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”


Hampi again…

The plan was made pretty much a few days in advance. Manja was visiting, and I was still undecided on what to do with the Thanksgiving holidays. I don’t have them as “holidays” per se, just that I take those days off usually.

The booking was made at KSTDC and one more verbal one at the Heritage Resort in Badami for the next day. I hate staying in Hospet and making forays. We left at 6:30 AM from Bangalore. By 9:40 Chitradurga was reached, with a breakfast stopover at Pavithra’s in Tumkur. By 11:45 AM we had reached Hospet and Hampi was reached by 12:15 PM. Pretty good timing I’d say! The road condition from Chitradurga to Hospet wasn’t too encouraging, but I guess we got lucky with the timing. There were quite a few lorries around, but it wasn’t too stressful. The road condition also alternated between pristine and patched up, with a few occasional potholes that needed to be avoided. But it was doable in 2 hours.

Lunch was had at Mango Tree which has now shifted pretty close to the Virupaksha Temple and is no longer the charming restaurant with a view of the Tungabhadra. The temple was visited after lunch, but we found that it was closed for the noon.

Around 3 PM, we began with the temple, checked out the usual pin-hole opening and reflected Gopuram and headed off to the Tungabhadra near the temple. I dumped the bigger lenses and carried along only the 50mm. I figured I could combine the 50mm with the iPhone camera and get good results. Not sure it worked too well though. Certain things like getting landscape or portrait work well. But put one guy into a landscape and see if both come out well? Well, the results were mixed. But it was an interesting experiment. It restricted me in many ways, but at the same time made me see things in a different way. With the usual lens, I’d still be producing the usual kind of photos. So yes, it’s an experiment worth trying out again. It also helps that I get to reduce the weight I carry with this really small lens!





View from Mathunga hill

The plan was to walk along to the Vittala complex and double back before it became dark. I had not done this walk before even though I knew there was a path available. We walked past the old “market” to the Monolithic Bull and started climbing up the Mathunga hill. Soon, it started descending, right into the Achutaraya Temple. We explored the temple a bit, and found that we had to take its “market” road to the banks of the Tungabhadra and then make our way to the Vittala complex.
View from the Achutaraya temple...

Note that each major temple has a “market” area in front of it, more of a major road stretching out in front with mantaps on both sides where shopkeepers can sell stuff. Each temple also has a Kalyani or pond near the Market. All of these ponds are in various stages of decay thanks to bad maintenance.

We went along this path and reached the Purandara Mantapa and I promptly put my legs into the Tungabhadra. The early winter water was cool and refreshing!
Tungabhadra and Purandaramantapa

The Vittala complex was bathed in almost horizontal golden rays. The last time I was there it was right in the afternoon with the Sun beating down from the top. This was easily much better. The camera though did not cooperate at many points and some of the photos weren’t too great. I, at least, screwed up most of the Stone chariot photos. A bit more patience was called for.


Stone Chariot


Mantapa in the Vittala complex...

I particularly love the Frangipani tree in the courtyard. It was blooming with those white flowers and there were Plum-headed parakeets flying all around it.

Frangipani tree

We doubled back at around 5:30 PM, and this route got me some good shots of the Tungabhadra river. There were fishermen in coracles heading into the evening waters to catch their fish or to pull out their nets. Even saw a couple with the wife rowing and the husband pulling the nets.



The next day we started early. Breakfast was had at Mango tree. My favourite eatery from last time, which is right opposite Mango tree wasn’t open. Closed on Fridays apparently. So no ಗುಂಡುಪಂಗಲ for me this time.

Because of the early start most of the places were not crowded. KadalekaLu and SasivekaLu Ganesha were done. And so was the awesome Krishna temple where there were absolutely no tourists around. The Kalyani was even better, still and reflecting.




We drove on to the Hazara Rama temple with its amazing outer walls and Ramayana carvings inside.

Hazara Rama temple

Hazara Rama temple

The plan was to head from there to Aihole and Pattadakal, hoping to reach Badami by evening to check in. Badami was to be explored the next morning before heading back to Bangalore. But then there were alarms over Mother’s health and we had to cut the trip short and head back to Bangalore. Thankfully she’s back to normal now, after the ‘mild’ antibiotic which one doctor had prescribed, ‘in case there was an infection’, which turned out to be a really strong one, was stopped after consulting with another doctor.

Rest of the photos here:

Hampi Nov2015

Oh Hampi, you beauty!

The road was rugged. No one told us about it. The car took a lot of hits, faces cringing each time the fender hit projecting rocks or when the car plunged into deep pits masquerading as potholes. The light was fading fast and the worry lines growing. And then, just out of nowhere there happened a sunset. The colours brightened the sky and we watched it in awe whenever the road permitted. Darkness fell soon. It wasn’t even 6:30 in the evening!

After much asking for directions, and roads that no sane man who owns a car would ever take, we took what we knew was the final correct turn into Hampi. The road was dark, there was no power as the place was reeling with power cuts like the entire state. (Driving by during daytime I realized there were actually no streetlights!) There was just us, driving by in the car with the headlights our only guide to the world outside it. …And then they rose on the side, stones and rocks. Some chiseled enough to form temples and palaces, all of them destroyed and in ruins. Some just hanging by uncut at 40-50 feet, threatening to drop on us, having done that for 1000s of years. The arches, with the top in ruins hovered, the temples that lay on the side opening into the road, bristled at the sudden light on them. But they were there, an eerie presence, lying silent, as they have the past 600+ years.

To experience Hampi, you need to enter it in darkness. In daylight you just listen to the many stories the ruins have to tell. Of kings, queens and wars, of victories and the one defeat. But in the darkness, they just lie there. Like they have for so many centuries. Somehow, that’s the time which brings their stories to life, of what was there, of the people who walked those streets and sheltered under those rocks, as there are very few trees to shelter under, of the huge temples with their own markets lying in front.

We found our way to the guest house after having to reluctantly concede to parking the car outside the gate in a common area, the guest house guy telling us it’d be safe. The room was a shock. A tiny 10X10 chamber with an attached bathroom which was clean as the internet had promised, seeming the only consolation. One mattress was given as the extra bed with a pillow and bed sheet added in. We dropped our luggage around the bed and went out for a cup of coffee.

We made our way to the main Bazaar street, the one famed to sell diamonds on the street side, in front of the mighty Virupaksha temple. (You have to see the temple to believe how mighty – everyone will tell you that, but then to see it is surprising all the same!) There were just people selling food on carts with a couple of places with chairs and tables. We settled in one and ordered tea. It came out in 5 minutes. Like most things in Hampi, it was surprisingly good. We returned for dinner after not finding any other place worth it (Had gone with parents, so north Indian, Chinese, Israeli food were out of the question). The chapathis were soft and the curry hot and tasty. This was to be the common theme of the place. Nondescript places offering things with warmth and of quality. The breakfast the next day was at a hole in a wall with just the name written in Kannada (Brahmanara palahara kendra). They served only breakfast and that too just idlis and something called a “Gundu pangaLa” (what is known at home as “Morappam”), which he baked on a medium flame for 10-15 minutes each batch and tasted like heaven!

Hampi itself is surrounded by rocky hillocks. They are there all around, even bang in the middle of the village. The vegetation is sparse, it’s just boulders after boulders all around, even across the once-mighty and now reduced to a trickle Tungabhadra. Everything is a climb for a great view around. And when the guide tells you that Hakka and Bukka established the kingdom there because they saw a hare chasing a hound, the place makes you nod along and believe! It’s hard to believe someone would go to such a barren and hot place and establish a kingdom there. And yes, they are the only kingdom to have ruled from there. No one else dared! Across the river are more rocky hills, full of temples and forts. They are named Anjanadri, Sugreeva, Vaali etc. This is the place called Kishkinda, where the Ramayana says the armies of Sugreeva and Vaali lived. That is all you have as trace of civilization, in the rocks both sides of the river.

To experience Hampi, live there. The rooms are sparsely done. There is no TV, no dial-in room service, only coffee and tea at the guest house was made in their own kitchen and only BSNL works for cellphones. You can get everything 20 minutes away in Hospet along with traffic and potholes. You can drive in by morning and get back to your rooms by evening, and you get to see Hampi. But this is not a place to be just seen. Live there for a few days and experience it!

Pics here.