Warning : The call of the wild is a cry that should not be ignored . It can cause you sleepless nights You will be woken up in the night by howling wolves and you will start seeing sillhouttes of elephants next to you in the dark ! A snake will slither down your feet as an invisible insect will screech into your ears .. So, when the cry started echoing in our ears , we decided to pack our bags and drive down to the forests .
Our destination was Masinagudi , a secluded quaint town, lost to the wilderness . Nestled at the foothills of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, I was told that historically this border town was the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Wynad .. It derives its name from the Goddess Masaniamma . Abutting the wildlife sanctuaries of Bandipur in Karnataka and Mudhumalai in Tamil nadu, Masinagudi can be best described in one word – WILD !
We left Bangalore in the wee hours of the morning and drove towards Mysore. The forests presented themselves as we reached Bandipur. The cool breeze brushed past our cheek ; a slight drizzle lent some freshness to the air. A carpet of greens veiled our eyes .The sun filtered through the canopy of bamboos that were scattered around . We crossed the Karnataka border and drove in almost silent reverence across the Mudhumalai sanctuary A deer darted through the bush . A peacock raised its head . The silence was only punctuated by the sharp cries of the babblers who probably announced our arrival .
Masingaudi today is a cluster of hamlets like Theppakadu, Bokkapuram which are dotted with resorts and home stays that offer a jungli experience . We found some interesting resorts during our three visits . The first one was Casa Deep Woods – we had been there some five years, and it has a stream running adjacent to our wild habitat ,
not to mention aesthetically designed open bathrooms, with trees as roofs. During our next trip, we decided to live high up in the trees in Wild Canopy Reserve, welcoming the new year . This time, we decided to stay put at simple log huts at Jungle Hut. Most of the resorts here are an extension of the jungle , where elephants freely roam ..For them , there is no border, nor state nor permit..The densely thick jungles are their abode and we are mere trespassers in their territory .
And thats precisely what we learnt as we went on a night safari . It was well past midnight and we were the last motley bunch who ventured out in the night . It was a bright starry night ..the wind was cold and we were in an open jeep, eagerly awaiting the sighting of animals..We drove very slowly and the trees looked eerie and long . Our driver and guide , Sashi kept the night alive talking about wildlife escapades when the jeep suddenly stopped slowly ..A large shadow obstructed our gaze as the jeep pulled up ..We dimmed the headlights and there was an elephant taking ownership of the road . There was pin drop silence as we gazed at the elephant in reverence ..
Our driver whispered and our gaze followed the lights, we saw not one but a herd ,even a calf, snuggling to its mother..The elephants were on both sides of the road, probably crossing .The first one on our left turned towards us as the driver mumbled it was getting ready to charge . We switched off the lights and waited silently.A few moments passed and it seemed like eternity . A slight movement and the jeep moved .
We went upto Theppakadu with no more nocturnal visitors when suddenly we saw two huge shadows on our right .They were mammoth bisons , grazing , with their back to us , oblivious of us.. Suddenly a truck whizzed past us , shattering the silence and the bison’s supper. They did an above turn and were on their forelegs , all ready to charge. The sheer size stunned us and the horns looked absolutely devilish . This was scarier than the previous experience ..We quickly backed off and then took a detour and returned ..We could not take photographs as the light was low, and flash has to be avoided ..But I guess memories are best etched in minds..and probably , in words
The following morning , we decided to go through the ritual again as we wanted to see the animals in light . The mist played with mountains, the dew had just settled in. It was cold and damp. And the jungle presented itself to us, a collage of greens, yellows and browns . Shivering underneath our jackets and enjoying the nippy air, we drove through the forest in an open jeep, hoping for an unusual sighting .
A typical safari would read like this. It starts off as a smooth ride with a song in your heart and adrelanin in your veins . Add a dash of excitement and plenty of hope to the experience. Then, before you know it, the jeep will suddenly swerve into a narrow path, cutting amidst trees and tearing through the grass. Your adrenalin levels increase. The smooth roads turn into sharp curves as the jeep cuts through the vegetation . You spot an animal hide here and there, a shadow darting through the leaves, a rustle in the woods . You squint through the natural mosaic of greens and browns and imagine like Macbeth, that the woods are moving. By the end of it, however your excitement wanes , the thrill fades.
In the beginning were the deer, the spotted and the sambhar variety. In great hordes , skipping, frolicking, playing .The birds and the butterflies flitted around as the peacock obliged us before darting behind bushes . Next in line were the bisons , majestic and proud, ;looking at us askance from the woods . Rustling amidst the trees are the wild boars . We chased and were chased. Eyes, though invisible to us were tracking us. We saw pugmarks of tigers , dungs of elephants and heard stories of leopards. But they eluded us. But we finally saw a herd of elephants !
Very often, its not the destination so much, but the journey which is exciting.. And so it is with jungle life and safari tours. Sighting wild life alone is not fun, it’s the chase that makes it exciting…We couldnt have asked for a wilder escapade . The weekend just whizzed past us , as we trekked, walked, laughed and chilled..The days were spent basking in the sun , going for safaris, a drive to Ooty veering past 36 hairpin bends and the nights staring at the sky, listening to the insects , counting stars …
Masinagudi is a border town and can be reached from either of the three southern states . From Tamil Nadu, the closest airport is Coimbatore at .140 kms..and the farthest is Chennai at 575 kms . From Ooty its about 36 kms and Mettupalaym , about 80 kms . If you are driving like us from Bangalore, its a distance of 260 kms .and just 106 .fm Mysore and it takes about five hours . From Kerala, the closest airports are kms Kochi at 212 kms and Kozhikodu at 123 kms . Vythiri in Wynad in Kerala is 93kms away . An ideal weekend getaway from any of these cities, Masinagudi is closest to Mudhumalai wild life sanctuary at 15kms and Bandipur at 25 kms