Cochin Herald

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Retreat in the hills

Nestled against the verdant backdrop of the Silent Valley National Park, is a charming get-away by the same name. The farm stay is part of the estate bungalow of the Kolakkadu Rubber Estate.

But, this is no ordinary estate; it is part of the history and lore of the place. Established in 1927, by the Karippaparambil family, it has remained a working farm all through these years. In another decade, the Kolakkadu Rubber Estate will mark its centenary!

History attests that it was the late Mr. Jacob Thomas Karippaparambil who pioneered rubber cultivation among the natives of Mannarkkad, in the district of Palakkad. Until then, rubber plantations were the prerogative of the British. Today, besides rubber, the Estate also grows areca nuts, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, cocoa, coconuts, and a variety of exotic fruits like jack fruit, mangoes, pineapple, mangosteen, rambutan, guava, papaya, rose apple and passion fruit. At the turn of the millenium, the farm went fully organic. To stay true to chemical fertilizer-free farming practices, about 20 cattle are being raised here, mainly for manure.

The fourth generation of the founding family, Mr. Roshan, has decided to make his father’s dream come true. It was the (late) Mr. Jacob K. Jacob, who first mooted the idea of a farm stay. The members of the Karippaparambil family will now throw open the doors of their ancestral home to the discerning traveller.

This is a wonderful opportunity to savour farm life and play at running one too, to boot.

The host family is made up of the scion, Mr. Roshan Jacob Karippaparambil, his mother, Mrs. Rosy Jacob and grandmother, Mrs. Aney Jacob. The three generations live under one roof and that in itself makes for engaging tales and anecdotes. The Silent Valley Retreat is all geared up to welcome its first guests, come Spring 2017.

Wake up to a muster! More than a dozen peacocks visit the lawns each morning in search of the proverbial worm. Saunter under the lush canopy or work up a sweat on the trekking trails. Fish in the lotus pond or watch the kingfishers at work. Cool off with a dip in the Kunthipuzha that runs right behind the house or take in the emerald green Silent Valley National Park from the vantage points; make friends with the Estate’s pet dogs or lend a hand in getting the chores done. And as dusk settles, listen to the orchestra of beetles and cicadas while gazing at the brilliant stars. However one spends time, the pace of life at the Retreat is soothing.

The modest estate bungalow sits on the banks of the Kunthipuzha, a river that originates in the Silent Valley National Park. Two rooms of the estate bungalow have been set aside for guests. These air conditioned rooms with en suite baths, are cosy and welcoming. The covered balcony looks out over the river and the lush forests on the opposite bank.

For the sportier sort, basketball and badminton courts have been set up on the estate. Tour the farm on the cycle or set up board games in the gazebo by the river. There is a car on rent for those who can’t do without a set of wheels and a charming souvenir shop to get mementos from.

Mealtimes here are family time. It is a wonderful opportunity for the guests and hosts to trade stories and lore over a sumptuous home cooked meal. Local delicacies and Kerala cuisine are elevated to new heights, thanks to the fresh produce and farm grown spices. Vegetables such as okra, brinjal, long beans, bitter gourd, pumpkins, to name a few, are grown right in the kitchen garden.

The family urges the guests to sample fresh toddy and finger licking dishes such as the starchy kappa (tapioca) with a feisty fish curry or the fluffy appam with the Malabar chicken curry. Mrs. Jacob looks forward to sharing her knowledge and secrets of Kerala cuisine with interested visitors. The guests can also request for continental fare, if they so choose. The Karippaparambil family hopes to host families and share their wonderful home and thriving farm with those who yearn for a more rustic way of life, albeit with all the creature comforts!

The immense potential offered by the priceless beauty and the soothing ambience of the place were brought home to Roshan while he was working in Bangalore with the INME Learning Pvt Ltd. The company offers adventure sports and outdoor life skill development camps. The growing demand and need to be closer to nature and its untold benefits is what prompted this young man, with a Masters in International Business, to finally explore the viability of a farm stay on his ancestral property spread across a hundred acres.

Besides, all the activities the estate offers, guests can also explore the designated trekking trails that crisscross the family’s mango orchard, a stone’s throw away. The farm stay is also a good option for those who would like to visit the National Park which is a short drive away. The hosts can arrange transportation and necessary permits to visit the unique, ecologically-diverse virgin forests of the Western Ghats. The Kanjirapuzha River and dam are within easy reach. An ayurvedic massage will certainly ease any vestige of stress. There is also an option to visit a tribal settlement and shop for the best quality spices.

While there is a lot to do, the family urges guests to just relax and soak in the ambience. The fresh mountain air is nothing short of elixir. The quiet and serenity are offset by the bustle of the farmhands and farm chores. There are no weekdays or weekends on a farm. Life moves to the rhythm of the seasons; time gains a whole new meaning here.

The Silent Valley Retreat is not fashioned to be a big, commercial venture that attracts hordes of tourists. The Karippaparambil family love their home and the estate; and is extending a sincere invitation to families to partake of their way of life, for however long or briefly, when one can get away.


Cochin Herald

All stories by: Cochin Herald