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”

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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.

Continue reading “Day ride: T Narasipura and Gaganachukki”

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
Continue reading “Day trip: Kambadahalli and Hosaholalu”

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”

Birds of Kenya (Maasai Mara stories – 6)

Am on to the 6th story of this! I guess patience would be wearing thin already. Well, this is going to be the last of the series. Normal programming will soon resume. Which is, hopefully, normal posts from me. I haven’t been doing too much of those, and I am using these stories to buff up some post numbers. Kind of obvious, isn’t it? Anyway here goes.

Ostrich:

The first bird that comes to mind when you think of Africa is probably the Ostrich. These are the largest birds on the planet. And you can’t help noticing that. They are big. And this is from someone who has seen emus and cassowaries. And their legs! They are really stout. You don’t want to be at the receiving end of any kicks from them!
Ostrich
As with birds the males are more colourful, in this case black with white tufts in the back. The females are a duller grey.
Ostrich, female Continue reading “Birds of Kenya (Maasai Mara stories – 6)”

Giraffes, Rhinos and other ungulates (Maasai Mara stories – 5)

One of the things that astounded us in Maasai Mara, East Africa in general, was the sheer number of herbivore species. We are used to seeing spotted deer as the main deer, some Sambar deer, Gaur herds and the odd barking deer. Kaziranga had more – swamp deer, hog deer and buffalo herds, but there were two to three species in total.

Here, we started with Thomson’s Gazelle, Impala, wildebeest, Zebra, Buffalo, Topi, Eland, Giraffe, Hardebeest and Grant’s Gazelle! The sheer number of Zebra and wildebeest we saw in 4 days would be much higher than the total number of spotted deer we’d have seen in 5 years. There were that many! Even as we were making our way back to Nairobi from Nakuru, they were there quietly grazing on the sidelines, next to the highway!

No matter how many of them you see, the ones that really fill you with awe are giraffe. You don’t come across such tall creatures everyday, and they are really tall. Although we say “Giraffe” and think it is one species, there are 4-9 of them. The range is because scientists know that there are 9 types of Giraffes, spread over 4 species for sure. There’s still some dispute over whether some of the other 5 types are subspecies or form their own species.

The two species we knew we could see were the Masai Giraffe and the Rothschild Giraffe. The Masai Giraffe have more star-like blotches instead of regular lines separating the darker patches. They are the largest of the giraffes and the tallest land mammals on the planet.
How tall am I?!

Continue reading “Giraffes, Rhinos and other ungulates (Maasai Mara stories – 5)”

Elephant Stories (Maasai Mara Stories – 4)

We really wanted to see a lot of elephants in Maasai Mara. They were one of my main draws. Bigger, heavier than Asian elephants, Savanna elephants are the largest and heaviest land animals on the planet! We expected to see a fair lot of them grazing, but came across them only thrice! We hoped to see more in Nakuru, but our guide categorically dismissed all such hopes – “No elephants in Nakuru.”

We went through two hours on the first evening without any sign of elephants. The next morning as we were starting on our all-day drive towards the Mara river, we saw a bunch of vehicles stopped on the road and folks in them looking into the distance. Turned out that there was a herd in the bush. It was a largish herd, with a massive matriarch.
Elephant herd
Elephant herd, calf shows up
Continue reading “Elephant Stories (Maasai Mara Stories – 4)”