Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In the Land of Biligiri Rangaswamy

It's a boring (as usual) Tuesday afternoon at work. Yes, I have to do minutes from the call yesterday but it's a tad too boring. Speaking of boring, the past weekend was anything but boring. We (Mom, Sujeet and Supriya) set off to the K.Gudi Wilderness Camp located in the Biligirirangan Hills, about 250 kms from the claustrophobic confines of namma Bengaluru.

The journey took us a good six hours (we of course made the mandatory stop at Kamat's on the Bangalore-Mysore highway, had the usual Maddur Vada etc etc) and not surprisingly the roads after Chamrajnagar were pretty bad and I have come to expect this from most roads in Karnataka (If I ever have the kind of money Vijay Mallaya has, my first act of philanthropy would be to gift the Government of Karnataka a couple of road rollers).

We reached the gates of the BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary at about 12. We moved slowly through the 10km section towards K.Gudi in the hope of seeing some wildlife. I was pretty amazed the the type of vegetation that grew in the area. The lower reaches are mainly shrub vegetation but I as we went up the vegetation changed to dry deciduous, grasslands, sholas and then to tropical evergreen at some parts. Truly wonderful and unique. We din't have any luck with wildlife considering the time of the day, but Supriya seemed horrified seeing a snake cross the road (managed to only get its tail). We spotted a couple of drongos, a few white crested kingfisher and the spectacular Paradise Flycatcher (no snaps unfortunately).

We reached K.Gudi at about 1:20 PM and were blown away by the place. There it was, a nice little resort tucked away right int he middle of a wildlife sanctuary. The tented accommodation we opted for was superbly done. The very first statement of bravado I made was to promise everyone that we would come here once a month. (Realizing what I has just said, I dint bring the topic up for the rest of the weekend).

We grabbed some lunch at the camp and needless to say it was good. I had some spasmodic bouts of depression when I saw some of the guys carrying their the digital SLR's and flaunting it. Someday I kept saying to myself (been saying that since the Rupee/$ exchange rate was at 35). The first thing I noticed when we reached the camp was that ominous clouds that hung over and I knew rain was not far away. True to my word, the rain came promptly at 1:30 and lasted an hour and a half. Reminded me so much of the Nilgiris.

We had tea at 4PM and got ready for the evening Safari. Our guide, Mr.Narayanan was a local tribal who is now employed by Jungle Lodges. With the gang of good luck charms I had, I was hoping to get a glimpse of a leopard this trip and the the entire group was hoping for the same. This was only made stronger by the fact that the previous evening the groups had spotted not one but two leopards. I even went to the extent of uttering the Gayathri Mantra before we started off. The photographic equipment that some folks got along was truly amazing (a lot of them had the huge telephoto lenses that I can only get to see on TV when they broadcast cricket matches). One of the jeeps broke down in front of the forest gate and we had to accommodate an extremely talkative gentlemen who would keep throwing random comments for the next 2 hours. But I've learned to live with such folks during a safari and concentrate instead on just admiring the natural beauty of the jungle. My friends on the other hand couldn't tolerate talkative folks (at least it gave us something to bitch about on the way back).

The group in front of us managed to spot a pair of wild dogs (Cuon alpinus- aka
Dhol) and this information was communicated to the rest of the party through wireless but by the time we reached the spot, the dhols were long gone. We however managed to spot the elusive Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) and the regulars (Bisons, Elephants, Spotted Deer, Sambhars etc). We even had a female elephant give the jeep a brief charge which got everyone excited. Enough of text. Time for some visuals.

Photograph 1: Whitethroated Kingfisher

Location: BR Hills

Photograph 2: Bos Gaurus Herd
Location: BR Hills

Photograph 3: Elephas maximus
Location: BR Hills

Photograph 4:Trees at a Water Hole
Location: BR Hills

Photograph 4: Female Gaur (Bison)
Location: BR Hills

I managed to stand up throughout the safari and inhale the fresh air that somehow always carried a strong smell of herbs and eucalyptus . Each breath I drew seemed to have a magical effect that was soothing the mind and I was on my own trip (a very enjoyable one I must say and one that's done me a world of good). The only gripe I had was the sight of a large number of eucalyptus trees that the forest department has planted in the midst of all the other trees. I can never quite understand the purpose of doing this given the fact that blue gum eucalyptus is notorious for sucking the water table dry. Education for the forest department anyone? I also made it a point to tell mom and my friends how lucky they were to spot a sloth bear. Its not often you see one in the jungle and these creatures are known to be very shy. It seemed that they still had their beginners luck going (which Sujeet will vehemently deny and counter argue by saying that they had planned all this all along and strategized etc etc).

We made it back to the camp at 7:30 and were treated to a nice little video on the Indian Wild Dog. The whole thing was shot in the Nilgiris. We headed back to the tents and settled down and had a few pegs of nice Bacardi rum. Sappad followed and we hit the sack at 9:30 and the lights were off. I could hear the grunts of wild boars just outside the tent and the calm was broken at times by the call of a barking deer nearby.

We were ready by 6:15 next morning and were kept waiting for ages by this couple who ambled towards the jeep at 6:40 am (the other groups had already left much to our chagrin). A customary sorry followed and we were off. Unfortunately the safari turned out to be a damp squib for everyone. We only managed to spot the same elephant herd from the previous evening, barking deer, a couple of bisons and the usual spotted deer. Still I managed to take a few good snaps. The one below has managed to some rave (OK I'm going overboard) reviews from friends.

Photograph 5: Early Morning
Location: BR Hills

Photograph 6: Early Morning in the Forest
Location: BR Hills

Photograph 7:
Male Barking Deer (Muntjac)
Location: BR Hills

We checked out at 10 making a promise to return soon. We headed towards the Biligiri Rangaswamy temple that was about 20 kms from K.Gudi. Sujeet and I opted to stay in the car and let mom and Supriya go to the temple and we busy appreciating the scenery from the temple when I noticed that the left front tyre had suffered a puncture. We spent the next hour or so trying to replace the tyre and managed to draw hearty giggles and laughs from passers by and with the help of a taxi driver we managed to replace the tyre. Mom and Supriya firmly believed that the puncture was caused by the almighty himself since we did not go and visit him at his abode. I felt a strange sense of guilt of not doing so and quickly made a trip to see the lord who was in all in glory (decked with ornaments and flowers). It was a truly remarkable sight that made me all humble. No one messes with the almighty.

We made the trip back to Mysore through an alternative route and car took a severe beating on the roads (if you can call them that). We reached home at about 6 but my thoughts were still at the abode of the almighty who rules the Biligirirangans.


D&R said...

Love the blog....awesome pictures....it is so nice to be reading your blogs again...keep them coming

Prashanth Nuggehalli Srinivas said...

Nice post. Whitebreasted Kingfisher right? Cos, the only KF with any semblance of a crest is the Pied KF. This one is the Whitebreasted or Whitethroated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis.

Unknown said...

Very interesting article, thank you for sharing with us. plz click here :- bursdagsballong

rajaniss23 said...

Very interesting article. Click here - refurbished laptop in gurgaon

diya singh said...

Your post was so much useful. Also check out our website for more information
website: ramen trondheim