Monday, 1 August 2016

ಯಾಣ..ರುದ್ರ ರಮಣೀಯ !!

Uttara Kannada is one of my favorite hangouts to celebrate nature. The Malenadu region receives plenty of rain fall every year to rejuvenate the water bodies.
Sirsi, a small town in Uttara Kannada district is considered a hub for local tourism. Every place around Sirsi is unique and mesmerizing.
One amongst them is Yana, a mythical place surrounded by thick western ghats forests, has unusual rock formations.  A pilgrimage center, otherwise known as Bhairaveshwara shikara and Mohini shikara because of Shiva temple within the caves. The rocks are composed of  black limestone.

Yana Hills.

Shiva Temple beneath the hill.
Yana was once a trekkers paradise. A real adventure to reach the foothills by battling leeches, negotiating bad roads, heavy rains. But, the nature's beauty will keep you going.
Over the years, amenities to Yana have improved. Well built roads reduces the trekking efforts.

It's a treat to watch the hills from a distance, feels like the mighty hills are trying to kiss the clouds. It gives a spiritual feeling when you take a stroll round the temple.

Rock formations inside a cave.
Sunrays struggle to touch the foot hills.
This place attracts lot of tourists during Maha shiva rathri festival. Devotees carry buckets of water to offer to Lord Shiva.

Sun light that occasionally enters the caves illuminates the water droplets dripping from the rocks ! A mystic creation indeed.

Water dripping from rocks. 
Indulged in nature..
Glimpse of Yana rocks from distance.
Bird watching was equally great. Lot of endemic species like Hornbills, orange minivets, bulbuls etc greeted me nicely.

Malabar Grey Hornbill. 
Another beautiful place that is very near to Yana and should not be missed is Vibhuthi falls. It is one of the many hidden waterfalls of Karnataka. I trekked close to 4 kms to get a glimpse of this gorgeous falls. Surrounded by thick forests, the river Aghanashini gushes through the creeks of rock structures. 

Vibhuti Falls.
These places are termed as Eco-friendly zones. Please avoid pollution and littering the premises. Smoking and alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited.

Pics courtesy:- Guru Darshan.

Destination: Yana rocks. Vibhuti Falls.
Distance to Yana rocks:
From Bengaluru-- 470 kms.
From Sirsi-- 50 Kms.
Road condition: Good.

Distance to Vibhuti falls from Yana: 11 kms.
Road condition: Good.

List of touristy places near Sirsi.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Kerala Diaries--Tale of Eight Lakes.

"Woah..! beautiful..!!", was our reaction after seeing the pictures of Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi. The set up was serene, green and floating..! Without any second thoughts we decided to visit God's own country.
Now, the real challenge was commutation. The place is around 700 kms from Bengaluru, and very near to Trivandrum. Since other transportation facilities did not meet our expectations, we put our trust on our beast--and it did not cheat us !
I was new to Kerala roads. I knew the quality of roads until Tamil Nadu border was butter smooth. But I had received mixed opinions on Kerala roads. 
The expedition started at the whee-hours of night and was very tiring. Heavy rains until Kochi. 
More than rain, what irritated me was the NH that were mostly dominated by Kerala private buses. 
We finally managed to reach our destination at 1130 AM. A warm welcome by Club Mahindra staff relieved our travel pain.

What we saw then was indeed Heaven..!

Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi--Floating Cottages.
The main attraction of this holiday destination are the unique Floating Cottages. Built for luxury and comfort, it has a small veranda facing vast lake.

Ashtamudi, is one of the most visited backwaters in Kerala. Surrounded by thick coconut groves, lush plantations of banana and mangoes, this place is a peaceful getaway. Club-Mahindra Ashtamudi is part of Kollam district, a popular tourist destination that also has several historic stories.

Fishing is the main earnings in this region. Above pic depicts Chinese fishing techniques.
The lake consists of numerous estuaries.
This property focuses mainly on couple of things. 1: Kari-meen fry--a sort of fish curry which is prepared using live fish. Kari-meen is bred inside the resort for this purpose.
2: Kerala tradition is heavily followed in this resort. I was lucky to witness Katha-kali performance that was arranged by the resort was amazing..!

A boat safari was arranged for in-house guests of the resort. Breathtaking landscape Kerala has..! unbelievable treat to eyes.

Majestic Backwaters of Ashtamudi.
Cruising through high tides.
It was time for us to look out Kollam city. The resort travel guide suggested some place where we could shop authentic cashew nuts and coconut products. He insisted us to visit Varkala beach, which we did. It was magnificent.

Varkala beach was very rough.! High tides struck us several times. I spoke to one of the bay-watch person who pointed many mishaps in the past as a result of rough tides.

Kollam Beach view.
Dirt beach.
I felt Varkala was far more cleaner than Kollam..! The sea water appeared yellowish due to possible mix of Oil. White sand beach was transformed to black because of oil residues, I guess this has been going since quite some time now.

Kollam sea water.
Sunset view.
Black sand beach.
Since on-ward journey was tiring and not-so-pleasant, I asked the tour-guide if there were any alternate route to Bengaluru. He thought for sometime and suggested a different route. Yet again, new surprises. On the way to Bengaluru, we stopped at Palaruvi Waterfalls.

Palaruvi Waterfalls, Thenmala District.

The specialty of this place is that Men and Women have separate designated ares to enjoy the falls. It was something new to us and we had to live it.
Kerala is definitely a gifted state with beautiful landscapes. I hope they maintain it as is.

Destination: Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi.
Distance from Bengaluru: 720 kms.
Onward journey: Bengaluru--Salem--Coimbatore--Pallakkad--Thrissur--Cochin--Allapuzha--Karunagapally--Ashtamudi.
Return journey:  Ashtamudi--Kottarakara--Thenmala--Palaruvi--Rajapalyam--Madurai--Dindigul--Bangalore.

Places to visit:
Astamudi Back waters--try house boat.
Kollam beach-- 20 kms.
Varkala beach-- 50 kms.
Thenmala dam-- 70 kms.
Palaruvi waterfalls-- 80 kms.
Trivandram-- 70 kms.

Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi.
Homestays in Kollam.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

ಆಗುಂಬೆಯ ಅಜ್ಜಿ ಮನೆ.

"Where do we go now, my search is exhausted", I said. She replied- "Why should not we try Agumbe, we have never been there". I was like-- "Why didnt I think about this place earlier..!".
I nodded and told her about Ajji mane in Agumbe. It seemed interesting to her.
So, we decided to visit this place to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Agumbe is a small hamlet located just 20 kms away from Sringeri. With the amount of rain it receives during the monsoon, this place is otherwise known as Cheerapunji of south. Civilization is surrounded by thick evergreen forests with river source "Sita". Sunset point at the start of Agumbe Gaut attracts tourists from different parts of India. During monsoon nature lovers throng agumbe to experience continuous rain and vivid colors of flora.

Agumbe Dodda Mane.
This legendary house has a lot to speak. This is where episodes of Swamy and his friends of infamous Malgudi days were shot. This is where Kiccha Sudeepa's My autograph was shot. But out of all these cine facts, what caught my attention was Kasturi Ajji and her family's selfless deeds. Her family have been catering traveler's needs since decades. She prepares food and offers shelter at her ancestral big house for anyone who wishes to spend sometime in Agumbe. That's a humble gesture.!  

With much eagerness, we drove to this place after a brief interval at divine temple Sringeri
I was amused at the architecture of Dodda Mane. Such a big house with sturdy pillars, spacious rooms, a large open area to hang out with people. If you feel bored of sitting, you could dive into fresh water just across the road or go bird watching, which is even better.!

I went in search of avian beauties around dodda mane and Jogi gundi road. Trust me, it was one of the best birding experience.! Whistling thrush's melodious song, grey hornbill's call, pitta's guest appearance, hopping of orange headed thrush, woodpecker's noise..and many more.

White Bellied Woodpecker.

Yellow Wattled Lapwing.
Agumbe is a great place for birding, herping, macro photography and many adventure activities. If you have plans to visit Agumbe I certainly recommend a night stay at Dodda mane to relish delicious food and friendly hospitality.

Contact details of Dodda mane:-
Kasturi Akka : 08181-233075
Ravikumar (son-in-law): 9448603343
Food availability: Vegetarian

Places to look around: 
1: Agumbe Sunset point.
2: Jogigundi Water falls.
3: Barkhana Water falls.
4: Kundadri peak.
5: Someshwara Wild life sanctuary.
6: Sitanadi herpo camp.
7: Sitanadi white water rafting.

Date of visit: May 4, 2015

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Get set Redi-Go.

I live in Bangalore, the IT capital of India. Over the years, the city has grown to it’s peak. Many people come to this city in search of job opportunities. More people enter the city, that many vehicles hit the road resulting in traffic congestion.

You do not wish to get stuck in traffic for long. You wish to zip across the roads to reach your work place soon. Since, my work place is far from my home I’d wish to buy a car which is sleek with good features that can suit urban traffic. In this era, you have multiple options to choose, but you have to pick the best.

While I was searching for good cars to suit my requirements, I came across Datsun Redi-Go. Purely built for urban usage I felt this could be the chosen one. I walked into one of the showrooms to inquire about this car, the brochure said: - “Fun. Freedom. Confidence. The ultimate Urban Cross - Datsun redi-GO - the capability of a crossover with the convenience of a hatchback.” The title card suggested this can be used for long journeys too! I started looking at some salient features of this new car.

1: Good ground clearance—if a car has 0 ground clearance it is going to be tough to negotiate nasty pot holes and humps within city limits. I have experienced several inconveniences with lesser ground clearance vehicles. However, Datsun Redi-go does have good ground clearance. So much to say, the user do not have worry too while negotiating bad roads or water clogged areas.

 2: Mobile Docking system—Am a frequent traveller and I use maps extensively. Placing the mobile inside the car is always a practical problem. This car has inbuilt mobile docking system. How cool is that..! Very convenient and useful. Just drive peacefully referring to maps.

3: Driver Computer and Shift indicator—A digital meter is always eye-catchy. The interiors would look different and stylish with this feature. It just gets better when there is a gear shift indicator. You don’t want to look at the gear all the time if you are a learner, the indicator will assist you to shift the gear when necessary.

4: Storage space—I drive a lot to explore different places. Therefore, I need a big boot space to fill up my stuffs. A 222 liter of boot is more than sufficient for me to carry whatever I wish to. More than anything, the ease to fold the rear seats would yield more space.

Overall, this car has got lot of smart features and fits to common man’s requirement perfectly. With cool color variants and attractive accessories this car steals the show. Engine capacity is 800cc which means more mileage, the user can expect up to 25 kmpl in ideal conditions. Safety measures such as air bags, reverse parking sensors are included which is a must these days.

 According to me, Datsun Redi-go is certainly a best choice with minimum budget. It’s compatibility, stylish design, good mileage, driving comfort-ability will definitely put a smile on anyone’s face!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Guardians of the forests..!

Cool breeze teased my body, natural odor of mud-mixed with unseasoned rain rejuvenated my senses, tobacco plantations looked more greener than usual, sky had distinguished patterns. I experienced all these on the way to Gaadipalya Anti poaching camp. The forest dept jeep cruised through slushy roads of Nagarahole forests. I was on an assignment..!

It all started when I met Mr. Surendra Varma, who leads Friends of Elephants--an informal group to bring awareness on asiatic elephants. He had taken up a project to study elephant killings, human-elephant conflicts in critical areas..well, basically everything related to asiatic elephants. His findings would be well documented and submitted to Karnataka Forest dept so that necessary measures can be taken to reduce mishaps. I was part of one of the assignments linked to this project--The barrier assessment. I was fortunate to learn a lot from him during this assignment. 

Nature, to prove it's existence often demonstrates interesting things. We boarded a bus to Mattigodu forest check post from Hunsur. The rain god probably went mad and showered his blessings as we entered Kodagu district after crossing Hunsur. As we looked behind, not a drop of water in hunsur region, but heavy rain as we traverse through dense forests of was amazing..! One state, totally unpredictable weather..!

First glimpse of APC.
The officials had informed forest guard and the watchers about our arrival. They greeted us with a smile, but with surprised face too. One of the watcher showed us the small house they live in. It had a dedicated room to store vegetables, groceries and also communication equipment. Backyard was converted into a kitchen where few fire wood were dumped. 

The APC.
Veggies Stored in Store room.
It was a simple set up consisting of--rock benches to sleep, a small garden to grow vegetables and flowers, solar powered lights instead of electricity, rain water harvesting for both drinking and washing purposes.

Rain water Harvesting.
Hand pump to pull harvested water.
The staff of Gadipalya-APC were extremely friendly and kind. They clarified our purpose of visit to the camp and what help we were seeking from them. They offered simple rice and sambhar with hot drinking water, all cooked using ancient methods. 

Cooking at APC.
Darkness gathered the camp, I felt wild life activity would have just begun somewhere in the dense forest. All of us entered the camp and shut the main door to prevent any intrusion. Since there was not much to do, we started interacting with the staff. They understood the motive behind our visit and suggested critical places where human-elephant interaction was seen frequently.

The staff explained how difficult is to chase wild elephants away from farm lands with limited options. Many forest watchers belong to tribal hamlets and are hired on temporary basis by KFD. They know nook and corner of the forest region which is a plus point in tackling major issues.

One of the forest watcher, who was recently married said he gets to see his family once in a week. Summers would be the worst time for them as they have to tackle forest fire. Although, poaching and tree cutting have come down to a larger extent, small snarls are quite often found during their patrols.
Many NGOs have stepped forward to provide proper clothing to APC staff since they have to patrol the forests on daily basis, beating different weather conditions.

The staff helped us in identifying crucial areas where elephant barriers were broken, man handled. Their foresight in handling human-elephant conflicts were considered and documented.

When I was about to leave, I thanked one of the watcher for his help. He replied with a smile "Sir, it's my job to help everyone who helps in preserving forests. I may not earn more like others, but am happy here. This forest is my home, I will protect it."
His words struck wonder of joy inside me. It is hard to imagine the condition of our forests without these guardians, a big salute to them..!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Visit to NPCIL.

I stepped out of car to experience the silence of the forest, sunshine touched the tip of tall trees, chirping of birds had begun, little stream under the bridge was soothing for mind and soul. Yes, it was the place I wanted to be again--Kaiga.

The route which we took to reach Kaiga was exquisite. Tall trees formed canopies in such a way that sunlight did not bother to touch the ground. As the day started, ground thrushes, emerald doves and many other birds followed us. 

As soon as KBM--2016 dates were decided, I expressed my desire to Mr. Mohan Das to visit one of the most interesting site, The Nuclear Power Corp Limited. 

Little information on NPCIL aka Atomic power station---is a power generating station situated on the banks of river Kali, adjacent to Kadra dam. As the site director of NPCIL say Nuclear power is green power. This generating station uses Kali river water along with nuclear fuel to generate electricity which is transmitted to different parts of Karnataka. 
The site is protected by dedicated CISF staff who work discreetly, day and night. Entry to the site premises is restricted. It provides lot of learning curve to every person.

A scenic view of NPCIL site from Kaiga-Yellapur road.
Mr. Mohan Das had arranged everything for me and my friends. We were instructed not to carry gadgets of any sorts since it is restricted. Mr. Harish escorted us to the bust stop where NPCIL bus picked us, and after a short journey we were in the site premises. A thorough security check was conducted by the security personnel. 

We then proceeded towards a hall where demo model of the site is kept. One of the employee, Mr. NVS Kumar explained how the nuclear core reactor works, the procedure of generating power, the procedure of transmitting the generated power and many things. He obediently answered our doubts with all the knowledge gained in his experience. His explanations brushed our engineering skills.
We were taken to the simulator building as well. The replica of the controller room was shown to us. Controller room is where the monitoring of site and nuclear reactors takes place.

After some technical stuffs, we headed to a small butterfly park maintained by NPCIL staff. It was gorgeous. Many species of butterflies were identified.  

Our next stop was to NPCIL canteen led by Mr. Mohan Das. He bought us lip smacking food and hot beverages. He started sharing his past experience in Kaiga that had limited options in early days. But now, he would not leave this place. I came out of the canteen wondering why he would not leave this place, a flock of noisy pied hornbills soared on top of my head clarifying my confusion.! 

On behalf of everyone I'd like to express my gratitude to Mr. Mohan Das for giving us an opportunity to enter such sophisticated set up. It would not have been possible without him. 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Kaiga Bird Marathon 2016.

Am back from hibernation mode..after all lot of trip reports are due for sharing. I was wondering which topic should I pick to revisit the blogging world. There were some outstanding landscapes that I visited during late 2015, but out of all I could not resist blogging on Kaiga.

I was part of KBM--2015 too. It was an incredible experience. I was counting days to visit this place again since I believe this place offers just more for birders. 

"Kaiga bird marathon is back" read the subject of the email that hit my inbox. Without giving a second thought I registered myself to this event and started to hatch a long travel plan. 

As part of their Environmental stewardship program, NPCIL conducts bird marathon once in a year. The KBM organizing committee is instrumental in making necessary arrangements for all the guest birders who come from different parts of the country.

KBM--2016. Introduction by Mr. Sriram.
The event kicks off with an introductory session where we get to know about fellow birders. Do's and dont's during the trail, team members and the transect details will be shared. 
I was part of Team Kodasalli along with 8 other members who were mostly new to me. Apparently, this transect is in the heart of Kali Tiger Reserve and access to this area is restricted. So, I consider myself lucky to be part of this transect. 

Talk by Mr. Prem Kumar, convener of KBM--2016. 
The following morning, KBM-2016 was officially flagged off by Mr. H.N Bhat (site director, NPCIL) at 6 AM. He wished good luck to each and every participant. We, the team Osprey boarded the bus and started the journey towards our transect.
The day started with 11 Pied hornbills blissfully soaring in the blue sky. It was a perfect start..! We then heard calls of Indian Scimitar babblers, whistling thrush. The bamboo rustles and free flowing water added to the rhythm of bird calls, just like a classical jugalbandi. A productive birding had begun already. 
Soon, we entered into a plain field area hoping for bright action, our expectations didnt go wrong. A fast approaching bird attacked a cattle egret in no time. What a life-time sighting..! I'd never forget that moment. The raptor was later identified as Laggar Falcon, which perched on a top of a bald tree.

Laggar Falcon.
Asian Fairy Blue bird, Female.
Asian Fairy Bluebird--Male.
Crested Hawk Eagle.
Legge's Hawk Eagle. (record shot)
It was a raptor feast. By then, we had seen other raptors such as Crested serpent eagle, Brahminy Kites. But, deep inside I wanted to see an Osprey since it was our team bird, and of course the gigantic White bellied sea eagle too. I insisted Mr. Oshimath (team co-ordinator) to stop near the reservoir for sometime, he kindly obliged. To our luck, we saw both. A distant sighting of an Osprey perched on a bald tree amidst reservoir was an amazing. 
But we stopped murmuring after seeing a pair of White bellied sea eagles guarding their home, fantastic sighting.!

White Bellied Sea eagles--habitat shot.
White Bellied Sea eagle.
We were happy because the group blended really well with each other and had fun. We were too happy because our team bird was found. I was extremely satisfied with the transect, sightings and interacting with other team members.

Team Osprey. (pic courtesy: Praveen E)
 The final tally was done after reaching the guest house. Team Osprey had identified 95 species with couple of record sightings. 
We then assembled at dining hall to witness the final phase of the event---feedback and felicitation. 
I observed that number of participants this year were comparatively high. I got to know that organizing committee had challenges in selecting the participants. 

Dignitaries on stage preceded by Mr. H.N.Bhat (site director, NPCIL) and Mr. Raju Kasambe (BNHS).
KBM-2016 was a grand success for all avian lovers. This event not only helped us in increasing the number of lifers but also helped in building cordial friendship with others. I felt very happy interacting with my Kaiga friends-- Mr. Harish, Mr. Mohan Das, Mr. Prashanth, Mr. Suresh Patil, Mr. Bargir, Mr. Srinivas P, Mr. Kaushal, Junior and Senior Oshimath, Mr. Dinesh and many more. I signed off from the event giving my honest feedback to continue this fabulous effort of conservation. Goodbye KBM, until next year.

Receiving the compliment from Site Director, NPCIL.
Event: Kaiga Bird Marathon---2016
Location: Kaiga, Uttara Kannada district.
Date: Jan 10, 2016.