India,  Karnataka,  Travel

Coffee, Cardamom, Campfire, and Calmness at Hema Koota

Hema Koota is an authentic homestay that offers the simple pleasures of life (delicious food, friendly people, and nature) making for a perfect weekend getaway.

“Old houses, I thought, do not belong to people ever, not really, people belong to them.” ~ Gladys Taber

Every year, the onset of Christmas vacations heralds an exodus in Bangalore. Some companies shut down for the year-end. IT employees try to use up their remaining leaves. Everyone has a reason to head out for their last travel of the year.

We too decided to drive to the hills to enjoy the winter chill and the coffee harvest season. While scrolling through listings on travel websites I came across Hema Koota in Hassan. Their website had a gallery of beautiful photos, with one of an old railway track that caught my eye. I had a vague recollection of reading about this trek somewhere, but somehow never got to find out more about it. Reading up further, I saw that they served set menus with only authentic Malnad cuisine at this place. Being a foodie and always interested in exploring authentic offbeat cuisines in a natural setting, it sealed the deal for me, and we finalized Hemakoota for our vacation trip.

Bougainvillea and Birdsong

“A huge, purple bell, with three tender flowerets in its heart, ensconced in a crown of twigs. A sunbeam fell on the purple flower and made it glow red. The whole thing looked like a tiny world in itself, a fantastic world of flower and fire, light and silence.” — Bougainvillea” ― Sarim Baig, Saints, and Charlatans

After a leisurely drive from Bangalore, we reached Attihalli late afternoon. The last leg of our journey took us past a pond with white lilies, a quaint bus stop, and an ancient stone temple, up a road that ended in three houses. Two of these belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Gautham, our hosts for the stay.

Our rooms were in the newer house with an inviting veranda that opens into a well-kept courtyard garden. Bougainvillea flowers spilled over the entrance creating a festive feel. Behind the house were paddy fields and plantations with coffee, cardamom, and pepper. Birds chirped all day, gathering around the fruit trees. Butterflies flitted about the flowers in the courtyard. It felt like a page out of a storybook!

Our rooms were large, with a king size bed and a single bed. There was a small functional kitchen with a fridge, basic dishes, wash basin and even a music speaker system along with a dining area for evening get-togethers. Everything was clean and functional. Meals were served in the older, ancestral house next door where our hosts lived, lending a warm homely character to the stay

Savoring a Slice of Authentic Malnad Cuisine

En route we had a disastrous breakfast at one of the many highway restaurants. Tormented by dust and hunger, we were more than looking forward to lunch. On reaching the homestay, Mr. Gautham welcomed us and after settling in we walked over a few steps to their home for our meal.

Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?’ Anthony Bourdain

We were served fragrant Pulao, crispy Kori Rotti, Chicken Gassi, Chicken Pepper Fry, vegetable Kurma, sautéed green beans, and the most heavenly pineapple chutney/pickle which seemed to pack all the flavors possible, a perfect marriage of the tanginess of pineapple with the heat of red chilies. Our meal ended with a bowl of fruit custard. This was as satisfying a meal as it could get, full of heart, served with warmth and consumed with joy.

This meal set the tone for the rest of our stay – every meal was carefully prepared by Mrs. Gautham, who is indeed a mistress of spices. Her melt-in-your-mouth idiyappam is one of the best I’ve had. We enjoyed Thatte Idlis with rice that’s ground in a pestle and mortar and Neer Dosas that were unbelievably thin. The freshness of the vegetables, the perfectly balanced chutneys, sweet coconut milk preparation, and chicken balls in nuanced coconut gravy, all left me licking my fingers in a fulfilling emotion  that only food prepared with love can bring

As a family of foodies, we all look for authentic food while traveling. And, Mrs. Gautham’s motherly cooking and warmth stole our hearts. She and her husband were on the move all day. Despite a recent slip disk, Mrs. Gautham prepared all our meals with minimal help. Though we said were fine with simple meals, each preparation was different, diverse in variety and cooked to perfection.

Bonfire Under a Moonlit Sky

During the evenings, we’d sit by the bonfire in our courtyard. Both evenings, there were delicious snacks to go with our wine and whiskey. Round slices of potatoes batter fried to crisp, boiled eggs flavored with chopped onions, and mixed veg pakodas. Whenever we think of our stay in Malnad, Mrs. Gautham’s fragrant dishes will always come to mind!

Time Slows Down

This pristine corner of the world has limited connectivity – only Jio and BSNL networks work here. For two days I left my phone in the room. In fact, the entire family was away from technology. Time took on a granular quality – mornings stretched leisurely with the sun, afternoons slowed down with endless cups of fresh filter coffee, and dusk was marked by cowherds returning home.

Things to do at Hema Koota Home Stay

My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing. -Aldous Huxley

There’s a lot to do around the homestay:

  • Walk to the village and send a few letters from the post office.
  • Visit the temple behind the homestay.
  • Walk in the plantation and paddy fields.
  • Play carrom.
  • Go birdwatching in the morning.
  • Hike or drive to Mookanmane falls. It is close by (4 km) and often quite deserted. The graceful, wide fall is flanked by dense forests and you must walk a slippery path for good views.

For a longer trip, there are plenty of options within an hour’s drive. Gautham can help you with planning your visits, booking a jeep/open van as well as tips on the time to visit.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Mallali waterfall is about an hour’s drive from the homestay. The fall is at its best during the monsoons.
  • Patla Betta mountaintop offers a panoramic view of the valley. When we visited it, some of the hills were dry … the ochre shades contrasted with the forest covered hills further away. You can trek to the viewpoint or hire a jeep.
  • Bisile Ghat with its winding roads, scenic viewpoints, lush green vistas, and biodiversity offer the best of Western Ghats. Keep half a day to explore the jungle and soak in the wilderness.
  • Have you heard of the forbidden Green Route Trek that trails along the Sakleshpura railway track? From Hema Koota, you can enjoy a smaller version of this trek. A 3 km walk to the railway track through thick forest overgrowth leads to an old railway bridge and tunnels. Spend time walking along the track and enjoying the mesmerizing views. It is an adventure not to be missed.
  • Kaginahare Fort ruins is a more of a viewpoint than a fort. It is a good point to catch the sunset.

The Story of Hema Koota

In Kannada, Hema means gold and Koota is a gathering. So literally this place makes for a golden gathering. The first part of the house was built by Gautham’s grandfather in 1935 and named Hema Koota. Later, in 1952 an extension was added.

Reaching Hema Koota Home Stay

The property is in Attihalli village in Hassan Taluk. It’s a 4-hour drive (without stops) from Bengaluru. You can book the property here.

 

 

Seema Misra undertakes freelance projects for illustrations, content creation, copywriting, and social media marketing through her blog Lonely Canopy. To unwind, she watches world cinema or travels across it. She talks to her plants and sometimes people as well. But more often than not … you will find her curled up in her favorite corner reading a book while sipping strong coffee.

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swalia
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Difficult to say what I liked better- the post or the sketches!

Jayashree Sengupta
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Wow. The sketches are awesome. Just now I became a fan of yours <3 lovely