Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Building a Mud House

Today we are going to be talking a bit about a new initiative that we have taken up to do our bit towards creating an environmentally sustainable world. We are going to introduce our guests to mud houses. Mud houses have been there for ages and most of the villagers in the interiors of Kodai still live in mud huts.

During one of our visits to one such house we realised how aesthetically beautiful these mud houses were and how they were designed to remain neutral to temperature fluctuations. Add to it, the choolahs were also made of mud . These choolahs doubled as heaters in cold winters when the heat from them would keep the family warm. Amazing thoughtfulness right?

So we decided it was time to put our thinking caps on and see if we could build these houses for our guests so they could really relive the experience and more importantly, blend with nature. Here we take you through images which show a step by step construction of a mud house by one of expert team.

We will walk you through the process. A mud house is essentially built out of wooden frames extracted from trees . These frames are erected vertically around the four corners at a distance of about 3ft . Slightly thinner frames are stacked horizontally on the vertical frames at a distance about 8 inches. This gives a structure to the house.

As you can see in the picture, the wood is locally extracted and used to build the frame. Once the frame is built, the next step is to build the roofing so the frames are not exposed to constant sunlight and extreme temperatures. So we installed GI sheets on top of the frames to protect then from degradation.

Once that is done, the next step is to fill the gap between the frames with soft rock and rubble. This gives strength and reinforcement to the frame. Over a period of time these rock bind together and become hard enough . These walls have lasted for 15-20 years across all kinds of climactic conditions.

Once all the sides are filled with rock and rubble, the next step is probably the most challenging. Red mud needs to be dug out and smeared on each wall like a plaster. This mud has the holding power which binds the entire wall. To get the red mud, the ground sometimes need to be dug out atleast 10 ft deep and then needs to be carried to premises. We will post images of these on our post. We plan to provide these mud houses to our guests in the future !

Hope this post was informative.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Nature Fe(a)st @ 360Inn !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of late we have become very choosy with regard to our services in the sense that unless we have a customer who truly believes in what we offer and enjoys the experience as much as we do while offering our services, we do not take up trip requests!

So it was a pleasant surprise when we received an email from UK requesting us to organize a nature based outbound trip for a large group of students as a part of a school trip. Since this was their first visit to Kodai ,we knew immediately that this was one such opportunity not to miss. The goal for 360 Inn was to offer our guests a simple yet rich experience, abundant in hospitality but less in luxury , something that they could take back with them in the form of nostalgic memories for years to come.

The trip had been planned in such a way so as to split the 46 students into 2 groups, 24 of them on one weekend and the next group on the next weekend. As they were in India much ahead of the Kodai trip they had a local contact number. It was very interesting to note how systematic and well prepared they were, with each group having a leader who handled communication with us. 

On the day of the trip we received the group at Kodai town at around 11am. As we looked at their fatigued faces we could imagine the toll India's traffic and climate had on them. Not to mention the 120 Kms distance that they had travelled from Madurai to Kodai on our so called luxury "Tempo Travellers" . These tempo travellers have redefined luxury in India.

To cut a long story short, We had to bring back a smile on their faces. 

But what lay between our guests and the 360Inn cabins was a 45 km long and winding mountain road that is a challenge even to Kodai locals, not just due to the terrain but also the bad roads. And to think that this group from UK had to endure the 2 hour long trip was a bit frightening. But then, good things in life dont come easy, or do they??

And as they crossed the 45 km hurdle dreading what nature would throw at them next, right in the middle of nowhere, it was time to unravel what we had in store for them !

A 60 acre plot with 2 large cottages !

Nice and cosy  tents for those adventurous enough to camp under the stars!

We dont offer boating but we do have a Private Lake where our guests can unwind and relax!

And then ofcourse the food, made from fresh and local produce!

And then if you are very lucky, icing on the cake is you get to spot a spotted dear!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Few Experiences @ 360 Inn !!!

Like every other organization 360 Inn also has issues handling dissatisfied customers. However we have always taken it in our stride and tried our best to do whatever is practically possible under the circumstances. Last week we had a group who stayed at the 360 Inn campground . Day 1 was a manavanoor trek and Day 2 was the trek to Kumbakarai falls all the way to the plains.An episode that we will remember not just for the bad experience but the way the campground was after they left.In the case of this group we decided to forego the balance amount and let them arrange for their own food . And that too for an off-season rate of Rs 1900 per person for 2 nights (includes 2 night tent accommodation, sleeping bag/mats, 2 nights campfire, 2 days full trekking and 6 meals)

On 4th May 2012, the expectations were very high. We were eagerly anticipating a large group of 35 .

 At around 11am on the morning of 4th May, myself and 2 members of the 360 Inn team got to work pitching 7 tents on our campground in preparation to receive the trekkers late in the evening. Few of my men went ahead to chop firewood for the campfire.
We finished the job around late afternoon and went back to have lunch. Once back from lunch we set about placing comforters (something we never promise) and sleeping mats in each tent.


We also managed to get 4 sleeping bags (at no cost) if necessary.
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In order to have more latrines we built 3 new pit toilets for the group with 3 large sacks of sawdust to sprinkle in the toilet to suppress the smell. Pit toilets, unlike regular toilets, are costly to maintain since they dont have a deep leech pit and needs to be reconstructed in different areas in the campground. So a lot of labour is involved in preparing a campground for large groups.

The group of trekkers reached Kodaikanal around 5pm .Things went smooth until the evening after they landed on our campgrounds. Inspite of the steep 300ft terrain on which our campground is located, we managed to offer them Pear cakes and chips as snacks and tea, something that we never promise our customers but provide as a token of our informality.

As night set in and the guests comfortable settled into their tents, we managed to get dinner ready. The only issue was that since it was dark we needed a team to get 3 vessels (meant for 40 people) down the incredibly steep 300 ft terrain. I requested my team to get help and at around 7pm, 3 men volunteered to do the almost impossible job of carrying these piping hot and heavy dinner vessels down to the campground.

Though the entire weekend trip was about trekking and camping , the group kept harping on the fact that they had very high level doctors who wouldnt eat at roadside restaurants or oily food. There was also a call from a guest who wanted milk served at 8pm in the evening on such a steep terrain which is cutoff from the outside world . Frankly, we have never discussed so much about food with any of our guests because we run a campsite not a hotel.We kept wondering why such doctors would stay in tents and use pit toilets instead of staying at the Carlton. Infact there are many celebrities and executives who love the experience of eating roadside food.If you are a camper at 360 Inn you need to adjust quite a bit on the food since we operate on very demanding terrains to provide our guests one of the best camping and trekking experiences. There were also complaints about guides not knowing the way. All 360 Inn guides are 100% locals and know entire Kodai in and out.For large groups , we always have 2 guides , an older one with experience and a younger one who is able to understand some english ! On the last day the group left for the 22km long and arduous trek to Kumbakarai with our guides. The trek started at 10am from Dolphin's nose and ended at around 3:30pm at Kumbakarai falls. The only person who thanked our guides after the trip was the car driver ! This inspite of the fact that the 360 Inn team worked round the clock to meet their needs without charging anything extra, even the firewood that we provided the group for 2 days was actually meant to be used for an entire week,which is a 360 Inn principle to give our guests an overwhelming experience!

Below are photos of the campsite after the group left !

We just want to let our customers know that we are a camping / trekking outfit that specialize in nature. Food is just a necessity and we provide it through various hotels on the way .If you are very choosy about food, avoid us !!!  What we do guarantee our customers is we always taste the meals provided by every vendor to make sure they are upto our standards.

One feedback we will definitely take from this experience is to thoroughly screen our customers who are interested in camping to make sure they understand their responsibility  in terms of campsite awareness, conduct and attitude towards the labourers who serve them on the site.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Visiting Vellakavi with 360 Inn !

 Sleepy villages, as much exciting as the name sounds, is used so frequently as a marketing buzzword that it has lost its significance. Kodaikanal has been called a "sleepy town" for long .

But completely hidden from the hustle/bustle of Kodaikanal is a village that has its origins more than  200 years ago, long before Kodai was formed , a village called "Vellakavi" . Vellakavi infact was the first route to Kodaikanal from Kumbakarai falls. While Kodaikanal has developed, Vellakavi still remains pristine to the extent that Vellakavi residents do not wear slippers in their village. The only way from Vellakavi to Kodaikanal is a steep and difficult 8km trek through Dolphin's nose, a path that Vellakavi villagers take to trade their agricultural produce with Kodaikanal farmers.

 Last weekend, we had a young couple who wanted to celebrate their first wedding anniversary with 360 Inn ! They wanted an enjoyable, Adventurous and an insightful weekend to celebrate their happiest moment. The whole thing started off unexpectedly as an adventurous night trek to our campgrounds. Since they arrived after 7pm, they had to trek down a 250ft cliff under the cover of darkness, a great beginning to a fun-filled and adventurous weekend.  Once they reached the campsite, we organized a nice and cosy campfire over which they had dinner and then happily retired into their tent .

The next day, we packed lunch and left for Vellakavi. The path to Vellakavi was quite challenging due to the rocky terrain and also due to the steep drop in altitude from 2300metres to 1200 metres. But what made the trip astounding were the amazing views of the plains and the cliff backdrop.

After travelling about 4-5 km, , we decided to leave the couple alone for a private lunch admist the valley backdrop. Myself and the guide decided to head to Vellakavi and say "hi" to the villagers. On the way we met a few villagers who were on their way to sell fruits at Kodaikanal. After spending some time at Vellakavi, we headed back to where we left the couple and had our lunch. 

We headed back to Kodaikanal at 2pm and reached around 4:45pm . Inspite of the incredibly tiring experience, when we looked back at the tiny village of Vellakavi from Dolphin's nose it was a true moment to cherish for the couple for having made that trip and spending that private moment in the middle of nowhere!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trekking Options with 360 Inn for Summer 2012 !!!

At 360 inn we get different kinds of trekking requirements from customers. After a lot of thought we decided to categorize our treks into difficulty levels so customers can choose what they want . These treks can be done without accommodation and lunch provided wherever applicable !

Simple Treks - Customers can opt for scenic 2 hr treks (one way) to a waterfall in the jungles and come back. A total 4 hour trek which would be Rs 500 per person.

Moderate-Difficult Treks - more than 3 hour treks with steep terrains that would require significant stamina. These treks would be atleast 3 hours one way and a total of 6-7 hours. One such trek is to one of the oldest villages in Kodaikanal (without electricity) surrounded by hills without any kind of road. Such treks would cost Rs 850 per person (with lunch included) for a minimum of 15 persons.

Very Difficult Treks - All such treks would start 35kms away from Kodai town (need transportation to get there which the cost below DOES NOT INCLUDE). The trek would involve venturing through leech infested jungles, very steep terrains and would take atleast 4hours one way. The treks needs to start by 9am and end by 5pm. One such trek is to an ancients cave in Kukkal. Such treks would cost Rs 1200 per person (with lunch included) for a minimum of 15 persons.

Please quote the treks you are interested in while speaking to us or emailing us !

Monday, March 26, 2012

Forget the world with 360 Inn !

Well!, summer is here and iam sure many of you are booking your accommodations at Kodai. There are some who would like to book a room and then go sightseeing to the 18 tourist spots in Kodai !

And then there are those who want to experience nature at its best. Those who don't need a room but a huge piece of land with fruits, crops, bisons and endless views. Where you have your food on a banana leaf (Vazha Ellai), not a plate and drink clean crystal groundwater from a stream.Where there is neither a  limit on space nor on time. If there is a limit, it is on your thirst for adventure ! If you are one such , read further !

Just imagine a life where you forget your PC/Laptop, your cell charger, your work and just head outdoors to The 360 Inn farm. Like every good thing in life needs a bit of an effort, tire yourself trekking down to the farm and see a cosy tent waiting for you.

The 360 inn team will give you a warm welcome with plums, pears, passion fruit or butter fruit from the farm orchard and will walk you through all the crops / fruits grown.

As dusk sets in, head into your tents while our team sets up a campfire next to the tent to cook your food in front of you.

Chat for a while and retire for the night watching the stars through the tent mesh !!!