Dodda sampige mara, BR Hills – May 2019

The annual trip to K-Gudi and BR Hills happened as usual. The lead up left me worried, with skin rashes and illness lurking around the house. But the morning of the 5th saw the saddle bags packed and mounted on the bike and we were off to K Gudi.

The first evening it rained. And rained and rained. Inside the jeep we got drenched and the top cover had to be pulled down. It was interesting to note the temperature come down drastically and what started as a ride in sweltering heat and humidity suddenly left us needing jackets. Even the waterholes started showing mists like in winter.
Mist on a summer afternoon, after the rains The morning safari went great, with the usual birding. The fun was with the massive Bull Gaur with buffalo shaped horns who blocked our path, walking towards us, sniffing and grunting before walking away. Angry bull gaur

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Birding in Bandipur

There was a plan for a one day ride. To somewhere around Sakleshpur. The idea was a birding trip. No safaris, just walk around and bird. That place however turned out to be heavily booked, so we decided to look around. K-Gudi was the obvious choice, but we do that in May. I looked around and saw that Bandipur had slashed its prices to the same range as K-Gudi. The recent fire, and declining tiger sightings had taken its toll apparently.

The booking for a weekend was made. One night and two safaris. The idea was to ride, but due to last minute niggles, we drove. It was a quick 4 hour journey via Mysore road, as the Kanakapura route is seeing a spate of roadwork.

The evening safari began promptly with Pradeep as driver and Natraj as spotter. A good combo as we have gotten into a good rapport with both of them, Natraj being known since his K-Gudi days before his transfer to Bandipur, and Pradeep is someone who sees the forest for way more than the big cats. The birds, even the ubiquitous mynahs interest him.

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Day trip – Basaralu

It’s been a while since I went to Nuggehalli. The main issue is the distances between the different Hoysala temples. I usually prefer to combine Nuggehalli with other temples, but that becomes a bit hard when you have to be zigzagging across the highway. Now, I tend to hit those around a spot. And sometimes, not stress myself and just spend time in one place. The best solution seems to be to do more rides more frequently. Just need to remember to do that.

This time the destination was the Mallikarjuna temple, Basaralu. This was at a sweet location, near Nagamangala, and on the curve back towards Bangalore. So the plan was to leave early, have breakfast at Swathi, hit Nagamangala, get to Basaralu and then back home for lunch via Huliyurdurga and Magadi. The plan kept getting postponed from early March due to one reason or the other. And I finally zeroed in on the 18th March. Only to have other errands intrude on it. I don’t particularly enjoy weekend rides, but there didn’t seem to be any other option. So the 17th it was.

I left at 7:15 AM, and the ride was a bit more stressful than I would have liked. Hassan highway is no Mysore Road, but on weekends the traffic can get a bit rowdy. Vehicles that like to pass you close by, zipping two-wheelers, the whole charade of bad driving notorious on our streets shows up. But I reached Swathi at 8:40 AM without issues. After breakfast I was off by 9:00 AM.

Basaralu

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Day ride – Turuvekere and Aralaguppe

The Hoysala hunt continued with two new places added to the list, thanks to Twitter. Technically, there was just one – Aralaguppe, but the place was close to Turuvekere, and a bit of digging showed me two other places there.

This time S joined me for the ride, and we left at aroud 7:45 AM from my place, me on the Bull 500, and S on his Electra. For the second half of October it wasn’t too cold. We did the usual route of Tumkur road -> Hassan Road and the usual breakfast stop at Swati Delicacy before Yadiyur. After Yadiyur, there was a right to be taken towards Turuvekere. Right after the turn we were greeted by a pristine B road. Two lanes width, just about wider than that, and going all the way in that condition to Mayasandra where we had to take a right and then a left to avoid going towards Gubbi. Turuvekere was reached at around 10:15 AM.

The first temple on the list was a Chennakesava temple, from around 1260 AD. Unlike other Kesava temples, this wasn’t too ornate. It didn’t have much carvings outside, and the ASI or PWD had also done a shoddy job with some concrete support at the top. img_5283 Continue reading “Day ride – Turuvekere and Aralaguppe”

Myristica swamps and other things

The Monsoon trip is supposed to be freewheeling. You are not supposed to have a plan. You end up near Jog Falls. And then freewheel. But over the 3 visits, over 2013, a dry ‘15, and ’18 we seem to have come up with places to tick off. The Chaturmukha Basadi is a must-see. A stopover at Belur or Halebeedu on the way back. A stay at the Forest Department nature camp. This time there was no A, while S made his debut.

This time, the Monsoons had been plenty. The reservoirs were full. We expected to see Jog in all its glory. Except that the rains the past few days had slowed down. The reservoir was shut, there was below average outflow. The falls were there, not glorious, not a thin wisp of water either.
Joga with its rainbow. Continue reading “Myristica swamps and other things”

Day ride: T Narasipura and Gaganachukki

Aug 22nd was a holiday on account of Bakrid, and I had been itching to do a ride for a while. I woke up early, got ready to leave by 7, and was out on the road by 7:15 AM. I didn’t have a clear plan in mind. I knew I wanted to check out 3 places if possible – Gaganachukki, Sathegala bridge and T. Narasipura. Barachukki was also on the radar, but I wasn’t sure how crowded it would be. There’s a dargah there and the road could also be closed during Bakrid.

Anyway, the order is for later. I took the ORR to reach Mysore Road, and even that early it was a bad decision. Too many humps and buses make it a stressful ride, and the Metro construction on Mysore Road had also screwed up the roads. The route through Vishweshwaraiah Layout and Kempegowda Layout reaching Mysore Road near Decathlon is the better route now, the only issue being the railway crossing.

There weren’t too many clouds, there wasn’t much of a chance of rain that day, but the weather was chilly for August. I made good speed after crossing NICE road and reached Bidadi well before 8. I finished a quick thatte idli-vada breakfast there and was off by 8 AM. The advantage the bike has is that bad traffic is a lot less stressful and I was turning left after Maddur well before 9 AM. Malavalli was reached in 20 minutes and I turned right after Malavalli’s junction, but just before reaching the junction where the road from Kanakapura reaches Malavalli. I stopped after a few kilometres near a huge lake for a break of 5-10 minutes. This was the Marehalli Kere. The road after this was peaceful with hardly any traffic. There was the odd pothole or patchwork, but bikes register them a lot less than cars, the effort needed to avoid them is much lighter.

Purigali was reached and I took a right onto the Belakavadi-T. Narasipura road towards T Narasipura. This road was pristine with hardly any traffic. I was at Narasipura before 10, which felt like a good deal, and I hadn’t rushed either. I went down to the Agastheshwara Temple, which looked really old, but was closed. There was a path leading behind it which took me to some steps and down those steps was the river. In fact, there were two rivers – the Kaveri and the Kabini – merging into one. The name T Narasipura expands to Thirumakudalu Narasipura. The Thirumakudalu is from Sanskrit – Trimakuta. There are apparently three rivers having a confluence here – the Kaveri, the Kabini and a third, a lake called Spatika, which is considered mythical or might have existed in earlier times.

Some of the lower steps were slushy suggesting that the water level was much higher the past few days. They had apparently reduced the flow a tad from that day. There were a couple of men bathing, and I had to wait for them to finish before trying to do videos. Keeping the blog family friendly.

Kabini coming in from my right, then I pan to the joined rivers and pan to my left where the Kaveri is flowing from.

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K Gudi stories – a Bazooka, a treeshrew and birds

“We start at 3:45” said the manager as we were about to leave for our rooms after checking in. The month of May having more daylight meant that afternoon safaris started later than in Winter.

At 3:45 as we hung around the waiting area to have our jeeps announced, A came over with “Guess who else’s here?”, and nodded towards a jeep. And seated there with his wife was someone we knew from, rather had come across in, Kabini, a bazooka – the worst kind. On his bio on social media sites he calls himself as “wild cat tracker”, not just a “photographer”. K Gudi does not have that many wild cats to track, at least not that many in the only zone allowed for safaris. The naturalist once gave his formula – 1.5-1.75 hours of birding and 15-30 mins of mammals at the end. It’s that skewed. Maybe he’s here for his birding? We hoped for the best, the best being not being in the same jeep as him. But going by past experiences and the group sizes that we could see, we knew the inevitable, that we’d be allocated to the same jeep, and that’s exactly what happened.

The three of us in the back, the naturalist in front of us with another guest, the bazooka and his wife before him, and the other guest’s husband right next to the driver was the configuration. And right from the point where we started, it was exactly what we had feared – a big cat chase. And as it turned out, as if just to humour him, a tiger had passed along our path with cubs in tow, and we ended up following their pug marks. This is also when we discovered that even within that one zone, there was a mammal area and a bird area, and the tiger was in the mammal area. Its pug-marks were declared to be “fresh”. It had just passed by, we could even smell the markings. Like at all times where we are on the trail of a tiger with a bazooka at hand, we hoped the tiger would stay away and not be seen.
Pug marks! Continue reading “K Gudi stories – a Bazooka, a treeshrew and birds”

Bears and birds – Daroji and the Tungabhadra canal

We drove into the JLR campus near Daroji when the Sun was right above us. Every afternoon is a hot afternoon in this part of the world. It looked like there was no one around. The campus seemed to be sleeping off the heat. Slowly, one person materialised and guided us to another building and the parking lot near it. There was some lime juice waiting, and a person, who I later came to know, was a forest department officer, walking around. And a lot of sparrows flying all over the place.
House sparrows!
After the formalities in that place we moved to our cottages. The afternoon safari at 3:30 PM had just 5 adults and a child, apart from the driver/spotter. It started off in the burning post-heat noon and us feeling sleepy as we made our way into the shrubby terrain which was more brown than green.

Despite the heat, life turned up in corners. First, a pair of Rufous-tailed Larks.
Rufous-tailed lark Continue reading “Bears and birds – Daroji and the Tungabhadra canal”

Day trip: Kambadahalli and Hosaholalu

Despite having done a bike ride to and from BR Hills a few days back, having the whole week off meant that another was always on the cards. This time S signed up. I had come across the Jain Basadi of Kambadahalli from @drvivekm‘s instafeed. Googling revealed that this was one of the oldest structures standing in that area, having been built around 900-1000 AD. Most of the Hoysala temples tend to be a few centuries younger. The oldest would be the ones on top of Chandragiri in Shravanabelagola. It’s also been a while since I went there!

Anyway, the start was later than my preferred pre-7:30 AM. Winter and S having to ride all the way from beyond Indiranagar meant that an early start wouldn’t be feasible. We left from my place at 8:25 AM and rode down to Swati Delicacy near Yediyur for the breakfast stop. Despite being heavily crowded we managed to find a table, and I didn’t  have to fight for an own table as is the case when am on solo rides.

Post breakfast we rode down towards Hirisave and took a left where it said Bindiganavile. There was also another board saying “Kambadahalli 19KM.” These days when roads get widened and people end up losing the old sign boards and milestones, it was a welcome sight! The road alternated between awesome, ok, okayish, to watch-out for potholes without ever degenerating to a bone rattler. We reached the road from Belagola to Nagamangala and took a right there. A road went to the right which announced Kambadahalli at 1 KM, but we did not take that. The next right had an arch with Jain insignia and icons all over it. This was our turn. Within a Km of this turn, the Jain structure loomed on our right.

The first structure you see is the pillar. There were inscriptions on it, but we could not date it. This might have been a later addition too. Later meaning from the Hoysala period.
The Pillar seen at the entrance
Inscriptions on the pillar
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The magic of K-Gudi

It doesn’t do to do just one day in JLR’s K-Gudi wilderness camp. The place demands 2 days. The second day between breakfast and lunch is when the fun is to be had. You walk around the campus, as the staff are cleaning up freshly checked out of tents before the next party comes in, and you spot birds, reptiles and sometimes even mammals.

This time, the staff helped us out with a tip. “Look there, sir, owl.” We checked it out, and that was a scops owl, nesting in a hole in the tree.
Scops Owl!
Nearby, in a much smaller hole, there was a malabar parakeet peeping out at times.
Malabar Parakeet nest Continue reading “The magic of K-Gudi”