Mine was not love at first sight.
And I don’t remember when exactly that titration point arrived, when a drop fell with a plop and transformed my care for a cousin overnight to a longing to have a soul mate out of that relation. I decided to propose to her.
Still I am sure: my love was not sudden, it could have happened by degrees in my life.
I never believed in love at first sight.
Until, I came across the website of the Great Hornbill resort, Nilambur two weeks ago. Wah! You should see it. The greenery bowled me over instantly.
Half an hour later, my scholarly search for ‘decent’ information ricocheted involuntarily into sleazy websites, as it happens every other time with Google. Suddenly my ears picked up a river instead of caterwauls. It was loud. To imagine the voice of a babbling river rising from the vocal chords of those women was extreme. No amount of heat could make them produce such liquid cacophony. What is it? After a moment of confusion I reached the source of the river – The Great Hornbill page was only minimized, not closed.
“Pristine blue skies shine over green forests, caressed by fresh bubbling streams and rivers…” The webpage welcomed me back.
Now the resort hit me a second time. Love at second sight.
I skimmed through the facilities they offer: Mufti-cuisine restaurant. Travel desk. Games Room. Kids Park. Natural Pool. Swimming accessories. Now to activities: Trekking. Spice tour. Rubber Tapping. Bath in Crystal Clear water. Enjoy Farming(?). Camp fire. Cycling. Archery. This would be a hell of a trip man!
Friends, I am not interested in telling this story in detail.
Here’s my stay at Great Hornbill in bullet form:
Great Hornbill: The greener side.
1) Delicious food and a wonderful room. The thani naadan puttu- kadala breakfast was something I could never resist. And the traditional meals for lunch and Chappathy-chicken curry for dinner were also perfect for me. The room was simply great.
2) Good service. Most of the service personnel were untrained villagers and there was something raw in them which we liked a lot. Every time Soman, our caretaker would bring us something, he would be very apologetic telling us: “Kindly excuse us if there are any flaws, sir. We are only learning, sir.” Good sir, but please don’t tell this to everyone who comes here, sir. Few are interested these days in spending 6500/- for seeing people learn on them.
3) Rubber estate. There are rubber trees everywhere.
Great Hornbill. The greyer side.
Puttu, kadala, meals, chappathy and chicken curry are the multi in multi-cuisine. If you insist you get omlette and lemon juice as well.
Travel desk (as promised in the website).
No such desk. All they know about TK colony where the resort is situated are crumbs of information that tourists like us scout around and glean from the local people. “There is a temple near the junction,” we said. “Oh, is it! They said. “There is a bridge over there.” “Oh, my god! Why didn’t we find it!”
Probably you are now reading about the temple and the bridge as their new ‘facilities’ in their updated website.
Cycling (Refer website).
I saw a cycle. But with the extreme gradient on the road that passes along the estate no sane person will use it. The cycle rusts in peace.
“Manu Chetta, I have a plan,” my wife sat bolt upright on the bed that night; she was only half-awake. I knew instantly the sort of divine light that hit her. “You want to build a resort in your rubber estate, right?” She has a few acres in her village. “Yes Manu chetta, we can make a lot of money.” “But what will you give the tourists?” I asked. “Rubber.” “Rubber?” “Yeah, we will take the tourists around our estate every morning to show them how Kumaran chettan taps rubber. May be we can ask those tourists to tap some rubber for themselves to have some hands-on experience . They would love it. Thus we can bring down the number of trees Kumaran taps every day. We save more money.” “Good idea dear! But please go to sleep now. We will discuss it in the morning.”
This could be some post-Hornbill effect on the poor woman. Must take her to a doctor if it continues, I made a mental note.
Archery (Refer website).
“Sir, we have an air gun. If you want you can practice some shooting,” they told me.
“I want it. I am interested,” I said, as I was almost bored to death after three hours. A boy brought a long and sturdy rifle. Soon my family, comprising my ardent fan (read wife) and my not-so-ardent-since-she-got-to-her-teenage daughter, followed me in a single line as we marched to an open ground inside a thicket. I loaded the rifle with a pellet. “See, how your father blasts off that bottle,” I told Ammu.
I fired. Cluck.
With the boy looking at the process curiously I began to scrape off the pellet with my finger nail. It took ten minutes. Once again I took aim and pulled the trigger. Cluck. Stuck again.
The fifth time we sat on the ground with me scraping out the pellet and the boy looking on curiously, my family – the ardent fan and the not-so-ardent-since-her-teenage – looked at each other, rose together and slowly shuffled off from the scene to watch the more exciting art of rubber tapping still going on in the estate. When the sun finally set behind the trees, I decided to call it a day; the shooter in me was survived by three bottles still sitting in a line on a distant rock.
That was archery at the Great Hornbill.
Natural Pool (mentioned in website)
When we finally got to the source of the voice – that I first heard in the website while I was at my home watching different sorts of visual – we found that it was more gurgle than river. To take bath, I had to carefully push a few boulders out of my way, make a bed in between and spread myself out into the shape of a Chinese alphabet to fit in. The river was shallow. In order to get every part of one’s body wet at the same time one had to lie face down and press one’s whole body hard on the river bed. At some point during the immersion and tweaking of the body I thought for a moment that I had turned into a morsel of porotta someone was twirling in some gravy to get it smeared on every part.
“This is not the real pool we mentioned in the website; there is more water there” they told me apologetically. “Then let’s go there,” I said. “No, the Maoists can be lurking there.” “Myao!” “Maoists, Maoists,” they corrected me. “The forest is full of Maoists. The police say that the forests guards were fired at last week. So it is dangerous to go deep into the wood.”
Enjoy farming (Mentioned in website)
They plant the rubber. They milk the rubber. They sell the rubber. They make a living out of the rubber. How do we enjoy such farming? “Manu chetta, I have a plan.” Light hits and here my wife sits bolt upright again.
Games Room and Kids Park (Refer website)
Did we really put them into our website? We didn’t know. They shared our surprise.
Trekking and Spice tour
Evening, we were led to the end of the long road that runs along the resort. After a stroll of 500mts, we reached the forest border. They stopped. What happened? I asked. Maoists! Who? Maoists. It is dangerous to go beyond this point. They could open fire.
Sir, There is a big rock inside. Amazing. Awesome. You should see it. You can get to its top by climbing through a creeper. Let us climb then. No. Maoists. We could have climbed but the Maoists could be lurking there with their rifles. They could open fire. And the forest officials will never allow us to enter.
Maoists, Maoists, Maoists! The Maoists are against trekking. The Maoists are against spice tour. The Maoists are against swimming. The Maoists allow only rubber tapping and fleecing the poor tourists in the name of resorts in this part of the world.
We came back to Trivandrum with heavy hearts. No more resorts for a long time, I decided. My wife was seemingly disappointed; she didn’t know how to fuse this Maoist number with her rubber estate in Kilimanoor. There was no forest bordering her property, but only a town.
Ammu was the only one happy. No more family trips for quite a long time now.
(Must say it all. They gave us an extra breakfast and gifted us with a bottle of honey. All for 6500/- a day for a stay in a remote location in Nilambur. Please visit their website and resist temptation. Don’t be fooled by the photographs I post here. You stay in a rubber estate for all that money. Good luck).