Tuesday 13 October 2015

Volunteering for Art at The Rainforest Retreat

Rainforest Retreat is an eco-lodge in South India which practices agro-forestry and responsible tourism. I had gone there as a volunteer and while I hand-pollinated vanilla flowers in the mornings, I painted the wall of the cottage where I was put up during the rest of the day. I took reference from the beautiful bio-diversity that is found in the lovely place. The mural was 13 x 7 feet and covered almost the entire wall. :-)

Painting the coffee berries.

The civet cat is a nocturnal creature and feeds on coffee berries amongst other things.

The Crested Bulbul.

Different kinds of mushrooms abound in the rainforest.

The common swallow

Vanilla beans.

The Nephila spider is one of the biggest spiders in the world and the female grows to almost 6-7 cms in size and weaves webs which are as strong as nylon thread.

The purple flowers are called Purple Rain

The Atlas Moth. 

The Malabar gliding frog

The hawk moth caterpillar.

That's me posing with my mural! 

Photo-essay- The Rainforest Retreat

When the bug for volunteering at a coffee plantation bit me, Sujata Goel of the Rainforest Retreat was the only one who promptly reverted from the 10 odd mails I had sent to different plantations. And I'm so glad she did. Since the coffee harvesting season was over and April would be the time for vanilla pollination, she asked me if I would be okay to club volunteering for vanilla pollination and art work in one of their cottages. I screamed a 'yes' over email and did a little jig!! This was the cherry on the cake!! The owners, Sujata and Anurag are such warm, loving and wonderful people and that adds to the charm of the place. The plantation is like a fairy land, with exotic flowers, trees with gnarled roots and vines and creepers adding an asymmetric beauty to everything around. The accommodation too has a rustic charm, blending in perfectly with the surroundings. A special word of mention for the staff, Ravi, Mariamma and Subbu who go out of the way to ensure that your stay is comfortable. I saw them attending to the other guests with impeccable courtesy and promptness and with me too. The food is sumptuous, hearty and organic, and most of the ingredients are straight from the farm and I overate each time. I was touched and inspired by the enthusiasm and the love that Sujata and Anurag and the staff have for the plantation. They also explained various aspects of bio-diversity that left me amazed at Nature's intelligence. If you happen to stay at the Plantation lodge, you will see my wall-art inside the cottage, signed off as Purple Soul. Read my post about vanilla pollination while I take you through my most memorable stay through these pictures..:-) 

At the gate of the Rainforest Retreat, which is in a small village called Galibeedu, near Madikeri district in South Karnataka in South India, which has around 25 acres of organic coffee, vanilla and cardamom plantations co-existing with rainforest trees.

My cottage from the outside

Inside my room. The right wall is where I painted. 

The fire-place.

The dining area

The day first day I landed there, there was a wolf snake no bigger then a big earthworm curled up in the dining area near the food labels. I was in their territory, I reminded myself without freaking out!

Giant ferns

Cardamom plants. The harvesting happens in winter. 
Me hand-pollinating a vanilla flower. 

Vanilla beans.

This is the nest of the white crab.

Kiri, the dog, very friendly and caring too. Sometimes, she would come and accompany me to the dining area, from my cottage.

Wild brinjals/eggplants. Yes, even I thought they were lemons!

Wild jasmine.

This is an ant's nest, woven from leaves and water proof. I was told that if you poke a hole in the nest, the ants would again cover up the hole in a matter of an hour or so. So lovely!

On the way to the dining area

These geese had their house just close to the gate and every time they would hear the gate creak open, they would call out for attention..

Coffee berries.

Coffee flower buds

Coffee flowers. They were so fragrant. Wish someone made a perfume out of it. I would surely buy! While working in my room, the breeze would bring the fragrance of these flowers right up to me.

Log bridge over a stream inside the plantation

Wholesome breakfast of ragi bread, home made mango jam and upma...Yummm!!

Pumpkin creeper.

The ground was covered with these leaves. Such a lovely color.

Pineapple!! I was ashamed at my abysmal ignorance when I saw this, as I had thought that pineapples grow on trees!! The flowers of the fruit are a beautiful purple color.

The goats and calves on the farm were very friendly. Whenever they would see me coming down from my cottage, they would look up at me all at once. I spent some time with them each day and also fed them banana and orange peels from my breakfast.

They took a fancy to my pink shoes

And my pink bag...

and when they couldn't chew on it, they butted me with their heads..and I would burst out laughing!!

One day the kids of the staff found a crab...they later let it off into the stream.

The whole place was full of exotic flowers and birds and of course many creepy crawlies!!
This is a spiders nest

Golden sunlight streaming in.
Fog outside my cottage early in the morning

I offered to bake a ragi cake one day

I baked it in a fire oven
Wild plants but they look so pretty with their pink spots.

lazying on the hammock

Rice puttu and kadalai with potato salad and cucumber and goat cheese salad with cherry tomatoes.

Ravi, one of the staff on the plantation. He had to quit school after class 8 due to financial circumstances. But he has an eidetic memory and knows the latin and botanical names of every flower, weed, bird and creature on the plantation. He also reads up research papers on his own to further his knowledge. He also made sure that my stay was very comfortable.

Mariamma, the loving cook who whipped up delicious food. She was so loving that on the day I was to leave she made a bottle of lemonade and packed some cake and fruit for me.

An atlas moth I painted as part of the mural in my room.

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