Finding green answers at Hulivana

Finding green answers at Hulivana

NATURE RETREAT

Finding green answers at Hulivana

Nestled in the foothills of the Jenukallu Betta range near the Hassan-Chikmagalur border, Hulivana was once a neglected cardamom estate. Today, it is a nature retreat where locals are roped in to run the show, discovers B S Srivani

A 10-year-old boy is terrified of thorns during a school trek, not knowing that without touching the spike, he can’t get hurt in any way. A small girl introduced to wildlife through TV channels at home is not pleased to see them up and close in the zoo.

“But they are so lazy. What is that smell? Where are the real animals?” she exclaims before turning her back on them.

Given the rush people nowadays are in, it is surprising that not too much attention is being paid to the basics. It is becoming increasingly common to see parents, armed with technology and attendant comforts, more focused on spending quality time with their children, laying emphasis on assuaging their guilt and at the same time plying their offspring with knowledge easily downloaded from the Internet. Come weekends, entire families flee the city to some beach, waterspot or resort, comfortable in the knowledge that their routine of having people around (in most cases) won’t be altered by much. Damn the tranquility, the sense of adventure, curiosity and awe and humility that one gets upon coming face-to-face with Nature at her wildest and truest.

But, along with the environmentalists and the Judiciary, there are some who try to redress this worrying trend, beginning with helping people understand, because it is the first step towards preservation, conservation and peaceful co-existence.

Take the case of Sunil, a trek guide, who witnessed the school boy’s terror over a thorny bush. Stunned at the boy’s reaction, Sunil realised that the boy, like most of his schoolmates on the trip, had no knowledge of his surroundings. He wondered if he could address the situation in some way so that future generations wouldn’t be left high and dry when it came to essential, yet sensitive subjects as conservation. Two years of efforts threw up Hulivana.

Story of Hulivana

A place which Sunil likes to live in and share with like-minded people, Hulivana offers visitors an opportunity to commune with Nature, take back valuable life lessons on offer.

Nestled in the foothills of the Jenukallu Betta range near the Hassan-Chikmagalur border, Hulivana was once a neglected cardamom estate after its legend had almost passed into oblivion. Supposedly a meeting place for tigers once, Hulivana seems to provide a few answers to Sunil. “There are no houses for miles around, no people to disturb and no lights to distract. It’s an ideal place to unwind, study Nature – the flora and fauna, do bird watching and even observe butterflies...It’s a shutterbug’s paradise,” he observes.

Indeed. Hulivana is situated between the Shiradi and the Charmadi Ghats, offering an unbelievable vista of mist-clad mountains, dark forests cloven by slivers of chattering streams and waterfalls round the year while enveloped in absolute silence except for the insistent whispers of the wind...

Sunil has kept the facilities on offer at a minimum, which however provide reasonable comfort. Two cottages (villas) and a log cabin (using deadwood) take care of accommodation, the former can contain six people each while the latter, as many as 12 at a time and no more. He doesn’t accept back to back reservation, which is through referrals only. The rule here is: no plastic, no boom boxes and no cigarettes either. The message is clear: Hulivana is welcome only to people who take their holidays seriously, while being conscious of their responsibilities towards Nature. “I only want to take in travellers who truly understand and value their environment...can appreciate this rich biodiversity.”

Thinking local

At Hulivana, environment is given priority in everything. Employing locals to run the show, with an eye on participatory conservation efforts, Sunil has used environment-friendly and local materials to construct the cottages and cabin.

A 2KV hydroturbine pumpset set up with the help of Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited, generates round-the-clock electricity for the entire property where required, making use of the small, yet very swift stream that gushes close by. Hot water is also available throughout the day and the ‘chefs’ pamper you with Malnad and North Indian cuisine, or you can cook yourself, thanks to the Sringeri ole (stove).

Once common in the region, Sringeri Ole requires 17 days of preparation before construction. First, a consistent mixture of termite mound, jaggery, eggs and lime carbonate is used to build the furnace—so it won’t crack up in the intense heat. Next, bottle pieces are used for insulation before being plastered with cement. Once ready, a copper cauldron is fixed inside. The cauldron is heated by deadwood and by placing iron tavas (pan) on three sides, dosas, omelettes or even barbeque stuff can be had piping hot.

The waste is composted, the place is not fenced nor is the road asphalted, with visitors using horses or jeeps to cross the age-old foot trail. Says Sunil: “I don’t mind the responsible traveller but not the regular tourist. Herpetologists, lepidopterists, non-experimental research students from universities and those who prefer long duration stays are most welcome.”

For those keen on being ‘active’, they can choose from trekking, mountain biking (cycling), birdwatching, herpwatch, apiary—assist in bee keeping and honey extraction, star gazing and many more. For the history student among you, there is a Bhyraveshwara temple, believed to be four-centuries old, a little further. “We try to provide the best service possible but our primary objective is for people to understand and respect our environment. If my effort helps them in this direction, then I am most satisfied,” concludes Sunil.

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