Thursday, July 11, 2013

Acres Wild

I was talking to a friend this morning about how we go about selecting our holiday destinations. Of course, we have our bucket list - Egypt, Australia, Alaska and Peru amongst other dream travel destinations - but most of these preclude traveling with a very young child. I am sure Ayaan could keep up with us both in terms of interest and stamina but Tarana, not so much. So for now, we look for recommendations from friends, bloggers and Twitter pals who suffer the same travel constraints that we do.

In the last year or so, one place came up in multiple conversations in the real and virtual world - Acres Wild, an organic cheese-making farmstay in Coonoor. So for the kids' mid-term break at the end of March, we decided to go and check it out.

We got there somewhat travel-weary after a morning flight to Coimbatore, followed by a tedious and winding drive up the Nilgiris but with relaxation as our only agenda and this the perfect place to achieve it in, we soon found our groove. Once we had settled into our  cottage (named Haloumi - the other two cottages are equally appropriately named Colby and Cheddar), we set about exploring our environs. We made two discoveries that were to make our stay extra-special.

The first was discovering a treasure trove of books in the cupboards and cabinets of the recreation room. I found a stack of Georgette Heyer novels - the perfect holiday read! - and Ayaan was delighted discover three whole shelves of children's books. Even Jai, a World War II buff, found some weighty tome about the Third Reich.

The second discovery was that there was another young guest there, a girl just a little younger than Ayaan. From that moment till when the other family left (a day before we did), the two were absolutely inseparable. They mucked around, fed the ducks, played with the resident cows, set up a barter economy involving leaves, rocks, lemongrass stalks and other such precious cargo and generally got along like a house on fire.

Tarana, on the other hand, was clearly not considered part of this gang of two and though she followed them around like a little lost puppy, they weren't always keen to include her. Ah, the tragedy of being the second-born... (Sue, are you listening?) But she managed to keep herself fairly well entertained and continued her staring contests with cows.

Given that this a cheese-making farm, interacting with the cows was definitely high on the agenda. While Tarana preferred to keep them at a distance, Ayaan went the whole hog. He learnt how to milk a cow and insisted on landing up at the daily feeding hour so that he could do the honours. He also found a few willing calves who were happy enough to receive his affectionate pats.

We spent most of our time at the farm itself though we did step out for a tea plantation trek and lunch outing with the other family I mentioned above. We ate at McIver, a charming restaurant in a colonial villa repurposed as a hotel. The food itself was nothing to write home about but it made for a nice change from the home-style cooking over at Acres Wild. The trek through the tea plantation was nice enough but got boring after a while. We hope to do a forest walk the next time we go there.

No account of a visit to this trip would be complete without a mention of the charming hosts. The farm is owned and managed by Mansoor Khan (of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak  fame) and his wife Tina. Both of them are warm, chatty and fun to be around. Tina conducts a cheese-making course (which I felt too lazy to sign up for this time - maybe on our next visit) and Mansoor is happy to give interested visitors lessons in baking bread and making soap. He is also passionate about sustainability and is the author of a book called The Third Curve, which revolves around Peak Oil and its economic implications. Also, in one of those amazing 'it's a small world moments', we discovered that Tina and my mother-in-law's families pretty much grew up in each other's backyards!

Overall, it was a fantastic break. The almost obscene greenery was a sight for sore eyes, the fresh air was restorative, and a holiday where we could all just put our feet up, curl up with a book or potter around depending on our mood or inclination was just what the doctor ordered. It's the kind of place that bears re-visiting when the trappings of city seem a tad overwhelming.


  1. This has been on my list too!! After this review, definitely should plan to go there.

  2. Wow! It looks like a wonderful place to stay!

  3. Wow! This is a place to be. I find city life so loud, this place has got some peace. Wish to be here one of these days.

  4. Your awesome pictures said it all. This looks like a good place to visit. Good read indeed.

  5. Sounds great, Rohini

  6. Sounds wonderful, Rohini. I am going to put this on my list of Places To See When Next In India.

  7. OMG. I'd have written the exact same post about two years back. Word for word. Remember I'd even sent you pix from Lovedale railway station!
    And the books was what I noticed first as well, and decided this had to be a greta place just because of their quality!