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|26th June 2008, 22:03||#1|
Jungle Lodges, Bandipur - Coonoor
Holidays come and go before you know it
Looks like us Indians take long weekends really seriously, every key destination is booked up months in advance. May day came and went yet we missed out. I was determined to take time out for the summer holidays especially before my wife’s assignment was to start. Domestic conversation was:
“Where do you want to go?”
“Somewhere cool and not too far!”
This narrowed it down to Coorg and the Nilgiri’s. Having spent a lot of time in the Nilgiri's during my childhood, we started focusing on Coorg. Looked at various Homestay’s but we got a lot of feedback about that no one knew what one would get until we got there. We later understood that Coorg was not much cooler than Bangalore.
So back to the Nilgiri’s. Looked at hotel’s, only option was the Taj Garden Retreat Conoor, but only two nights and the price was, well, horrific. A friend mentioned that Neemrana had a property which was quite nice. A look on the web and it looked promising. Rang the Bangalore office to find yet another friend working there, she managed to get us a good room. Alas, we only had two nights available, a little too short for a holiday, we thought. One option was the Taj hotels but the prices….
Let’s see what Jungle Lodges offered. Sure enough at the foothills of Bandipur, it had just started a new lodge. Actually it is older, it used to be a set of dodgy KSTDC cottages where people from Mysore used to visit for their jollies. JLR took it over and renovated it.
So the plan – one night en-route in JLR, up the hill to Coonoor and return to Bangalore.
Last edited by ajmat : 27th June 2008 at 11:55.
|26th June 2008, 22:04||#2|
H-day came. Loaded the RS – yummy – and took off early (6.30). Mysore highway was great upto Mandya. Car sat as if on rails. After Mandya, there were quite a few speed humps that hampered progress. The interesting part was that the car seemed to use less fuel on an average ad higher speeds (not excessive), compared to low speeds.
I learnt that our virtous viddy would be also en-route to Masinagudi around the same time but saw no shining Alto. We reached Mysore at around 8.30 and had breakfast at Regaalis. Since we were not hungry enough for the buffet, they took their own time. Called Viddy to find that he was polishing bumpers on Mysore Road.
9.30: Back on road. Road to Nanjangud is okay in parts and improves upto Gundlepet. Single lane traffic meant one has to be alert but the RS despatched slow items easily. 10 km before Gundelpet, the road is bad and we are spoiler scraping on some parts.
10.45 – Arrive at Resort. JLR folks are as friendly as we find in their other resorts. Cars stay down and they take the bags to the cottage.
The resort has a main restaurant for roadside tourists. Residents have another Gol-Ghar open restaurant at the top.
Each cottage is named after an animal. We were in the Jhambavar (sloth bear). A huge mural in the room made us clear where we were. Cottage is spartan and clean. Best part is that there is a big veranda and the back. Am sure the honeymoon cottage would be called the rabbit house!
My daughter and I go and explore and we find a baby sambal hanging out. Looks like an orphaned one which has been adopted by the resort. Quite content to be petted while it chewed and grazed. Call Viddy who says has passed Mysore and is averaging 90km/h. I warn him about the road and five minutes later he realizes this.
1.30 – lunch is served and we have a snooze. Power is iffy so room is a little stuffy. At 4.00, we go for tea and then we are directed to the car park to a Mahindra Pik-up. Girls get in the cabin and I find myself in the rear with a wildlife photographer with serious, I mean, serious equipment. His cannon would give the old man a complex.
Drive up the hill into Bandipur and pull into the forest. We aim to park near a watering hole and wait. However, each time we do this, a bus load of tourists drive up and disrupt everything. A sambal walks by giving us a rather insolent look
We drive on and then, in front, is this huge tusker. He looks at us and lumbers on. We follow. He turns and stares. This goes on and then he veers on a path to the left. The driver reverses the pik-up and we are right in front of him. He stares and carries on.
My daughter quips “ He is an endangered animal! Why are we harassing him?”
After a while, he walks into the bush. We then return at dusk for dinner.
Last edited by ajmat : 27th June 2008 at 08:23.
|26th June 2008, 22:05||#3|
5.30 – woken up!! We assemble at the Gol Ghar for coffee and then we meet the guide at the gate for a trek. The group comprises of two families, a couple with a child and a techie.
We walk for a kilometer and a half past some farms. My daughter makes friends with another girl. The geek is on the phone. The weather is just right and the air is fresh!
And then the climb starts, the girls manage quite well despite the odd trench. My wife is able to climb but the others are totally out of sync, one lady is huffing an puffing and having to be pushed up the hill. The other couple have it tough since the lady and infant think it is a Sunday walk and are wearing fragile chappals. The husband is a total chauvinist and never helps carrying the child, only video’s them.
Reach the top of a hill and the view is mind blowing, pure forest! Somewhere in there are Veerappan’s millions. Suddenly the guide points to another hillock, we see a leopard laying on a rock watching the world.
We make our way down and a jeep is waiting for us to take us back. After breakfast, we pack up at get going.
JLR Bandipur Verdict – Okay for one day and one night, anything longer is more dependent on whether you are keen on discovering more wild life or each other! Like any other JLR, you get simple excellent hospitality.
Back to the road, we drive through Bandipur. People keep stopping despite no stopping signs. We enter Tamil Nadi and turn left to Masinagudi. Road is good if narrow, plenty of Bangalore reg cars but my mumbaiya munches them up and then we get to Segur ghats
“Papa, what is 36/36 ?”,
I then give a potted concept of hairpin bends and then we attack the first one. Ms Matthew strapped in front enjoys it. Mrs Matthew at the back does not but the scenary distracts her. The Skoda attacks the bends but gets blocked by overloaded Tavera’s which we overtake on the straights. I slow down before each bend and try to hear any oncoming traffic and get into the bend. This works well.
20 bends later, am behind a convoy on a steep hill. The Logan in front stalls. I stop and then try to start and find the engine is weak, then I realise that off-boost on a hill, the whooshy Skoda turns woosie. Gun the engine, fire the turbo and we are off.
Enter Ooty, it is a really nice drive with lovely forests etc, bit like driving in Germany. We enter Ooty on day one of the flower show. It is crowded but the cops are effective, the move the traffic on and are very patient with lost tourists. We decide forget going to Ooty, we want peace.
Exiting Ooty , the road is awful but improves, Drive is scenic although the road is narrow and buses are fast. Plenty of cops around shooing people who stop. Approach Coonoor and drive upto Simm’s Park where Neemrana Wallwood is! We are welcomed and shown to our room, in the outhouse suite. This was cute and gave us some privacy. We go to the dining room and sit on an enclosed veranda for a cup of tea (which they can’t make properly, overstewed).
Ms Matthew is hungry and we go to a Tea Room next door called Tranquility. Good if expensive.
Hang out there for an hour and then chill out. We decide to go for a drive and find a small tea factory nearby – HighRange. Plenty of tourists, we are taken on a small tour for Rs 25 (tip the guide a bit more) - machines are ancient, my grandfather used more modern stuff thirty years ago.
We return and my wife connects with a friend and they go shopping. I say thanks and no thanks and go for a long, long walk. Come across Nandan Nilekani’s mansion - 6 acres of it. People in Coonoor are reeling about the fact he paid a rumoured Rs 5 crs. We set them right by telling them it is a bargain considering you only get an average flat in the city centre for that much. End up walking on the dark Kotagiri road. Bit scary and no one can see you.
Reach back and we go to the Coonoor Club for dinner. Quite a nice cosy club, with none of the stuffiness that is seen in most other clubs. It seemed to be exactly as I last saw it in 1974! Service is hilarious but we are having fun. Get back a little late and a little high!
Last edited by ajmat : 27th June 2008 at 11:58.
|26th June 2008, 22:05||#4|
Wake up late and leisurely and decide to go to Dolphins Nose. Road is narrow and then someone stops us and advises us to go no further as my car will ground.We turn around and go to Wellington. Golf course looks inviting but I left my clubs behind.
We end up at the Taj Garden Retreat for lunch. At this point, my camera battery gives up and the pictures stop. The Taj is an old bungalow which had a huge garden where more rooms were built. Frankly, unless you want spiffy room service, our rooms at Wallwood are cozy and good value. Food was okay, nothing to glow over.
Go back to Walwood and chill out over a game of cluedo and sniff a few flowers.
Spend the evening out for drinks at a friends house. The folks here are really friendly and that is what really makes the trip special
Last edited by ajmat : 26th June 2008 at 22:20.
|26th June 2008, 22:06||#5|
Tank up car and check air. The tyre pressure is 34 (it was 30 in Bangalore!). The attendant reduces the pressure. Gut feel says let him! Get stuck behind various trucks on the way to Ooty. Pass through Ooty and we turn off to te Segur ghats, and so we thought. The cops refuse to let us through.
“One way saar”
“we want to go to Masinagudi”
“Go via Gudalur”
“Why not this way ?”
“Only Collectors permission allowed! Anyway Saar, the gudalur road is nice!”
Road looks nice, we set off, some killer corners and I attack except that my daughter decides that she is not well and we have to stop for her to throw up. She recovers and we carry on. All the KL-11 cars seem to have a death wish, they overtake on corners, the RS is a red rag and they are bent on challenging me and are peeved when I let them go on. This road is fun, uh, I spoke too soon.
30 km on, we encounter craters, then roads works, narrow roads, dead locked traffic, scraping spoilers. Thank god the tyre pressures were lower.
We cover 75 km in 3 hours. Our plan for lunch in mysore are scuppered. The TN side of Bandipur is horrible. We reach Karnatak and the road improves. We stop in JLR Bandipur for a break.
We reach Mysore and the next mishap takes place. We take the ring road. This road goes on and on and on and on and on. The breaking point is when we reach a junction which says left to Bangalore or straight to Bangalore. We go left and find ourselves on a country road and touch the Hunsur road.
We hit the highway and stop at the Maddur café day and find that we have lost time on the “bypass” road. The RS makes up some time but we have mad men wth 4 kids sitting in front of a Versa or overloaded tavera’s. We hit Bangalore at peak hour and are at home by 6.00pm
Next time, leave Ooty very early before the checkpoint is set up and go through Mysore!
Would I do Coonoor again ? Yes but I would take the golf set and a bunch of friends and go during a non peak season.
|26th June 2008, 22:29||#6|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Dec 2007
Thanked: 116 Times
Good write up, Ajmat.
So, how was the damage to the spoilers; nothing serious I hope.
So when are the photos coming up?
EDIT: You edited and added the photos while I was going thru! Great! :-)
And is that a Golf course or a cricket ground? Is that a pitch???
PS: How did you manage to keep the RS so clean?????
Last edited by HappyWheels : 26th June 2008 at 22:31.
|26th June 2008, 23:02||#7|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2006
Thanked: 146 Times
Nice write-up Ajmat. The cops told you that Masinagudi road is one way but I've encountered few vehicles coming down on the Ghats. Probably one need to pay them up to use the road for going downhill.
BTW,the TN section of the forest is called Mudumalai ;-)
Can you please post the link to Neemrana website?
|26th June 2008, 23:46||#8|
Join Date: Mar 2005
Thanked: 57 Times
Great Travelogue Ajmat, just one doubt, i think what you referred to as Gaur in your pic is actually a Sambar Deer.
|27th June 2008, 01:05||#11|
Join Date: Mar 2006
Thanked: 16 Times
Wow! Ajmat. That was really a wonderful read.
Nice pictures is a beautiful icing on the cake. Well done, old man!
|27th June 2008, 06:40||#12|
|27th June 2008, 08:08||#13|
Join Date: Apr 2004
Thanked: 3,362 Times
Fantastic write up. By the way, that photographer is probably a wildlife lover type. A serious long lens can be really expensive..as much as 7-8 lacs.
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