The Great Outdoors: An Unforgettable Outstation Getaway with Marriott Hyderabad

On a Saturday afternoon in Hyderabad, a motley group assembled around noon at Okra, the buffet restaurant of Marriott Hyderabad. Each of them was carrying a small bag containing an overnight change of clothes.  The team consisting of journalists, food and travel bloggers and Instagram influencers had all been invited to experience “The Great Outdoors with Marriott Hyderabad”.

The Great Outdoors is an initiative from the Marriott hotel, where the concept of a luxury overnight outing is introduced by the hotel apart from the indoor experience they provide. Marriott has launched this offering where groups of twenty or more will be taken to an outdoor destination, staying in camps and participating in treks and other outdoor activities for a day or two. We were all excited but did not know the destination, a rumour going around was that the place was about two hours away, close to Vikarabad. After a leisurely buffet lunch at Okra, we were briefed about the dos and don’ts of the trip by Suhasini, the ever-smiling marketing manager from the hotel.  We were handed over a bag with stuff like a knife, a torch, some energy bars, toilet kit, an Odomos tube and other things we might need on the trip.

An air-conditioned bus was waiting at the portico of the hotel, and we all boarded to start sharp at 2 pm.  We were in Vikarabad soon and took the uphill road towards Ananthagiri. I had been to Ananthagiri Tourist Lodge before but this time the route took a detour and landed almost amidst nowhere. Towards the end of the trip, the kutcha road was freshly laid (we came to know later that this was done specifically for this trip).  After a rough and uneven journey for the last ten minutes, we reached the camping site.

A huge area had been prepared for the camp. White flags with logos had been planted along the road about a kilometer or so ahead to lead us to the venue. A wooden signboard said “The Great Outdoors Marriott Hyderabad”. A number of bicycles were parked next to it. A distance away we could see small green tents. On coming close we found that these were tents for us, each just to house an individual, a cute place with a nameplate for each of us. On entering the tent, one could see the nice arrangements. A small bed with a lantern on top, some chocolates, soft toys, a photo of me (so personalized), a small plant along with a welcome message. We all posed in front of our tents for a pic and rushed to get some food.

The hi-tea arranged had a lot of good stuff including cheese and chicken sourdough sandwiches, onion rings, burgers, maple popcorn, and churros.  I was famished as usual and ended up eating a whole burger and cheese-laden potato springs. The bar set up was very attractive with a wooden cask, and bottles of Jameson, Chivas, and Absolut vodka. I could not resist going for a drink from the list of cocktails displayed, a Jalapeno White Mule was my choice. I was attracted to the counter from Hillcart Tales which presented some gourmet tea, like Tiramisu Delight and Berries Burst apart from flavourful stuff from Darjeeling and Assam.  Another thing which looked interesting was a lamb leg being roasted for dinner. I could see the preparations were on for a bonfire in the evening. My expectations were really skyrocketing by now. This is when we were asked to assemble and were briefed about the trek.

The trek was to the top of a hillock close by.  I had broken my left wrist less than six months ago which was still healing, so I was initially debating whether to join the trek. But the tour guides introduced to us said it was a light trek, so my emotions got the better of me. The uphill was not very tough, there were some areas towards the end when it was steep, but with a little bit of rest, we could manage with some discomfort. Atop the hill, we experienced a sublime view of the sun setting. The scenery really took away the tiredness from the climb. After a visit to a small temple and a group photo there, we started our descent. Here is where things got quite difficult. It was dark, so we had to keep the flashing torch in one hand. This led to a balancing problem, and given that there were many loose stones on our path, some points became very tough to climb down. Pitch darkness and thorny bushes added to our travails, and I could see some people taking frequent falls. At one point, I rued that I took this risk with a healing hand, but it all ended well and soon we were facing the beautifully lit camp.

The camp area was really dazzling with the central part reminding me of the desert camps in Dubai.  Relaxed Arabic-style on ground seating with slightly raised tables, a bonfire, sublime lighting, and live music. The bar and live food stalls dotted the corners of the field. The bar had a cocktail named Maple Bacon Old Fashioned which interested me a lot, especially while discussing it repeatedly with others during the trek. It had Jameson Irish single malt infused with bacon and served with maple syrup. A piece of bacon was served on top.  The cocktail was extremely good, and I thanked Cillian, the Jameson Ambassador from Bangalore who made the drink. Through the night we would enjoy many more cocktails from him.

The songs being performed live were really mesmerizing and I got to meet the guy who sang them over the long night. I had never heard of Shiv Menon, but I was told by my friends there that he was one of the well-known artists in the Hyderabad pub scene. Though I am not updated on the current music scenario, I do understand a little bit of music myself.  Shiv did a fantastic job of belting out all types of songs, and he has a great voice too.  He has definitely got a new fan here.

We stayed up till late, drinking, eating, chatting, singing and enjoying the party under the sky. The live barbeque dished out some perfect roasts and grills. Thus there were Maple Glazed Pork Chops, Beef Roast, Lamb Legs, Woodfired Roast Chicken and Whole Fried Chicken. We really feasted on the food. There must have been some good stuff for the vegetarians, but I did not look at them. At around three in the night I nearly slept off under the open sky, but since it was becoming a bit chilly, I snuggled inside my tent and dozed off.

I barely slept for about three hours. I was told that one could see a nice sunrise at one corner of the camp, and I was up in time for it. Soon I could smell some aromatic filter coffee being dished out in the far corner. I needed a couple of these to stay awake.  A lazy breakfast followed with a bit of photography and exchanging notes. Various egg preparations, donuts, cold cuts, and fresh fruits along with roasted mushrooms, and bacon comprised the breakfast. Apart from tasting many of these, I had a wholesome Egg Benedict and some Darjeeling tea at The Hillcart Tales.

Group pictures and byes all around, and we were all on the bus by 9:30 am heading back to Hyderabad.  All of us were a bit tired, but the josh was high.  Some of the group sang their way through the return journey, and the trip seemed to end too soon at around 11 30.

The Great Outdoors was definitely a fantastic experience. The arrangements were top-class and every detail was attended to. The food throughout was top notch, and so were the drinks.   But best of all was the hospitality from the hotel, starting from their GM Mr. Shrikant, Jomy, Chef Aungshuman to each and every individual from the team. This might be the best way to celebrate occasions such as a corporate win or even a bachelor’s party. Marriott Hyderabad will love to organize it for you if you are in a group of twenty or more.

Disclaimer: I was invited for this trip by Marriott Hyderabad.  Some photos are courtesy The Marriott.

#TheGreatOutdoorsWithMH #MarriottBonvoy

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