A retreat less than an hour’s drive from the cacophonic heart of Bengaluru, Aura Kalari is something of a rarity, less than three kilometres off Hennur Road. It is at the end of what can only be described as a mud track, in an area that could be considered pastoral, except for the odd semi-constructed building.
Not so much of a resort than a homestay option, everything at Aura Kalari seems to be under the benediction of the great mango tree in the central courtyard, which provides shade for the the adjacent mud cottage, relaxation rooms and compact kitchen, as well as the foundation for the treehouse, which is an excellent vantage point from which to survey the surrounding countryside, and to spy the high-rise buildings on the horizon, the only indication of the city we’ve just come from. While the mud cottage (which comfortably sleeps five), the ‘Buddha stone’ courtyard room and the tree house (which sleeps two or three) can be rented out separately, this space makes most sense as an uninterrupted unit, perfect for a large family on holiday, groups of friends, college reunions and corporate outings for up to 10 or 12 people.
We arrived after sunset, and were met almost a kilometere before reaching the property by the on-site caretaker, who led us through a side gate into the courtyard, which also features a natural pond, surrounded by quaint stools made from discarded tree stumps. The barbecue that awaited us was a sign of the delicious promises ahead and also gave off the much-appreciated extra heat on a surprisingly chilly evening.
Food was served in the tree house, on a dining table constructed from reclaimed wood, surrounded by the branches of the mango tree. Grilled capsicum, sweetcorn, mushrooms and sweet potatoes were followed by a homely meal of maa ki dal, chicken curry, homemade curd, salad and steaming hot phulkas, all freshly made by the resident Nepalese chef. No wi-fi, television or radio here; only a carrom board and well-thumbed packs of cards, and piping hot mint tea.
Deciding to spend the night in the mud house rather than the more adventurous tree house bedroom (which you have to hop over several branches and then climb a small ladder to reach), we were woken by the sun seeping through the netted opening under the thatched straw roof. Shards of colourful light, filtered through circles of recycled yellow, green, orange and blue glass embedded at regular intervals illuminated the mud walls.
Only in the light of the day were we able to fully appreciate the surroundings—the cottage made entirely of pure mud mixed in jaggery water and cut straws, the adjoining front garden full of wayside flowers and pumpkins, and the Buddha stone courtyard where the resident cat sleeps in the sun or contemplates the fishpond beyond. The natural properties of the mud wall and thatched roof mean that the cottage retains heat on cold nights, but remains cool on sunny days, while the tree house is soothed by the night breezes. You can spend many a happy hour perched up there with a book, but there is a host of activities and distractions on offer for the versatile-minded. Try your hand at archery, take a kalarippayattu martial arts lesson in the neighbouring studio, or step out into the mango grove for a lazy amble. Of course, the ubiquitous Ayurvedic massages are also available, but by prior appointments only. The high point of this eco-friendly, alternative getaway is a chance to re-connect with old friends caught up in the daily grind, perhaps an unsurprising byproduct of being completely off grid.
Rs.2,000 per person upwards. At Chikka Gubbi, Bengaluru. Details: aurakalari.com