After yesterday’s events we decide to take it easy today and enjoy our surroundings. The Jungle Hut is very different from the Mysore Radisson, but now we’ve had a few hours to acclimatise we’re settling in to it.
It’s really quite a special place. Set a couple of miles off the Mysore-Ooty road, inside the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, and in the shadow of the majestic mountains that rise up to Ooty in the south, we feel a long way from civilisation as we know it. There’s a complete absence of traffic noise, but that doesn’t mean it’s quiet.
We are woken in the morning by the clattering of monkeys playing on the roof of our lodge. A group of them sit on the short path to breakfast, one mother with tiny baby clinging to her chest, swinging away as we approach. Around us, multi-coloured birds sing and chatter, and brightly patterned butterflies flutter by. It’s a constant backdrop of sound, but it’s deeply peace enhancing in its own way.
The restaurant area is open-fronted with a view towards our lodge. To the right, the mountains rise majestically, sometimes clouded, and ever changing as the light moves round during the day.
Breakfast is a simple buffet, with a choice of dosas, the small Indian pancakes available everywhere, and chutneys, salads and cooked dishes to accompany them, or cereals with milk, toast and marmalade, and fruit. We can order eggs or French toast but I stick with muesli – I’m not quite ready for morning curry just yet, but Sue opts for it and tells me it’s extremely mild and very tasty, a good start to the day.
Many of the visitors here come for safaris, bird or butterfly watching tours, and other guests arrive at breakfast armed with cameras long enough to spot wildlife on the surface of the moon. A board in the restaurant area lists various species with a date and location of where they were last seen, and among others it reveals sightings of elephants, gaur (Indian Bison), pangolin, porcupine, hyena, leopard and various types of deer. Heading the list, as we might expect, is the tiger. Apparently one was seen in October, a month or so ago.
There’s a comfortable open lounge area next to the restaurant, and we spend most of the day reading, talking and writing. Deer wander through the grounds, as do small wild boar that are common here. At one point we spot a mongoose scampering across the grounds. There’s a redheaded woodpecker in the tree, and then a rustle as a large Malabar squirrel makes its appearance, languidly moving from tree to tree, dark reddish brown with a bushy tail.
We walk to one of the large ponds, and fish flick the surface of the water whilst monkeys watch from the trees opposite. Colourful dragonflies flicker across the water. We can’t see any of the frogs that reign overnight with their calls out of all proportion to their size, but they are here sure enough.
In the late afternoon we find Biju, resting in his car, and he suggests a walk out of the grounds. There’s a Hindu temple a few yards away, painted in a myriad of colours as is the tradition here. We’re not allowed inside, but there are ladies around in elegant saris, tending the temple.
Biju tells us that the villagers meet here each morning to worship. A goat is killed and eaten together. “Here,” he says, pointing to ashes in a clearing by the temple walls, “is where the goat is cooked.” We walk a few yards further, and Biju points to some cords hanging from a nearby tree, each with a noose knotted in to it. “And here,” he explains, “is where the goat is hung to be skinned.” My suggestion to Sue that we come down here early tomorrow to watch the ceremony seems to fall on deaf ears.
After two full days here we’re really enjoying the Jungle Hut and will be sorry to leave this remarkable place tomorrow. But leave we must. We have a train to catch!