Dec 13, 2009

Bhadra - Muthodi & Sigekhan IB

Read the Part V here... 9th Oct 2009 - We compromised on the early morning boat ride at River Tern JLR so that we could reach the forest office at Chikmagalur early. Somehow we managed to get our booking shifted for the day to Muthodi and also reserve for the next day there. We also requested the person to formally complain to the DCF about the lack of services / facilities at Lakkavalli IB. We got the dormitory booked for 2 days at Muthodi Nature camp, Bhadra as the cottages were not available. Muthodi was high on our wishlist but somehow all plans had failed and this surprise addition was something to cheer about. We had to wait till afternoon for about 3 hours to get confirmation of the bookings (you know how government offices work!) and then after 2 sessions of lunch and brunch (because not sure of the food availability at Muthodi) at Chikmagalur, we proceeded towards Muthodi, Bhadra.The breezy ride of about 40 kms to Muthodi camp was nice through the ghat roads and multiple curves and a bit risky too as the roads are all quite narrow and the estate jeeps that ply travel at high speeds giving you no chance. At the checkpost, a mud road trail leads inside the Western ghats that needs to be taken to reach Muthodi. From here there are no roads but only mud rocky road and you have no option but to traverse very slow in your small car. Checked into our dormitory and we were bowled over by the campsite and the surroundings. Lush green cover everywhere, hint of rains, the fragnance eminating from the wet earth, call of the winged beauties all across, numerous insects and spiders, malabar squirrels wherever you see and hopes of encountering the big beasts... all made us think the effort taken in reaching here worthwile, in short we were in love with this wilderness! The Malabar Squirrel right next to our dormitory and the Garden Lizard (yet to confirm on this...) kept us busy for the next hour or so. Enquired about the facilities and were more than happy to hear about the resident cook availability and also about the safari rides in the Mahindra Pikup jeep conducted from there. Took the jeep ride at 4:30; it was an Mahindra Pickup open jeep with closed cabins for 5 people only. We four chose to stand behind in the open as that would offer good options for photography and that was a decisive decision taken. Just entering into the gate, a slow drizzle started and within the next couple of minutes the drizzle became a downpour and the downpour lasted the entire safari duration. We had packed off the cameras into the closed cabins for safety and we were here encountering heavy downpour even unable to open the eyes, lashing branches from both sides, shivering bodies, wet to the core and the last piece of cloth and no wonder the whole safari ride was just an formality and the experience is sure to last in our memories for a lifetime! As we started approaching the exit gate, the rains stopped and thats how our luck is!?! Back to the dormitory, dried up and with some good hot tea, the light started to fizzle out quite fast is was dark soon. To pick up few groceries we alongwith a local person had to drive to the nearest village some 5kms away. On the way a Barn Owl greeted us sitting right in the middle of the road and flew away as soon as the car headlight flashed on it. Back again and after a nice dinner and nothing else to do, it was time to retire for the night.

The accommodation options at Muthodi Nature camp are good and cozy with individual cottages, tented cottages and the dormitories being available.

10th Oct 2009 - Being in a jungle and the safari ride is the first thing we do in the morning. Again took the 7.30am safari again standing in the open and were greeted by a Brown Fish Owl roosting on a tree nearby. Indian gaur herd, Barking deer were all that we got to see.

...after the safari, breakfast, freshned up and then were wondering what to do? Jungle trek was another option but somehow we decided against it and instead thought of walking all the way up to the Sighekhan IB, a good 3kms uphill walk. The winding elevated roads was a good path to walk along listening to the chirping birds and nothing else (not a soul around) and the road just goes into one corner, and then another, and then one more, and on and on and on...

Taking breaks, shooting the biggy spiders along the way and chatting, guru and raja drifted ahead and me and nag were trailing behind. At an uphill turn when I was busy shooting an spidey web, the boys Raja and Guru who were ahead came running downhill, stopped near us, took a breath and blurted out "Wild Dogs" ahead...!?! At the next corner they had spotted at first 1 or 2 dogs chasing a wild jungle fowl but later saw one by one, a pack of them coming downhill right straight on to the path where we were walkin up. After they were confirmed it was wild dogs, they started running and from there literally we ran downhill for about 2kms that we had covered walking up so far, and till we felt we would probably be safe from their mighty jaws. Wild dogs are not known to attack humans and they drift away but in such a situation, our minds went blank and the first thought in our minds was "Run" (its a human tendency to Run whenever in danger...) But we wanted to see the Sighekhan IB and with no stamina nor guts to walk up again, we took the car this time all the way up till the Sighekhan Inspection Bungalow.

Wow! the forest view from here is just amazing and all that you see is the green all around and nothing else in sight. The sunrise and sunset are sure a show stopper from here. Birdlife is in abundance and occassionally few sightings of the wild canines here and there. If you are on a visit to Muthodi, one should definitely not miss visiting the Sighekhan IB and enjoy the serendipity nature offers here. The bungalow is and old structure and the garden here is very well maintained by the gardeners some 2-3 people in succession.

As we drove down, the Malabar Giant Squirrel was reluctant to leave us and we got some good sightings of this shy creature. The evening safari too was dry except for the Indian Gaurs and Barking deer. Another day, some body shivering experience and we live to tell a tale :)

11th Oct 2009 - The last day of our Karnataka Anveshane II and we were quite slow in getting up and readying to get back home. After nearly 10 nights and 10 days we would be going back home traversing another 1900 kms in my Alto but loaded with lots of adventure tales, experiences, learnings, discoveries, viewing the natural wonders and lots more...
Well, Basur Kaval and the final thoughs in the last part!
Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Lakkavalli IB (Bhadra) - River Tern JLR

Read the Part IV here
7th Oct 2009 - From Agumbe, we had no idea on how to approach Lakkavalli. Finally after intensive searching on the net, we stumbled upon a route mentioned in the team bhp forum for whom we are grateful to. The route goes like this to reach Lakkavalli from Udupi side… About 27-28kms from Thirthahalli, you approach a small village Muduba. Turn right into the forest gate here, half a km later turn left and you will reach Muthinakoppa within 4kms. At Muthinakoppa at the T junction, turn left towards Umblebail which is 16kms away. At Umblebail, turn right at the circle (directions shown here) towards Lakkavalli, that is 18kms away. After crossing Kuvempu University and Bhadra Dam, you find a small circle wherein you need to turn right and reach the security gate. Further inside you need to traverse up the hillock (mud road) to reach the IB that is located at the height on the hillock.
Proceeding straight ahead from the circle and turning right at the dead end and following the signboards will lead you to River Tern Jungle Lodges Resort located on the banks of Bhadra.The road conditions were bad, good only on some stretches from Muduba right up to Lakkavalli. On persistent enquiry for booking at Muthodi, we were offered a hall here at Lakkavalli IB. What we assumed that either Muthodi or Lakkavalli, being close to the forests was all that we wanted. So as we approached Lakkavalli village, we were wondering where this IB is in the humane jungle out there. Finally it took some time for us to realize that in the premises of Bhadra dam, atop the hill, adjacent to the human settlement was the IB located, and yes no forests around close by!!! As the Kuvempu University is located very close by and hordes of students visit there and so is the frequency of the local buses that traverse to and fro from Shimogga town.
We reached the IB to find nobody around and the place locked! We were not very impressed at where we had reached but still seeing the immediate surroundings somehow consoled ourselves. Another setback was that the resident cook was away and we had to go without food or survive on what we would find in the nearby hotels some kms away! That really got on to our heads and we started arguing with the person who opened the doors for us, but what's the use? We were already hungry tired of the driving and the hot sun and no food here too, we had to drive back to the town near the university searching for food and we had no choice but to gobble up what ever was served there!! Ok our next action was on what to do for the safari, we drove up till the forest office to be answered in the same old rude fashion - No safari here, we have no jeeps, who told you?!? Ridiculous! and still we are projected as a good tourist destination!!! Horrendous!! and we were suggested to go the Jungle Lodges River Tern resort for the safari! If everyone could afford to go to Jungle Lodges, would India still be a developing country?
<--- Small Minivet male - Lakkavalli IB --->
Left with no choice we went in search of the River Tern resort that we found out quite comfortably but the only glitch is in the approach road is in pathetic condition but signboards are put up for easy directions. The concept of Jungle Lodges is unique and refreshing too.. comparing the callous attitude of the people at the forest office, here you are welcomed with hospitality and politeness that brings a smile to your face! Spoke to the manager there and booked a jeep safari for the next day morning. As the sun was rapidly going down, we rushed back to near the Ib to watch the sun going down. The location was wonderful with vast views of the horizon but the clouds appeared from nowhere to block the sun from seeing us, and we had to be content with only the diminishing rays on the horizon. To the right of the IB there is a helipad constructed for visiting officials and ministers but what stuck us so bad was there was absoulutely no security around.The first time during daytime when we entered, we had to sign in the register and the watcher told after 7pm there will be nobody to check and thats true as we found out later. Literally anybody could drive in and drive out and also reach the helipad, and also get a good view from the bridge constructed near the IB. Ridiculous again!! and we speak about security being beefed up at all the major dams?
The blowing wind with the chillness in the air soothed our minds to an extent and again we drove out hunting for dinner. Time for few gulps for the boys, dinner at a dhaba and we came back to rest for the night. With the pleasant weather nobody was in a mood to lie down and so started our chatting and sms reading that went on and on! The accomodation was comfortable, we had got a big hall all for ourselves with cozy beds and hot water was too available anytime in the day. So atleast we were happy in that regard and luckily no mosquitoes, thank god! This was our day 1 at the Lakkavalli IB.
Day 2 - We were up early by 6 to go to the safari, got ready and reached the JLR camp by 6.45 to be served hot tea and biscuits that we sorely missed all along. We had to wait another big group to get ready as we would be sharing vehicles with them. We were happy with the back elevated seats that gave us a good view of the outside world. The jungles of Bhadra have their own charm, relative to either Bandipur or Nagarahole here its quite dense and thick and spotting mammals is itself a lucky find. Even deers are hard to spot amongst the dense growth all around. The ride is for a hour and a half and some routes were closed because of the rains over the last week. No luck in spotting the biggies even elephants too and we stumbled upon the chital, sambar and barking deers only. Birdlife was active but spotting them amidst the dense forests was next to impossible. Halfway in the safari ride we reached the "Sukhlahatti Inspection Bungalow / FRh" that is over a 100 years old and used by the forest department for patrol activities and leisure. The location of the IB is just perfect if you want to escape the normal world, nothing except greenery all around, you get to hear no sound except the birds and the animals, the air is pollutant free and is very refreshing, the sun goes down and you have nothing else to do other than sleep, Birdlife in plenty and all that you do is just laze around!
We came back from the safari, had another cup of tea and then me and guru went around the campus investigating. Birdlife was plenty here too and walking down the stairs we reached the bridge across the Bhadra that leads to another hillock where there are log huts owned by the Jungle Lodges and that place is just amazing to stay, its like staying on an island surrounded by water all around, the explanation is best left to your imagination! We again booked ourselves for the evening safari at JLR and then on the way back had lunch and with no intention of resting, me and guru went around birding and got quite a handful of them in the surroundings that too late in the afternoon. The evening safari was more or less the same as experienced in the morning, this time the jeep was all ours and the Monitor Lizard, Elephants, Indian Gaur made their presence felt.
The evening routine repeated viewing the sunset with the distracting clouds again from the JLR campus itself and then back to the IB. In the meanwhile, early in the afternoon we called up the Chikmagalur forest office and requested the person there to shift our next day booking to Muthodi and if possible extend it for another day as there were no facilities here and we were truely facing hard times for food and spending a lot on the expensive safari rides. Luckily he obliged and asked us to come to Chikmagalur office and collect the revised slips and proceed to Muthodi from there, this meant we had to now travel round about another 100 odd kms to reach Muthodi that would otherwise be just around 40 odd kms. We just were waiting for this silver lining and not intending to waste another day here agreed instantly. Our next days plan for a early morning boat ride got cancelled in our minds immediately and decided to leave to Chikmagalur early in the day. Dinner and an early sleep with the enthusiasm of visiting Muthodi the next day. In the meanwhile birding on this day was good at Lakkavalli IB with sights of Asian Paradise flycatcher, Small Minivets (male and female), Asian brown flycatcher, Bulbuls, Oriental white eye, Golden fronted Leafbird, Parakeets and the highlight being the very co-operative Eurasian Golden Oriole perched right in front of our balcony. During the winter, the banks of the Jungle Lodges River Tern resort is full of the migrant River Terns all around and is sure a treat to watch. End of day 2 and last day at Lakkavalli reducing our stay from 3 days to 2 because of lack of facilities.
The next Part here...
Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Dec 11, 2009


Read Part III here...

6th Oct 2009 - Early up from Sirsi and after a heavy breakfast, we proceeded towards Yana, our next destination... the weather was still with no signs of immediate rain, early morning chillness and a perfect ambience created. Well there are 2 routes to Yana from Sirsi, one is on the Sirsi Kumta highway route and another through country roads. We preferred the country roads as the Kumta highway is in a mess. Our choice was perfect as there was hardly any traffic early in the day, beautiful weather and we could cover the 60 odd kms in no time... The bad thing that set me back was the construction of roads at almost till near Yana. Where once we used to walk for 3-4 kms among the dense forests was now a tar road going uphill and downhill (the tar was actually coming of and gravel visible on the roads) and at some places passing through the trees leaning dangerously on to the roads scaring us and with no soul all around! All along Magod and now here to Yana we saw numerous places of landslide areas where previously (just couple of days back) landslides had occured due to the heavy rains that also scared us out of our wits. The main thing being as soon as we were nearing Yana, the rain gods opened up persistently showering on us. Reaching a dead end where a gate is located indicates the place from where one needs to walk to reach the mammoth rock formations. Covering ourselves as well as our cameras we started walking along the path leading to the shikara's and the temple there.The mild drizzle started to turn heavy and finally downpour as we wer all caught in a helpless situation and with no option but to get wet. I was rueing our luck all along, coming all the way from Bengaluru to be here, standing in front of the imposing shikara's, cameras ready in our hands... but unable to shoot... because of the rains... and to our dismay the temple at the foothill was locked still (it was probably 10am). Waiting for some time under the shelter of the temple at the foothills of the imposing Bhairava Shikara, trying to capture the Mohini Shikara that is on the opposite side of the main Shikara, we decided to take a walk around the cave. There is a way around that cuts in between Bhairava Shikara and goes around like a circle rounding off the imposing rock. The entire route is infested with bats and use of flash is ideally not advised. Well the last time here I literally had ran around the path as it was literally blowing hot in the summer and very tiring, but this time the other extreme. No idea when will i be there at the right time!?!Legends are that these rocks are attributed to killing of Bhasmasura by Mohini (not divulging into details as many sites carry this info). The two important peaks here are the Bhairava Shikara and the Mohini Shikara that face each other. Bhairava Shikara is the tallest at 120 mtrs and Mohini Shikara slightly shorter at 90mtrs. They are solid composition of black crystalline limestone. These have withstood the forces of nature for centuries and is still a mystery as to how they are here in midst of the forest. Annual fair / jatre happens during Shivaratri here and thousands of people descend at that time. I still recollect the saying "Rokkiddare Gokarna, Sokkiddare Yana" - that meant the rich visit the easier gokarna and the fit to the more difficult Yana, but unfortunately as we go on destroying everything in the name of "development", reaching Yana is no more a struggle as the tar roads have made their presence felt and the approach easier.

I remember this being my 3rd or 4th visit here, but still not yet explored this place completely. Its possible to reach the base of Mohini Shikara and do some rock climbing and cave exploring activities. Vibhuti falls is just few kms away from here and worth a visit and having a SUV would help in reaching there. The route from Kumta highway and the walk from there leads through Mohini Shikara first and ending at Bhairava Shikara and currently today one needs to walk more in this route for about 3-4 kms. Plans for camping & exploring out here next time is already in my head chewing my brains!!! Well, after some photoshoot and the rains slowing down a bit, we decided to leave as we didnt want to get stuck in any form of road blocks due to rain (tree falls, landslides...). One the way back we tried to traverse the path on to Vibuthi falls but came back halfway as the road was too tough for my Alto to handle. Well, there's always a next time and with that we proceeded to our next destination Jog (yes again!)! Another long time wish fulfilled of re-visiting Yana once again probably after 8 long years! From here via Siddapur we just thought of checking the "world famous" Jog falls as we were very close by and also because of the incessant rains over the past few days. We were not sure of how good Jog would be, but one thing for sure is its expensive - entry fees - parking fees - what all and finally you get to see water dripping at its weakest and thinnest form!!! There is an alternate place to view the mighty Jog where entry is surprisingly free! While coming from Sagar town, going ahead passing the bridge that leads to Jog, a km down the line, a small deviation goes uphill to the left towards the government IB from where the Jog can be seen from the side and also one can walk up to the "Mungaru Male" point, i.e., the edge of the falls from where water plunges down 829ft! Scary isnt it! As expected, still inspite of good rains, Jog wore a sore sight with the water level just about better than last year but nowhere close to its glorious form seen during the monsoons! So a quick small photoshoot and we were off again bypassing the main entrance. The route from Siddapur joins the Bangalore-Honnavar highway after the Jog crossing and one needs to drive back a little to see the falls. From here we traversed along Sagara-Ripponpet-Thirthahalli and on to Agumbe bypassing Sringeri after a heavy lunch at Thirthahalli. We had just planned a 1 night stay at Agumbe at "Doddamane" run by Kasturi Akka or Kasturi Ajji - 08181-233075 -as people lovingly call her. Let me inform you this is not an IB or a guest house, its more of an homestay concept run by her family since 60 odd years mainly providing food and place to rest for the trekkers who visit Agumbe as there are hardly any hotels in this small town. The only other alternative of stay at Agumbe is at the lone hotel opposite the bus stand "Mallya Residency" - 08181-233042; 9448759363; 9448814187. As we were under the impression that this was an IB, we landed at the wrong place where the army were camping, drove inside a barricaded area, were surrounded by about 15 odd dogs and high beam torch weilding army men and few more moments, we would have been fired upon! OMG! Yes we tresspassed into the IB that is now defunct (or given to the army for patrolling / combing operations) as Agumbe / Sringeri is a Naxal infested area. Luckily one of them told the Kasturi Akka's house is down the lane over the corner and smilingly told - if you had come like this after 10 pm, you would have been gunned down, lucky people!!! A lucky escape!The first sight of the house made us exclaim Wow! A century old bungalow on the main road, actually we passed by but could not recognize it the first time. We were greeted by Kasturi Akka and her mother (who surprisingly is so active at her old age!) and immediately floored by her politeness and hospitality. Nag knowing Konkani immediately stuck a chord and they started off conversing as we were sheepishly looking not able to understand what was going on. Next was the enquiry on where could we visit the next half day and ended deciding to visit the "Kundadri betta" for sunrise and if possible trek to Barkana. Their house is an old bungalow and it had all the grandeurs of which an house used to be built half a century ago! The pillars, the roof, the carvings, the doors, flooring all masterpieces that we can only dream of today and would need to spend a fortune to build. 7th Oct 2009 - Early to bed, early to rise, we were up by 6am, got ready and started off towards Kundadri betta, the place from where you get good sights only if the sky is clear! Kundadri betta is about 12 kms from Agumbe (ie you reach Kundadri betta cross before Agumbe while coming from Thirthahalli). We drove along slowly engaging the hair pin bends and the steep climb upwards, taking in the cool breeze and we were the only souls at the top. From the parking place, there are stairs leading to the top of the cliff (about 50 odd steps) where is an old Jain temple and it offers breath taking view of the Western ghats. The mist cover was too heavy and visibility was too low, albeit too low are there was no signs of visibility getting better or the skies clearing up. We came down and waited for some more time, again walked up, still there was absolutely no change in the weather conditions. Finally we drove down to Agumbe and straight ahead to the "Sunset point".Wonder what we wanted by visiting the Sunset point in the morning? actually we wanted to see the valley view from there and sight that beckoned us was simply mindblowing! It was just the green cover all around as far as you could see with multiple hillocks at the far end and crystal clear sky with foams of crisp white clouds dotting the blue sky here and there. The view was least to say very soothing and the weather too was perfect and our inner joy had no bounds. We stayed quite long there just absorbing in the beauty the place had to offer till a large noisy group came and disturbed our peace! Then, time to leave, we came back to Doddmane, freshned up, ate the lovely Dosa's prepared with honey and chutni to our stomach's full. Well the best part about Doddmane or Kasturi ajji is that she serves food to everyone by calling out their names and the work she does at her age is worth par description. We can just say from the bottom of her heart "Thank You" will utmost gratitude. Another main point is that you are not charged any fixed amount for the stay and food and you are given the option of paying as per your wish! Well, thats something in a rarity itself that you hardly get to see anywhere as its money that speaks everywhere! Well, Long live Kasturi akka /ajji, Long live Doddamane!!!

Our next destination was Lakkavalli IB on the banks of Bhadra dam for the next few days. All that and more in the next part!

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Dec 9, 2009

Yellapur - Magod falls - Jenukal gudda - Sirsi

Read the Part II here...
5th Oct 2009 - After a lovely stay @ Ganeshgudi JLR camp for 2 nights, and after a heavy breakfast, we left by 11:30 am towards Yellapur. No signs of rains so far!!! We went through a different route (will specify later) driving slowly through the narrow winding roads. In between at around 2 pm while passing by vineyards we noticed a small mammal coming out of the bushes and onto the road - took some seconds to realize that was a jackal there!!! He hardly stared at us for a few seconds and vanished back behind the vines. Moving vehicle and sudden chaos resulted in blurred pictures. Whan an oppurtunity we missed! We trailed him for a few minutes and lost track of him as he moved deeper inside. With the hope of him coming back we halted there for some more time while birding in the meantime.
Bay backed shrike; Red whiskered bulbul; Raquet tailed drongo; Orange Minivets; Velvet fronted nuthatch; Asian brown flycatcher were some that we spotted along the roadside.
Reached Yellapur and after a heavy lunch and filling up petrol we moved towards Magod falls. Last time it was pretty dark when we were here and this time we ensured we would be there when there is still light. On the way we saw a deviation board saying "Jenukal gudda" view point - 12kms and that made us think why not deviate as we had enough time for the light to go down and why miss it when being so close! The 12kms road was a mix of tar, mud, stones, potholes and what not! At some places I wondered is this a road as it looked sandwiched b/w shrubs and hardly one vehicle could pass at a time. Passing through all this, we reached a dead end and just alighting a few steps down from there, we were surprised at what we saw!
---> its Jenukal and not Karikal gudda as mentioned on the picture above <---
A huge gorge stretching miles everywhere you see sandwiched between two hillocks and the Magod river flowing in between. The sun in the lower horizon made it all the more beautiful with shadows cast on the surroundings. We misread the direction board as Jenukal falls and were literally searching for the falls and the same was recorded in our video too. The valley view setting looked straigt out from the Amazon valley itself. It was indeed a good spot we chose to deviate and the complete sunset view from here would be nothing less than magical for sure!
From there, via the shortcut route we reached Magod falls (this time the tar from the roads were peeling off.. atleast we were happy the tar stood still for 1 whole year!). The ambience, settings, surroundings, weather - nothing had changed compared to our previous visit and we got a chance to view this magnificient falls in all might and glory. Due to incessant rains over the last week, the falls was in its full glory and the beauty cannot be written down here but only seen and enjoyed! All through I was busy with my camera trying different perspectives and settings (I still have a long way to go...), the slow shutter speed snaps have gone for a toss, courtesy my shaking hands.. but still managed few good shots of the Magod! Another wish fulfilled finally There is an IB here, and accommodation was available, but due to lack of time we had to reach sirsi as per schedule to ease our plans for the next day. The sunset view from here was too amazing watching the sun go down over the hillock through the thick forest growth at Magod!
From here our destination was Sirsi (via the same shortcut road that we took last time); and my goodness the roads are still bad (thankfully not worse) and stopping over at the Fridge bonda hotel (unluckily no fridge bonda this time) we reached Sirsi by 8pm and checked in to the same hotel "Samrat Guest House" (08384 - 236278 / 236479 / 234898) as the previous year. Light drizzle started off making us wonder what would be the conditions tomorrow as Yana was our next target?
Well, Yana and Agumbe in Part IV... Read on...
Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Nov 29, 2009

Around Karnataka - 2009 - Preparation & Dandeli

Well...well... It was a coupe pulled off travelling for about 10 days around Karnataka in 2 consecutive years! All credit to my friends Raja, Guru and Nag who were the partners this time too... Well, this time rains shadowed half of our expedition, and more so this time around we had chosen very few locations but spending lots of time at each place... so there was no hurry in covering places and we had all the time to keep ourselves relaxed and enjoy every moment there! We had taken precautions to avoid few mistakes that happenned during last year's trip, this time Guru volunteered to get bookings done at Dandeli / Muthodi and Kemmangundi. But alas 2 days prior to our departure, he informed "Maga - Baibeda - ellu booking agilla" antha... !!??@#@#??!! Last minute glitches and heavy unbearable pressures on the mind - Leaves are all approved, plans are ready, everyone is in, permission granted at homes and now suddenly - No bookings done!!! OMG! Well, things do happen... and Lakkavalli / Ganeshgudi were the substitutes for Kulgi camp / Dandeli / Karwar / Kudremukha... and we were ready for our next jolt! Guru said he cant join us on the D-day. !!??@#@#??!! Finally convinced him and he convinced his boss and was agreed that he would be joining us 1 day later on Sunday morning at Dandeli! Better late than Never! Finally our plan was freezed as below: Bengaluru-Dandeli-Ganeshgudi-Magod falls-Sirsi-Yana-Agumbe-Lakkavalli-Basur Kaval-Bengaluru.
...but finally what we did was... Bengaluru-Ranebennur Blackbuck sanctuary-Dandeli-Ganeshgudi-Yellapura-Jenukal gudda viewpoint-Magod falls-Sirsi-Yana-Agumbe-Lakkavalli-Muthodi-Basur Kaval-Bengaluru.
The news of rains was slowly dripping in as we made preparations for the trip ahead..., the rains being a cause for concern at homes and finally on the night of 1st Oct 2009 at around 9pm, me raja and nag left bangalore on another expedition with guru set to join us the on 3rd in dandeli. Rains started off as we started to move out of Bangalore and it poured, poured like never before and reaching Yeshwanthpur junction to pick up Nag and then crossing Nelamangala took the energy out of me and I was damn to tired all because of the stress, rains, traffic, jams and the clock showing as 1am! Somehow I could manage till Sira, then realizing needed a break with the rains still pouring heavily, we just parked on the roadside and slept!!! I woke up only a good 2 hours later, with the rains just subsiding, allowing us to proceed ahead. The highway roads halfway were good, some places bad, some worse and with the rains intermittently plying, this was a slow, cautious drive!
As we approached Ranebennur, signs of the repeating Blackbuck sanctuary singboards just ahead just ahead made us take a detour to get in a quick visit there. (For those who dont know, Ranebennur Blackbuck sanctuary is the largest Blackbuck reserve in Karnataka). Well we were greeted to locked gates at 10am... we just jumped inside as the bird life was very inviting and took a short walk down the alley.
1.Lots of Hoopoe 2.Jungle Babblers 3.Racket tailed drongo 4.Spotted Dove 5.Bay backed shrike 6.Sunbirds 7.Bay backed Shrike 8.Brahminy Starling 9.Bushchats kept us company all along ....with hungry people on board :), it was a sure stop at Ranebennur to refuel our stomachs as the sun was also up and the destination still far away. The journey started again and still the rain gods were reluctant to leave and as we were nearing dandeli, i was feeling the tiredness now...! Raja took over the seat, rains started pouring again, and finally we managed to reach Dandeli town by 1pm. 15+ hours of journey in my Alto and we were tired(without doing anything!!!).
Next we booked a room at "State Lodge" right opposite to the bus stand, that was quite famous on the net as the best option for lodging here(Well we spotted quite a few lodges around but didn't explore them), so not a problem finding accomodation at Dandeli is the end quote. Made enquiries about the safari, timber yard, and hotels around, made our plans for the next day morning, booked for a safari early next morning and then planned for a visit to the Timber Yard (timber depot or the Forest office) nearby. Rains were merciless, so stayed indoors after food and was shocked by the news on tv at the magnitude of devastation at Mantralayam, Raichur, Gulbarga, Bijapur and other places due to the floods.
3rd Oct 2009 - The weather was still playing traunt as we left for the safari at 6am. For the safari ride, all jeeps have to pay the entrance and register at Anshi office (by this we got a chance to see the Anshi camp - next time will be there!). The safari was a very wet ride because of the rains and we were taken to the viewpoint inside the sanctuary area, from where sunrise is visible!!! All mist, mist and rains, no signs of wildlife at all. After a 2.5 hour drive, we were back at Dandeli town to find Guru waiting for us there. Nice to see him join the gang!
Then breakfast time and we decided to see the Timber yard area as we didnt want to miss it, the rains had subdued a bit, but still overcast! Inside the campus, past the forest offices, we parked our car near the 4 road junction and started walking. Hornbills was our sole intention and still we got to see the Hill Mynah, Brahminy Kites, a lone unidentified raptor (should be a Crested Hawk Eagle), Yellow Wagtails and the Malabar Giant Squirrel but no signs of the Hornbill! After a long walk of about 90 minutes amongst the timber trees and wild bushes we were back to the car and ready to leave when just heard some noises above us to spot the hornbills fly above! Relief! Ran behind them chasing till they roosted on the trees - they were not at all comfortable with us in their sights and constantly moved around keeping a safe distance from us. Still we managed a few shots that made us happy amongst the dull weather and something to cheer from Dandeli. From here we moved to Ganeshgudi JLR Old Magazine camp where our booking for the next 2 days was done! Well thats in part 2 of our long trip... Read it here
Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Oct 28, 2009

Ganeshgudi - JLR Old Magazine House camp

Read the Part I here... Ganeshgudi – A wonderful getaway place

A place we would have rued missing. As per our Anveshane II plans, Ganeshgudi was not even in our thinking, but last minute glitches made me call JLR and enquiring for bookings at Ganeshgudi JLR. As we were / are budget conscious and Ganeshgudi is the only place where dormitory bookings are available we booked four beds for 2 nights at 900/- per person through the online booking portal

We were 4 of us travelling in our Alto car and the previous day we checked into State lodge @ Dandeli town with the intention of safari / bird watching there. Rains throughout the day marred our plans; still we did some birding @ the department Timber Yard (Forest office) and also the safari in the Dandeli Anshi Tiger reserve irrespective of the rains. Hornbills were a pleasure to watch in the timber yard but no sightings in the reserve, only rains and rains.

3rd Oct 2009 - We checked in to Jungle lodges at Ganeshgudi after driving the 35 odd kms from Dandeli, the road stretch was ok if not great! The place, environment, surroundings cast a spell on us as soon as we landed there and the warm welcome extended spiced up our moods to no end. Being a weekend the bookings were full and ours were the last 4 beds booked there. Rains were plying intermittently with no respite and instantly we decided on relaxing and enjoying if the same weather continued, meanwhile we were getting news of floods marooning Karnataka which was a worrying factor.

After a heavy tasty lunch, birding was the only activity we did around the place carrying an umbrella wherever we went. We walked around the place and on to the main road till we were tired and got some good shots of the sunbird couple over there. Evening time it was a good meeting over tea with few of the other nature lovers who were camping there and exchanges of ideas on photography tips and bird ID’s. The Black Panther sighting was the hot topic for discussion. In this camp, Tarantula giant spiders (I hope the naming is right) and a Scorpion family are residents near to the walk way and they are primarily nocturnal. So carrying a huge torch, using the flash and capturing them on the cameras was the routine in the evenings. The aura is such that after 6 pm, it gets so dark and with absolutely no vehicular movement to disturb your ears, and as we are been used to honking and traffic all day, you feel like you are in heaven! The day ends by 6pm when darkness engulfs and there is nothing to do except gulping down KF or savage on the dinner served.

--> Tarantula spider above; Scorpion below <--

4th Oct 2009 - eventful day – The rains had slightly let up in the morning after lavishing the entire night and we could see the bright sun poking in between the trees assuring us of some bright day and time for activities. We drove till the bridge across the Supa River for some bird watching (mainly for the hornbills) and yes we got to see the Malabar Pied flying just above our heads crossing the stream. The big Black Eagle too made its presence felt with a distant sighting only. Near the bridge, there is a small path leading to the rafting point through an estate, we just walked through the path for some distance and birding was very eventful there with many to see and lots to hear.

--> Fairy Blue Bird above; Malabar Pied Hornbill below <--

We rushed back for the breakfast (how can we ever miss it) and all the other guests were leaving, and so @ lunch time, we only 4 of us were there as guests (Also new bookings for the day was cancelled because of the incessant rains and floods that was creating havoc everywhere). With nothing to do, we chose to walk or rather trek around the JLR camp on a path nonexistent with the able guidance of the JLR staff Joma. He was such a wonderful person having a keen interest in bird watching, guiding and helping us all along the way. Salutes to the senior citizen!

--> Yellow browed Bulbul above <--

At his age he was so agile and full of zeal and enthusiasm and he could quickly spot the birds hearing the calls among the greens with precision and we would just be searching where where! May his tribe increase and wish to have more of his guidance and expertise on our next visit to Ganeshgudi. Again heavy meal and some rest, later in the evening we went near the Supa dam area and walked around the banks for some good Hornbill sightings. But rains, rains and rains marred our plans, still we walked around the banks and finally came back retiring for the day. Around the campus are, the Malabar Whistling Thrush was stalking me through the evening but unfortunately never ever got to see it!

5th Oct 2009 - The last half a day at this wonderful place and we were already convinced we had to be here back soon. Our initial idea of Rafting at Ganeshgudi was out of the window because of rains and water not being released from the Supa dam. Birding in the rain was not that fun as they tend not to come out and managing your cameras and umbrella together is a tough task, and the happiest ones are the leeches who relish rains and they are practically everywhere. After a good hot cup of tea we chose to be driven to the backwaters and the viewpoint nearby. One of the viewpoints is on the roadside that offers an endless view of the water everywhere, and we got to know that 4 rivers join into the backwaters. Supa dam is the second largest in the state and has got a huge catchment area of 1057 sq. kms and it serves as a storage area for 4 other dams constructed at lower heights. So water is released only when the 4 dams need them and rafting is possible only then! Being adventurous we chose to walk amidst the dense growth to a watch tower in the middle of nowhere overlooking the backwaters. The sight was simply amazing, greenery all along one side and water on the other as far as you can see. Leeches, Wood spiders and many others were present all along the way and it was a good walk amongst the dense Western Ghats range.

Came back and were treated to a royal mouth watering breakfast and later we bid goodbye to the team who were so courteous, generous and hospitable. But one thought that ringed through my mind all along was – Why are there no dormitories in other JLR properties? Thanks to Joma, Pundalik, Praveen, Mohan (regret I can’t recollect all the names!) for making our stay a memorable one.

The list of our sightings went something like this…1.Malabar Pied Hornbill 2.Malabar Trogan 3.Malabar Whistling thrush (only calls) 4.Indian Grey Hornbill 5.Purple Rumped Sunbird 6.Loten’s Sunbird 7.White Cheeked Barbet 8.Orange Minivets 9.Racket tailed Drongo 10.Rose ringed Parakeet 11.Weaver bird 12.Golden Flameback Woodpecker 13.Green Pigeon 14.Indian Robin 15.Brahminy Kite 16.Black Eagle 17.Yellow Wagtail 18.Golden fronted Leafbird 19.Oriental white eye 20.Heart spotted Woodpecker 21.White breasted Kingfisher 22.Swift 23.Red Whiskered Bulbul 24.Tarantula spider 25.Scorpion 26.Yellow browed Bulbul 27.Fairy Bluebird 28.Giant Wood Spiders and more...

Part III continued here...

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!