Monday, November 10, 2008

A PLACE CALLED "MASINAGUDI"


(01/11/2008 - 02/11/2008)

ROUTE TAKEN:BANGALORE-MYSORE-GUNDLUPET-BANDIPUR-MADHUMALAI(left via steel bridge)-MASINAGUDI

TRAVELLERS:PHANIKAR,SANTOSH,SOMASHEKAR,ANILRAJ,KIRAN

A week before leaving for Masinagudi we didn’t have the faintest idea as to where this place was. All thanks to this week’s edition of Bangalore Mirror. The photos seemed to be very inviting. When I started enquiring people in my friend’s circle I realized that I was much better than them. When I met one of my good old school friends, Ajay I came to know that he had been there a week before with his colleagues. On enquiry came to know that this was the same route that I had taken long back on my first ride to ooty. He also mentioned that a Jungle home resort was the best place to stay, as the cottages were deep inside the forests. He was all praises for this place. As soon as he was done telling about Masinagudi, my weekend getaway was planned. Somashekar had to take his car out as the other lazy bums were reluctant to go for a nice winter ride. After all of us were back from work we slowly crawled out of Bangalore by around 12.30. Thanks to a dhaba on the highway that served dinner at 2 o clock. Had a few snaps clicked in front of the majestic Mysore Palace. Just about we were about to reach Nanjangud, early morning fog had set in. The visibility was only about 25 feet ahead of us. 









So we decided to take a small break and leave from there as the fog had cleared. This was very usual on this particular stretch. We know this from the fact that we had travelled along this road a number of times. Since we had to pass through Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta(one of my favorite places in South India) I persuaded everyone that we include that as well on our route. We left from Nanjangud by 5.30. We stopped at Udupi Hotel in Gundlupet to get our breakfast packed as we were well aware that we couldn’t get anything up there. Once up there freshened up and head to my favorite spot up the hill, the plain stretch of land just behind the inspection bunglow. Favorite because you are 100% sure of sighting wild animals like spotted deer, elephants, wild hogs and if you are extremely lucky, the striped feline. Reluctantly we left this place in about an hour’s time and reached Theppakadu junction in no time. We were in a state of confusion whether to book a cottage in Jungle Home which was about 15 kms from here or turn left towards Masinagudi where we can have a larger choice of resorts. To test our luck we headed towards Jungle Home which is on the Gudalur route. The roads were so pathetic that we got stuck in one of those huge potholes , that too in a tiger territory. With much difficulty we reached Jungle home only to be told that the last available cottage was given to a family who had come 5 min before us. 













Now we thought enough of trying our luck(rather bad luck) and returned to Theppakadu to take diversion towards Masinagudi. Masinagudi is at the foothills of Nilgiris and Ooty is just around 30 kms if you take this route. Once we were there the first priority on our to do list was have lunch( had no clue where the untimely breakfast had gone). The waiter of the Kerala style hotel was one hell of a character. He would get tensed if we made even the slightest change in the order we had already placed. It became such that if we had made any further changes he would beat us black and blue. It was not that he was rude and manner less, it was just that he was overexcited as we were the first customers for lunch. Ultimately he was the one who gave us suggestions to choose from the many resorts that were there. 















Zeroing in on “Safari Land” which seemed to be a good property from the outset. Just as we entered the gate we had the manager at our service. He briefed us on the different types of cottages that were available. This was a very big plot of forest land converter into a resort. There was a stream at the back of the resort, where the manager told that we could see elephants early morning. We wanted to maintain from elephants after our Wayanad encounter with them. At the center of the resorts was a fireplace, a table tennis table and a lot more things. Finally we booked a cottage that had a separate fire place( which was not as good as the one at the center).We dumped all the luggage and relaxed for some time ,till a boy knocked at the door  to ask us if we wanted to go for an evening trek . I am someone who would prefer another 50kms rather than trek 20min to some useless hilltop to see the view from there. Anil was getting ready as if he was about to scale Mt.Everest. Only not to make him feel bad we agreed for the trek to some temple which was on top a nearby hill. Thankfully it was not as boring as I had thought. Later we went to the same restaurant where we had been in the afternoon. Luckily we had the same waiter as well. Why I saying lucky is because of the fact that we had found a person to irritate and kill some time. When we returned to the resort we were shocked to see that the fireplace at the center was crowded with families and their kids. As there was no chance of occupying the fire place for about an hour and a half or so, we thought of giving night safari. Until you have a person who is a driver and a guide rolled into one its no use going for one. Thankfully our driver was an experienced one with a moustache that would put Veerappan to shame. Once we were inside the forest all that we could see and hear were the huge trees and crickets making that irritating sound. After about 15 min the driver stopped the car at a steep slope which was leading to a pool. This was the best place to watch wild animals. The engine was switched off with only the headlights on. Now we were a bit scared thinking what if any animal chases us out. We had climb up the steep slope if we were attacked by one. And for your information we were not in a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Range Rover but in a Mahindra 4X4 (which was probably as old as our driver). We were lucky to spot some Chitals, Langurs, Wild dogs and herd of elephants at the waterhole. Even after returning from the night safari we had to wait for a long time till we could occupy the fire place. We sat by the fire and start to discuss what would be the course of action for the following day. Had stories coming till 2.
                               







As usual Anil and me were the early risers and went around to have look at a few nearby places. 
By late morning Santosh was leaving to Coimbatore to his sister’s place. So he left from Theppakadu and 
the rest of us continued our journey towards Bangalore. This time since time was not a constraint we 
returned back at snail’s place. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

WAYANAD


(19/07/2008 – 20/07/2008)

ROUTE TAKEN: BANGALORE-MYSORE-GUNDLUPET-MUTHANGA-KUPPADI-SULTHAN BATHERY-MINANGADI-MUTTIL-KALPETTA

TRAVELLERS: PHANIKAR, SANTOSH, SOMASHEKAR, ANIL RAJ, KIRAN 
This place was pending from a very long time, a small step into the gods own country. The first thing that comes to our mind when we think of Kerala is the smell of coconut oil and fish wherever you go, backwaters, elephant rides, tea estates , wildlife safaris etc……. When this small state has so many things to offer we simply couldn’t resist. There are three routes to reach Kalpetta, the district head quarters of Wayanad. One , Bangalore-Mysore-Hunasur-Nagarahole-Kutta-Kaatikulam-Mananthwadi-Kalpetta. Two, Bangalore - Mysore - H.D.Kote – Kabini – Kaatikulam – Mananthwadi - Kalpetta.Last but not the least the route that we were very familiar with by now Bangalore – Mysore – Nanjangud – Gundlupet – Muthanga - Sulthan Bathery - Kalpetta. Everybody who had been on that road would warn about the reckless bus drivers. They pull out daring stunts on public roads when the passengers are seated inside. One deserves to have a red and white bravery awards once he is out of the bus. The plan was to leave on a late Saturday morning and return back on Monday. By the time Mr.Kiran turned up it was almost afternoon, we didn’t want to waste time on having lunch at home, we left almost empty stomach. With no breaks we drove till Gundlupet as we had to enter the forest area before it was dark. The place we stopped for a late lunch was called “COFFEE STOP”. It seemed like we were the only privileged customers for the day. The food and the place was quiet good. As we turned right after the R.T.O check post the human population was decreasing dramatically except for a few shops that was like a make shift market ,selling vegetables and fruits . 





We stopped on the way for a few snap shots, we had one of us to look out any F1 competent buses coming towards us. We drove through sunflower fields which were about to bow down.  As we bid good bye to the sign board which read “Thank You Visit Again “just at the edge of the Karnataka border. It was around 5.30 when we entered the Kerala border. It was truly god’s own country. The forests were pin drop silent except for the sound made by the insects once in a while. We didn't have even the slightest of doubts what we could experience in those forests. The first check post was at Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary, where the safari was closed for the day .There was a tea shop in the middle of the forest which served steaming hot tea. Right next to the shop we saw a tree house which was used as a refuge by the shopkeeper in case of an elephant attack .It was dark by the time we reached Sulthan Bathery via Kuppadi. The only job left for the day was to book a nice cottage and settle for the night. Most of the good resorts were booked and the rest were not up to our expectations. The locals told us that we would find good resorts in Vythiri which was about 70kms from Sulthan Bathery. One elderly person told us we had better chances of finding a stay at Krishnagiri which was nearer than Vythiri. The first was AASHIRWAD, which was owned by a pretty lady. Even though the place looked nice the tariffs she quoted was very high. In search of a much economical stay we drove till we find the next one. A small sign board read “SUNBIRD Garden Resort “, but we had no view of the place. We enquired a Security guard of a factory as to where this place was, he pointed us to a narrow pathway which was almost invisible in the dark. Kiran and Santosh stepped out to enquire about the place, since both of them knew Malayalam, which is an added advantage if you are travelling into Kerala. The tariffs were affordable, so we decided to give some rest to the wheels. The cottage was wonderful with three bed rooms and a verandah. We freshened up by the time the hosts arranged for a camp fire. Since it was dark when we reached the resort, we couldn’t have a look at the property. But we were aware that there was a pool somewhere. None of us had the slightest idea that we would be going in for a late night swim, but that was actually a reality. Since there were no guests in the resort, we spent a lot of time in the pool. The food was very filling. 






The first sight of the morning was truly breath taking as I could see a mountain almost covered by mist from my bedroom window. Even though the rest of them were reluctant to get out of bed, Anil made sure that we get on the roads asap. The first place our cards was Edkkal Caves which was previously inhabited by pre historic tribes. The painting and stone carvings are still visible. 






Confused as to which place to visit next, we decide upon Kanthpura and Soochipara Falls .The roads to the falls are very narrow with countless hair pin bends. At one of the steep hair pins our car refused to climb up. The height from which the water was falling was not much, it made it up with the quantity of water that was being discharged. With some quality time spent and photographs clicked we left the place in search of a decent place for a late lunch. Coming to our rescue was Hotel Paris at Meppadi. 







The drive from Kanthapura falls to Meppadi was most memorable with tea estates on both side of the road. We had cover more ground as we had to visit the safari at Muthanga, this time it was not to be missed because the next safari was only on the next day. Reaching there just in time we had the jeep ready for the final trip of the day. Even after about in the core area of the forest the chances of we seeing some wild animals was very faint. The guide fooled us by showing some bark of a huge tree to be an elephant. This was the most disappointing safari of our lives. The only animals we saw were a group of deer and a trained elephant.







 Thinking about the money wasted at the safari we headed towards Gundlupet. On the way we saw few vehicles stopped by the side of the road. On closer inspection we could see a big strong wild bison that almost stood 6ft at shoulder. Next to him was one more which was slightly smaller, seemed like his lady love. Not far from there was a number of cars bee lined. We were not sure as to what was happening. When we stepped out of the car (which is not advisable) we could see around 10 elephants with young one trying to cross the road. None of us had the dare to obstruct their path. When they had almost crossed the road a truck slowly moved forward the elephants made way for it to pass. We thought it also let us to drive away. When we were almost crossing the elephants, some idiot in a Wagon R blew a harsh horn. This irritated the matriarch of the herd which thought we might harm its young ones. It came charging at us with so swift we didn’t know what to do. Had Somu messed it up in the driver seat that day, none of us would be alive to write or read this article. The scene was totally chaotic, Kiran and myself who were trying to get snaps of the elephants had stuck our heads outside the car were the first one to be attacked by the older cow if it had progressed further, Somu couldn’t leave his driving seat, Santosh had started running inside the car as neither he or Anil were able to step out of the car as there were two more elephants on the other side of the road. Somehow, by god’s grace Somu was able to pull this up. Just after we managed to escape in the nick of time we turned back to see whether the elephants was chasing us. What we saw next lived in our minds for a lifetime and changed the entire perception about elephants. We saw the matriarch trumpeting at the top if its voice with its trunk high up in the air as if it was like a reshoot for the climax of the movie Jurassic park. After about half a kilometer from here the car came to a halt. Reason, All of us were shivering with fear and Somu couldn’t handle the steering. That was when we decided that these creatures have to be dealt with utmost respect. Surviving such wild encounters it was back to Bangalore for us. With a lot of breaks we reached Bangalore early on a Monday morning.