Jan 31, 2009

Bangalore Bird Race 2009

Check this article by INWian Deepa Mohan about the HSBC Bangalore Bird Race 2009 event that happenned in Bangalore on 11 January 2009. http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/view/758-bird-race-bangalore-2009?page=1 An article in Times of India Bangalore newspaper edition dated 19-01-09. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Bangalore/Birdwatchers_race_to_spot_city_fauna/articleshow/3998482.cms FAQ's:

1.What is Bird Race all about?

Its an event conducted by the India Bird Races supported by HSBC bank where teams of bird watchers will spend entire day birding in and around like Bangalore city (with a geographical limit)

2.What is the purpose?

To initiate more people into bird watching, a chance for the beginners to learn finer points with the experienced and the experts and to identify the region's birdlife and build help supporting nature and conservation.

3. Is it a serious activity or ??

No its a fun filled activity alongwith birding, you can visit any no of places within the boundary and however you want you could do it....

4. Any prizes?

With support from HSBC bank, three top teams will be rewarded with notable gifts.

5. Teams or individuals?

You can form your own group of 4 (with atleast one good birder...) or register as individual wherein you will be clubbed with others to form a group.

6. When does this event happen? The 3rd sunday of January every year. Its going on from the last 3 years. 7. How do i participate? Keep a track of this site - www.indiabirdraces.com and also an eye on the newspapers in the 1st or 2nd week of january. I am looking forward for the next years event... Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Jan 15, 2009

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve - Chandrapur - Maharashtra

Tadoba calling..... I'm just back from the jungles, TATR - the pride of Vidarbha and.... This was the first signboard we came across and how true it turned out to be..

3 days / 30 hours in the jungle / 6 junglee trips and countless minutes of patient waiting and prayers... still the tigers were elusive in showing themselves up.. We had to be content with only the loud calls / roars very close to us... Still we had many firsts on this adventure, good close sightings of many species which are very elusive here down south and meeting of a good person working towards the conservation of the TATR (Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve), Mr Shalik Jogwe, an fellow INWian and a wildlife enthusiast.

The options to reach Tadoba are:

1. Take a flight to Nagpur from Bangalore and from there 4 hours on road to Tadoba.

2. Sanghamita Express (except Fri - train no 2295) - 9am departure - alight at Chandrapur station - 20 hours journey.

3. Jaipur Express (Thu & Sat only - train no 2975) - 1pm departure - alight at Chandrapur station - 20 hours

4. Ypr-Gorakhpur Express (Thu only - train no 5016) - 7.30an departure - alight at Chandrapur station - 23 hours.

5. Bagmati Express (Fri only - train no 2578) - 9am departure - alight at Chandrapur station - 20 hours.

The best option would be this....

6. Rajdhani Express (Mon-Wed-Thu-Sun - train no 2429) - 8pm departure - alight at Balharshah station. You need to book tickets upto Nagpur (3ac / 2ac only) but alight at Balharshah when the train stops for change of men and machinery (cleaning / guard change / staff change -- The stoppage here is as confirmed from the Railway station master at Balharshah). From Balharshah its an 20km drive to Chandrapur. This saves almost 5 hrs journey time.

With expectations high and soaring, our group of 4, Me, Raja, Guru and Nag boarded the 9am Sanghamitra express on a 20 hour long eventful journey. Travelling by train itself is a pleasure where you get to see variety of people - different languages, different styles, different beliefs and ethics, some very vocal, some sober, some funny, some irritating and the continuous chai-biscoot-samose walas and the state wise enunchs who do anything for money... and travelling for 20 hours was itself something to be remembered (none of the others had travelled such a long distance in a train except me....). We had few college students as our companions who were travelling without confirmed tickets!! but were sitting in our compartment. We had no idea of Shalik whom we would be meeting for the first time and with that anticipation ended our day... all of us hitting the berths...

Alighted at 5:30 am at Chandrapur railway station, Chandrapur is a small sleepy town nestled somewhere in Maharastra enroute Nagpur. Few minutes later Shalik arrived alongwith Praveen (our gypsy driver for our entire sojourn to be).. in an open white maruti Gypsy. After a brief introduction, knowing the unknown we boarded and gypsy and had to travel another 25 kms to reach Mohurli where our booking at MTDC resort was done by Shalik.

The ride took of well and 10 minutes later started the real catch - we were literally shivering in the cold! These gypsies have raised back seats with absolutely no cover and the early morning cool breeze hitting straight onto your face... All of our sleep vanished and we were jostling for cover and our faces literally ice cold. As it was past 6am when we reached TATR, we rode straight into the park for our 1st safari ride of the trip.

Long train journey, Chilly ride and now we were at the gates of the TATR with high anticipation - things were moving fast and the first signs of fresh tiger pug marks at the entrance raised our curiosity and everyone was looking everywhere for those elusive stripes! But as the poster above read, luck is all that matters and we had no idea where had we left our lady.

TATR has three main zones: Mohurli / Tadoba and Kolsa. Mohurli is the place where the resorts are and the entrance is located... A little further inside is the Tadoba range and further inside is the Kolsa range. There is a FRH at Kolsa also. Its almost about 30-40 kms these forests spread across and there are villages inside the park too and the road leading them passes right through the buffer zone. The advantage here at TATR is its open throughout the year (however few routes are not accessible during rains) The forest cover is also amazing with bamboo shrubs across one part, open fields, dense growth, dry open lands, prominent lake inside TATR, many artificialy water bodies created for the summers, hill ranges of Tadoba... it amazes as the landscape changes on your every turn...

Our 3 days stay there gallopped with only eating / safari ride / sleeping, gobbling our days...

Morning 5:30 am for the safari ride, back by 11am, breakfast / 1:30 pm lunch and rest / 2:30 pm evening safari starts, out by 7 pm / 8pm dinner and rest. Being in a jungle has its own advantages... as you have no distractions whatsoever.

Accommodation / Food:

We stayed at the MTDC resort @ Rs.900 per day (rates vary per season) and food cost extra. Currently stay options are limited at Tadoba to MTDC resort, Resort Saras and Tadoba resort. Still it was a good and comfortable stay at the MTDC. The FRH at Kolsa is also available with prior permissions.

Food is prepared at MTDC resort itself with prior notice (as also tea/coffee before the morning safari rounds). Comfortable / clean rooms are the highlight at the MTDC however food is a tad pricey.

Safari and Timings:

The park is closed on Tuesdays.

Entry time is from 6am to 9am (exit by 11am) and 3pm to 5pm (exit by 7pm).

Private vehicles are allowed inside with a forest guide. Camera fee / Safari fee / Guide fees etc.. are charged that are nominal.

An ideal safari round would be for about 4-5 hours with rounds around Tadoba and Mohurli region.

For more info see this link.

Other info: Good birding options around the MTDC resort too.

Patience is a virtue.

Certain behaviours are expected of visitors visiting the parks, please ensure that and stop acting wild!

Respect and care for the nature.

Park Charges and Rates: See this link.

Well our Tadoba adventure ended with no tiger sightings (all along we could hear only the growls / snarls all around us but could not spot them owing to the dense growth) but other wild life made their presence felt..

1. Indian Gaurs 2. Barking Deer 3. Sambar 4. Marsh Crocodiles 5. Antelopes and Spotted deer and the avians were not lagging behind...

1. Green Pigeons 2. Asian Paradise Flycatcher 3. White Eyed Buzzard 4. Greater Coucal 5. Treepie 6. Plum headed Parakeet 7. Indian Robins and the normal Drongo's, Egrets, Storks etc...

Well those who are interested in visiting Tadoba and savor its beauty can contact Mr. Shalik Jogwe who would be more than happy to arrange things for you.

His contact nos are: 93720 69911 / 94203 03020

Email: sljogwe@gmail.com / tadobatiger@gmail.com

Websites: http://tadobatourism.blogspot.com/



Pictures will follow......

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Jan 9, 2009

BR Hills - Ranganthittu - Mysore

Well a trip with mixed luck. Christmas weekend and no wonder i was scouting for some getaway place for the long weekend. With bandipur, nagarahole, k gudi and jodigere trek failing to materialize it was BR hills which we decided to visit. We tried tried tried in vain to get the IB booked and finally settled for a room booked at a lodge there "Rajathadri Hill Villa" (80-41204126 / 4803) - a bright orange and yellow building and it was a fairly decent accommodation but w/o food, thats what we wanted - a base place to just rest and rejuvenate because we would be roaming for most part of the day. On searching the net we found 5 routes to BR hills from Bangalore:
  • Bangalore - Kanakapura - Malavalli - Kollegala - Yelandur - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Maddur - Malavalli - Kollegala - Yelandur - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Mysore - Nanjangud - Kaulande - Santhemarahalli - Yelandur - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Mysore - Nanjangud - Chamarajanagara - K Gudi - BR hills
  • Bangalore - Mysore - T Narsipura - Santhemarahalli - Yelandur - BR hills

and the best advised was the 3rd & the 4th routes mentioned above. Well with no definite planning for 3.5 days at BR hills, we planned to include an early morning visit to Ranganthittu and then proceed ahead via Mysore and Nanjangud towards BR hills, and the visit at Ranganthittu turned out to be our best visit till date. A great start to our adventure and who knew what was in store for the next 3 days!!

We started off early in the morning with me, Raja and Nag this time (Guru was missing as he was in Delhi) to reach Ranganthittu as early as 7:30 am. Just last week I was here along with Joshua and Ajith and then we were advised by the boatman to come early in the morning before the crowd pours in. At 7:30am and there were no souls around, the first we got to see were a pair of Bulbuls in the shining orange light of the sun. The beautiful Asian Paradise Flycatcher made its appearance from nowhere and that heralded our day of good luck. We arranged for a boat ride for Rs.500/- for the 30 minutes ride. Finally after many long waits I was blessed to see the 3 Kings (Pied / White breasted / Small blue - Kingfishers) @ Ranganthittu and that made my day. In the boat ride we were near to the Spoonbills / Openbills / Night herons and they tend not to care our presence.

What all we got to see @ Ranganthittu was:

1)Red Whiskered Bulbuls 2)Asian Paradise Flycatcher female 3)Openbilled Storks 4)Spoonbills 5)White breasted Kingfisher 6)Pied Kingfishers 7)Small blue Kingfisher 8)Night Herons 9)Large Indian Egrets 10)Peacocks (first time @ ranganthittu) 11)Stone Plovers 12)River Terns 13)Grey Herons 14)Purple rumped Sunbird 15)Munia Pair 16)Tickell's blue Flycatcher 17)Rose ringed Parakeet 18)Marsh Crocodiles and many more...

After a good breakfast at the restaurant there, we started towards BR hills via Nanjangud. After Nanjangud, there's a deviation to the left (a board there indicates route to K.Gudi) and further ahead one can reach BR via Chamarajanagar or take another deviation towards Kaulande-Yelandur and then to BR hills. We reached there by afternoon and checked in to the hotel. Spent the whole day going around BR hills and got to see the wonderful sunset view from there. The temperatures were down and it was getting chill by the hour. If you have your own SUV, you are allowed to enter the K.Gudi (Kyatadevaragudi forests) forest range after taking permission from the forest department. However we could arrange for a safari after hiring a private jeep for Rs 1400/- for the next morning.

K.Gudi forests were green and wet (surprised to see such dense greenery all around) but the safari ride was dry with the lone sighting of an Indian gaur and some barking deer / spotted deers. The rest of the day was spent birding around the place with wonderful birding oppurtunities (one of our best birding activities).

The avians we spotted were:

1)Small blue Kingfisher 2)Indian Robin 3)Orange Minivets 4)Flame backed Woodpecker 5)Great Tit 6)Booted Warbler 7)Plain Prinia 8)Red Whiskered Bulbuls 9)Blue beared bee eaters (a lifer for us) 10)Golden fronted Leafbird 11)Coppersmith Barbet 12)White Cheeked Barbet 13)Jungle Babblers 14)Brahminy Starling 15)Indian Rock thrush 16)Pied Wagtail... and many more

(1. Golden fronted Leafbird 2. Booted Warbler 3. Jungle Babblers 4. Blue bearded bee eater)

As the laziest we are, the next day our initial plans of viewing the sunrise went for a toss as we were busy snoring at that time and got up only post 7am. Did some light birding and we left the place to Mysuru enroute Chamarajanagar (we had to leave as we had done our booking for only 2 nights). We chose a different route (no 4 as given above) to return as we didn't want to take the same route that we came by. From BR hills to K Gudi, the roads are excellent, newly tarred and right through the jungle where you dont get to hear anything other than the sound of the birds and animals. After the checkpost crossing at K Gudi, the road stretch is horrible till you reach the fringes of Chamarajanagara. Pathetic roads and wonder how the stretch is during the monsoons! Chamarajanagar was really hot and we needed some Tender coconut drink to cool us down! (U see we just need a reason to have something!!!) We reached the City of Palaces Mysuru mid afternoon and with difficulty got a room @ Deepak Lodge just behind the suburban bus stand @ Rs. 1000/- for a day. This time around we didnt want to miss the Karanji lake and we were off for birding there in the evening (We wasted 2 hours at the lodge and later got to know that Karanji lake is open right through the day till 5pm).

Saturday evening and as usual, maddening crowd and Karanji lake was no exception. People queing up for the boat ride, ice cream parlors mobbed by children, couples whining away time, all the same everywhere... The walk through avian housing exquisite birds is a wonderful and first of its kind concept where we get to see rare species not found commonly in India. The butterfly park was another that we got to miss due to shortage of time here. Good, well maintained park and strictly you are supposed to be out by max 5:30 pm. The water body also covers a decent area and you get to see quite a few varieties of birds only if you are interested in bird watching.

(1.Juv. Brahminy Kite above -- not Shikra as mentioned! Regret the error!!! 2. Karanji lake)

1. Juvenile Brahminy Kite, 2. Waterhens, 3. Purple Moorhen, 4. Small blue King, 5. Egrets, 6. Spot billed Ducks, 7. Indian Cormorants, 8. Snake bird (Darters)... The next morning we decided on visiting Lingambudhi lake (the last major lake of Mysuru that was missing from our list for birding). Finding the way was a bit difficult as its located at the tip of Mysuru near Vivekanandanagar.

Some pointers to reach Lingambudhi lake are 1. Ramuswamy circle 2. Court road 3. Ramakrishna nagar 4. Vivekanandanagar last bus stop (bus nos 67c / 72 -- not very sure of this)...

After a tiff with the lodge owner on the room allotment, we were out early finding directions to this lake. A cup of hot tea with biscuits and then asking few people around we reached there by 6:45 am and mark my words we were shivering in the early morning cold... All of our initial snaps were shaking because of our shake but as the sun rose, we were stable and there wer a lot more birds than expected to give us company. Lingambudhi lake is a very good place for birding but grossely neglected with slush and weeds all around and many places inaccessible, still there is a relatively big unmarked jogging area that you find many people using and you also get to see many birders camping there. The list of avians we saw here (or rather we recognized) was pretty good...

1) Pied Bushchats 2) Indian Robins 3) Pied Wagtails 4) Spot billed ducks 5) Shovelers 6) Painted Storks 7) Purple rumped Sunbird 8) Golden Oriole 9) White breasted Kingfisher 10) Red legged Stilts 11) Rose ringed Parakeets 12) Greater Coucal 13) Babblers..... (i have lost my records and my memory too...)

It was a good meeting with Ravinaryana Chakravarthy, an experienced birder and and INWian.... he gave some good tips on birding and quickly identified some species before we could even realize...

Seeing the number of birders, we feel like david's in an area full of goliath's.

After birding session, we left mysore and after an heavy lunch at Haripriya hotel in Mandya, it was time to be at home. Finally ended our eventful trip sans wildlife and with lots of birding... wish to be more on such adventures.

Place: Rajatadri Hill Villas (BR hills)

Ph: 080-41204126 / 4803 / 9845338234

Srinivas (caretaker) - 9972727006

(@the BR hills temple)

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Bandipur - Mudumalai - Masinagudi - Gudalur

Well, an unexpected trip and with all the luck in the world heaped onto us. Joshua invited me to join on this adventure he had embarked upon with his brother Ajith who was back home for his holidays. I could not say no to him as he has been of immense help to me, still I could not commit instantly due to some problems, finally I agreed on joining the brothers on this trip. For those who dont know, Joshua is my colleague cum friend cum wildlife guru cum birding shishya... We travelled in Josh's flaming red Zen to Masinagudi with plan of visiting Bandipur, Mudumalai parks and Josh's estate @ Gudalur. We had arranged for our camping at quiet corner in Masinagudi. Josh is only keen on wildlife and a bit in photography; so this trip was only for wildlife, wildlife and wild life...
We took off for a day on Friday and reached Masinagudi late Thursday night to catch on some sleep.
Day1: I have been through Bandipur many times but never got a chance to go on a safari ride there. So this was my first safari ride here and also my first joint adventure along with Josh and Ajith. The safari ride started in a cramped forest department bus and so did our excitement levels... Half an hour into the ride, just as the thought of seeing nothing special crossed our mind - someone seated in front of me shouted Tiger, Tiger!!! Immediately all 70 legs on board sprang and jostled near the windows for a glimpse of the royal Bengal beauty. Many people dont know how difficult it is to spot a TIGER in the jungles here in south (I know some people who are still waiting for their luck even after so many years roaming the jungles). I forgot to zoom my camera properly, hands were trembling and somehow managed to peep out of the window and get a shot or two of the majestic beauty trapped in the camera and in my eyes for ever. The photography was not so good as I was seated in the last seat and the tiger was seen in front of the bus and the window next to me was sealed! The majestic beauty was an adult female (named Gowri); as she saw the bus she stared upon us with a no nonsense casual disdain look (as if to say I dont care who you are), neither was she perturbed nor disturbed and after walking next to the bus for a few steps vanished into the bushes after giving a final disdain look towards us.
It was / will be a memorable sighting (the first of the TIGER) for me and for josh too (this being his first in south india). He started praising me because he thought with me joining him, lady luck started favoring us.. but you never know it may be the other way too...
After the morning safari rounds we came back to quiet corner for some rest till evening. In the meantime we paid a visit to the rehabilitation centre @ Masinagudi run by an NGO (who takes care of all deserted, wounded, limp animals that include dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, donkeys, camel etc...) We did four safari's in a day at Bandipur... (other than the first round, for all other rounds we got the first 3 seats as the ticket issuer became familiar with me). Overall in all the 4+4 safari's @ Bandipur and Mudumalai and Masinagudi put together over 2 days we spotted the following mammals and birds: Tiger (Panthera Tigris) Sloth bear Sambar Deer Hanuman Langur Asian Elephants (many) Mongoose family Spotted Deer Wild Boars Indian Bisons (a herd of about 25) Malabar Giant Squirrel Indian Hare Mouse Deer Hyeana (still under speculation - no photographic evidence) Jungle Cats Pack of Dholes Indian Civet ---- Peacocks (numerous) Peahens Jungle Mynah Bee eaters Indian Robin Pied Bush chat Red Whiskered Bulbuls Spotted / Laughing Doves and many others...
Day2: We had a slightly different plan for the day - after the first 2 morning safari's @ Mudumalai we would go to Josh's estate @ Gudalur (he had some work there) and then again return back for the evening safari's. The safari rides @ Mudumalai didnt let us down as we got to see the Dholes, Mongoose family, Elephants, Sambar during the rides. On the last safari @ Mudumalai, there was absolutely no sighting except the Spotted deers, so the driver allowed us to get down and view the Moyar falls (this comes along the Circle road safari route). Imagine in the jungle, on a safari you get off the bus and walk to the nearby viewpoint to spot the majestic falls. This was completely different than the one I had seen the last time near Moyar village. Its the same river that gorges down @ different places creating majestic sights.
The experience @ Josh's estate @ Gudalur was also wonderful with me getting wonderful birding oppurtunities along with Ajith who was my guide cum encyclopaedia as we roamed around the estate. The estate is full of tea and coffee plantations (last heard at a particular rocky terrain porcupines are resident here and wild elephants frequently visit this as well as the neighbouring estates). We were served to a delicious meal cooked by the resident cook there (he was more than happy to serve us and Ajith in particular as he had come after a long time).
Some mammals and birds that we spotted in the Gudalur estate were: Malabar Giant Squirrel Malabar Flying Squirrel (first time for me) Racket Tailed Drongo (another first one) Red Whiskered Bulbul's Velvet Fronted Nuthatch Scarlett Minivet (male & female) Flame backed Woodpeckers Common Iora Shikra Crested Serpent Eagle
We left the place with me continuously harassing Joshua to allow me for a few days @ the estate. Me and Ajith did what all possible to get near to the Malabar squirrel and the Flying squirrel just flew away just above our heads. After the evening safari's @ Mudumalai we were back @ Quiet corner for the much required rest.
Day3: Being Sunday and just half a day at our disposal, we went on trekking early in the morning around Masinagudi accompanied by local guides who know the place in and out. It was a good trexperience and we almost bumped into wild elephants twice. (Luckily they didnt notice us, so we could slip away easily). Now trekking / walking is banned in the jungles by the forest department. On our drive back after a heavy meal at Kamat, Mysuru we visited the Ranganthittu bird sanctuary and hired a boat all for ourselves for 500rs.
What we got to see here is as below: Open billed Storks Spoonbills
Night Heron Stone Plovers Indian Cormorant Grey Heron River Tern Snake Bird and colonies of Bats.
After this Ajith went back to Mysuru enroute Kochi, Me and Joshua drove back home to Bangalore. It was a wonderful experience with loads of luck on our side and some good sightings. We were only not lucky to sight the Leopard and the Black Panther. Aslo we undertook drives along the Moyar road and the Singara road (where we saw the Civet, Mouse deer, Hare and the controversial Hyeana). Last time also on a similar night drive I had spotted the leopard along with my friends. Another first was that since I bought a car this was the first time I was a passenger and not the driver. Overall a wonderful weekend trip it was and looking forward to many such adventures with Josh. Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!


Tadiandamol - the highest peak in the Kodagu district in Karnataka.

Kodagu (anglicised name Coorg) is on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats. It is hilly district with the lowest elevation in the district at 900 meters (2,900 ft) above sea-level. The highest peak, Tadiandamol, rises to 1,750 meters (5,700 ft), with Pushpagiri, the second highest, at 1,715 meters (5,600 ft). Headcount from 8 people to 7 to finally 6 started off the planning for this trek. Tadiandamol was not the first option but the backup plan only if the Jodigere trek failed and it never took off and so happenned the trek to Tadiandamol.

Planning: With absolutely no idea of how to approach, came to our rescue was this blog of santosh bs (surprising thing is he shares the same name with the initials as mine!!!). The problem of finding a base place and accommodation with food was solved as also the route to be taken. With the initial plans of going by Badri's Tata estate shelved, I booked tickets on our old flame the KSRTC Karnataka Sarige for 6 people on 28th nov. Now all buses towards Mysore, Kodagu, Virajpet, Ooty.... start from the SMTC bus station on Mysore road. Me, Raja, Guru, Nag, Manoj & Nishant were on this expedition, the bus finally left by 11pm and we were almost in deep slumber instantly. Woke up at 1am to find ourselves at Mysore bus stand (Phew! just 2 hrs ride to mysore that too in a KSRTC express bus!). From there we reached Virajpet by 2am and there the driver dozed off for a rest of 2hrs. At 5am we got down at Kaikambha (Kakkabe) to find absolutely no soul around and we just stood waiting in the dark for someone to ask directions for.
(-- the trekkers ready for the expedition...)

We later realized we had to get down more than a km before to go to the Nalknad palace where our base camping was to be. From that junction it was to be another 4kms trek to our place. Early morning chill, heavy backpacks and steep ascent made the walk all the more difficult and breathless (we got to know later an alternate route upto Nalknad palace).
(-- cloud cover just beside the road we walked upon...)

The road is tarred up to almost 3kms where vehicles can be parked on the roadsides and endure on the trek. As we finally reached our base camp, overall early moring on empty stomachs we had walked for about 6kms and the trek was yet to start and it took us a good 2 hours for the steep walk. Actually the place where we stayed is under litigation and the caretaker there, Thammanna lets it out to trekkers for resting and serves food too. Its a beautiful place, greenery all around but damn cold and increases as you go up the altitude.We freshned up quickly, ate whatever was served for breakfast, left the extra baggages there and were ready for the trek. We wished to stay atop the peak but lack of proper tents and equipment held us back but thammanna offered to put up a covering tent near the base of the peak where generally all trekkers camp and is the last source of water on the trek. We agreed and asking thammanna to be at the big rock (Its a notable huge rock which serves as a natural guardian for the high winds and preferred camping place by many as firewood and wate is easily available) by 3pm with the lunch and tent materials we started off on one of our most awaited treks of the year.

(-- a distant view of the pushpagiri range...)

(-- the target peak in the extreme background...)

Time: 11.20am - We started off and the trek up to the huge rock is flat with not much of strain. We reached there by 12 noon after the numerous sessions of photography enroute. After a brief rest and filling up water from the nearby stream (leeches were here again... and this time Nag was their favorite candidate!)

(-- the base camp near the big rock & water source where we were to spend the night...)

We started by 12.15 pm to conquer Tadiandamol. There are definite paths leading into the mountains but you don't generally climb the ones you see ahead, the path which keeps going straight abruptly turns in one direction and you start ascending a different peak altogether. This series of uphills interspersed with shola forests is the highlight of the trek. It was steep and it was getting steeper, the backpacks, water bottles, cameras and even the jerkins started feeling heavier as the minute passed by and our legs started dancing (trembling due to stress), no place to rest and just an uphill steep climb and no sight of the mighty peak.

(-- Ah! finally the peak is visible at the far end ...)

After series of crossing peaks and shola forests, gradually the peak was visible which somehow rejuvenated our energies and we were all trekking up to reach the summit. As we took breaks in b/w, the view of the endless sight of mountain ranges mixed with the green forest cover and with cool breeze slamming our faces made the trek worthwile and our fatigue vanish. After nearly 90 minutes of strenous uphill trek, finally finally we were at the TOP of the Tadiandomol peak (the highest elevation in the Kodagu district) and one of the highest peaks in Karnataka.

(-- Mission accomplished - relieved trekkers atop Tadiandamol....; L-R - Manoja, Nishanth, Nag, Raja, Guru & Me)

(-- Perfect background for a photoshoot -- Manoja capturing Nishanth here...)

Wow wow! A sense of relief, exhilaration, joy, some pride - the feeling of being on top of the world cant be described in words, its to be felt and enjoyed. Still being mid afternoon, the weather was not hot but quite cool and because of the trek we were sweating and it was time to do a ganguly aka flintoff act and rest. Raja dozed off on a rock for some time in the sun and with loud snoring!!!

(-- Raja can sleep anywhere, anytime -- here on a rock, under the sun with loud snores - heavenly sleep...)

...and we others were lazing around, clicking photos, butterflies, just relaxing enjoying the cool weather out there. We also realized why camping here is extremely difficult, open narrow hilltop with shola forest on one side depth and gorge on other sides, no boulders to shield the winds and no firewood in sight and moist land. The wind speeds are very high during the nights (upto 60km/hr) and the temperature atop drops drastically and the main thing is carrying all the camping stuff to the peak is itself an arduous task and water is scarce too. After a hour long break, rest and fulfilling nature sights all across we swiftly descended down to the big boulder which was to be our camp site for the night, the descent took us just around 40 mts but by the time we reached the base our legs were trembling!!! It was 4.30 and no signs of thammanna nor the camp material nor the lunch! A few minutes of agonizing wait, poor network coverage and finally got thammanna on the line and he was on his way, words of Relief! Our messaiah arrived with the food and the materials for the tent and by then we had collected enough firewood to last for the night. We gobbled the food supplied as all of us were damn hungry and relaxed as the tent was being set up.

(-- the open tent set up for the night; u can see the hole on the right that messed up things later...)

It was an open tent with the tarpaulin covered on 2 sides and the other two sides open. Well we had to spend the night in this and with the temperature dipping all of us were braving for the adventurous night in store for us. Thammanna set up the camp fire for us, set up the tent and bid us goodbye to be back the next morning to retrieve all the materials.

7:00 pm - It was getting dark and the intensity of breeze increasing and the temperature dipping and we had also realized there was a big hole in the tent which would be right above us and in the case it rained we would have a gala time. Close to 8pm, it really happened and it started raining! Water started leaking inside wetting the dry tarpaulin inside and then all of us rushed out and decided to interchange the tent putting the hole in the opposite direction of the rain. All of us got drenched and the tarpaulin too but the firewood was safe and dry. It just rained for 5 minutes and those 300 seconds were enough to jeopardize our whole tent setup and leave us wet and agonized. We regrouped quickly, reversed the tarpaulin, dried the inner tarpaulin and relaid it, stabilized the campfire and started drying ourselves in front of the campfire. It was just 8pm and pitch dark and not wanting to our moods be spoilt (because of the rain), started our fun, masti and dance around the campfire with a few boys gulping down a few drinks to keep them warm. 09:30pm - After lots of singing and dancing (Nishanth and Guru were the cheerleaders and in high spirits) around the campfire and quickly gulping down dinner amidst the fire lit, we all decided to retire for the night. It was chill with the breeze blowing harder and an open tent to spend the night. We huddled next to each other covering ourselves with blankets, jackets, caps, gloves, socks with all that we had carried, still the chillness persisted. All of us could manage sleep except Raja and Manoja as they were sleeping at the extreme ends. Raja in particular was unable to sleep because of the weather and as the campfire was burning out and somebody was required to keep it lit. Amidst strange sounds here and there, the night passed off peacefully without any hassles.

(-- Me warming in front of the campfire...)

4:00 am - With a very thin bedspread, I could not further bear the cold that woke me up and I got out to give company to Raja and Nishanth. Later Nishanth dozed off and me and Raja passed time around the campfire till daybreak.

(-- Early morning... 2 lovely scapes...)
7:30 am - All were up, fog had completely eclipsed the surroundings, weather was still chill, the sun was playing hide and seek and when we looked up, we could barely see the Tadiandamol peak that was completely engulfed in fog.

(-- tadiandamol peak covered completely early morning; view from our base camp...)

Guru, the laziest amongst all was the last to wake up and he had the best sleep without any hitches. We packed and left for the long walk back to the house from where we started off the previous day. En-route we met Thamanna who was on his way to our place to collect back the tents and other materials he had provided. We got back, freshened up, gulped down the breakfast prepared, paid thamanna the charges acquired and started on our way back home. This was the longest walk I had undertaken since a long time as the legs were crumbling under pain as it was mostly downhill walk, it was all the more painful and stressful.

(-- in the corridors of the ancient Nalknad Aramane...)

En-route we paid a visit to the ancient Nalknad Palace (Aramane) and took a shorter route to the bus stop through the fields and estates that saved us walk of more than a km.

(-- the shortcut path through the lush green fields...)

As no direct buses were available at that time to Bangalore, we had to wait for 45minutes for a bus to Virajpet from where the only option we had was a Volvo bus to Bangalore (else other buses post night) that we took and reached Bangalore by 11pm. This was one of our most awaited and anticipated treks and a sense of deja vu and accomplishment were visible all over our faces as we bid bye to each other to meet up very soon for our next adventure. All along one thing was running through my mind -- When will be turn of Kumaraparvatha? (the most difficult and strenuous trekking route; still lies unanswered)...

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!