the Rainforest Retreat
Travelling to the Rainforest Retreat took an entire day of driving. We had a crazy broken bus and ridiculous drivers. It took us about 13 hours for a trip that’s apparently only supposed to last 6… So basically when we finally arrived we were ready for anything that wasn’t the inside of that bus haha. It turns out the rainforest retreat is amazing. Right in the middle of the Western Ghats (the western mountain range) it has incredible biodiversity. The retreat is an organic farm that has about 25 acres. we have helped pick vanilla beans, coffee, and tea leaves. We have also been learning how to process everything and each step from plant to table. For example, did you know that black tea and green tea comes from the same leaf? How the leaf is process determines the type of tea. Most of you know that I don’t drink tea or coffee back home but I may leave India with a love for tea =)
Here in the rainforest we get to go on treks through the forest, learning about the plants along the way and their medicinal properties. The role that each organism plays is immense in the biodiversity of the rainforest. Unfortunately I don’t have much of a background in agriculture or plants but I still love learning about all the insects and bugs and creatures that live here. The rainforest at night is my favourite. The forest comes alive with sounds, and with dogs howling in the distance, it gets quite spooky. We also have some pranksters on this trip so it’s made one of the nights a little scarier than need be =) The accommodations here are absolutely wonderful, but we’re always reminded that we’re in the rainforest as one of the rooms had some forest rats visiting all night. I was right next door and I was very thankful that the walls don’t have any holes….
Trekking to a mountain ridge was super adventurous and on the way back we saw two scorpions and two rat snakes. Rat snakes are very large and thick. These two snakes were wrapped around each other and doing some sort of dance. They were blocking our path and we had to do a bit of a detour. At first we thought the snakes were mating but later we learned that they were two males. Apparently they were invoked in some sort of competition. It was pretty awesome to watch.
In the Western Ghats there is more than rainforest. Rice paddies fill the valleys as well as pastures and cows =) There are many organic agriculture farms here and the types of crops vary. One afternoon we walked into a valley to visit the local school which only had about 8 students. These kids are children of farmers and have grown up in the countryside and will probably never leave it. Some of these kids may have been to the nearby city once, perhaps for an emergency doctor visit. These kids go to school everyday and don’t have vacations or days off. Most of the children have to walk 3-4 kilometers just to attend classes and during the monsoon season it’s too difficult to trek to school so they stay home. When we went to the school we brought teddy bears and tennis balls that we brought from Canada to give out to kids we meet, as well as some maple candy =) We shared some basic facts about Canada (making me miss home a little), and we sung the national anthem. The kids sang some traditional songs for us and did some traditional Indian dances. I wonder what kind of impact our visit had on the school teachers and students. Visiting these kids and realizing that they will probably never leave the countryside made me feel so blessed at the opportunity I had to go and see them, and to see India. I was always told as a kid to count my blessings, and it’s through experiences like this that I recognize what my blessings are.
- Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”