every so often but that white visitors were still unusual.
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The sounds and fragrances of southern India

Eric is walking in the hills of Conoor in southern India. We stayed at “Acres Wild Farm” to learn about their cheese-making and cow dairy. On adjacent hillsides, tea plants are growing on terraced fields. We awoke to the sounds of (loudly broadcast) percussive singing from the local temple.

Eric walking to breakfast in the hills above Conooor, Tamil Nadu province in southern India

And I made a new friend…

Alison and "Spahti" the farm dog

Spahti, the farm dog of Tamil Nadu.