For some its beaches, for some the mountains, most city weary traveller friends of mine have over the years found that one place which they call their true hideaway. A place where they can hear themselves think, a place of serenity and reflection. 10 Degrees Off is my special place.
Bandipur National Park, one of the most popular weekend destinations for the residents of Bangalore, is known for the incredible wildlife that it supports including magnificent tigers, leopards, Asiatic elephants, gaurs, dhole (wild dogs) and spotted deer. The park, covering a massive 874 square kilometers, is predominantly a dry deciduous forest.
The reserve forest that surrounds the main national park plays home to resorts like the Serai, Windflower, Dhole’s Den and a few others. Many of these are located about 4-5 kilometers off the main road that passes through the park. Most people who visit for weekends end up staying in one of these resorts and all of them assure you of a fantastic experience that includes a relaxed time, an unforgettable safari experience with the possibility of encountering the ever-so elusive tiger and comforts that set really high standards.
I have had the chance though to experience Bandipur, time and again, in a completely different way altogether. A friend of mine, Santosh, a known biker, traveller, an ex-river guide and founder of a few travel-based organizations like GetoffUrAss, PhotographyOnTheMove, Travellers Meet and the Motorcycle Travellers Meet, had built himself a dream getaway on a 3 acre site deep inside the Bandipur reserve forest. He named the property, 10 Degrees Off. A little after we met, in 2010, a few friends and I were invited by him to spend a weekend there.
I don’t know about the others, but the first visit itself had a profound influence on me. This was the first time that I had visited a place and had felt comfortable almost immediately. I knew this was going to be the first of many trysts that would gradually develop into a deep connection.
I have now visited the property many times over the past couple of years. Nestled in the shadow of a hill to its north-west and with the grand Nilgiris creating the perfect view to the south, the place has an energy that seems to wash all the weariness away and establishes a kind of therapeutic calm within me. Santosh, with great patience and perseverance, has spent many years carefully nurturing the property and I have been lucky enough to share the wonderful joy of seeing the place grow. Every time I visit, the trees seem to be taller and the house has slowly started merging with the beautiful landscape around it.
For company, you have chicken, birds splashing around in the bird baths, a few reptilian visitors and occasional sightings of elephant herds passing by on their way to the watering hole nearby. This beautiful place, also played home to Kencha, one of the friendliest and most affectionate dogs I have known and his beautiful girlfriend, Kenchi/Kaanchi. A dog with phenomenal personality, we lost Kencha recently to a suspected leopard attack recently. His presence most definitely added to the charm of the place and he will be missed.
Though in the words of Santosh, this place could only extend basic comfort, the caretaker Chandra and his family ensured that every need of mine was taken care of. The food is simple but absolutely delicious and the house isn’t fancy but guarantees warmth that you might find missing in resorts. Every now and then, Santosh would put in a bit of extra effort and make things special. Whether it was taking his friends to EP, the viewing point overlooking the plains, to spend a quiet evening or making beetroot halwa for dessert, he is a great host to his friends who have visited 10 Degrees Off. Having known him for some time now, I know for sure that he genuinely wants others to feel the same joy that he experiences when he spends time here.
All in all, with the rustic stone house, the comforting fire place, the verandah that has played such a generous host to the interesting conversations that friends have shared over a drink looking out into the horizon where the earth reaches out to touch the sky, the ledge around the tree allowing for those magnificent evenings under the dramatic purple twilight sky, 10 Degrees Off is that one place where nature plans every moment and detail just to make you feel good.
Here are a few photographs from my last visit to 10 Degrees Off, my perfect getaway.