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Old 8th October 2021, 11:55   #1
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Default Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

In case you were wondering why the queer name, What exactly is Gopinatham? What Mystery trails? Read on to find out more. Gopinatham is a small hamlet in the south eastern tip of Karnataka, right at the point where the river Kaveri flows from Karnataka into Tamilnadu. For as long as I can remember as a Bangalorean, the only thing I grew up knowing about this place was that it was the birth place and part of the territory of the dreaded forest brigand, Veerappan (those of you who were around in the late 90s and 2000s would remember) who used to roam these areas and frequently bring terror to civilians and authorities alike for many decades.

Due to the notorious poaching and smuggling activities he was carrying out throughout the forests around this region, this place was perpetually under some combing or encounter operation or other (by the forces then), and tourism was largely out of bounds in these areas back then. Fast forward to the late 2000s and early 2010s after his entire gang and nexus were eliminated, these areas and the highway network here gradually started opening up for tourism. The forests here are largely composed of a dry deciduous type of vegetation. The area here is very humid and hot most of the year, and in fact the region here gets rain mostly from the northeast monsoons between October and December, rather than the usual southwest monsoons which operate between June and September, which is also the case with many areas of interior TN.

Coming back to the essence of this travelogue, while we were looking around for weekend trip destinations, my better half stumbled upon some new entries in the Jungle lodges website, and this term took me down memory lane (Veerappan era) when I heard it: Gopinatham Mystery Trails, and the thought struck me that this neglected region was something we had never been able to visit all these years. We have just visited Hogenakkal falls from Dharmapuri's side, but never this part. The website and itinerary sounded interesting, so a couple of calls were made to the camp manager and he gave us a lot more details - this property was supposedly used by forest officials earlier, and then later opened up to tourists by the Forest department under the name of ‘Gopinatham Mystery Trails’. The name is given so because the property is in a very remote hamlet hidden in the valleys of 77 adjacent hills of the MM Hills range, a lot of the places around this region are still relatively new to the travel circuit (even to the authorities).

When we were scouting around for information on this camp, we could hardly find much useful information on the web, so I decided to pen this short travelogue down in the interest of serving as some handy guide for anyone wanting to visit here. While I was able to shoot some shots of the place with my camera, most of the journey pictures are from my relic phone, please bear with the average quality of some images

Exploring the untouched beauty of Gopinatham
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The Govt controlled Jungle Lodges group took over the property earlier this year and is in the process of rejuvenating the place and adding more facilities, etc to bring it up to their usual standards (read as adding AC cottages, etc). Icing on the cake - the tariff was incredibly, ridiculously, shockingly low for this day and age - we paid a princely sum of INR 1200/- per head per day including all three meals + unlimited coffee/tea and snacks + stay + jeep safari in Gopinatham’s forests + coracle ride + a jungle trek the following morning . JLR had a ton of mouth watering discounts on almost all their properties in September, not sure why though. Even otherwise, this place is not on their mainstream catalogue, so expect the tariff to be pretty low until they upgrade the facilities some more. Meanwhile the rest of Karnataka's tourism industry is busy milking the post-lockdown boom with higher tariff slabs and forcing two+ night stays.

For those interested in visiting this place, you can book accommodation through JLR’s no-nonsense online portal, they do not accept or host bookings on any third party sites apparently.
https://www.junglelodges.com/resort/...ystery-trails/

For this trip, our weapon of choice was the peppy and fun little Gokart - the Brio automatic (pic credit: deepfreak15 from another drive)
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From Bangalore, there are primarily two routes to Gopinatham to choose from. One is via Kanakapura road, this road passes through Kollegal and MM hills and descends into Gopinatham on the other side of MM hills. The other faster alternative is to use the Bangalore - Salem expressway (NH 44) till Thoppur and deviate into Mettur and get into Gopinatham from there. At the inter-state border checkpost of Palar, the authorities were quite strict in checking for double vaccine certificate at the time of our visit (September beginning). This can change according to local rules, so it is better to always call the JLR camp manager and check the updated guidelines (number is mentioned on the JLR site page for this camp). We used the Kollegal - MM hills - Gopinatham route for the onward journey, and returned via the NH44 expressway to save time on the return leg
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Day 1 (Reaching Gopinatham)

Since this was a routine weekend trip, we had to contend with the usual Saturday morning traffic, so we decided to leave home early by 5.30AM. The roads between Bangalore and Kanakapura were under construction and needed some careful driving

Making our way through the early morning traffic on Kanakapura road
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The annoying diversions for the first 35km due to the highway expansion work between Bangalore and Kanakapura
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After Kanakapura, the roads opened up and improved, so we were able to maintain decent speeds on the single lane stretch between Kanakapura and Kollegal.

Stopping for a break between Kanakapura and Halagur while the morning skies started clearing up
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Some of the most enjoyable roads for me are these old school, single lane highways
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En route to Kollegal, we stopped at a town called Halagur to try breakfast at a famous place called ‘Babu hotel Halagur’, famous for what they call ‘Chibulu Idlis’. These are basically Idlis which are steamed in small bamboo baskets (called Chibulu in the local language) in a firewood cooker, a technique which goes back 50-60 years and is now largely abandoned by modern eateries in favour of electrical alternatives.

Every batch of Idlis are actually prepared with those little bamboo baskets stacked on top of each other, with bamboo sticks separating the rows and columns
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The antique firewood steamer used at this eatery
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The famous Chibulu idlis, served piping hot on a misty monsoon morning
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We also had some woodfired Masala dosas to complete the meal
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After a sumptuous breakfast we departed from Halagur by roughly 8AM, the better half took over the wheel on the boring yet scenic stretch till Kollegal while I was content clicking some snaps en route of the countryside

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Stopping for some sugarcane juice, harvested fresh from the adjoining fields
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Admiring this 80+ year old man weaving baskets so dexterously, even at his ripe old age. We did stop and buy a couple of baskets to support and appreciate his efforts while we chatted with him for a few minutes
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Between Kollegal and Male Mahadeshwara hills (MM hills), the road was slightly patchy but manageable. Once the altitude ascent portion came, the roads improved and I had a great deal of fun throwing the gokart around the corners, we hardly had any traffic up the hill. The vegetation changed a bit, turning into rocks, boulders and thorny shrubs in the foliage

The silky smooth roads leading to MM hills
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The Brio was a hoot to drive on these narrow hill roads
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MM hills has a famous temple and a small town on top - which we didn’t visit but that town had a bit of truck and bus movement causing a slight delay for us. After crossing MM hills, the traffic completely ended and we were almost the only ones on the road, experiencing beautiful and breathtaking sights of lush green mountains, showing up one after the other as we descended the MM hills ghat section leisurely, enjoying everything the hills threw at us.


The beautiful mountain sights as we descended MM hills on the other side towards Palar
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After descending the ghats, we arrived at a small town called Palar, where we had to take a deviation towards Gopinatham through the Cauvery Wildlife reserve forest for another 15 odd kilometres. I had only read of this Palar town in newspapers as a Bangalore kid, when the forest brigand had bombed a police convoy and caused a lot of casualties in the early 1990s, now I was actually passing by the same place.

The Palar intersection, heading further here would enter Tamilnadu state and into Mettur district. We had to turn left though, towards Gopinatham. Pardon the image quality, it was shot from inside the car and my windshield has 3M CR70 sunfilm which causes this weird greenish tinge on images shot from inside.
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At Palar wildlife reserve checkpost, we were stopped by the forest department officials and were asked to produce the final Covid vaccine certificates and a copy of the JLR booking receipt, before we were asked to sign the register and proceed towards Gopinatham.

Stopping at the Palar forest checkpost, Cauvery wildlife reserve
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A board to honour one of this region's valiant reformers from the forest department, P.Srinivas, who laid down his life in the battle against Veerappan (we learnt much more about this from the JLR staff at Gopinatham)
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The road from Palar to Gopinatham was narrow and through the CWR forest (Cauvery wildlife reserve), we hardly encountered any vehicles here but we did encounter a few reptiles, deer and a few mongooses which darted across the road.

Inching towards Gopinatham, through the beautiful jungle roads
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At one place, the navigation maps showed a left turn into a mud and stones pathway to reach Jungle lodges and our destination - Gopinatham Mystery Trails.
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This mud road continued for another kilometre or so
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Last edited by KarthikK : 10th October 2021 at 10:21.
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Old 8th October 2021, 11:56   #2
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Day 1 (Exploring Gopinatham)

We reached Gopinatham mystery trails by roughly 11.30AM
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The entire property is at a slightly higher elevation than the surrounding hamlets and jungle
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There was no well paved road as such, this mud pathway was a dead end which led to the main inspection bungalow inside. That bungalow also doubles up as the entrance lobby for the JLR property now. Outside this building is where we were supposed to park the cars
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After the check-in formalities, we were escorted to our tented cottages through these pathways
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These were cute little tents, with a thatched hut roof style which looked elegant yet retained that rustic look of a jungle camp
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Our tented cottage
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The insides of the cottage look like this - there were comfortable beds and decently maintained bed linen, in line with JLR's standards. There was no air conditioning, however there was just a pedestal fan set on oscillating mode. Do note, on hot days the insides of the tent can get uncomfortably warm and humid in the late afternoons due to the rayon / nylon material of the tents which absorb heat.
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There was a compact but clean washroom as well, inside the tent
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The accommodation is currently basic and is in the process of being upgraded by JLR. For those visiting, prepare to enjoy the rustic and basic facilities of the tented accommodation and keep expectations low , since this is more of a jungle camp than a resort.


The tents were all set on a hillock, facing the waters of Gopinatham reservoir. When we walked out of the tent and around it, this is the view we got
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Since there was still some time left for lunch, we passed time outside the tent area, strolling around the property. This image below was the dining area, food was served buffet style for all the meals, typical JLR style.
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Playing area for visitors' kids
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Quite a few such benches adorned the greenery along the pathways
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Trying these for timepass and for self-fitness test, lol!
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Lunch was simple, tasty and wholesome, typical jungle lodges fare served in buffet style
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Many of you who might have visited Jungle lodges might be familiar with their rather clockwork-type itinerary which usually packs activities for the occupants in between the meals. Our programme for the evening involved a jeep safari at 3.30PM, a hike and a coracle ride the next morning. Since we were done with lunch early, we still had almost a couple of hours to kill.

Not interested in staying indoors, we just explored the area leading to the reservoir lake adjacent to the property and spent time hiking along the waterfront.

This was the main pathway leading to the waterfront
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A brilliant panorama awaited us as we descended to the waterfront - Beautiful mountains around and the water in the middle
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Walking along the reservoir banks. The reservoir wasn't full yet (this area gets filled up after October)
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This place was so underrated for the sheer beauty of landscapes around.
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Hiking in the greens next to the camp. It was a warm afternoon and the cloudy weather made it more humid and sultry
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Soon it was time for the jungle safari. These were brand new custom-made Bolero safari vehicles for JLR. Well every JLR property has them but I had never seen one in brand new condition, lol! These ones had 4x4 and low ratio, very essential for tackling forest trails in rainy season.
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These ones seem to have been fitted with nicer seats than what I have seen in other JLR vehicles, comfortable enough for 2-3 hour safaris.
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We spotted lots of rare tree varieties and birds initially, well explained to us by our naturalist. I wasn't carrying any telephoto lens worthy of getting some decent bird pictures, so the safari was mostly done with eyesight and a few pathetic phone pictures

A herd of deer looking at us intently
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A dried up stream in the jungle. As explained earlier, this region does not get much rainfall from the SW monsoons which most of the country depends on. Instead these areas get their water recharge from the Northeastern monsoons between October and December.
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Random sights from the jungle safari
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Last edited by KarthikK : 10th October 2021 at 08:58.
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Old 8th October 2021, 11:58   #3
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Day 1 (Exploring Gopinatham) continued...

This was the closest I could get to shooting a wild boar with piglets, with a phone camera. Zoom in and try to spot it, lol!
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On the way back from the safari, JLR has included a visit to the memorial site of the slain forest officer Srinivas, who laid down his life in the battle against the brigand
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The evening was quite uneventful once we returned to the resort. There was a simple spread for dinner by around 8.30PM, and post that we proceeded to retire for the night, since the itinerary included a morning hike and a coracle ride the next morning before we were to check out.


Day 2 (Unraveling the Mystery in Gopinatham's Mystery Trails)

We woke up to a cloudy sunrise, but it was clearing up in a hurry. Our guide gave us the choice of a short and flat hike for 2 km, or a longer hike with a hill climb for 4-5 km. Needless to say, we jumped at the longer version.

Waking up to some lovely valley views at sunrise
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Hiking through the dry forest begins - here was an anthill
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Gaining elevation gradually
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Making our way through a lot of boulders and thorn shrubs
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Reaching the top of the hillock we were hiking up, this was the view from the top
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We made our way down the hill through another route, passing by dried up rivulets and lush green foliage, with the beautiful row of mountains in the backdrop. It made for a very interesting contrast of colors, something very different from the usual regions we keep touring to (western ghats)
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Wondering if we should trek up that mountain, but decided that the breakfast at the camp was a better option this time
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Treading through a dried up bed of a stream
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Panorama view of the descent pathway along the dried up stream
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Although this was not peak rainy season here, the monsoon was enough to rejuvenate the greenery in the valley areas
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Random sights captured just before we reached flat ground and joined the camp area around the other side of the reservoir water. The sun was almost fully up in the sky by then
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Wild mushrooms were growing aplenty
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A village dog was leading the way for three grazing cows and guarding the mini herd protectively from us, much to our amusement
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Some sights from the lake area
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Last edited by KarthikK : 10th October 2021 at 10:09.
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Old 8th October 2021, 11:59   #4
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Day 2 (Unraveling the Mystery in Gopinatham's Mystery Trails) continued...

Left or right? Which path to choose?
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Some more random sights of the hike back to the lake
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The sun was now well and truly in its burning avatar, the light was also getting harsher. I just clicked some more snaps of the lake banks and the greenery surrounding it, and hurried up the return leg to the camp
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One of the village deity shrines where the erstwhile brigand used to apparently come to pray regularly, of course now just used by the villagers in these regions
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There was one particular location from where the lake and the valley / mountains setting looked really magical with the sunlight lighting up the scene directly. My better half jokingly referred to this as South India's Pangong Tso lake . Indeed it was a beautiful sight to behold
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After we made our way to the camp, the camp folks gave us a 30 minute coracle ride in this lake. Here are some wide angle shots from the coracle
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The coracle ride in the lake (faces blurred out since they were some other guests who were also in the same coracle ride time slot)
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After we got back to the camp post these two activities, it was almost 9AM. A simple and sumptuous breakfast was ready for us, and we proceeded to finish that before heading to our tented cottages.
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By 11AM, it was time for us to checkout of Gopinatham Mystery Trails and head homewards. Bidding goodbye to the lovely camp here
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Just as we were checking out of the place, a slight movement near the fence caught our eye and we went to check out what it was. It turned out to be a common sand boa which had just caught a lizard and was devouring it for breakfast
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The Boa was halfway through the swallowing cycle and we let it peacefully enjoy its meal while we departed.
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Making our way back through the mud pathway connecting to Palar road
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A fun little weekend drive in the compact, peppy and capable Brio.
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Lovely roads till Palar checkpost
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For the return leg, we exited Karnataka at Palar, crossed over into Mettur, Tamilnadu, and joined the Salem - Dharmapuri expressway via Mecheri
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Broken roads at the last leg of single lane highway between Mecheri and Thoppur
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Stopping at IOC COCO bunk, Thoppur for a refuel break
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Once we were on the expressway, it was a boring drive on the 6 lane expressway
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Battling heavy rain between Krishnagiri and Hosur
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We were home by 5PM, well in time before it got dark. That brought an end to this short yet memorable trip to Gopinatham. The tripmeter clocked close to 500 km for the weekend.
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That's all I had for this short little travelogue. Thanks for reading!

Last edited by KarthikK : 10th October 2021 at 10:18.
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Old 10th October 2021, 10:29   #5
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing Karthik!
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Old 10th October 2021, 10:51   #6
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Default Re: Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

Nice! Glad to see price hasn’t changed much w.r.t tariffs. We had been in Feb-March this year, which I had shared here: https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...opinatham.html (Weekend getaway to Veerappan's birth place, Gopinatham)

However mine is not as detailed as yours. I for one loved the MM hills route hence took the same way back home as well. One of my friends went recently as well , he mentioned the place is gaining some popularity already.
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Old 10th October 2021, 14:48   #7
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Wow! A really top-class travelogue, KarthikK! Very detailed, with tons of useful information (as always with any of your threads!). Thank you for sharing this detailed travelogue.

Lovely off-beat location, enchanting roads, and great landscapes all around. I can imagine how much fun you had driving the Brio there. The photos are really fantastic, and makes one want to visit the place immediately. This is surely on my list now for future weekend drives.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KarthikK View Post
En route to Kollegal, we stopped at a town called Halagur to try breakfast at a famous place called ‘Babu hotel Halagur’, famous for what they call ‘Chibulu Idlis’.
Thanks for sharing this. This is an example of how informative your travelogues are. I will surely drive there some day for these idlis.

Quote:
For this trip, our weapon of choice was the peppy and fun little Gokart - the Brio automatic (pic credit: deepfreak15 from another drive)
Lovely picture of the Brio! deepfreak15's photography has that magic that makes cars look really great. I do not think I have seen a better photo of Brio than this one :-)
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Old 10th October 2021, 17:39   #8
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What an amazing write up! That's such a scenic journey, and some of those are postcard worthy clicks! That drive in a peppy Brio must have been a lot of fun!
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Old 10th October 2021, 19:27   #9
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Default Re: Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

Thanks for the lovely travelogue! Planning a trip this November with family to this place. JLR website now says the cost is more than Rs.2000 per person. Still worth it given your detailed review.

Regards,
lsjey
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Old 10th October 2021, 19:37   #10
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Default Re: Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

So finally you are back after a long break here! I guess TJet's gone and so is the Punto. The more powerful ones taken over the Garage I presume. But it was nice you took this peppy one out.

Some years back even we did this circuit but did not venture into Gopinatham. We visited a couple of dams the MM Hills temple and made our way back via the 6-lane.

Kollegal Hanur-MM Hill is a nice route to drive. Low on traffic and good on fun!
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Old 10th October 2021, 21:10   #11
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Default Re: Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

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Originally Posted by KarthikK View Post
That's all I had for this short little travelogue. Thanks for reading!
Lovely little travelogue, though the place looks a bit too off beat for my liking I'm sure you must have had fun getting there in the Brio. But please upload your monsoon ride travelogue asap!

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Originally Posted by Dr.AD View Post

Lovely picture of the Brio! deepfreak15's photography has that magic that makes cars look really great. I do not think I have seen a better photo of Brio than this one :-)
Aww shucks, You are way too kind!
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Old 11th October 2021, 11:37   #12
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Default Re: Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

Thanks for the travelogue Karthik, nice offbeat location!!

Hadn't noticed this property of JLR till your travelogue came. While checking out the details on their site, noticed that jeep safari was not mentioned in the itenary. Was it something that you took separately (paid activity) or added recently and yet to be updated online?
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Old 11th October 2021, 14:34   #13
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Originally Posted by vj_torqueaddict View Post
Nice! Glad to see price hasn’t changed much w.r.t tariffs. We had been in Feb-March this year, which I had shared here: https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...opinatham.html (Weekend getaway to Veerappan's birth place, Gopinatham)

However mine is not as detailed as yours. I for one loved the MM hills route hence took the same way back home as well. One of my friends went recently as well , he mentioned the place is gaining some popularity already.
Thanks for sharing this travelogue, vj_torqueaddict. Really nice to hear you took the MM hills road both ways. You're right the place is slowly gaining popularity, even on the weekend that I was visiting, there were another 5-6 cottages occupied (out of the 10 available)

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Originally Posted by Dr.AD View Post
Wow! A really top-class travelogue, KarthikK! Very detailed, with tons of useful information (as always with any of your threads!). Thank you for sharing this detailed travelogue.

Lovely off-beat location, enchanting roads, and great landscapes all around. I can imagine how much fun you had driving the Brio there. The photos are really fantastic, and makes one want to visit the place immediately. This is surely on my list now for future weekend drives.

Thanks for sharing this. This is an example of how informative your travelogues are. I will surely drive there some day for these idlis.
Thank you for those kind words AD Glad you liked it along with the details.

Quote:
Lovely picture of the Brio! deepfreak15's photography has that magic that makes cars look really great. I do not think I have seen a better photo of Brio than this one :-)
You bet!

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Originally Posted by Porcupine View Post
What an amazing write up! That's such a scenic journey, and some of those are postcard worthy clicks! That drive in a peppy Brio must have been a lot of fun!
Thanks a lot Porcupine, glad you liked it! Indeed the compact hatch is nice fun on slow and fast roads alike.

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Originally Posted by lsjey View Post
Thanks for the lovely travelogue! Planning a trip this November with family to this place. JLR website now says the cost is more than Rs.2000 per person. Still worth it given your detailed review.

Regards,
lsjey
Oh yes, I guess we got lucky with September discounts on the JLR website. Even at 2000+ it is still worth it I guess, as you said.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ampere View Post
So finally you are back after a long break here! I guess TJet's gone and so is the Punto. The more powerful ones taken over the Garage I presume. But it was nice you took this peppy one out.

Some years back even we did this circuit but did not venture into Gopinatham. We visited a couple of dams the MM Hills temple and made our way back via the 6-lane.

Kollegal Hanur-MM Hill is a nice route to drive. Low on traffic and good on fun!
Thanks a lot Ampere, glad to be back on this section ! As you said, the cute little hatch was just the recipe for fun on these narrow and winding roads. The traffic was so less sometimes we were the only vehicle on the road for the next 5-6 km.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deepfreak15 View Post
Lovely little travelogue, though the place looks a bit too off beat for my liking I'm sure you must have had fun getting there in the Brio. But please upload your monsoon ride travelogue asap!
Thanks a lot deepfreak15, it was fun indeed. Monsoon ride travelogue is on the anvil next and should be up in another week hopefully.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpksuhas View Post
Thanks for the travelogue Karthik, nice offbeat location!!

Hadn't noticed this property of JLR till your travelogue came. While checking out the details on their site, noticed that jeep safari was not mentioned in the itenary. Was it something that you took separately (paid activity) or added recently and yet to be updated online?
Thanks for your kind words Suhas. The itinerary on their site is slightly outdated, they started the jeep safari recently so they might not have updated that on the website. There were no extra charges for anything apart from the per-head all-inclusive cost that one pays.

The itinerary for us was something like this:

Day 1:
12 noon: Check in
1-2PM: Lunch
3.30-6PM: Jeep Safari
8-9PM: Dinner

Day 2:
5.45AM: Wake up call
6-8.30AM: Jungle hike / walk / trek
8.30-9AM: Coracle ride in Gopinatham lake
9-10AM: Breakfast
11AM: Check out and depart

For multi day stays, they mix and match the activities, repeating whatever we want on the second day and thereafter.

Last edited by KarthikK : 11th October 2021 at 14:40.
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Old 11th October 2021, 16:50   #14
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Default Re: Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

Thank you for this lovely and detailed travelogue.

I had never heard of Gopinatham (or perhaps it never registered) and it was always Sathyamangalam that came to mind when Veerappan was mentioned. Will definitely plan a visit here soon.
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Old 11th October 2021, 18:13   #15
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Default Re: Unraveling the mystery of Gopinatham Mystery Trails

It is not just Mystery Trail. For me, going through the travelogue is a memory trail also. In early 1980s travelled frequently in this area and Ajjanahalli across the river in Tamil Nadu to source black granite stones from the quarries there. By then Veerappan is just a name. Not so fearsome as in the later days. I left the Granite business in 1990. After 31 years, the travelogue made me to recall those days of wild travel.
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