A night in the jungle
Nature and some great hospitality make Casa Deep Woods an ideal weekend retreat
PHOTOS K. ANANTHAN
TRUE SPIRIT When you stay at Casa Deep Woods, a bit of the jungle is sure to stay with you.
Some years ago, a software couple drove down to a resort in Masinagudi. Minutes after checking in, the wife rushed out of her room complaining: "What is a holiday without television and a telephone?" Dev Prasad Reddy, an architect and the Managing Director of Casa Deep Woods, asked her to rough it out just for a day in the jungle resort and see if she liked it. If not, he would not charge her. The couple stayed on.
Deep inside the forests of Mudumalai, all you can hear after dusk are whistling bamboo groves, shrieking langurs and the thud of elephants foraging for bamboo shoots. At Casa Deep Woods, which opens right into the forest, a herd of deer looking for a night's shelter and a hungry elephant have as much right of passage as a paying guest. "The jungle is theirs; we are the outsiders," say the Reddys.
Living in harmony
Dev and his wife Nagina, who has been in the hospitality business, believe in a no-fences policy.
And, they designed the cottages in such a manner that not a single tree was sacrificed. The six cottages (12 rooms) have been built in the clearings of bamboo groves at different levels and with enough space for the pachyderms to chew on bamboo and return to the jungle.
There are no doors to the reception area and the windows are thrown gloriously open to the forest. And, the elephants and deer seem to understand that they need not fear anything, and so they have never ever crossed the lawns or entered the tiled reception area and caused damage. With the exception of an enthusiastic gourmand elephant that has been bringing down the bamboo to get to the tender shoots. Other visitors include a Malabar squirrel, a hornbill, a long-tailed minivet and a wild boar. A jungle stream carrying water from Sholur babbles merrily along one end of the property, and serves as a waterhole for the animals.
You can spot them from your cottage or, if you are a little brave, drag a chair to the banks of the stream, sip tea and watch Nature's mysteries unfold.
Providing you company are 10 dogs that have strayed into Casa and made it their home. Frisky and Chintamani provide a few laughs while Boxie, the Reddy's boxer, garners sympathy, staring at you with her limpid eyes.
Five more rooms are being constructed and the owners plan to stop with that. The resort offers studio and luxury (with an open-to-the-sky bath) rooms and suites with a living room. Dev is an architect and his touch is evident in every corner. At night, the muted light from coloured Rajasthani handis fall on the Mangalore tiles of the reception roof and bounce back to the tiled floor. The furniture is bathed in warm red and black prints and tastefully arranged bric-a-brac add to the charm. Two paintings by the Reddys' 11-year-old son, Hersch, occupy pride of place on the walls.
To keep the place eco-friendly, they avoided using wood and opted for designer wrought iron furniture. Wooden and granite pillars from Chettinad add to the native touch.
The walls of the new section and the cutlery sport Toda motifs. The resort serves food cooked the homemade way. Three things are banned from the kitchen maida, ajinomoto and soda.
The food factor
They specialise in South and North Indian food, with most of the recipes coming from Nagina, a great cook herself. She has trained her cooks to use oil in moderation and has spiced up traditional dishes with a little imagination. How does gulab jamun with a dash of cinnamon and clove sound? Or gaajar ka halwa with just the goodness of carrots and a hint of sugar? The resort arranges for nature walks, an evening by the river and a jungle trek.
Trips are also organised to Ooty and Connoor. The rooms have no TV. And, guests are encouraged to eat in the dining hall so that they interact. And, if you love books, read on as you swing comfortably on the hammocks. Nagina says that there has been pressure from people to play music and have a dance floor, but she has stood firm. "Why come here if you are trying to replicate city life?" she asks.
How to go
Masinagudi is about 108 km from Mysore. Turn left just before Masinagudi and drive for about 3.8 km to reach Casa Deep Woods.
For weekends, it is Rs. 4,000 per couple in the American plan. The jungle plan, which includes a van safari in Mudumalai, a guided trek and a bonfire and barbeque, costs Rs. 5,000.
For bookings and tariff details, contact 080-25301794, 99456-09649 or 98440-09649, email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.indianjungle.com
SUBHA J. RAO
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