This is a guest post written by Steve Abraham. Steve lives in Mumbai, works in Logistics, and is a co-founder of the music blog Track Drops – three things that give him plenty of reason to travel. You can follow him on Instagram at punkflop. Photos courtesy Steve Abraham & Sailen Ghosh.
Every year, I plan at least one trip to Bangalore in order to visit my school friend, Sailen. These weekend getaways usually consist of us lazing it out in White Field, drinking, stuffing our faces, binging on TV, and having lengthy conversations about relationships and TV shows.
It’s great therapy!
This year, we decided to do something different and get away from city life for just one night. Given that we both live in major metropolises, peace and quiet is usually hard to come by and so we wanted to visit a place tucked away from the rest of civilization, but within a short driving distance.
A wire transfer later, three of us (including our friend Azhar) were fully booked at Glenrock Estates, which is situated in a little hill station called Yercaud, 220 kms away from Bangalore.
We ambitiously set our alarm clocks for 5:30 am, only to snooze-smack them until 6:30 am, and finally hit the road at 7:30 am after much procrastination and tea drinking.
The drive is straightforward and can be completed in 4 hours at a comfortable pace. Once you enter the town of Salem, you begin the climb uphill with exactly 20 hair pin bends. This was Sailen’s first time driving up the ghats, so Azhar and I showed him support by guiding him through it. And by guiding, I mean me honking the horn for Sailen at every blind turn, while Azhar offered encouragement from the backseat with the occasional, “You got this, man. Just don’t drive into any oncoming trucks.”
Twenty bends later, we arrived at Yercaud and there was silence in the car. We were suddenly reminded of the depressing reality that many hill stations fall prey to the perils of tourism, no matter how small they are. There were honking buses and cars, mounds of tourists, shops stacked together taking up every inch of space, and all centered around a lake, which itself was littered with tiny boats and more tourists.
Needless to say, we were worried that our weekend of quiet and solitude was doomed.
Thankfully, Glenrock, which also doubles as a coffee plantation, is a good 15-minute drive from the town and cut off from Yercaud. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were on our own, without any cell phone reception, tourists, or man-made noise.
Promptly upon arrival, we were shown to our wooden cabin, and the friendly staff immediately informed us that since it was a Friday, no other guests would be checking in until the following morning. You could say that we did not even try to hide the glee on each of our individual faces.
The cabin décor was simple: 3 beds, 2 fans, a coffee table, and a bathroom with running hot water. No more, no less. But what is most important to note is that each cabin had a balcony overlooking the town of Salem below, as well as these massive windows, which gave us a very comforting view of the forest that enveloped us.
In fact we shamelessly checked out all the other balconies to see which cabin had the best view, and settled on the fact that ours was the least obstructed by tall trees.
After checking into our cabin, we were served lunch on the restaurant balcony which overlooked the valley below. A home-cooked meal consisting of rice, dal, chicken curry, a vegetable, papadums, and pickle was exactly what our bodies needed after the drive.
Since there was no dessert served and each of us has a massive sweet tooth, we asked the chef to surprise us with something special and local for dinner. We also agreed to try their special “fruit juice”, which was apparently freshly squeezed from a locally grown fruit. Upon sipping it and tasting how disgustingly sweet it was, I immediately understood that this fresh fruit they were referring to is called ‘Kissan Lime Cordial’.
We leisurely completed our meal, and made our way back to the cabin, only to be greeted by the hotel’s two hyper German Shepherds named ‘Naughty’ and ‘Scamp’, the latter having lopsided ears. Sailen felt compelled to say, “Oh look! Naughty made a naughty,” every single time we stumbled upon dog mess on the ground.
I won’t lie. I laughed.
After much canine scratching, we returned to the cabin and then something unexpected happened. The three of us took an afternoon nap. We left our cabin door and windows wide open, which allowed for the gentle breeze, scent of the forest, and warm sunshine to drift in and out of our room. I don’t think any sleeping pill can compare to the effect that Mother Nature has on one’s afternoon nap taking.
We were woken up to freshly brewed chai and fried pakodas, and as we sat around stuffing our faces, Azhar, Sailen and myself exclaimed all at the same time, “Damn! That was the best nap I’ve had in a long time.” We felt relaxed. We felt revitalized. We felt like the weight of the world, which was waiting for us back at the foot of the hill along with all of its cell phone bars and traffic lights, had dissipated for a short while.
A bon fire was prepared for us, and since we were the only guests in the hotel, we took our bottle of scotch and sweatshirts down to the pit to enjoy the sunset over Salem with a crackling fire in the foreground. Chicken was marinated in a tandoori paste for us, and a barbecue pit was kept ready.
The next two hours went by with the three of us nursing our drinks, warming up by the fire, and grilling the chicken, all accompanied by the soundtrack of rustling leaves and restless insects.
Around 9 pm, we made our way down to the restaurant for another home-cooked meal. This time we were even more excited because our surprise dessert was waiting for us. We were brought a brown, saccharine dish, peppered with raisins and cashew nuts, and were told it was a special local dish.
Honestly, just like the juice at lunch, I think they duped us again. It tasted like sugar mixed with water and dried fruit. What made it worse is that the waiter stood right behind us and watched us eat it, probably out of some sadistic “let’s mess with the tourists” pleasure.
I’m ashamed to say, Sailen and I finished it.
We returned to the cabin, sat on our balcony in the darkness, sipped on some more scotch, played music from a laptop, chatted, and at times just sat and enjoyed each other’s company in silence.
If you thought the nap in the afternoon made us sound old, by 11 pm, we were passed out in bed, and had some of the most undisturbed sleep before waking up early to bright sunlight scattered across the room.
On our drive back down to Salem, we witnessed scores of cars making their way up for the weekend – vehicles packed to the brim with smiling tourists, all wanting a little a piece of Yercaud. We shuddered at the thought of a crowded Glenrock, and simultaneously high-fived each other for a well planned night.
Glenrock Estates doesn’t offer much in terms of cuisine or luxury. Instead, for the price of Rs. 3,000 a head per night (including Rs. 500 extra for the barbecue), it offers something a little more difficult to come by even with all the 5 star hotels in Bangalore and Mumbai – peace of mind (if you stay there at the right time). The entire ride back to Bangalore, the three of us were relatively quiet, but every so often one of us would exclaim, “What was that nap?!”