Aug 23, 2009

Bandipura - Wishes coming true!

May 1-3 2009... Just after the previous week trip to Nagarahole, this time it was Bandipura calling... and till date this has been one of our most wonderful, luckiest adventures in the wilderness! As usual we were stuck finding no accommodation at Bandipura (the FRH were as usual out of reach for the common man and the resorts are all very pricey…), finally we stumbled upon a resort called “Tiger Ranch” near to Bandipura. Well we had no idea what place this is and how good it is and the information on the net didn’t help us too much as there were mixed feedbacks on this. As we are all only male group, we decided to give it a try and reserved a cottage for 1 day over the phone (after seeing the place, we decided to continue for the next day). We left home by about 6 and reached Bandipura at around 11. Just after the office building @ Bandipura, a road cuts to the left wherein you need to travel for about a km and to the right you will find a board indicating the route towards Tiger Ranch and Ambuja Farms. Well there are no roads here and its virtually a mud path all the way down till Tiger Ranch. This place is an isolated area surrounded by jungle on all sides and you get a real good feel of staying in the jungle by putting up here. As only few guests were there, it was fine. Food was okay and after lousing around for some time we left for the evening safari to Bandipura. May Day and you expect lots of crowd and we could hardly manage tickets for the bus safari. The safari ride was infused with rains for some time and sightings of the Crested Serpent Eagle, Sambar deer and a pack of Wild dogs relaxing in the sun. Got the Jeep Safari booked for the next day morning and we lazed around the forest office for some time till dusk and went back to the resort. As it had rained earlier, it was a virtual mud slide everywhere for my Alto unable to grip the surface and few harrowing moments (it’s a city car and these things happen if you tend to use it like an SUV!) What shocked us all the more was the loud music and partying at the resort as the darkness engulfed and there were more guests also who had driven in! The cottages were fine (sufficient for bachelors and families please stay away!) for our requirements and we instantly decided to check out the next day after living through the evening atmosphere. There are 4 rounds of the Jeep Safari of 2 hours duration each conducted by the Forest Department @ Bandipura costing about 1300/- in total and you can book only if you can speak well and they prefer not to book rides for people who visit there for more of a picnic rather than passion! The 8 am Jeep Safari ride yielded sightings of Wild dogs again with some distant tusker sighting and the ever normal Sambar and Deer’s & the Stripe Necked Mongoose. No great luck this time too. Scouting for a place for the day we stumbled upon “Hotel Bandipur Plaza” just on the outskirts of Bandipur National Park (i.e., just before entering the park limits when driving from Gundlupet). We booked a cottage for 4 for 1300/- for the stay and then went back to the resort to check out and bid goodbye. The poor sightings of morning dissuaded us from taking the safari rides in the evening and so we decided on paying Mudumalai a visit in the evening. Realized after reaching there that the park was closed for census activity and we came back to Bandipura after a drive till Thorapalli. After lengthy discussions on hiring the jeep again or not, finally decided on booking the Jeep safari the next day again scheduled for the 8am ride. The cottage at Bandipur Plaza was sufficient for us to spend the night. We were up early next day with plans of a bus ride before the jeep safari and we managed to book the 6:45 am bus ride in midst of the big holiday crowd gathered. Langurs, CSE, Stripe necked Mongoose, Deer’s, Sambar and a few minutes later just near the Wesley road junction we could see many jeeps parked and lo behold! A leopardess was making its way down from a tree!! Still in the moving bus I could hardly manage still shots of the beauty, nevertheless what a start for the day! (We got to know that the leopardess along with her cubs was chased by a pack of wild dogs and they had climbed up here, but the cubs were missing!). A few meters’ down the road we found the pack of wild dogs too (Wild dogs are lucky sightings for us as in each and every place we get to see them while many people hardly get the chance!). All excited and charged up, we were again amidst the greens in the jeep ride passing by the same place where we saw the leopardess with faint hopes of her comeback but with no luck. 30 minutes into the ride and finally along the same Wesley road (Kambarlikalar junction) we saw a female elephant with her calf trying to cross the road. After 10 minutes with them and just 5 minutes down the same road we could sense something moving behind the bushes… and instantly realized it was a Tiger as we could slightly see the bright golden orange coat of the beauty. To our delight and surprise we also realized there were cubs around. We had to avoid a few jeeps and the buses by moving ahead and came back to the same place and then started the waiting game! Ahead of us was Mr. Krupakar’s jeep (the same person who has shot the “Wild Dog Diaries” and was once kidnapped by Veerappan along with his companion Mr. Senani!). All of us excited, sitting on the edge of our seats, praying no more disturbances occur, sensing one of our best wonderful wildlife moments just near and the environment suddenly vibrant, all eyes literally popping out … the wait was nearing its climax! Realizing the tiger moving, the other jeep raced ahead and we stopped a little behind and the Tigress peeped on us right in between the 2 jeeps to check how safe it was to cross the road! Sensing no danger at all the queen slowly walked across giving us a lifetime sighting so close by and then followed the little bundles of joy one after another joining their mom ahead. Full credit to the jeep driver Sunil who spotted the little ones first and ensured we got to see the family together. 20 minutes and all over the surroundings was back to normal telling us these are regular things happening, its only you people find it exciting! Leopard, pack of Wild dogs, Elephant with calf and now a Tigress with her litter of 4… What else could we have asked for? We came back to the reception office and as soon as the news spread, there were many people wanting to have a look at our lucky sightings and also popped a few questions like? Were you not scared seeing so close? What if they had attacked?... (Who has the time to think about these questions as we wait for that perfect moment when you get to see these majestic beauties up so close, and they maintain their distance until and unless provoked!) Still with the excitement soaking in, we checked out of the hotel and our way back till home were discussions only about the same! Hope this luck continues in the future too… Our sightings included all of these: Crested Serpent Eagle; Black Kite; Brahminy Kite; Brahminy Mynah; Chestnut bellied Nuthatch; Rose Ringed Parakeets; Peacocks; Indian Roller; White breasted Kingfisher; Green Bee Eaters; Flame backed Woodpecker. Common Langur; Sambar deer; Chital; Stripe Necked Mongoose; Elephants; Wild dogs; Leopard; Indian Tiger. Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Nagarahole - Just an visit...

Nagarahole April 25-26 2009
Friday evening and a desperate weekend, we tried few homestays at Kutta and finally booked at "Green Retreat" or "The Manu Estate" on a short notice and with no plans what so ever in mind!
Guru and Nag were missing this time and only Me and Raja visiting. Started off very early in the day towards Hunsur with the weather being pleasant and cool.
Way past Hunsur entered the Nagarahole national park at around 10:30 am driving slowly with no intentions of hurrying across enjoying the calm cool breeze and peaceful surroundings with no disturbances. Reached the homestay @ Kutta another 90 minutes later to be greeted by the hosts and their 2 lovely dogs. We opted for a short walk in their estate as soon as we checked in and came back finally walking some few kilometres. Mid-day and hungry stomachs and we were served to some delightful malnad cuisine that we gobbled up in no time.

Evening safari at Nagarahole park yielded nothing special with the elephants, deer, barking deer, bison, sambar showing their presence and no predators whatsoever. Then we decided to drive along the Karmaadu road to try our luck. Driving from Kutta, a few kilometres after the forest office a road turns to the left that leads to the Karmaadu village, and its supposed to be a good place where sightings usually occur. We drove along till the fringes of the village and turned back, a lone Malabar squirrel was our luck for the day. As it was getting late and the forest gates both at Kutta and Veerahosahalli are closed between 6am and 6pm, we drove back encountering the spotted deer at many places trying to cross the roads.

Manu came to us and another couple who were lodged in the adjacent room and informed us that he would be taking us to a temple nearby where the annual fest is going on. It's a traditional Coorgi temple jaatre (fair) where a person decked up as a god does the traditional dance around the deity complex and this goes on till midnight continuously. The loud drums, scores of people and the heavily decked up person dancing to the tunes as made it look mysterious as well as entertaining! The snaps turned out dark as it was late in the night and with no source of light from anywhere.

We came back to the estate for another round of heavy, delicious dinner and after dinner we went on a night drive on the main road in to the Wayanad forests. Retired for the day after the night drive and after an eventful day where we got to see some ethnic traditional Coorgi fest.

Next day morning we opted for the Tholpetty safari ride instead of Nagarahole and as expected luck didn't favour us. All along a herd of bisons was our only saving grace and few birds fluttering around. Came back to the estate and after a heavy breakfast, we checked out of the estate and back on our way home. Again as we had to pass through Nagarahole park again, we took another chance and drove along the Karmaadu road.... nevertheless.... A Crested Serpent Eagle and a Malabar Squirrel was all that we could see along...

Finally drove back to Bengaluru with mixed feelings. The stay was good but wildlife / birdlife acitivity was average.... Its all in the game... You dont expect to see everything everytime and these kind of dry runs happen regularly... Except for Wild dogs, Nagarahole has been an average place for me in terms of predator sightings and I hope things will change sooner than later!

Homestay: The Green Retreat (Manu Estate)

Manu and Muthu

No: 08274 244254, 244854

Mobile: 9449982854


Advised for those looking at a homely place and delightful food, graceful hosts and pleasant environment.

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!

Aug 22, 2009

Kodachadri - 1 year later!!!

2009 April 10-12...
Kodachadri has been always special to us and when its time to celebrate the first anniversary - we were filled with thoughts of how to go about it?
Finally the best way I could imagine is to go there again and again...! Our thinkings are weird and we would not like to visit the same place again till all the others in our wish list are conquered and it was a bit tough to convince my team to trek up Kodachadri again! This time around, the group was bigger with Badrinath wishing to team up along with his wife.. that made the group 6 with Raja, Guru, Nag, me, Badri and his wife Anu...
With the people in place, next was on how to reach the place? Badri came to the rescue and his grand old Tata Estate vehicle was the knight in shining armour and the Good friday weekend was fixed for this activity.
Accomodation was a problem this time... Rajendra (the guest house guy) could not accomodate us this time as being a holiday weekend, mad rush of people were expected... and he had started a package trip too! how weird and he suggested us also to go in for the package trek! We being freelance trekkers were now in a fix! But as we had been earlier there, he gave us the contact of the Bhat living there who also hosts guests and trekkers. The contact person was Parameshwara Bhat (main Archaka @ Kodachadri temple) who was more than glad to host us.. but he had a condition.... we had to be like staying at home... i.e., do your own cleaning activities and stay as if its your home not a hotel! Well, that was a not a problem for us and thus all things in place... we were off again to reconquer Kodachadri!
Finally the D-day came... and our expected start off from Bengaluru @ 10 pm got delayed and by the time we left it was almost midnight... Badri's sedan was very comfortable and Guru loved his "dikki seat" all through the trip... Badrinath was the lone driver and he had no intentions to share with anybody too...! The drive was smooth and good except for a few hump jumps whenever Badri & his wife missed seeing them.. This time as were in a car, we drove up to "Hotel Santhosh", i.e., the initial 4.5 kms of walk-trek was covered driving! (this was in some way compromising on our actual trek plan...) Hungry stomachs and you gobble up whatever is served.... the same old "Puttus" and "Idlis" with lime juice were gobbled up by all of us in a flash and after a few minutes rest we were all ready to start...

We started off enthusiastically carrying a medium sized watermelon for a break mid way... things change and the weather was not pleasant, it was hot, dry and even the hillocks were sore all thirsty and dried up desperately waiting for the rains!

Badri and his wife Anu were the slowest (I imagine forget trekking would I be able to even walk around normally another 10 years down the line? kudos to them for their agility and courage...). With a few breaks we reached the top this time quite faster within 2 hours from the hotel santhosh.

The IB was swarming with people all around and we went ahead to Parameshwara Bhat's house that is situated at the back end of the temples and the IB. No bathrooms and we were asked to go to the Agastya theertha for bathing purposes. Leaving Badri's wife there, 5 of us went ahead and somehow finally managed there to find water dripping through a small pipe.. the force of water was decent but the chillness never subsided. Turn by turn standing on the edge of the rock, we bathed in the cool water and then we came back after gulping down few glasses of Majjige.

Heavy lunch, some rest and we were off to view the sunset at the Shankara Peeta (last year we had some fabulous sunset view from here)... and we were there early as the crowd was more and we expected them all there! Our gamble worked and we occupied the balcony seat (edge of the cliff from where you can view without any obstructions in front...) but as the saying "Man proposes god disposes". It was cold and overcast weather and the clouds were playing spoilsport all along... (they were not relenting to let the sun shine through!). We were also not there to give up and slowly the crowd was thinning... and we just sat still enjoying the cool breeze and the groundnuts sold there hoping for the sun to be out! Finally just to please us, the sun was out just for a few minutes to allow us click some snaps and then vanished again behind the clouds. Badri and his wife left early as it was getting dark and chill, but we 4 stayed chatting and enjoying the cool breeze.

We left the place not till we were convinced about no chances of the sun coming out again and slowly trekked back to our resting place. The main disadvantage of staying at the Bhat's house is that you dont get any space of your own... its a common hall let out to all the trekkers and the family uses it too.. so either you watch the tv with them or sit out in the darkness chatting with your group! With the stay being not so comfortable and convenient, the next day's plans were 1. to stay back only if we could manage a room in the IB or 2. trek back and halt at Shivamogga (Badri's relatives house)... Again a heavy dinner and a heavy sleep... lazy bums... we were the last ones to wake up to find the entire hall empty.. @ 7.30 am, all the other groups were out and we were still snoring!!! Woke up finally and checked in the IB with no luck, then went again to Agastya theertha for bathing and decided to trek down back... We thanked and bid goodbye to Bhat's family paying the charges (only the food and tea were charged!) and started our trek downhill stopping for some photographs in between. Plastics were still abundant everywhere and I did my bit ragpicking some strewn plastics and collecting it to dispose in some better place than the hills. At the tea stall in between the guy offered to dispose these plastics at some better place and we reluctantly gave it to him. 90 minutes of downhill trek and we were back at the mallu hotel santhosh for more refreshments and to move ahead.

Change of plans.. we guys were wanting a night out at Shivamogga, Anu was willing to stay back at her relative's house there but Badri wanted to go back home! Finally convinced Badri to stay at his in laws house for the night and we 4 took a room for the night near Shivamogga bus stand. We were out for Bengaluru the next day morning by 9am, the highway was good with minimal traffic and we reached home in a span of 5 hours time!
We ended this trip by watching the movie "Jhossh", in which Rakesh Adiga, my relative is one of the lead @ the Garuda Swagath mall.
Happiness for conquering Kodachadri for the 2nd time with a bit of dissappointment for not able to view the sunset, neither the sunrise nor getting the IB and the hot weather in all - all the hills looked brown in dark contrast to the green cover it was last year during the same time.

Trek route: We took the Karakatte gate as the previous year. However there are routes from Nagara and Kodachadri cross. All routes converge near the mallu Hotel Santhosh.

NO PLASTICS please... as mindless people come, dump and go! Am really thinking of alternatives on how to check this dumping!

Accomodation: IB - Mr. Rajendra - 092428 92299; 08185 290368

KK Parameshwara Bhat - 08185 295934

Next time I will ensure I'm there at the right time when there is no crowd and spend some quality time there in the heavenly abode!

Happy Trekking! Preserve Nature!

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!