July 03, 2007
Madhumalai in April
I took this picture from the car, as we drove up the Mysore-Ootacamund road. The first sights and sounds of the Bandipur/Madhumalai forest, even though it was very dry, were exciting. And to spot an elephant walking on the road or a bison suddenly cross the road before you are worth the effort one puts into travel.
There are plenty of guest houses in this area, and it was difficult to choose one. We found one on the internet – Forest Hills Farm and Guest House, off Masinagudi in Madhumalai (http://foresthillsindia.com/). A little distance after Masinagudi, we took a right turn from the main road (there are signboards) and then drove deep into what was actually the jungle. There were large patches of emptiness, and other guest houses here and there as we drove closer and closer to the Nilgiris. Then suddenly everything was green, as we neared Forest Hills Farm.
We did not quite like the idea of going to a place not ‘tested’ by someone known to us, but the place turned out to be great – very homely atmosphere, with the owners, the Jains, coming over to talk to each of their guests, a bonfire in the nights, table tennis, swings, trekking guides, friendly dogs...and the food! I would go back there just for the food…it is awesome! Not five-starish, but delicious in a homely kind of way; the menu as though lovingly planned out by the wife/mother for her family.
We saw animals on and off, on the main road as we drove up, and during the safari we took – peacocks, deer, langurs, a bison and a family of elephants (these belonged to the Forest department).
The trek was great fun, and a bit scary too. We first saw a family of wild pigs. Then as we walked along, we kept spotting elephant dung here and there...immediately arose the question in one’s mind, ‘if there is dung, can the elephant be far ahead'?! Much as we were animal lovers, the thought of coming face to face with an elephant in the wild was not too welcome.
Then we came to a water point…it was a gorge, green and shady, and since it had rained the previous night, there was a small trickle of water coming down the rocks. It was beautiful. We rested there for a while, taking in the fresh air and the quiet, and then began climbing up the rocks once again. And then, suddenly, a carcass of a bison all eaten up, the hide hollowed out, with just the head, horns, legs and hooves intact. Again the question, ‘if there is a carcass, can a tiger or a panther be far ahead’? Our guide gently told us that the bison must’ve been eaten by a tiger…that it could be around somewhere, but since tigers were shy animals, nothing to worry. What?!!
We trekked back, sweating it out as the sun went higher, seeing nothing else as exciting as the dead bison, but spotting a porcupine quill, animal scratch marks on a tree, a lot more elephant dung and yes, even tiger dung!
The elephants and the tigers were, however, far far away…I guess.