Travelling is fun. I mean, for children. And when it includes animals from nursery rhymes, the fun factor doubles.
Ooty has never been on our must-visit list, considering its transformation into just another high-altitude urban sprawl. But a two-night stay at a farm, 25km from Ooty, with animals, vegetable gardens and wide open spaces, seemed like a good getaway for the children. We found out about this farm-stay holiday through reviews on travel websites and finalized our plans after getting a thumbs up from two friends who had been there with their tots.
After an hour-long drive from Ooty, up and down hairpin bends, we reached the parking lot of Little Earth’s Destiny Farmstay. The remaining 3km of dirt road was covered in Destiny’s beaten-down Willys jeep from World War II—its doors rattled and flung open occasionally during the bumpy ride. My queasy-bellied one-year-old son held on to me for life and the look on my two-year-old daughter’s face was one of plain mistrust.
Eye-opener: Seeing farm animals at close quarters can be an exciting experience for your child. Praveen Manivannan
But their fears and misgivings quickly gave way to wide-eyed wonder as we reached the farm and descended a few steps to the sight of grazing sheep and neighing horses on the hill nearby. Further down, in a small pond, spotless white geese swum in unison, almost as if they were trained to perform the act.
My city-bred apartment prisoners were set free in the vast verandah that had a view of slanting farms and grazing livestock. In the absence of traffic sounds, we could hear even the distant laughter and chatter of farm workers.
It was lunchtime when we arrived but the hotel’s staff had missed out on making a chilli-free meal for the children, as had been requested. So I dug out my tiny 1 litre electric cooker to make a carrot sauté. The upside to this dreary episode was that the excited tots got to watch a farm worker pluck the carrots from a vegetable patch. They jostled to help me scrub the carrots clean, a little chore that helped exhaust some of their nervous energy, the rest of which was spent running up and down the hallway between spoonfuls of lunch.
Post-siesta, we walked around the farm to get a closer look at the geese, which triggered a million questions from my daughter: “Why do they scream like this?” “Why are they walking around together?” “Why are they not in the water all the time?”
While responding to the barrage of queries, we trotted uphill to watch scurrying guinea pigs, rabbits and hares chewing grass on a fenced-off slope. The children were quiet as they stared in amazement at the scampering animals and their young ones.
The next day, we woke up to an activity-packed schedule. My husband and son jumped on a horse and trotted away in a wide, open running area. My daughter, a little scared of the horses, couldn’t have enough of the brown and white guinea pigs, and dragged me towards the busy rodents.
The agricultural tour of the farm, which grows different types of lettuce, zucchini, Chinese cabbage and herbs, was intriguing. My daughter listened silently as I pointed out the cabbage and showed her beets stuck under the mud. And my son took curious whiffs of the herb samples the farm manager offered. We pocketed stalks of thyme, basil and rosemary sprigs to stick in our carry-along “know-your-flowers-and-herbs” project book. Back in the room, the children pasted their fragrant finds on to the book, a nice revision for me too as I had to label the herbs for them.
As the sun edged closer to the horizon, we took the children to watch cows being milked briskly in the barn by a machine. My milk-loving little girl finally got to see where she gets her favourite dairy product from.
On our final morning, the children sadly bid goodbye to the farm animals before we headed to the train station. The toy train we boarded echoed our sentiments as it crawled unwillingly to the heat and grime downhill.
The Great Escape
Take a trip to these farms near your city
• Citrus County, Hoshiarpur, Punjab, runs a farm stay at Chhauni Farm. The farm is a kinnow plantation and during the harvest season (in winter), children and adults are encouraged to help pluck the fruit from the trees. Guests also have the option of visiting a dairy farm where cows are still milked by hand. Stay in one of the four tents for Rs7,000 a night (for two people, with all meals included. Charges for children extra). For details, call Jasveen Ahluwalia at 09815477880.
• Agri Tourism Development Corporation, Pune, organizes a day tour for children and adults at Baramati. The property is spread over 110 acres and has 65 kinds of fruit plantations. At present, it is the season for mangoes and guavas. The farm has a dairy centre where children can see cows being milked, a goat farm and a sericulture unit. Children can also enjoy a tractor ride. The day tour costs Rs600 per adult and Rs500 per child (service tax extra). For details, call 020-25535599.
• Noah’s Show, Bangalore, conducts a New Age Farmer workshop aimed at educating children on how fruits, vegetables and grains are grown and harvested. “A glimpse into a farmer’s life,” is how Geetika Goel, the director of Noah’s Show, describes this day-long workshop (7am-3pm), which costs Rs900 per child. A group of 15 children is a must for a trip. For details, call 080-41211768.