|21st August 2008, 01:35||#1|
Muthodi Forest Drive: The post-OTR meet that became part-OTR meet
The original plan created by Jammy (member MM440) involved attending the Sakleshpur OTR event on Independence day and then drive over to Muthodi Forest Reserve for two days of relaxing and mud trail safari. However, the first part started getting shaky as I realised I need to reach Sakleshpur by crossing the dreaded ďMiner Truck infestedĒ Shiradi Ghats in the night in my open Jeep. Going by the latest reports, it could take anywhere between 5 hours to 12 hours depending on the nighttime congestion on Shiradi ghats. I couldnít drive out on previous day due to work. Then my Jeep ended up in the Garage for heart surgery, so that totally eliminated the possibility. Even Jammy decides to skip OTR and head to Muthodi directly.
Therefore the new plan was drive directly to Muthodi Forest Reserve Office and claim the rooms by 4PM. These rooms can be booked only from DCF office in Bangalore, no walk-ins are entertained. The reservations are considered cancelled , if not claimed by 4PM, or so we were told. Since I was the closest to the destination, I was given the responsibility to claim the rooms on time. We would be travelling in Grand Vitara to Muthodi and hop on to other Jeeps while entering the Safari trails.
Biggest problem was we didnít know where this place was located, and Internet was of no help. Finally India Eicher Map shed some light, it placed Muthodi Forest Reserve near Balehonnur which was about 110Kms from my home. So we figured it should be within 2-3 hours for us, or so we thought.
We left home at around 1PM, we took only the elder kid, the baby was left behind since we had planned lot of Jeep riding. I was driving very fast since I was afraid we may not reach by 4PM, after all we didnít have any directions after Balehonnur. We passed through Agumbe Ghats for the 3rd time in the last 2 weeks, it looked pretty much similar to previous trips, but we didnít feel the weather since we were cocooned inside the air-conditioned GV. I feel that kills half the fun of driving around in Agumbe in this weather. We didnít take any photographs here for obvious reasons, there are loads of them posted here from my last two trips.
We rushed through Agumbe and raced towards Sringeri, this again involved driving through another ghat. But the road quality was impeccable, so I ripped through the twisting roads. After Sringeri we turned towards Jayapura and we encountered another excellent ghat. All this fast driving in consecutive ghats finally took toll and my wife threw up all the lunch in 2-3 installments. At Jayapura I notice a shocking board, Muthodi 85Kms. That would put Muthodi 70Kms away from Balehonnur and it was already 3PM. After some consultations at Jayapura they asked me to consult further at Balehonnur. About 15 minutes later, I repeated the act at Balehonnur and ended up in the local forest department. I was told to go to Chikmagalur (60Kms) and then drive further 30Kms to Muthodi. By now it was 3:30PM and so I called Jammy and told I canít reach Muthodi by 4PM. He says he is still 30Kms away from Hassan and we decide to continue hoping they will keep our reservations.
So I continue towards Chikmagalur and after 8Kms at a village called Kadabagere, I see a board pointing left saying Muthodi 35Kms. That is like 40% of latest estimate. I quickly stop and enquire at the roadside shop about the veracity of the board. They agree that the board is right, but they doubt my car can navigate the road. I asked whether Jeeps can do it, they say yeah, even buses travel that route and it is tarred. I decide any route can be handled by buses should be easy for GV and we take the left turn. Suddenly there is hope of reaching at 4:30PM if not yet 4PM. After couple of Kms, that hope starts fading. We enter a forest gate and onto a very narrow twisty forest road. There were fallen/cleared trees, cleared landslides, etc., all along the way. First 25Kms we didnít encounter a single vehicle passing us from the front. This canít be taken as good news, it could also mean there is a road block due to landslide or tree fall.
Notice this half-cleared tree wreckage, I had to drop one wheel into the gutter to get thorugh.
We decided to leave all the photography for the return journey and proceeded with utmost haste. But this road had numerous forks and turns and twists enough to spin your head, there were simply no sign boards anywhere. We had to stop and ask at every fork to ensure we didnít end up somewhere else. After 10Kms of driving, one guy predicted 40Kms of driving to Muthodi, he was kidding no doubt. Anyway, after about 30Kms from our turnoff at Kadabagere we see a wonderful sign. Muthodi nature camp 1Km straight, Shigekhan 3Kms to the right. The latter happened to be the very building reserved for us. It was about 5:15PM at this time.
At first we turned toward Shigekhan and it turned out to be a treacherous mud trail. After one KM into the road I wondered what if nobody is there at the building. So I figured it may be better to check-in at the nature camp first and then proceed to Shigekhan. So we turned back and headed to the nature camp. At the nature camp nobody knew about our booking. When I tried to call Jammy, I found it was BSNL only territory. The nearest public phone was 5Kms of very bad road away. Anyway, I was nevertheless told to go to Shigekhan and check-in. First they say GV canít go, when I said it is a 4x4 SUV, then they say it should be fine. After 3Kms of hilly mud trail driving, I stopped at the very first building and it turned out to be our destination.
The GV after the mud trail driving to Shigekhan.
The wonderful backdrop to the parking area.
The partial view of Shigekhan Inspection Banglow
The view from the Balcony
The caretaker opens the door, but we have no proof of reservation since
Jammy was supposed to get that. But looking at the family and probably GV, the caretaker opens out a room for us. As we were planning to settle down, we discover few problems.
Me: What about power?
Caretaker: No power, just solar light for the hall, you use candle in the bedroom and bathroom.
Me: Why there is no water?
Caretaker: The elephant tramples the pipe regularly, we canít go there to fix it after dark, got to wait till daytime. But I can get you an extra bucket from the nearby stream.
Me: What about dinner?
Caretaker: Since we had no notification of your arrival, we have no grocery, we have to get it from 15Kms away.
Me: Can I make a phone call from here, I want to make sure my friend isnít getting any grocery himself.
Caretaker: I have a BSNL phone, but the currency ran out. Got to go to Chikmagalur for recharge.
My primal caveman instinct takeover at this point, after all I am in the middle of wild forest. As the only adult male it is my job to hunt/forage food, so I decide to take him for grocery shopping, in fact we all go. On the way we also sight an elephant grazing 50m from the trail. Meanwhile, the caretaker turned out to be a Mangalorean, so he switched to Tulu after hearing us talk.
At the nature camp they are surprised to see me back so fast, they figure I came back after seeing the condition road. Only after seeing the caretaker they realize I made it there and back. They suggest me two grocery shops, one is 15Kms away on good roads (the way I came) and another 5Kms away on bad roads (the other direction). Couple of guards argue GV can get hurt on latter route, and I repeat the 4X4 SUV mantra, and the forest ranger says it should be fine, GV should be able to do it without much problem. So we go, and boy, they werenít kidding. This stretch of the road would make NH-17 look good. But GV takes it in well and we are at the grocery shop in no time.
This tiny shop apparently has everything, vegetable to grocery to even BSNL recharge. I ask him to purchase one Rs.60 prepaid card for me, so that I can use his phone for my calling needs. I try to reach Jammy, but his phone is out of area. All us Airtel users are practically cut-off from the world around here. While we are buying grocery Jammy and Shravan land up there, the ranger had told them where to find us. Shravan is the Yellow Jeep driver who was stuck in the water in Coorg OTR for long. They had brought Karthikís (member aquamaverick) MM540 Jeep along with them.
Meanwhile the shopkeeper turned out to be a Tulu speaker too. Then I saw a whole lot of youngsters chatting outside, again in Tulu. It was like I was still in my native town. Turns out most of the labourers and shopkeepers here are migrants from Mangalore/Udupi side. Once our purchase was over, Jammy asked us to continue to Shigekhan, he will follow us in 15 minutes. Then we can await the guys attending Sakleshpur OTR to come and join us. Their dormitory was near the nature camp.
However, that never happened. Our caretaker was tense since he believed the road to Shigekhan is not safe after dark because of elephants. Anyway, we reached uneventfully and ask him to prepare food. After two hours of long boring wait, the dinner finally arrives, but no sign of Jammy or Shravan. Since we canít communicate, we assume there was a change of plan and call it a night. However I was able to contact Shakir (one of the OTR attendees) and confirm that they wonít be leaving Sakleshpur until 8-9PM, which means they will reach very late. Jammyís original plan of 6AM safari and breakfast may not happen.
So we got up at 6PM and after breakfast we slowly proceeded to the dormitory near the nature camp. We found everybody snoring the ceiling away at 7:45AM. The reason why Jammy couldnít follow us, the Jeep had a breakdown while turning back from the grocery store, the main shaft near the gearbox had sheared away clean. Besides, the riders of Sakleshpur didnít make it until 1:30AM. It was a miracle they found the dormitory or even the nature camp at that hour in the middle of the forest. It was almost 11:30AM before everybody got up and finished breakfast. The new joinees were Shakir, Dev, Mark & Prithvi. They actually won second place in the OTR event.
We found Shakirís MM540 and Prithviís Gypsy parked outside.
I parked next to the Gypsy, look at the underbody clearance of these siblings.
The entrance to the lodging area at Muthodi.
As we were standing around, I fell victim to a leach. It had already scooted
leaving bloody marks on my pants. We soon found that the entire area was swarming with leaches, we had to keep checking every few minutes for leaches on our shoes and legs.
A close up look at the leach. I even have a leach video which I will upload later.
As we were waiting for guys to finish breakfast, my wife and I decided to take a stroll in the road checking out the camp.
This is the main building of the camp.
As we were walking back, I see something crawling on the road.
The stripe pattern, color and slow moment rings a bell in the mind but the size was confusing, it was barely 2ft long. Then it does something totally unexpected.
As it sensed me, it raises the head like a cobra but there is no hood. This act completely confuses me, which snake can do that.
Notice the eyes looking directly at me. While the extent of raised head is not clear, watch the shadow it cast on the water below, the head is raised quite high.
Soon a local woman confirms it is a python, no wonder the bell rang and I was unable to pick on it. I had never seen a baby python before, but only adult ones. She further added that the mother python was recently caught and shifted to deeper jungle leaving the babies here.
Finally breakfast is served and we have it again considering it is 3 hours since our first breakfast.
Now we leave the GV behind at the nature camp parking lot and hop on Jeep and Gypsy. Since one Jeep is down, we are a little crowded on just two jeeps. We first head to Shigekhan and let other take in the views.
The last photo tickles our curiosity and we decide to visit that place seen in the distance.
This is an amazing jungle trail and Shakir negotiates the trail with great skill with minimal discomfort to the passengers. Since I was in Shakirís Jeep, I try to capture Prithviís Gypsy from the window.
We finally reach the private resort seen in the distance, it is called Tex Woods (google it). If you donít want to deal with government bunglowís this is a good expensive alternative. They even had swimming pool, so food, power and water should not be an issue. As we were talking to the Tex Wood manager, I discovered that the owner, manager and most of the staff were also from Mangalore area and spoke Tulu. Basically there is no scope for any loose comment in Tulu with my family.
To be continued.
|The following BHPian Thanks Samurai for this useful post:|| |
|21st August 2008, 03:35||#4|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jun 2006
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The Baby Python was impressed by the Tulu speaking driver of vehicle it couldn't call a jeep. Did you try saying "4x4 SUV" to it and see its response?
Last edited by 1100D : 21st August 2008 at 03:37.
|21st August 2008, 07:01||#6|
Join Date: Jun 2008
Thanked: 0 Times
Just the travelogue that i have been waiting for since Monday. Excellent pictures and description Samurai San.
|21st August 2008, 08:12||#7|
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Hyderabad, Bangalore
Thanked: 13 Times
Awesome stuff and nice write up as well. Am sure that there is no way we can make this trip in regular sedans. Am adding this to my list of places to visit. Looking forward for further update and snaps.
|21st August 2008, 09:39||#8|
But the mud trail from main road to Shigekhan should be avoided in car no matter what people assure you. I had to do the entire stretch uphill/downhill in 1st gear. Since the GV second gear is tall, you can't get much engine braking. Everytime I switch to 2nd, I was forced to switch back to 1st for fear of hitting something hard.
There was this couple who asked me whether they can take their Zen estilo. I told them that even my GV scraped a little here and there on the way back while doing downhill. So they gave up on the idea. However, when we went to Shigekhan in the afternoon, we see their Zen Estilo parked in there, apparently somebody told them they can do it. May be that somebody heard of a certain white car (who never realised it was a 4x4 SUV) did it on the same day. And he proudly told me that there was no problem and it didn't touch anywhere. My wife gave me very depreciative looks and comments after that. I driving a GV was bested by a Zen Estilo driver. I mumbled something about SWB chassis of Zen vs LWB GV, not that it made any dent. But the Jury was not yet out.
Next day I found that the valiant Zen didn't make it back, not on their own. While GV just scraped on the way back, the Zen had to abandon the campaign. Eventually they had to get help to put them out. The caretaker also told me that many cars do come to Shigekhan, but only half of them complete the journey. Many drunks from Chikmagalur drive up the hill during night in their cars, sometimes they get stuck and walk. Walking up this path in the night looking in every direction for elephants can sober up any drunk. The frequency of fresh elephant-dung on this trail is enough proof.
That said, any 2WD MUV/UV/SUV with good GC can handle this trail, no 4x4 needed. What is more important is the driver experience in mud trail driving, knowing what to avoid and what can be risked. Experienced offroaders or mud trail drivers can do this even in 2WD cars, but keeping the safety of your cars, it should be avoided.
Last edited by Samurai : 21st August 2008 at 10:01.
|21st August 2008, 10:33||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Dec 2006
Thanked: 41 Times
Those are some really nice pictures and you sure do get sround a lot fo places - lucky you !
I have been to Muthodi from the chickmagulur side , the roads are tarred , i do not have a recent update on the road conditions but i also encountered the same situation where in i am driving along lonely forest roads for about 20 kms without seeing any turn offs of other vehicles or even humans.
Yes i went in an alto to this place about 2.5 years back
|21st August 2008, 10:43||#10|
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Join Date: Dec 2006
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|21st August 2008, 11:34||#12|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Dec 2007
Thanked: 223 Times
As usual, its awesome. Great writeup. The flow is very good and make up feel to be part of the drive
That discussion with the caretaker did make us go mad, but not surprised. It highlights how "deep" in the forest it is situated.
And Sharavan made it to here too. Man he is enjoying before leaving to UK. Good.
Where is Jammy's red Jeep? Didn't it participate in the fun?
So Baby phython encountered a Samurai and never knew he was in his 4x4 SUV. Else it would not have started at you like that
Cant wait more. Keep it coming.
OT: Where are the "Tall boys" in Bangalore (@gowda, are you ready with your KING?)? How do you think about a trip to here guys? When you do plan, keep a seat vacant for me. hehehe.
How can I forget those Gypsy and with new Lockers installed. Khan, you there?
Last edited by mjothi : 21st August 2008 at 11:37.
|21st August 2008, 14:03||#15|
The original plan was to do 22Kms long safari into pristine jungle where most tourists donít venture. We had plans to ford rivers and do mud trail driving into deep forest regions where only 4x4 Jeeps can venture. But all that plan came apart when the forest department told us that a bridge has collapsed just 3-4 Kms into the trail. But that doesnít deter our bunch, that only got us talking about another river fording. But we were told that the water level is well above 6ft and unless we had Tatra trucks... Ok, they didnít say the last part.
Meanwhile we were to wait for one more Jeep Thrills member from Bangalore to join us. It was during this time we visited Tex Woods and lazing around Shigekhan.
Prithviís Gypsy at Shigekhan
Finally the last member arrives, he is Mukund, also known as ragpicker on
Team-BHP. This is his Gypsy parked at Shigekhan.
Now that the group was complete at 3PM, we decide to have lunch before it gets too cold. But lunch was at Nature camp, so we drive back.
This is the dorm and dining room at the nature camp.
After lunch we again spend hours discussing where to go. Some donít want enter the forest only to stop at the bridge. We finally decide to just go on road to Kemmanugundi (22Kms away) and back. My main purpose it to shoot photographs, so I donít want to drive, but on hindsight I should have.
First I got on Mukundís Gypsy in the front. But it doesnít have a door, or seat belts or anything else to hold. I didnít want to fly off in a corner while holding my heavy camera in both hands. So Prithvi graciously offered to switch places with me so that I could sit behind and shoot away. That turned out to be a moot point. Mukund drove his Gypsy so fast none of us would see anywhere else but the road to anticipate the next curve or the pothole. I couldnít really snap anything while on the move. My son who was seated between me and Dev was getting crushed at every turn.
Some pics on the way.
Meanwhile we spotted a waterfall at a distance and stopped, it was really a very nice spot.
It was not really a waterfall, but a steep part of a wild river.
Meanwhile guys wanted a snap with the river. This can be very challenging
considering the DOF Iíll need to keep both the person and river in focus. It didnít come that well, it is hard to compose this well.
This is Prithvi with the river at the back. Mukundís didnít come that well.
A small group shot with a great backdrop (Prithvi, Dev & Mukund).
Now it was getting dark and there was no point in continuing to Kemmanugundi. Shakirís Jeep which was ahead took a U-turn and came back. So we too decide to turn back. Meanwhile the twilight looked heavenly with the onset of fog and darkness.
Little later we stopped at a viewpoint, but not much was visible, so we just took a break while parking right in the centre of the road. Nobody passed us in those 20 minutes.
My wife and kid, Shakir, Jammy, Devaiah (Dev), Mukund, Mark, Prithvi & Shravan.
Shakir replaced by me. I didnít want to keep my super expensive E3 on the curving hood of MM540 for a full group shot.
Shkirís pride and joy for last 10 years.
Parting shot for the evening before we left back for the nature camp.
At the nature camp, Prithvi was fooling around with my ultra-high range pentorch (andslite) and spots another Python on the road. This was bigger, at least 3.5ft. Now that we know it is a python for sure, Dev tries to catch it, but somehow the Python manages to wriggle free and vanish into the bushes. Sorry, no photos of this effort since I had packed the camera due to the darkness. After that we all drive back to Shigekhan for dining in the moonlight view. Yes, we did carry rations for the cooking. We dined and wined in the moonlight on the balcony until midnight exchanging forest and wildlife stories. At least half the group had extensively experiences with elephants, some could count the number of times being chased by elephants. I wasnít sure whether to envy such a statistic or not, I mean who wants to envy being chased by elephants. Eventually rest of the group drove back to nature camp very slowly hoping to catch some elephants on the way with their powerful spotlights.