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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ooty, Masinagudi Trip

Lakeview Hotel, Ooty - Review.

Forest Hills farm & guesthouse, Masinagudi - Review.

We did this 3-nights and 4-days trip by car from 2-Apr-11 (Sat.) to 5-Apr-11 (Tue.) including the 3-days long week-end for Ugadi Kannada New Year holiday on Monday, 4-Apr. Our car was trip-ready as its periodic service was done just a week ago and so I had no preparations necessary on that front for this trip.

NICE road ➔ Mysore road ➔ Kengeri ➔ Maddur ➔ Mandya ➔ Srirangapatna ➔ Mysore ➔ Nanjangud ➔ Gundlupet ➔ Bandipur ➔ Mudumalai ➔ Theppakadu ➔ Masinagudi ➔ Ooty.

Click here for Google Route Map

          Day-1: 2/Apr/11 (Sat.)
                   - Bangalore to Ooty drive via Bandipur, Mudumalai [7 hours]
                   - Lakeview Hotel
                   - Chellaram's, Commercial road & Charing cross shopping
                   - Nahar's Sidewalk Cafe dinner
          Day-2: 3/Apr/11 (Sun.)
                   - Ooty to Coonoor drive [45 min.]
                   - Tea drink at Tea garden and visit to Lamb's rock
                   - Coonoor to Ooty drive back
                   - Visit to Doddabetta
                   - Shopping at lake-side plants nursery
                   - Local exploration behind Lakeview Hotel
          Day-3: 4/Apr/11 (Mon.)
                   - Nature observation in Lakeview Hotel
                   - Mountain bike park
                   - Drive from Ooty to Bokkapuram, Masinagudi
                   - Forest Hills farm and guest house
                   - Nature and wildlife observation at Forest Hills
         Day-4: 5/Apr/11 (Tue.)
                   - Nature and wildlife observation at Forest Hills
                   - Visit to Moyar
                   - Drive back to Bangalore via Mudumalai, Bandipur [6.5 hours]

Day-1: 2/Apr/11 (Sat.)
* Departure: 7:15AM from Bommanahalli, Bangalore.
* We were amongst mad traffic on the Bangalore-Mysore road because all vehicles heading to Mysore, Coorg, Wayanad, Bandipur, Mudumalai, Ooty, etc. for the 3-day long week-end use the same common segment.
* Breakfast stop (8:45 AM) after 75 KM from Bangalore: At Kamat Upachar, about 10 KM after Channapatna. This Kamat on the left hand side of the road is a reasonably big place for a motel, and has 3 adjoining service halls, serving tasty food as do all Kamat motels on highways in Karnataka. We went to the thatched roof section in the side. Heavy rush and long wait at the restaurant took more than 45 minutes.

* Just before hitting Mysore, we turned left at the intersection of the Ring road to bypass Mysore city and save time. But it turned out to be a long route and did not appear like we saved any time. Because at the later part of that route, we still go through the Chamundi Hill / Lalitha Mahal / Mysore Zoo sections of route and then go out on the Mysore airport road that is part of the Mysore-Ooty route.
* Lunch stop (12:15 PM) about 1.5 KM before Gundulpet: In front of Hotel Park Family Restaurant that is on the right hand side of the road. It was hot and sunny. What do we expect in the first week of April anyway. We parked under a tree shade for 20 minutes and gobbled up our packed lunch that we had carried.

* The road from Gundlupet (sometimes called Gundulpet) to Bandipur which was bad when we drove the last time to Ooty in August 2007 is now much better.
* Once inside Bandipur forest area around 1:15 PM, we paused to watch a few deers when we spotted them along the roadside. We also stopped to watch two peacocks sitting on a bit far away tree branches.
* Due to the onset of summer the area looked more brown than green. As we wished that the area could have been better if greener, a short shower of rain fell for 10 minutes, and that instantly brought a picturesque look to the terrain!

* At Theppakkadu, instead of going straight on the Gudalur route to Ooty (which is about 70 KM long), we turned left on the steel bridge towards Masinagudi route (which is only about 35 KM long). The Masinagudi route is a tougher climb up the winding bends of the ghats, and needs a very sharp foot, arm and eye coordination while driving. After about 10 KM on the normal road, the ghats begin. There are 36 hairpin bends, and add to that the steep climbs as well. And we also had the week-end traffic on both directions! [The last time when we came in August-2007 we went by the Gudalur route with our 5-gear Maruti 800DX. The roads on that route were bad, but the surroundings were still picturesque].
* En route to the foothills of the ghat, we passed Masinagudi, we also passed a few deers straying on the road but quickly disappearing into the woods as soon as seeing us.
Deer crossing
Towards the foothills

* The climb on the ghats took about 30 minutes. It was tedious as I had to be on 1st or 2nd gear most of the time. Needed a lot more care. But it was still interesting.
* When we reached Hotel Lakeview at 2:40 PM where we had our booking for a cottage it started raining heavily.
* We stayed in Lakeview last time also in August-2007, but the rates have more than doubled with in this short span of time!
* Lakeview hotel has uniquely designed cottages arranged in 7 or 8 lanes. They all have a hall with dining space and a room with attached toilet-bath. The one we booked was with a fire-place & concrete chimney that helps to warm up during cold winter nights. Due to heavy booking, we could not get a cottage facing the lawn in the last lane that we had last time, or even the one facing a drive / park lane. We got one facing the backside of the cottages in the next lane, and it was calm and peaceful.

* It rained heavily for nearly 2 hours so we had to stay in-doors. But it helped us watch the India-Sri Lanka finals of world-cup cricket that was going on in Mumbai.
* We left at 5:30 PM to Commercial road and Charing cross area for shopping and dinner. The weather had suddenly become like December! We passed by the Lake and were stunned to see fog above the water. Week-end tourists were thoroughly enjoying their boating trips with the back-to-brightness sun setting down and fog-flowing visuals above the lake waters. We did not go into the lake but I did stop by the lake-drive to click at least one 'Caught Special' picture.

Looks like a December day? No its April!

* Chellaram's departmental store on Commercial road is a very old store and a big one too. One can feel the age of the shop and it is a warm place to be. You can buy home-made chocolates, tea, eucalyptus oil, woollen clothes, etc. at reasonable rates.

* Nahar's Sidewalk Cafe on Commercial road was the next stop we had planned. It is just a few buildings away from Chellaram's. They are famous for their European cuisine including firewood oven based pizzas, and a range of pastas etc. Their menu is quite expensive but they are also very tasty and the excellent ambiance kept us gripped as we had an early dinner from 6:30 PM. The starter 'Veg Supreme Tartlets' (though they served it so late that it came only at the end!) was fantastic.

* While we were out, we did not have to look for score updates of the world-cup match. Every second or third person on the road was only telling the score to their neighbor that we could easily overhear. Every second or third shop was only watching the match on their overhead television screen that we could easily get a glimpse of pausing by.
* Temperature kept dipping drastically towards night. A stark contrast to the heat we had been experiencing all the way during the drive from Gundlupet and even during the climb on ghats. It probably reached 13 to 15°C when we came back to our cottage after dinner. We were already spewing smoky fog from our nose and mouth - something we never expected that we will in this trip, considering it is April month. We thought it was lucky to experience such a rainy and cold night weather on the 2nd of April. So, promptly by 8 PM, we requested the front-office for fire-wood, that is charged extra at Rs 100. A person brings in wood, old newspaper, kerosene and matchbox, and lights it for us. As we watched the successful chase of India innings in the world-cup match we also warmed ourselves at the fireplace.
Spewing fog

* You need to be careful when firewood is burnt in fireplaces inside a closed place like such cottages. The fire gives you warmth no doubt. But you need to keep a couple of windows or the door open for fresh air to come in and so the wood can burn well. Else, the fire eats away all the oxygen in the room and results in suffocation. And if the wood is not perfectly dry and is partially moist, that will only emit smoke and even more oxygen is required for it to burn well. The second, bigger issue is, when, at the end, the unburnt wood is left as it is while you go to sleep; there can be continued carbon monoxide emission in the smoke and it is dangerous. It can even kill people sleeping in the room. So, make sure that the wood is burnt fully. Then make sure the leftover glowing charcoal and hot ash is put out and quenched completely - yes completely - by sprinkling a lot of water on it and then go to sleep. And, keep a small inlet open for fresh oxygen to come into the room - always.

Day-2: 3/Apr/11 (Sun.)
* The next morning was very cold with smoky fog still spewing out of people's mouths and nose.
* In this trip, we only wanted to visit or do things that we did not visit or do during our last trip. So we started to Coonoor (10:30 AM) on day-2. It takes about 45 minutes drive. Again driving on the ghats, be it to Coonoor or to Doddabetta or anywhere around, is not so straightforward for we people who visit from other normal-terrain towns and cities. Extra caution and attention on the curves and bends is warranted. Week-end Ooty crowd and its summer season. The oncoming vehicles as well as the overtakers are definitely careless and speeding. We need to protect ourselves. And the roads are very narrow too, apart from the up and down slopes to negotiate.
To Coonoor

* We turned left at Wellington arch a few KM before Coonoor, paid toll and drove through the cantonment area.
* We visited a so-called tea garden (11:15 AM) that is surprisingly getting converted fast into a residential colony with several independent houses having popped in amidst the green. The factory-outlet shop guy served a nice tea. We also bought some tea powder from him. And clicked a picture of Dandelion by the side of the shop - See this on the top-right of this blog page's theme image?
Tea garden?


* We then drove towards Lamb's rock that is about 10 KM away. The road was very narrow at several places causing tough traffic jams, so be ready to cooperate and negotiate. There are a couple of shops en route where they sell tea, home made chocolates etc. and at the first such place (12:00 PM) they put a board that says 'Lamb's rock view' and they misinformed us that it IS Lamb's rock. We almost got cheated. So beware. Just while taking a u-turn back assuming that we have seen Lamb's rock and it is nothing great, luckily I noticed a signboard located some 100 meters down from that spot, which appeared to say 'Way to Lamb's rock'. We decided to disobey the shop guy's notice and drove further down, and finally reached (12:15 PM) the actual Lamb's rock!
On the way to Lamb's rock...

On the way to Lamb's rock...

On the way to Lamb's rock...

False-claim Lamb's rock view

Further on the way to Lamb's rock...

Still on the way to Lamb's rock...

Still still on the way to Lamb's rock...

Now walking up to Lamb's rock

Finally, this is Lamb's rock

Traffic jam on the way back from Lamb's rock

* We came back to Ooty (2:00 PM) amidst scorching heat of the sun and we had to really hunt for lunch amongst the mad week-end crowd in town overflowing in every restaurant around Charing cross area. Finally we managed to sneak into one.
* Post lunch, we drove up to our favorite Doddabetta (3:45 PM). Again, the mild drizzle of rain as we drove up made the whole area very picturesque instantly.
To Doddabetta

Parking full

* We came back to Ooty (5:15 PM) from Doddabetta and did some shopping for plants.
Nursery near the lake

* We also drove around a bit in the calm areas behind Lakeview hotel exploring some small roads, tea plantations, carrot fields, cabbage fields, old (British?) bungalows etc. and also watched the sun set.
Exploring calm terrains

Tea, carrots, cabbage...

Very old bungalow

Setting sun

* Day-2's night was not as cold as the previous night but it was still very good.

Day-3: 4/Apr/11 (Mon., Ugadi / Kannada new year day)
* The morning of day-3 in Ooty was quite cool. We walked around the Lakeview Hotel campus watching the grass, plants, trees, flowers and birds like sparrows and hoopoes. A few of the old time-punching type wall-clocks that guards at night used to punch at regular hourly intervals are kept as antique parts at a few locations.

Bul-bul and Hoopoe

Time punching clock

* We checked-out at 10:30 AM from Lakeview Hotel, and stopped at the Hercules mountain bike park (by TI Cycles of India, near the Lake) for our son to take few adventurous rounds. There are three difficulty levels - beginner, intermediate and expert. He tried the first two successfully.

* Our next stop plan was Forest Hills Farmhouse & Guesthouse, Masinagudi. We started (12:00 PM) on the same short and steep ghat-route down from Ooty towards Theppakkadu.
* Big caution here. The drive down is riskier for the car than the climb up. The slopes and curves are very steep. But you should not drive on brakes. If you press the brakes all the time to control the speed the brakes will go bad soon and you will be in big trouble to stop the vehicle and to drive further. The Tempo Traveler by which we drove down this route in July 2003 had such a brake failure and we did have trouble. The same slopes that I drove uphill two days ago now looked much steeper while driving down. The 36 hairpin bends combined with the free-fall like slopes need to be driven only in first gear and second gear control and not with brakes. There are enough caution sign boards about this all along and we can just follow those. Use the brakes only at necessary points, but I must confess, it was practically very difficult. When we reached Kalhatty waterfalls that is located en route, there was a small temple festival celebration going on. A man appeared in a mechanic attire (his shirt read 'Break inspector'!), stopped us to voluntarily check our car's brakes by touching the driver-side front wheel. He proclaimed that there is considerable heat on my brakes and I must drive down the slopes without pressing the brakes continuously. He then requested for a donation for the temple. As we drove further down, very soon, we got concerned about the continuing burning smell emanating from our brakes heating up. We stopped at two places - first near the 15th hairpin bend (# 22/36) and second at Bison valley view point - to give it some cooling and then continued.
First stop to cool

Bison valley view point

Second stop to cool

* We turned left a few KM before Masinagudi where Forest Hills Farmhouse & Guesthouse (and a whole lot of other resorts) shown by the multi-point sign-board at that junction - is located on the opposite side. We drove through Bokkapuram and reached Forest Hills at about 1:15 PM.

Last leg towards Forest Hills

* Unlike all the other resorts in this locality, Forest Hills is not a resort. It is a farm and guesthouse located amidst the jungle environment. It is located a little away from Bokkapuram village where most of the other resorts are present. The owner Mr Sameer Jain is a wildlife enthusiast and a professional wildlife photographer himself. We saw him roaming around into the rear side woods in a camouflaging green costume with tripod and other photographing-ware. The brilliant huge photographs of leopards, monkeys, parrots, and other rare birds that are framed and put up on the walls in their Dining hall were all Mr Jain's own captures. All are stunning pictures taken by the nice young gentleman. At Forest Hills, there are no newspapers, radio, telephones or televisions in the rooms, and the rooms are all spread out allowing distance between each other. The room types are either bamboo-huts or tree-houses or machaans (watch-towers), apart from just a couple of normal type rooms and dormitories located in their main building. Forest Hills is a great please to relax, observe a wide range of rare birds flying around, and hear the sharp sounds of several creatures in the jungle vicinity very frequently and it makes a thrilling experience. They have electric fence on the 2-3 sides of the periphery but Mr Jain told us that they have deliberately left the rear side periphery open, merging with the jungle to allow the wildlife to freely come in and move out, at nights in particular. He said that deers and elephants commonly come in and go. He suggested that we walk up to the watch tower (that is located at the far end outermost point of their farm) first thing the next morning after daybreak, and see if we could sight any of them. We were thrilled and a bit frightened when he told us that there were occasions in the past when leopards and deers were spotted sitting right in their floodlit illuminated volleyball court early in the morning!
Forest Hills

Dining hall on the left, Reception on the right

* Forest Hills invitation email and the posters in the room publish a very nicely written Code of Conduct for the Guests staying with them. Some of the points are:
1) The Forest is a hallowed temple of life. Respect it. Revere it and help protect it.
2) Obtain permission before entering a Park or Sanctuary and take a guide / naturalist and observe all rules.
3) Drive very slowly for this way you will hear, observe and enjoy the most without disturbing the animals in any way.
4) Maintain a reasonable distance from all animals. Anything closer than “the critical distance” will make them flee or attack.
5) Listen to the jungle orchestra instead of music on C.D players, tape recorders, and mobile phones.
6) Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see the tiger, the jungle is an undiscovered world of small yet beautiful mammals, birds, insects and plants.
7) Do not disturb wildlife or ask guiding staff to get you closer than necessary to wild animals.
8) Remember you are in the jungle and danger lurks everywhere. Animals (especially elephants) come and go as they please during the day or night without warning.
9) Do not venture beyond the immediate vicinity of the guesthouse particularly, at night, dawn, and dusk.
10) On trips to the tree house or Machaan be careful not to run into wild animals since the possibility of them being around is very much there.
11) Dress in neutral colours that blend with the forests – khakis, browns and olive green is ideal. (Particularly during nature walks and trips into the jungle.)
12) Wear proper shoes during nature walks and trips into the jungle. Slippers and sandals are not allowed for such activities.
13) Do not litter the surroundings of the guesthouse and the jungle during nature walks and trips into the jungle. 
14) Wild animals have right of way
15) All activities are at your own risk and the management will not be held responsible for any mishaps.  

* Our accommodation was a bamboo-hut, nicely located facing the grass, trees and bushes, and near the tennis court. A big plus was that we were the only guest in Forest Hills on that day / night. It was very very peaceful. There were absolutely no other sounds except wildlife and birds. The owner's family lived in the house adjoining the main building, so that was good in case we required any help.
Our Bamboo-hut: Flycatcher

* Food served in the Dining hall was very tasty. Their Manager and other staffs took very good care of us courteously.
* My wife and son ran into a snake (as we keep doing in most of our trips) near the Office Reception's entrance that is next to the Dining hall. We quickly alerted the Manager. He got the staffs to get a long stick with a Y-fork cut on one end. They said it is a rat snake and is non-venomous. Not sure. As they took a couple of iterations in getting the stick ready and we were all standing around the snake till that time, I wondered how it was still standing there without running away. The snake's body was almost merged among the grasses and we could not see its full body, and its head was close to a square cement slab. My suspicion was that it had got stuck under the slab to eat something or probably it had some injury. Once they got the stick ready, the Manager smartly put it on its neck to hold it firmly and then grabbed its tail by hand and lifted it. But, it started acting faster and brought its neck towards him trying to bite or escape. Due to the sudden reaction from the snake the Manager could not counter attack / grab it tightly and it slipped out of his hand and vanished in to the bushy surroundings. When he came back and lifted the cement slab there was a big fat dead frog under it.
See the snake?

While the stick was getting ready

Grabbed the snake by the collar

Caught the tail by hand

Oh, it slipped out and escaped away

Their dog wanted to know too: What's under it by the way?

Ah, a frog!

* We strolled around watching flowers, plants, trees, a variety of birds, their cat, their friendly Pug dog and the giant Malabar squirrel that was happily eating fruits and flowers on top of the big tree in front of the Dining hall. We played a bit of shuttle badminton. We borrowed some big wildlife books to glimpse-through from the small library in their Office Reception. We also drove up briefly to Masinagudi (about 8 KM) to buy something to munch and came back.

Malabar giant squirrel


* Dinner was very good and tasty. The night's stay was chilling and thrilling. No people movement were felt around including the staffs there. Their Manager had also left the premises at about 6:45 PM. At Forest Hills, each hut or tree-house is named after a bird or animal. Our bamboo-hut was 'Flycatcher' and the bird's big painting drawn on the main door that gave it a touch of its presence. The completely wooden cottage gave us a special feel for staying in the farmhouse located amidst the jungle surrounding, and we were the only guests there that night!
Dining hall

Day-4: 5/Apr/11 (Tue.)
* Early (6:30 AM) morning on day-4, we walked from our bamboo-hut to the other corner of the farm to the watch-tower. It was cold. Sun was just coming out. There were hundreds of normal and rare birds screeching, chirping and flying around. The sounds from the jungle were interesting. We heard peacock screams somewhere in the vicinity. We could hear an occasional growl which we guessed could have been by a leopard or a bison. We spotted a group of deers coming in and leaving at the periphery of the farm. The forest of trees so dense and the backdrop of hills that we could see from the height of the watch-tower were amazing. We spotted some wild fowls walking around. We also spotted a big peacock sitting on a tree at a distance in the wild. Dry elephant dung on the walkway indicated that there must have been one or few of them who passed by this spot a few days ago.


On top of the machaan / watch-tower


View of the forest with hills at the backdrop

Elephant dung

Another bird

* Minutes later,while we had our morning tea, the owners' friendly Pug dog came running up to our bamboo-hut and kept swirling around our legs and never wanted to go back with his master.
The fond visitor coming by

Never wanted to leave us

And another bird

* We checked-out by about 9:30 AM and started our drive back home.
* We took a short (planned) detour at Masinagudi towards Moyar dam and gorge (about 15 KM). The Manager at Forest Hills had warned us that nowadays public are not permitted to enter the gorge that is under the Electricity Board's control for power project. That is due to a few untoward deaths that has happened some time back when some visiting public fell from the edge into the deep gorge. So we drove up to that place just to see what it is like. The narrow road passing through dense trees again had a few big herds of deers spotted alongside the road. At Moyar we could see the beginning of water body from a distance. But there is a point beyond which there is a no-entry signboard. So we took a u-turn there (10:30 AM).
Deers on the way to Moyar


* At Theppakkadu, after passing the steel bridge, instead of turning right towards Mysore, we turned left towards Gudalur direction and drove a few hundred meters. This is were the Theppakkadu elephant camp's backside is adjoining the passing water stream and you can typically spot elephants bathing or moving around with their mahouts. And luckily we did spot (11:00 AM) two elephants at two separate points in the same locality. Then we u-turned back towards Mysore.

* On the way at Mudumalai and Bandipur we once again spotted gangs of deers and monkeys a few times. At Mudumalai were lucky to spot (11:10 AM) an elephant herd and again at another place a separate elephant grazing around amongst the trees, very close to the roadside.

* At Mysore we passed through the heart of the city. Stopped (1:15 PM) for lunch at a Dhaba between Mysore and Srirangapatna.

* We reached Bangalore by about 4:30 PM on day-4.



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  1. Dear Mr. Rajkumar,

    It was indeed a pleasure meeting your family and you. Glad you'll liked the place and had a great time. Thank you for your kind words too.

    Very nicely written...the reader actually feels like he/she was actually there on the trip! The photographs are very impressive.

    (In my honest opinion, you could have probably shortened the entire content)


  2. Thanks a lot for your nice comments and feedback Mr Sameer. Very glad to know your valuable thoughts.

  3. Rej really very nice Photos. http://www.sabolholidays.com

  4. hi……nice concept blog and pictures.Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and important information of Mudumalai.Its summer and a great time for picnic.I would recommend the madumalai to everyone.If you have any specific information about madumalai you can check Jungle Retreat Masinagudi

  5. Bike Ride from Mysore to Masinagudi via Sargur Bandipur Mudumalai

  6. Hi,
    I like the way you writing the post... Images shows the beauty of masinagudi ..Thanks for sharing such a great information of
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  7. Nice travelogue, I am sure Masinagudi destination won't dissatisfy any tourist due to it's beauty,, it is covered with wildlife sanctuaries, gardens, greenary, hills and mountains. Also, you would find hotels, homestays and best resorts to accommodate yourself during the travel.

  8. Nice post. As a highlight of Ooty tourism, it has pleasant weather all year round that makes it a perfect getaway destination in the summer. The lush green tea plantations and dense forests offer stunning vistas. Click here to know about popular Ooty hotels.


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