The Rustic Charm Of Masinagudi
Western ghats is one of the most attractive places in India where many beautiful nature spots and holidays resorts are located. We have visited quite a few including the more popular and well known places like Ooty, Kodaikanal ,Yercaud and Munnar and the now becoming well known and popular resorts like Chikmagalur, Sakleshpur, Kudremukh and the one I am now going to write about – Masinagudi which is very close to Ooty if you take the Mysore route. In fact Masinagudi is situated on the foothills of Nilgiri hills and one can easily cover both the places. Masina gudi in Kannada means an old temple, probably the one that is foiund in the viallge.
Planning a trip
We visited Masinagudi last year during winter . We had heard a lot of good things about the place from others who had visited it and were keen on visiting it for a longer period of time, combining it with a trip to Ooty as well, unfortunately because of time constraints ended up going for a weekend only ! We were told that a weekend is more than enough to cover the area but we were more interested in trekking and generally relaxing and when you want to do that, 2 days are simply not enough.So, plan your holiday according to your need, if you want to go round and see the place, 2 days are more than enough but if you don't want to rush about and want to get the feel of the place and enjoy the wild nature around you, then you can stay for a longer period of time.
Masinagudi can be reached by road from Bangalore or Mysore .The Mysore highway going towards Ooty is good right until Nanjangud and after Gundlupet , becomes a little narrower after which you enter the Bandipur National park and once you are in the forest range there are a few potholes and one has to be very careful while driving at night. Anyway since the gates close at 7 pm, it is better to start early and reach the place before it gets dark. We just about made it since it was already past 6 when we reached the Gate and had another 20 kms to cover on relatively bad roads before reaching the resort. I wonder why the roads inside the Bandipur national park never seem to be in good condition .
Driving Through Bandipur Forest Range
The drive through the Bandipur forest range is very interesting and so it is all the more reason for tourists not to miss it, so better to cover it during day light .The lovely greenery makes you forget the bad roads or the bumpy ride , also we got to see a few wild animals , rare nesting birds, wild squirrels, even snakes on the road. When we entered the gates we were given strict instructions to drive very carefully taking care not to hurt or scare the animals away in case they have come close to the road or are right in the middle of it. It was their abode that we are passing through so we had to tread carefully and respectfully.
Bandipur is a vast forest area and while driving one has to go through a number of gates guarded by the forest range officers and as they take down details of each vehicle they generally give some helpful advice regarding the road or about the drive ahead..After 12 kms or so the road begins to climb steadily and you have to take a diversion at the Madhumalai National Park entrance where you enter Tamilnadu. Here after turning left you again reenter Karnataka and you are at Masinagudi.
As you climb steadily you also get to realise that the place can boast of one of the most breathtaking scenery that is bound to stun the visitors. Masinagudi itself is a lovely place with an abundance of raw wild nature where one can go for long walks and generally relax amidst the wonderful bounty of nature.
On reaching Masinagudi
We stayed at a resort that was very rustic with stone cottages, spacious and neat rooms, well-equipped, excellent bathrooms, but with all that had an old world charm. The place was very popular with many other guests having come back to the place again . We met a gentleman who has been visiting the place since the past 18 years. He was saying that after the initial few visits with family and friends , now he is happier coming there alone since he gets to do what he wants without any interference from others. It is that kind of a place , the resort as well as the surroundings.
According to many visitors the place and the forest looks its best in monsoons when there are not many visitors, the streams flowing full and so are the waterfalls , but moving about can be a problem and also the frequent power cuts that can be a way of life during that period
Most mornings in Masinagudi were bitterly Cold, filled with mist , which slowly clears away but tends to linger during winter months as it did when we were there. While on a holiday everything has its own special charm and one can spend hours together watching this and also listening to the twitter of birds.
Bird watching and other activities
In fact, Masinagudi is a bird lovers paradise since there are so many varieties of birds nesting here and in the surrounding forest area. , So, many people come to species of migratory birds coming there during different time of the year. There are some species of birds that come there every year and they have been marked by the bird watchers who keep a close watch and count on bird movements. Most of these birds make a temporary stop over in these forests before proceeding to Ranganthittu Bird sanctuary at Srirangapatna, close to Mysore.
While on a visit here, it is advisable to carry sturdy walking shoes , a bird watching binoculars and a small umbrella or a rain coat since it rains without any warning all round the year and clears away as fast. There are many nature trails that take you round the forest range and Masinagudi is famous for its nature walk and elephants that are in plenty. In fact the resort we stayed in was fenced in all round to keep the elephants away. The rogue elephants apparently come and start pulling down branches and chasing people.
We also got to hear of other wild animals like leopards and willd cats coming into the resort more out of curiosity than anything else,but, so far there has been no tragedy of any kind. Apparently, the animals keep to themselves in the deep jungle but come to the river which flows close by ,during summer since the smaller streams flowing inside the jungle dry out, for quenching their thirst and while doing that take a peek at the surrounding area .
Other than that we were taken a a elephant ride by the resort people which was very entertaining since we had to hold on to the platform tightly.In fact one lady who kept peeping down dangerously nearly fell off it and she screamed so loud that her husband sitting on another elephant actually fell off, bringing down another boy who was sitting next to him. After all that drama, we din't get to see anything much because others in the group were scared and wanted to get back to the resort.As we headed back we had some more adventure as we crossed a stream, since at one stage the elephant was half submerged in water and we were holding on to the platform for dear life.
To add a little about resorts and places to stay in Masinagudi, there are quite a few and one can pick and choose depending on the budget and from what I gather most of them offer daily trips and entertainment to visitors along with food and room service. So it is a package deal like in most places that we have visited in the western ghats . During peak season though almost all resorts are booked and filled to capacity, so it is advisable to book rooms in advance.
Surrounded By Nature
Nights are very interesting and fills you with a thrilling feeling since one gets to hear the trumpet of elephants, the roar of tigers roaring and other similar sounds. Days are filled either with bright sunlight or mist filled depending on the season – while we were there we got one full day of sun shine and we went trekking and did other out door activities like walking along the river , which flows deep into the jungle, along with other guests and a guide.
Since the place is right in the center of the reserve forest, we get to see wild life all the time. We see plenty of deer, in fact some of them wandered into the resort and they feel quite comfortable to graze and even rest for a while having become familiar with the place and people.
There is also an abundance of rare plants ( especially the ones that grow in rain forest like begonias and certain variety of palms ) , trees , wild flowers and orchids growing in the forest. I was amazed to see some begonia plants that cost the earth in plant nurseries back home and couldn't resist the temptation to pluck some baby plants and they are doing rather well at home , have posted a picture below...It was the same with a wild orchid plant, which is yet to flower though !
The little town or rather village of Masinagudi, which is close to Bandipur forest, is actually on the Tamilnadu side, whereas most of the resorts are located on the Karnataka side..
Best time to visit
According to me Masinagudi can be visted at any time of the year. But the tourist season depends on school closure and other such things. So going by that, the best time to plan a visit to Masinagudi is from November to May ( summer break and winter break). Normally, the Eastern Monsoons sets in sometime during the first week of June and it becomes difficult to move about because of torrential rains. However, some people prefer to visit the place during rains because it gives them seclusion. Most resorts are empty during rains, so the rates too come down. Another advantage is that you get to see all the rivers flowing full and the waterfalls too at their best.
Masinagudi has become popular with the tourists and also with private companies who book the entire resort at times or do group bookings for their seminars and meetings. This is becoming the trend of late to combine business with pleasure , so it is all the more reason to book in advance so that you have confirmed accommodation.
Masinagudi was a good experience for all of us and well worth the effort. One need not go to expensive holiday resorts all the time to enjoy and have a relaxed holiday, even simpler and more rustic resorts have their own charm . What matters is the enjoyment you get out of such an experience. Masinagudi has abundance of it and for those who love adventure and outdoor activities , Masinagudi is the best option since there are many hills surrounding the area and of course the Madhumalai and Bandiour forest range too..
It is back to basics and exploring nature, going on long treks through the jungle ( take care to keep to the marked jungle trails though since one can come across animals like fox, jackal ,wild cat and wild pig) and understanding nature and its varied forms , which all makes it a very satisfying experience that cannot be matched by any other.
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