A 3-hour drive from Bangalore airport, cutting through state borders, is Velanga Orchard, a 50-acre mango orchard far from civilisation. After a decade of working with the steel corporation in New Zealand, Karthik Ramaraj moved back to his motherland and bought a piece of land (a fairly large one) that had mangoes growing somewhere under the curtains of Lantana. He befriended Ravi from the neighbouring village (I'll let him tell you about their meet-cute when you stay there) and they hacked their way through and built a farm-stay amongst the mangoes.
Velanga means Wood Apple in Tamil and it stands tall and strong at the front gate of the orchard. About 30 acres of the farm have been cultivated to grow mangoes predominantly the GI-tagged Banganapalli, rice and a smaller number of neem and teak. Just missed harvest season. Make sure to keep that in mind when you travel. A woodworking workshop (quite the limerick there), and a pottery studio (Slow Pottery) by ceramic artist and Karthik's wife Nikita Dawar adds a rustic and crafty vibe to the place. The farm is also home to three doggos - Shy, Kumu and Kava and over 100 species of birds, animals and reptiles.
Velanga Orchard offers weekend farm stays starting Friday. The 7 cottages are available for couples, twin-sharing and one that can accommodate three people. The rooms come equipped with a kitchenette, ensuite bathrooms and a patio. The rooms are naturally cooled. Meals are served in the community dining area which is where you can meet new people (Yes, in the real world), chit-chat, read a book or catch a mid-day nap on the chattai. Expect connectivity only if you're on Jio (Sadly so!).
The food is cooked by Kanika who comes by from the village. It's local Andhra cuisine and is totally worth the trip to Velanga. Fresh, crisp dosas and paniyarams for breakfast with sourdough sourced from Lavonne, an array of local veggies, and curries with a chicken or mutton dish are served for lunch and dinner. Piping hot samosas to gooey brownies are available at tea time. This may be the back of beyond, but the food game is on point. If you are lucky, Karthik will share his secret stash of Mysore Pak with you.
We spent the first evening driving in the back of Karthik's Isuzu accompanied by a kayak to a lake about 3kms away. The placid lake is perfect for the lazy kayaker. Nikita set up a delightful picnic while Karthik and Ravi lit up a bonfire. We watched the sky change colour over a few G&Ts before heading back to the farm.
The next evening, Ravi led us on a hike (Level 1 for hikers, Level 4 for me) up the nearby hill giving you a panoramic view of the dense forest that surrounds Velanga.
You can also sign up Nikita's Slow Pottery residential courses starting November 2023 right here.
Velanga Orchard is the perfect getaway for a solo traveller. It's a great place to disconnect from the world, open your mind and heart to new experiences without any prejudice and just let go. I want to shout out to the wonderful people I met during my stay - Tufayl and Reena from Bombay, Priyanka Sachdev from Poona, Nivedita Krishna and Yagnya and her family along with Sidhika and Sanika from Bangalore. With their varied perspectives, insightful conversations and our cumulative love for nature, the weekend could not have been better.
Rooms start at Rs 15,000 for the 3-night weekend stay, all-inclusive.
You can hire a cab via Gozo (add Bangarupulam as your destination and then add Velanga Orchard which is on Google Maps) or take the Fresh Bus from the airport that heads to Tirupati and get off at Nandi Hotel which is half an hour away by auto from the farm (Karthik will book you an auto.)