A wildlife sanctuary, tea estates, farm lands, the mist, and the ghat roads… Masinagudi offers them all. A major attraction in the area is the Tamil Nadu Tea's estate (Tan Tea).
The route to Masinagudi lies along the Thamarassery ghat road in Kozhikode and past Lakkidi and Chundel. Picturesque spots await travellers right from Ripon tea estate on the Lakkidi-Gudalur road. Wide expanse of green tea plants spread far from the road, which is lined with 'vaka' trees. There are several hues of green – the tea plants look light green and dark from far. But the green that reflects from the tea gardens during sunrise is indescribable.
Several narrow paths lead from the main road to interiors of the tea gardens. However, visitors' vehicles are not usually allowed on them as tractors carrying tea leaves ply to and fro.
After Meppady town, the tea estates seem even more alluring, with mist pervading all around the place. The next hamlet is Vaduvanchal. From there, a traveller to Masinagudi would reach the state border at Cheladi. There is a bridge ahead, crossing which, one reaches Tamil Nadu. There are, in fact, two bridges – an old one and a new. The old is now abandoned and overgrown with wild shrubbery, but it offers a beautiful sight, flaunting greenery and yellow flowers.
From there, the main attraction is the 'Tan Tea' estate. Tea gardens in Kerala and Tamil Nadu look similar at one glance, but a subtle difference emerges on close examination – the latter are more expansive.
On the way is a shop selling fresh tea, straight from the gardens that the visitors can taste while thick mist and cool breeze envelop them.
Another side of the story
However, the scenic locales hide some sad realities – the life in the 'padys,' which are the single-room quarters of tea estate workers. Most people are familiar with images of labourers plucking tea leaves in a picturesque setting, but unaware of their living conditions. The tiny 'padys' lack even basic facilities and inhabitants live in unhygienic conditions. Such uncomfortable sights present themselves before travellers on the route from Devala to Gudallur.
Next point: Muthumalai
Gudalur town lies in the valley of the Nilgiri hills which have Ooty as the shining jewel. Gudalur is a resting place for travellers before the climb to Ooty and offers all basic facilities. The weather is almost similar to that of Ooty as it is around 1,000 m above sea level.
The road deviating left from Gudalur takes one to the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary. Once vehicles enter the forest, they are not allowed to stop. Forest officials keep a close watch over them. Large herds of deer, peacocks, and other wildlife stroll leisurely close to the road, unconcerned about the passing vehicles. The trees along the path are home to numerous simians.
Mudumalai lies on the north-western region of the Nilgiri hills. The Mudumalai national park shares borders with Kerala and Karnataka and is a tiger reserve also. There are four regions in this national park – Nellakotta, Kargudi, Muthumala, and Theppakkad. The road from Muthumala to Theppakkad goes straight to Mysore. Take a turn to the right and you will reach Masinagudi.
The entrance to Masinagudi is across an iron bridge. The road is narrow, but smooth. Except for a few safari jeeps, traffic is negligible. Deer roam around freely. Often, elephant herds cross the road.
Masinagudi is a small town about 10 km from Theppakkad. There are several resorts at the place. Several teams arrange safari into the forest. Many of them offer attractive rates.
Even though tourism is a major part of the economy, locals have taken care to maintain traditional farming practices. They have built houses adjacent to the farms and lead an agrarian life. There are fields even right behind the shops in Masinagudi. Visitors will enjoy unique sights like watch towers on top of trees.
Tourists planning something offbeat can head to Moyar Dam. It is about 10 km from Masinagudi. There are no compound walls for the reservoir which is placid. There are a few islets here and there where tall trees stand proudly. On the banks are several shady 'vaka' trees with their fiery red blossoms. Another feature of Moyar is that it is a water-hole for wild elephants, leopards, and other creatures of the forest. By evening, the safari tourists get active.
36 hairpin bends
The forest path to Kallatty awaits adventure seekers. It is one of the steepest roads with 36 hairpin bends. There are no wide bends or long intervals between hairpins on this stretch. In Kallatty, one hairpin bend simply melts into another.
The condition of the roads will take you by surprise. Though there are hairpin bends everywhere, the drive is smooth, thanks to the excellent tarmac. Along the route is the 'Ninth Mile shooting hill,' which is a favourite among tourists arriving in Ooty. It offers an amazing view of the sunset.
Ooty town is not far away from here but it is advised to turn back from Masinagudi, keeping an Ooty visit for another time.