Sometimes getting lost in the right direction is a good thing. Here is a journey that taught us just that. The destination this time is a quaint forest settlement in the Mudumalai range – Masinagudi. And the route planned to get there is via Wayanad – Thirunelli. But we took the wrong turn from Gudalur and headed straight along the way to Ooty. You can’t blame us for continuing along this road, as the scenery that unfolded before our eyes was splendid indeed with mountains, tea estates and greenery everywhere.
Mesmerized at the sights that slowly began giving way to Eucalyptus trees, we realized that until now we hadn’t seen a single sign board that said ‘Masinagudi’. There was an old lady selling corn on cob by the roadside and we confirmed our doubts with her. We were pleasantly and delightfully lost!! Husband Jimmy, 2 year old daughter Angela and our friends Geethu and husband Arjun took the whole ‘lost’ episode in the right spirit though.
On an earlier trip to the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, when we mentioned to our guide Sudheesh Thattekad about a Masinagudi trip in the pipeline, he gave us the contact details of a guide there called Siddhan. Masinagudi is just 27 km from Gudalur, but now that we ‘chanced’ upon this deviation to Ooty, we had many more foggy miles swathed in Eucalyptus, to conquer before we can finally reach Masinagudi.
We drove on along the Mudumalai – Masinagudi range, a forest area with elephants, tigers and black panthers. Deer’s and peacocks were in plenty here and there. Our eyes and ears were wide open for a glimpse of the notorious wild elephants. Elephant, we did see, captured the shot bravely too! But to our misfortune, it was only on zooming to get a closer look at the picture did we notice the huge chain around its neck, complete with bell and all!
When we reached Masinagudi, our cheerful guide Siddhan met us. He jumped out of a trekking jeep on its return journey just to greet us. He understands some Malayalam and had already arranged our overnight stay here. Too excited to retire to our accommodation, we enquired with Siddhan as to any spots nearby that we could perhaps visit. He suggested the Moyar road and asked us to give him a ring when we get back from the drive and disappeared into the Masinagudi hustle.
The Moyar road is a 10 km stretch known for its wildlife sightings. Deer, peacocks, wild hens and the beautiful Sri Lankan Nightjar, all come and go as though playing their parts in the great theatrical piece that is the jungle. The early morning trekking is planned on this stretch, and because there is plenty of walking involved, ladies and children are excluded from the trek. We were even warned by Siddhan not to venture out of our rooms in the night due to wildlife on the prowl.
The cause for some relief was the barbed wire around the house that we stayed at, to keep away animals. That’s when Geethu notices the wild bison near the wire. We shone our torches through the window and saw the glinting eyes of the bison shining back at us. We could hear the ruckus they made throughout the night; we waited with bated breaths for morning to arrive.
The first thing we did next morning was to get on the terrace, and that’s when we saw the actual visitors of the night before, plenty of tame buffaloes going about their business of peaceful grazing in the surrounding meadows! Siddhan, as promised was at the door quite early for the trekking. The team that went for the trek got back by around 9 am. The first route planned when they started at 6.30 was towards Singara, but as wildlife seemed scarce along this way, they took a reroute towards Moyar. This proved lucky for the team.
A wild Tusker appeared and began charging towards their vehicle. They stopped the engine and Siddhan asked them to remain quiet, not even the sound of cameras. The elephant moved away into the dense shrubbery and those in the vehicle let out audible gasps of relief.
We tried going along that road once again in the hope of another glimpse of the Pachyderm, an uneventful 10 km went by without any sightings. Depressed we turned to go back and there he makes the grand and dramatic crossing! Finally a story for the office!
A funny sight was a group of children in a Tavera parked on the roadside, all innocent quiet and wide eyed and ducking their heads together like little turtles when the elephant came near their car.
Once we got back to our rooms at Bokkapuram, Angela, Geethu and I went to explore a small river nearby. Just a narrow, almost dry stream, where few women and children were going about their ablutions... We tried chatting with them, and they informed us that the opposite bank was a dense jungle. The river was a source of drinking water for the wildlife there. The location at the foothill of a big mountain was beautiful with carrot plantations. We even saw a tree house amidst the vegetable farm.
After lunch, we had a traveller trekking planned to the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. A bus full of Hindi-speaking tourists, super excited and went about clicking away pictures when they came across a wild elephant and a baby elephant during the trek. The Kannadiga driver and forest guard that accompanied us was least interested at the discovery. This was almost a daily affair for them, I guess.
After a shopping trip to Masinagudi, dinner followed and we were fast asleep in a matter of minutes. The next morning we had a trek planned in Mudumalai. We reached the starting point at sharp 6 am, but had 1.5 hours wait. The traveller trek required a minimum of 15 people so we waited till the headcount was met. All we got to see was just wild bison, giant squirrel and Hanuman Monkeys. We felt Moyar was a much fruitful trek.
With breakfast after the trek, our journey was coming to a close. We said our goodbyes to Masinagudi and began our onward trip back to Kottayam. We were lucky enough to spot 3 more wild elephants but not our cameras though. A little ahead and there was another one too and this time many clicked plenty of pictures too. There goes the next spoof of the trip! Wild elephants with some chains that is, and thankfully we were not the victims this time!
We are back from the trip all refreshed, but a doubt still lingers in our mind; who in the Jungle god’s name tied those bells around that elephants!! Just one thing to keep in mind for the trip, never attempt to get out of your vehicles in the forest and do not switch off the engines too.