Little Known Destinations

a trip to north-east forests.....

Posted by shayan ghosh on April 13, 2011

 
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it's about the forests in jalpaiguri,west bengal.....gorumara,chapramari,chilapota,jaldapara..........lots of greens,lesser no of big cats,huge no of elephants.........as these places are not so famous compared to other forests like-corbett,bandhavgarh etc.,they are not hugely effected by our so called "tourism" & "civilization"......there is also a tiger rescue centre in khayerberi......still can't understand why those leapords are still not sent to jungles,although they have overcome from thier injuries,after being looked after for so many years....is it for tourists???don't know...

Little Known Destinations

Dalhousie - My First Love!

Posted by Ms Pintueli Gajjar on February 17, 2011

 
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Dalhousie - my first love



Dalhousie was … Love at first sight! I had never before visited this part of the Himalayas and, I fell hook, line and sinker for it! I thought it was the perfect place to gather all the pieces of my life together…It would be a good place for me to get my spiritual and emotional self back…It was a fabulous place for my children to spend their childhood in…And for all that I know, it was. I have spent 4 of the best years of my life here – teaching at the Hill Top School in Upper Bakhrota.


Dalhousie, established in 1854, is spread out on five beautiful hills and is surrounded by dense forests, deep valleys and from some point down, on a clear day, one can see the mighty river Ravi flowing down to Pakistan. It lies comfortably between 6000 to 9000 ft above sea level. There are only 3 main roads here – Garam Sadak, Thandi Sadak and, the Court road. The first two go around the first hill and the second one goes down the other smaller hill, where the Sacred Heart convent sits at the top. A fourth road goes around the convent back to Subhash chowk. It is designed as the loop of 8.


The Court road goes all the way down to the pump house and towards my friend’s house. There’s a little garden across her house where one can sit and watch the sun set and the Ravi river snaking down the valley. It’s a beautiful place where one can even forget one’s existence.


The Garam sadak starts from Subhash chowk to Gandhi chowk and is a wide, sunny motorable road. The right side is lined with shops while the left side has the hotels overlooking the valley down to Bathri and Jhandri Ghati. Gandhi chowk is the hub of the town where the GPO and most of the shops and eateries lie. It is always crowded with the locals, tourists and the taxi drivers. And occasionally, hordes of langurs! (Both the varieties – with and without tails!) A few meters away is the famous yoga institute, the Dakshina Murti.


On the other hand, the Thandi sadak is a pleasant walk around the hill. It is much quieter and cooler as it is shaded by the numerous trees lining the sides. A few hotels have sprung up recently but otherwise, it is nice to walk and one can see the old part of the town below. From Subhash chowk, one can either take the Court road or take the steps down to the Sadar bazaar in the old part of the town. The steps are lined on both sides by antiquated stone buildings and shops. People have been living here since before independence and it has a unique ambience and architecture. The 150 year old Laxmi Narayan Temple stands testimony to generations of people living here. At the other end, the road takes you back up to the Court road. Court road has some beautiful hotels amongst which is, the oldest one, Hotel Aroma-n-Claire. Unfortunately, in a recent accident, it was burnt down, and I lost my good friend, Rohit, in it. There’s also the oldest store here – B.C. Khanna. The town police station and the court are situated here too. It’s much quieter than the Garam sadak. Up on the hill is the Sacred Heart convent school which is as old as the town itself. From behind the convent is another less-used road that meets Subhash chowk. From here, one can see the Canadian settlement and some of the most awesome sunsets!


Coming back to Gandhi Chowk, take the road going down to Ram Mandir and from there, go on to the famous Panchpula. Panchpula is about 3 kms from GPO and this is where several streams meet to form a huge pool. The main source springs from the north face of Dainkund running down to Panchpula. There is a monument and a Samadhi here built in the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh, one of the great freedom fighters and uncle of Bhagat Singh. There is a bustling roadside café that serves snacks and tea. Due to a rise in tourism, this place has lost its original charm but nevertheless, it’s worth a visit. On the way back, one can quench their thirst at the Satdhar Springs, which are believed to contain medicinal properties. The water is sweet and refreshing.


There are 2 churches here…St. John's and St. Francis. St. Francis church stands prominently in Subhash Chowk and has beautiful glass and stone work inside. St. John's church is in Gandhi chowk and belongs to the Protestants. At both the churches, services are held on Sundays.


This, more or less, completes the little hill station called Dalhousie.


From Gandhi chowk, there’s a road that goes down to Karelu Khad where the Jandri Ghati palace is situated. Remember the song from the film 1942-Love Story “Kuch Na Kaho…” Well, it’s been shot at the palace! It passes through Subhash Bowli, from where it is said, Subhas Chandra Bose, while hiding from the British, meditated and held party meetings in secret and kept himself healthy by drinking fresh mineral waters of the natural spring. The spring still exists and the water tastes just as sweet. Just after the monsoons, Karelu Khad has the most beautiful waterfall and lies in the middle of nowhere, since it is not well known. There’s a motorable road all the way to the palace. The palace is out of bounds to the public but the library there is worth a visit and is open on certain days.


Another road from Gandhi chowk goes up all the way to Chamba. The road passes through some of the most interesting places to see around Dalhousie. It passes through dense deodar forests and winding roads and little gurgling brooks and streams. As soon as you take the road, you’ll first pass the famous Dalhousie Public School and get a panoramic view of its grounds and hostels. As soon as you reach the top of the incline, you’ve reached Dhupghadi, or, Upper Bakhrota. There is a beautiful walk around the hill from here that meets up at Ala. From here the road is pretty straight all the way to Ala. Just before you reach Ala, you’ll pass by another famous school, The Hill Top School. Incidentally, the school lies bang in the middle of the Khajjiar-Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary and if one is quiet or quite lucky, you can spot a Himalayan bear or a leopard, as I’ve had an opportunity to see quite a few times! It’s a beautiful road and is home to some of the most exotic birdlife of the Himalayan ranges.


In the mornings, you wake up to the melodious whistle of the whistling thrush. And just before the sun comes up, you can spot the long-tailed blue magpie, flitting from branch to branch, the babblers, barbets, hoopoes, wood peckers, nuthatches, sun birds, bush chats, tree pies, the solitary fly catcher, the paradise flycatchers and hordes of other birds, not forgetting the cacophonic parakeets. Just before the rains, one can hear the continuous humming of the cicadas. Somewhere in the distance, you’ll hear the unforgettable sound of the Great Indian barbet too. You might spy a mongoose, or a hare, or, if you are really lucky, the Himalayan pit viper, slinking away under a rock. And overhead, you’ll see the magnificent Lammergeiers, romancing the skies. There’s much to see for both the amateurs as well as the professional birders. Don’t forget to take your field glasses and your bird guides. Ala is a tiny place with just a few homes and shops. From here, the road winds up to Lakarmandi. From behind the shops is a small 'Pag-Dandi' or a path leading up to Diankund Airbase. The quietness of the trek is overwhelming and a solace to ones spirit.


Lakarmandi, as the name suggests, is a small settlement of coal making Dhogri community. It lies at an altitude of 8600 ft above sea level. The people living here burn trees and make coals which they sell down in the plains. If you haven’t had your breakfast, this is the place to relish some really filling omelettes and aloo paranthas doubled up with the local chamba chukh, actually, pickled chillies. A halt here is a must if you want to see some of the most pristine woods around. Take a walk down the rustic road to Kalatop, perched at 8000 ft, a place with fantastic views of the valley around. And all the better if you can book in advance at the Government Guest house (Booking can be done at the GFO, Wildlife, Chamba) and spend a night with candle-lit or, if the electricity is not there, a starry-studded dinner!. Spending a night here is thrilling as in the wee hours of the morning you can hear the barking deer and maybe, a grunt of a prowling bear. You may also spot the elusive jungle cat, as we did so often. In the far distance, one can see the town of Chamba, if it isn’t too foggy. The smell of the deodars and the sight of the lovely daisies in summer is worth the time spent here.


The Charcoal People


Walking along the snow-swept roads

Bent over with their heavy loads

Black charcoal filled gunnysacks

They walk with strong n’ sturdy backs!


Up and down the slope they go

With not a soul to goad them, though

Smiling and humming on their way

With not a minute to waste away!


From Lakadmandi to GPO

Back again and to n’ fro

Life is hard and a little rough

To survive, that is enough!


Neither a whimper nor a sigh

Escapes their lips and besides,

To complain or make an excuse

Does it help? Is it of any use?


To work and go calmly on

Whether it snows or shines on

They have no time to ponder…

…What strength they have, I wonder!


From Lakkarmandi, there’s another motorable road to the Airforce Base at Diankund. The road ends at the base and from here, one can trek up to the Pahalani Devi’s Temple. Interestingly, there is no idol of the devi here but some trishuls by which, it is said, the devi killed the witches. There are two beautiful lakes, one of which is situated inside the base and beyond limits for civilians. The other one lies in the valley beyond the temple. There are two 60 ft radars there and photography is strictly prohibited. Going along the same ridge past the temple, lies the ‘Jot’ pass and you get to view some really breath-taking valleys and fields along the way, not forgetting to mention the company of hundreds of butterflies on the expanses of wild white daisies and yellow buttercups! Diankund is also known as the Whispering Hill because one can hear the wind whistling through the forests and glades in a multitude of different sounds. The winds are pretty strong up here and it’s a heavenly feeling that cannot be described but has to be felt.


Back on the road to the next ‘Switzerland’ of India – Khajjiar!


Khajjiar is more than my words can describe it. The very sight of it sends ones pulse racing and when you reach there, you’ll be gasping for breath. There is a beautiful stone and wood temple that dates back to the 10th century dedicated to Khajji Naga – the Serpent-God, and has intricate carvings on its pillars and the ceiling. The two smaller temples adjoining the main temple are of Shiva and Goddess Hidimba. ‘Halal’ or, sacrificing a goat, is still carried on at the temple during some festivals. Khajjiar is shaped like a huge saucer. In the middle is a little floating island and from its position, one can judge which side the wind is blowing. Around it is acres and acres of green turf, enough to make any golfer regret carrying his tees! Early mornings are the best time to be here, before the merry-makers arrive with all their noise and din. The fresh smell of the deodar trees and mist in the air rejuvenate your spirits and you come away thinking how beautiful our world really is.


Spend a night at any one of the numerous hotels here and see the millions of stars shining down on you – make some wishes on the many falling stars that you see or catch a moonbeam in the stillness of the night. It’s an unforgettable experience.


Move on to Chamba – the land of a hundred temples!

Little Known Destinations

Purna WildLife Sanctuary

Posted by Palak Thakor on September 13, 2010

 
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      I live in Surat City which is 130 Kms away from Purna Wildlife Sanctuary.I many time visit that place just to observe the changes in the biodiversity of the forest.I am going there since last 4 years once every two months.Now a days the NGO workers around the Forest area means from Surat & Navsari visit that places every Sunday just to watch night life of jungle.On seeing their regularly visit in particular area i saw quite changes in biodiversity of that area.There were Leopards, Hyenas & Wild Boars were found in that area but due to the Constant interference of the NGOs in that area now leopards & Hyenas are spotted less & quantity of the wild boar increased.

    Even forest Dept are not stopping NGO workers to come 7 stay in that area.Even they Catch the snakes from there & bring them to Surat to show them to others 7 then release that snake in outskirts
of Surat & which is a different habitat from the natural area needed for the survival of that snake.I had told them to mend their ways but they are doing it & Forest dept doesn't say anything to them as they are paid money for not taking steps against them.

    What can be done now?The Nature savior are destroying it.

Little Known Destinations

Trip to Pangot.Near Nainital,Uttarakhand

Posted by KAAJAL DASGUPTA on September 02, 2010

 
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I visited Pangot on 27th August 2010 to capture some shots of the Himalayan species which are available in plenty in this area.I reached the place at around 7.30 pm and stayed at Janardan cottage which is located atop a small hillock at the zero point crossing.The time is not right for birdwatching as it is raining heavily in North India this year including the hills of Uttarakhand but the proximity of this place from my city (Bareilly)made me impatient!
Next morning I woke up to find that it is raining but around 7.30 am it cleared up and I set out to look for the birds.There are two roads ,one leading high up to the mountains (To Vinayak) and one down to the valleys.
Some famous birding resorts like Jungle Lore is situated at the lower road .
On my trek to the top I could watch Yellow Naped Woodpecker ,Yellow cheeked Tit,Black headed jay,White throated laughing thrush,Blue Whistling thrush , Nuthatch and Eurasian jay.
after breakfast while scouting the valley side I spotted Streaked thrush ,Grey tit,Oriental dove,Himalayan Bulbul,Yellow breasted green finch,spotted munia,blue drongo,sparrows,black headed tit,prinia,brown fonted woodpecker,lesser spotted woodpecker and many other small birds which could not be identified.
I will go back in winter to spot the Khalij pheasant ,Koklass and other Himalayan varieties.
It rained every now and then till evening but I managed to click many shots.

Little Known Destinations

Myth, Mist and Munnar

Posted by Anirban Dey on August 06, 2010

 
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Since quite a few days, I’ve been noticing that, Chennai weather is changing. Not sure whether it is an effect of global warming. But,since past few days, the climate is quite pleasant and this was enough to make my mood for my next trip.

My luck generally favours during these kinds of suddenly planned trips, as Maitry, my better-half, is always kind of ‘on her toes’, when it comes to traveling. So, mentally we were all set; the only question was….where?

I always have a psychological inclination towards hills, but reaching out to the great Himalayas is quite an effort from this part of the country, both in terms of time…as well as money. So, it looked like a better idea to try any nearby hill station, during any weekend.

Munnar had always been in my list as a kind of less crowded hill station. It did not take much time to get my thoughts frozen for booking the tickets. It was a Friday evening (Aug 8, 2008), when we started from Chennai Central Station, heading towards Madurai.

We reached Madura iat around 6 in the morning. This was the first time I was in Madurai. In India, this place is quite famous since historic ages and renowned for its temples of great architectural beauty.Honestly, I was quite impressed to find the town to be such neat and clean,despite its thousands of pilgrims. In short, I liked the town, its morning, its people, its traffic…everything. But, as we both were quite eager to reach Munnar as soon, so we decided not to spend time there. We simply hired a cab and “Munnar….here we come!!”

Munnar can be reached from Madurai, via a plus/minus 4 hours smooth drive, and trust me, the road is quite bounce free and scenic too. In first two hours, you get to enjoy the beauty of green rural Tamil Nadu, with lots of coconut trees and huts around. We really enjoyed the drive and some soothing old romantic numbers added more flavors to it. We were so engrossed, that it took both of us some time to realize that, we’ve started climbing uphill. We took a small break on Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, had a nice hot coffee, put our warm clothes on, and pushed the accelerator again to reach the ‘Mystic Heaven’.

 

Looking Back:

 

In countries like India, it’s like, wherever you go,some history follows. It holds true for Munnar as well. The actual owner of this little peace of green beauty was the Royal Family of Poonjar. During British rule in India, the brits identified this place as one of the summer getaways of Southern India. But, it seems, the natural beauty of this place was not the only point of attraction for the Queen’s company, they had some bigger/better plans for this piece of hilly land.

 

The entire land (+/- 580 Sq. KM) was later leased from the Poonjar King for 99 years by a European, Mr. J.D Munro. Identifying the immense agricultural potential of the place, Munro formed a co-operative named “North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural Society”. It was 1964, when TATA-Finlay group was established and till date, despite its virgin beauty,Munnar is equally famous for its acres of tea plantation, mostly setup by the TATA group.

 

Landed Up:

 

Along with lush green tea gardens, Munnar is also blessed with three beautiful river streams called Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala.The name ‘Munnar’ is actually a Tamil word. In Tamil, ‘Mune’ (pronounced as‘m-oo-n-e’) means three, and ‘ar’ means river. So, on the lap of lush green hills, where three beautiful hilly rivers joins their hands, no wonder th eplace would be called…Mune-ar….Munnar. This simple, beautiful yet logical naming convention of rural people often amazes my thinking. In 21stcentury, I believe the most affected part of human nature is simplicity. My personal feelings say that we should learn a lesson from these rural and tribal people.

Once reached, my first job was to find a place to stay and this time I decided to go a little offbeat, I took a ‘home stay’. This was the first time I was trying a home stay, and I liked the concept. It’s like somebody would hand you over his own house, along with all the necessities like grocery, kitchen equipments, a good cook, a caretaker, a driver…almost everything. But the best part is, it does not make a big hole in your pocket,unlike other so-called star hotels. The only caution is, one should carefully check the home stay and its facilities before checking in. 

August is a month, when it rains in most of the southern parts of India.Munnar was no exception. This trip was important to me because it was basically a trip to test my new SLR and associated lenses. But continuous rain disappointed me to some extent, despite the sight-snatching beauty of the place. Anaimudi is the highest peak in this circuit (around 1800 Mts), but we could not reach out because the peak got covered with thick, dense cloud and accompanying rain. We could hardly see each other from half-a-meter distance. Though I love to, but still I could not afford to get drenched in that rain as I had to save my camera. Hence, the first day was mostly a leisurely pass time with some coffee, in the back yard garden of our home stay, sitting beside the river, watching variety of birds, listening to the untold whispers of the after-shower silence, romancing the freshly drenched nature.

Any tourist place generally has a list of sight-seeing spots,which one can avail mostly from the local cab drivers/travel agents. Same happened to us as well. So the second day was quite an active day. Though it was cloudy all the time, but those clouds did not disturb us much on that day.We hired a cab and took a tour of in and around Munnar. Echo Point, Highestpoint, Eraviculum National Park are some of those places. Beside these, one should also visit the tea gardens, tea museum, tea factory, numerous waterfalls, damns, boating etc. I take quite an interest in mixing and interactingwith local people and exploring the place, the market, the culture and so on.Munnar main market is decent, big and clean enough. Like other tourist spots,here also the prices are quite high and people are expected to bargain properly to get their best deal.

The food at our home stay was quite ecstatic. Especially the semi-thick chicken soup was our favorite. It was more palatable due to the climate with heavy rain and unending heavy breeze. In the evening, while sitting in the backyard with a coffee, I saw a kid trying hard to concentrate in her studies. I could make out that, she was not doing it quite willingly;rather, it was her mom, who was more concerned. They were quite a sweet couple,all the way from US. The man was French and the lady was an American. This lady actually reminded me of my sister. She also shares a similar nature like this.She will also insist her six year old kid to study during holidays. These two ladies, though they belong to two different corners of the globe, still the characteristics of motherhood shares many common flavors like this….and many others. Perhaps, this is called the beauty of human nature.

 

 

Chinnar WildlifeSanctuary:

 

The next day, was the day to return back and I was trying out options to make the most out of it, before we finally leave. Munnar can be reached from many different routes. Most popular are from Thekkady (Kerala), Madurai and Coimbatore.As I’ve already seen the Madurai route, I booked my return through Coimbatore.Both are equally far from Munnar (+/- 145 KM). But there is an advantage in returning via Coimbatore, that is, one can stopover at various beautiful water falls on the way and more importantly, try out a very interesting jungle trek in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, which comes on the way back to Coimbatore.As expected, I did not miss any of these chances.

There are many known/unknown wildlife sanctuaries in India. Most of them have got some conventional tours to attract the tourists. These include elephant safari, jeep safari etc. Some of them even run battery operated bus for tourists. If somebody is interested to spot more of wildlife, jeep/bus safari should not be a preferred option. At least my experience does not recommend that, as these jeeps/buses drive through a defined route everyday and over a period of time, most of the animals start avoiding places nearby to those routes. An elephant safari can prove to be more effective here. Anyways,in chinnar, we opted for trekking. This was almost 8 KM of trek, deep inside the jungle. The nature was breathtakingly beautiful. We could see the range of hills from distance and cloud floating over there. I am not a kind of person who visits jungle just to spot tigers. Even if I don’t see any single animal, I believe the nature itself is equally enjoyable.

There were some formalities for entering the forest with a trekking permission and the trekking needs to be done under the supervision of a forest guide. Once the formalities are finished, one can hire a binocular from the forest dept. We had a local guide, Manikanandan (Mani), who works for the forest dept. and belongs to the local tribe. This guy was quite energetic,decent person with a welcome smile on face.

We started making our way through the jungle, clearing the weeds, breaking the dead branches of unknown trees. Mani was surprisingly extra cautious in terms of his senses. Be it a new sound, smell or color… he was extremely quick to sense it. I could feel that this jungle is in the bloodstream of him, and so it is, for the local tribal people. Mani kept on trying his best to spot some animals. His, as well as our luck favored when we could spot some sambars, peacocks, langurs etc.

There were lots of cactus in this jungle. I was as usual trying to focus a bee sitting on a cactus flower. Finding me interested on the flower, Mani asked me whether we were interested to taste a cactus fruit too.This was the first time I could try a cactus fruit. It is difficult for people like me, to spot the fruit in a cactus. The fruit contains a cover full of thorns and looks like its many other branches. Hence, the process of extracting the fruit was even more interesting than the fruit itself.  But, trust me, I liked it so much that I had almost three.

Finally we reached near the Chinnar River.The cold stream, flowing through the jungle, splitting it into two halves. Like all other hilly stream, it also has its own chorus, the sweet and silent roar,the roar which keeps the jungle awake. Simple adjectives would not be enough to describe the beauty of this river. Tired, exhausted we finally sat beside the river, the cool breeze, the melodious chirping of unknown birds and the cold ever flowing stream of water was soothing enough for our nerves.

The trek was over and evening was approaching, we started back towards Coimbatore.The hills, the trees, the nature, the silence…everything was moving away soon. I packed my dinner from Coimbatore station. The train was quite on time. I was hurriedly finishing my dinner.

After a long exciting day, it was time to sleep. The pillow on the berth was calling me like anything. But, I could feel that Munnar is not going to leave me so soon. The train started moving. From the window, I could see the station, vendors, lights…all started moving backwards. I closed my eyes…I saw those falls, the hilly streams, the mist, the cloud, the tea garden,the innocent face of that tribal guide…all were gathering one by one….to appear in my dream….the train is gaining speed…lights are off…and me, all alone…waiting eagerly for that mist covered dream, to take control of my sleep.

Little Known Destinations

Kannoru in Sharawathi Wildlife Sanctuary

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

 
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Sunlight penetrates in tiny patches just enough to give the seeds a chance  to sprout but not to grow, creepers as thick as my waist having spiraled  round its victim tree, blooms on touching the sunlight, on the canopy above and  gripping its victim more securely into a death embrace. Birds whose whistling and cacophony  keeps your neck stretched backwards drives you mad with the impossibility of  sighting them within the lush green layer or rather floors of leaves. Welcome  to the Evergreen forests of Sharavathi Wildlife Sanctuary!


The sanctuary covers the Sharavathi Valley Region, near the western border of  Karnataka. It is spread over an area of 431 Kms and is nourished by the  Sharavathi River.


Me, Guru and Ananth visited this amazing secret world one weekend. A rather  bumpy ride that almost broke our backs, being unfortunate to get the last 3 seats on the KSRTC bus, headed towards Linganamakki, left a red eyed tousled  trio embark at Kargal that is around 5kms from Jog. Gangadhar, our guide who had  arranged our stay, collected us and dropped us at Kanooru, a tiny village with  hardly 8-10 families. Being enthusiast Birders and wary of wild crowds from  Bangalore we kept away from the main group to explore the Kanooru forests.


Filling up with the idlis we filed out into  the jungle. Having been cautioned with many a thrilling tale of leeches, I  fell into a state of anxiety, this being my very first experience of leeches.  I almost had exaggerated them into centipede sizes swarming all over, biting  into you and slowly leaking out your blood, while you howl with pain. (I know  I was reading too much into horror movies!).


I was laughed at my attempts to wear the shoes and socks and a tucked in cargo's into my ankle length army shoes, nothing could possibly prevent the  crawlies! Well I had my last laugh! Take my advise, Ankle length shoes with  the ends of your pants tucked into them does protect you from leech bites! So  I can safely say not even a single one could feast on my blood!



Dharma, our guide took us along a path that steadily went down until it opened  up into the stream that eventually joins Sharavathi. Having had enough of  leeches we (read Guru and Ananth :)) decided its safer to trek along the  stream. The most arduous length was when we has to climb up a vertical cliff  to get to the other side, our nimble guide swung himself up and helped us all. Ananth had a hard time climbing up ;).


The guys while  engaged in a luxurious river bath and our guide prepared fire to cook our  lunch  I went to explore upstream and catch some nap.


One of the many irritating thing about being a gal and that too a gal  engaged in wildlife conservation is that not only your team thinks twice  before taking you along and take manifold precautions and planning before  they embark on the trip, that can generally dampen the whole wild experience,  but it also means you cannot participate in things like jumping into the  river and swim wild like monkey. :( .


Anyway the time I spent upstream, was one of the highlights of my trip, it  gave me some time on my own to soak in the beauty of that place. A constantly  tumbling water in the stream. An eerie silence of no-activity that sometimes  is interrupted by a flutter of wings and sometimes a distant call of some  unknown bird. The dance of the light on the water splashing sliver of silvery  ribbons. Some wonderfully coloured butterflies and beetles hovering over the  stream lazily. A scene of content and perfect solitude.


On a glance it might seem that the Sharavathi Valley is devoid of wildlife,  that's just an illusion. The denizens of these forests above all prefer to come out during the times the sun is down. And being there at dawn or dusk still does not increase your chances of catching a glimpse of these shy creatures,  they possess another weapon - camouflage not to mention the dense foliage  that completely renders them invisible to an untrained eye. The sanctuary is  a refuge of the endangered Lion-tailed macaque. Other mammals include tiger,  leopard (black panther), wild dog, jackal, sloth bear, spotted deer, sambar,  barking deer, mouse deer, wild pig, common langur, bonnet macaque, Malabar  giant squirrel, giant flying squirrel, porcupine, otter and pangolin.

Reptiles include king cobra, python, rat snake, crocodile and monitor lizard. Some of the avian species found in the sanctuary include three species of  hornbill, paradise flycatcher,fairy blue bird, malabar whistling thrush,  blue-throated barbet and Indian lories and lorikeets. There are many  butterflies in the sanctuary.



Amidst growing concerns by Dharmanna that we might not be able to leave the  forests before dusk, Guru pointed out to the little and only torch we had amidst us and said we will bank on it. How could we hurry? when at every turn the scene grew more beautiful than the previous and dusk brought home, birds near stream and gave us the opportunity to see them. The last mile brought us to a lovely waterfall. This time again the guys had the time of their lives splashing around the fall and faithfully reminding me what a unique experience I have missed.  During this time I discovered to my dismay that mosquitoes are not the only  insects that syringe you for your blood! There are insects that are much  larger with much bigger stingers!


Night brought ten thousand fire-flies! OK some hundreds then.. All good-naturedly blinking from the trees surrounding the house, And as we fell asleep on the porch chatting about this and that I fell into a deep sleep  wondering why the fire-flies have abandoned us at cities as everything else that was a part of our childhood , like the multitude of butterflies and  sparrows, the little beauties of nature.


The next morning after waiting for Gangadhar who was to be our guide for the day, for quite a while we decided to do with our little buddy Yogaraj.  Trekking on the outskirts of the forest we came across this one particular  tree that seem to have attracted a lot of our avian friends, I saw my first  fairy blue bird. We decided to spend our morning on the roof of the fall to  which my friends seemed to very partial and indeed it was worth all the admiration. A clear view of the valley below sheltered by a fruiting tree on  whose many branches housed several other creepers like a curtain to this  awesome world. Some where down a Malabar whistling thrush was on with its singing routine, I could just imagine him going up and down his favourite tree  whistling away to lure his lady love. You have to hear one at its performance and feel one's heart fill with joy as it goes on. You could  easily mistake him to be some amateur boy whistling away in the forests, not  without reason the Malabar whistling thrush is also called whistling school  boy!



After a long time of resting in that blessed place we returned back for a  round of breakfast. We soon again crashed into the forests, this time journeying through the open fields to visit the hornbill's nest. A hornbill has a very curious behavior about nesting. It nests in the tree holes. During  the time the female hornbill has to lay egg she sheds her feathers (pulls it out on her own!) and makes herself comfortable in the tree hole her mate has  found and which she has approved and then shuts herself in by sealing the hole with mud and grit, leaving just a tiny slit through which the male regularly drops in food.


We spent a major part of our afternoon next to a natural swimming pool, with the guys again splashing and posing and exploring upstream around while I spent  time sleeping and listening to music. Just to keep Yoga from getting bored I  challenged him on who could keep their head-down-first into water for long. Needless to say he won ! The way back was quite a bit of journey, crossing  the deep pool over a fallen tree trunk, I did that one on all hands and legs!  jumping over rocks to keep my shoes dry which I gave up on the last stretch  jumping into the pool thenceforth at every opportunity..


As we trekked back Ananth kept our lungs tickling endlessly by slipping over  the dry and wet rocks alike in spectacular fashion. Yoga kept his eyes  tuned on him just so he woudn miss the next one coming. So much for the  really costly woodland shoes and the really cheap hawaii chappals that he alternated between! My favourite one was the last fall when while wading  across the knee length water he fell on his *** with his camera and binocs  held high above his head with a very surprised look on his face! Wish I had a  snap of that! This much I must say to his credit, he took all the jokes aimed  at him good-naturedly :).



The last of our adventure in the Kanooru forest winded up on a half done bridge over a stream that was hardly a trickle that summer afternoon.


After a hasty lunch we returned back to Kargal on an auto whose driver  insisted us on showing the secret submerged tunnel that opened up into Linganmakki. For me it was the thrill of seeing the swallows mud house  underneath the bridge that made the detour worthwhile.



With a lot of time to kill before the return bus to Bangalore from Sagar at 10pm we had a pit stop at Jog Falls. Despite the disappointment of the front  view wiped clean of all trees by a concrete corridor giving a naked fall, The Jog falls by itself is still is a marvel and a beauty to behold. A vertical drop of nearly 900 ft Jog Falls still remains a spectacular sight with multitude of  swifts hovering around it. As we three sat there looking at it for a real  long time I felt a sense of companionship, like some perfect understanding  passed between us unspoken about what lay ahead of us. A commitment to do everything possible to protect the forests of this land. Although I speak  here for myself  I am sure we all are of the same opinion.

Little Known Destinations

A night at Rasimanal Watchtower

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

 
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The last of the ground survey by KANS winded up at Rasimanal. Here is an account of the most wonderful time of my life..


Rasimanal Forest Guest house is around 2 hours drive from Anchetty. The narrow roads sneak up the hills and at one point gave a awe inspiring view of the valley. Tiny villages with hardly around 100-150 families have sprung up all along the way.


I tasted the most refreshing coffee and tea at a tea shop on the way that boasted a very interesting water heater, though I would say it was simply the lower part of water filter set up on a stove! The swooshing movement of mixing up the beverage with milk and water by the owner was worth filming!


 We waited at the last hamlet for the forest guard (who incidentally never turned up) for the guest house keys. When the waiting became intolerable a few of us started walking along the jungle path for birding, a few of the locals began telling me no to go any further as elephants frequented the path beyond the farm.  I would have loved to see some. As fate could have its last laugh I was again denied the elephant encounters. The heat of the afternoon gave way to the soothing evening breeze and my troop giving up the hope of the guest house keys collected the rest of the wandering gang and started moving towards RasiManal. Rasimanal belongs to the Anchetty range and here the Cauvery and Dodhalla meet up and continue their way into Tamil Nadu. With the pre-monsoon showers Cauvery had indeed swollen and was gushing away noisily.



You could feel it in the air that you were about to witness the unexpected. As is usual to me I floated away.. day dreaming wide awake. Wild Jasmine shrubs also called Kadu Mallige in Kannada littered the forest grounds profusely.. Its scent rose in spirals and set the scene of ancient Indian lore, For some reason I began to recount the tale of Shakuntala, that that lovely maiden must have sometime run around here with those wild flowers in her ear lobes..


We spotted a pair green imperial pigeon, my very first. Indeed a very beautiful bird found reportedly in the Western Ghats.The forest guard who accompanied us in the jeep prepared us for the sight of a half cooked elephant! Apparently during one of the beats last week they found a dead elephant , and had gathered dry twigs and set fire to the corpse. We found it alright, smelling it, meters away!




Finally we reached Rasimanal, my eyes all hooked at the Watchtower that guaranteed a bird's view of the valley with Cauvery just a few feet away. I accompanied the group that was hurrying to set the camera traps. We set a pair on the banks of the Cauvery around a kilometer or two from the watch tower. There were these huge trees with white bark and roots that almost seemed like skeletons hugging the loose boulders and keeping them in place reminding me of the Angkor Vat temples in Cambodia. I am guessing they were  Dhindilu or dhindal , Scientific name Anogeissus latifolia belonging to the family Combretaceae




The Camera traps are motion detectors. When an animal crosses its range of detection, it sets off the camera that normally sleeps during inactivity. If I am not wrong the camera is active only for a period of 5 seconds in a minute. After a lot of circus to hold the camera facing the stretch that seemed to have seen a lot of animal activity we rushed back to the watch tower as it was getting dark and the time for the elephants and the nocturnal animals to come to the river bed. As we crashed back we almost lost our way. Its really a wonder how the forests guards can make out the way even during night. I can easily get lost on the back streets of my house! We were still discussing the camera traps when flash-flash something eerily silver seems to  have floated past and my heart simply jumped into my mouth.. On a closer look however they turned out to be trees whose bark had a lustrous silver sheen, I am not sure what they are called though.


Night fall brought a  lot of surprises including Mr. Thillai god-bless-him who brought food and beverages (U know ...) During the time the whole troop devoured the fish curry and idlis I sat at the foot of the tower facing the river and the forests listening to light music and watching the greatest drama ever unroll, Nature unleashing its power.


As minutes trickled by dark clouds began gathering at the horizon that until now did not even have the white clouds , wind that ever so gently lifted tufts of my hair began to blow in real earnest almost pinning me to my side. The entire forests quivered in unease as the unrelenting winds grew in strength and a thunderstorm began to brew and very soon lightning forked the skies and a series of ear-splitting thunders rolled almost making you shiver at its intensity and cower in fear. For almost a hour this continued with no sign of relenting and giving way to rain, and we gathered on the watchtower's roof almost scared to stand at full height for fearing the lightning strike us!


And then with a whispering that grew louder than the howling wind it began to rain. Some of us staggered into the jeep some into the safe sanctuary of the watch tower and the rest of us filed on the side of the watch tower that provided at least little bit of shade from the onslaught of the rain. We shivered and laughed enjoying the whole scene like little children enjoying ice-cream.. We talked into sleeping all the adventures we have had every time peeking at the river bed for the sight of the crocs. The over crowded watch tower that day welcome eight of us tightly packed with me, the only girl in the group asleep facing everyone's feet!



Just imagine a perfect morning, a vast blue flushed sky , a mighty river with sandy bed and dark smooth stones jutting into her and you bend down to wash your face with the cool water. I wished my every morning would start that way! Me, Guru and Somyajit walked across for about 2 hours birding and we were lucky to see the Crested Hawk Eagle, a pair of otters who almost sauntered very close by finally beating a hasty retreat realizing our presence.



I almost ran back to the watchtower remembering Thillai's promise for a tasty Maggie for breakfast. Guru made a watery albeit tasty maggie noodles scorching Thillai's shiny vessel with black soot from the make-shift stove we made using half dry twigs and some bricks.


And there ends my most memorable day so far, rested between those soft hills and those dark angry clouds for ever.

Little Known Destinations

Daroji Bear Sanctuary

Posted by Susan Sharma on April 04, 2008

 
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Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Karnataka






As we entered Hampi, the ancient city of Vijayanagar, scattered with the ruins of bygone splendour in granite stone, WILDLIFE was far from my thoughts. Still, a simple board announcing "Daroji Bear sanctuary just 15 km from here" caught my eye. We asked our guide if it was worth the trip. "sure," he said," be there between four and five in the evening and you are sure to see the sloth bears”. I looked at the watch. It was 11 am. After walking through the Vitthala and Virupaksha temples during the day we can hope to make it to the sanctuary before dark since we had hired a vehicle for the day.

I had heard about Wildlife SOS rescuing dancing bears and releasing them in rescue centres. May be this was one of them, I thought to myself. We reached the sanctuary in the evening, after driving through barren stone covered landscape for the most part. We drove through the sanctuary gate into an expanse of more granite blobs and keekar trees. Well placed sign boards throughout the sanctuary (the sign boards were there on the road along the drive to Daroji too) made sure we reached the watch tower by 5.30 pm or so.

To our surprise, there were a few tourists including a forest guard already there waiting for the bears to come out of their stone caves and descend to the tree and stone top where platefuls of jaggery had been placed by the guards to lure them. The bears are wild and are the residents of this area since time immemorial. Besides sloth bears, leopards, wild boar ( the symbol of both Chalukia and Vijayanagara dynasty) and peacocks are easily seen, the forest guard said. The peafowl were already tasting the food on the trees. Wild boars cannot climb the trees but a couple of them patiently waited for the bears, hoping for crumbs falling to the ground, no doubt.

Everyone was quiet and the only sounds were those of the partridges, which could be seen scampering about. ‘There he is’, muffled cries went out. A huge black figure had come out and was on his hind legs searching for something on a high rock cleft. ‘There is some food there too’-the guard informed. Soon three more bears emerged from under the rocks-huge hefty and black -very unlike the craggy bears one remembered from childhood-the bears, which danced for the kalandahar.

One huge bear climbed the tree and started eating. Peafowl and boars in attendance on the ground. One could watch the magnificent creatures through some powerful binoculars. They were too far away for my still camera to capture them.

I remembered seeing sloth bears in Ranthambore a few years back. I had also seen them in Corbett National Park during a visit nearly 25 years ago. ( See a snap of the bear which came to Dhikala below). From those days the sloth bears have reduced steadily in numbers due to poaching and habitat destruction that the forest department found it necessary to protect the species in an exclusive sanctuary. The sanctuary was formed in the year 1994.

The rock-strewn hillocks that stretch between Daroji of Sandur taluk and Ramasagar of Hospet Taluk in Bellary district have been the abode of Indian Sloth Bear (Melursus ursimus) since ages. In October 1994, the Government of Karnataka declared 5,587.30 hectares of Bilikallu reserve forest as Daroji Bear Sanctuary.

It is estimated that about 120 Sloth Bears are living in this sanctuary, apart from Leopards, Hyena, Jackals, Wild Boars, Porcupine, Pangolins, Star Tortoise, Monitor Lizard, Mongoose, Pea Fowls, Partridges, Painted Spur Hen, Quails etc. About 90 species of birds, and 27 species of butterflies have also been identified in this sanctuary in a preliminary survey.

Here is a link to the youtube video showing sloth bear from Ranthambore


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ9QxZ7hS5U


The bear which came to Dhikala 25 years ago!

 

Little Known Destinations

Mandakini Magpie Bird Watcher’s Camp

Posted by Govind on September 08, 2007

 
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The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watcher’s Camp!

Even as some of us sit in Delhi and discuss the intricacies of ecotourism and how it’s different from tourism, there are people all over this country who are practicing the former – in the real sense of the word (‘eco’-tourism). One such person is Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi who runs a bird watching camp christened, ‘The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp’.

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi bird watcher mandakini magpie

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi

One such person is Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi who runs a bird watching camp christened, ‘The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp’. The camp is located in Kakragad on the bank of River Mandakini en route to Sri Kedarnath, a few hours drive from Rudraprayag.

 

Devbhumi Uttranchal/Uttrakhand Magpie Bird watcher camp billboard

The Camp

Mr. Negi is a wonderful person who is not only dedicated towards his work but also has in-depth knowledge about birds and the Himalayas. He has been running this camp for the past seven years which is wonderfully exemplified by his experience and expertise.

Apart from bird watching, Mr. Negi also takes interest in collecting good books on orinthology. He even has a good collection of abandoned bird nests and also of some classic books on bird identification, wildlife and Himalayan Biodiversity. Lately, he has also started making a herbarium of those plant species in which the birds make their nest or feed.

 

nest collection by Mr. Negi

Nest Collection

 

Ecotourism!

 

 

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi may not know the difference between Tourism and Ecotourism.

He may not have even heard of ecotourism.

But how he runs his bird watchers camp can be a basic case study of ‘ecotourism in the Himalayas’.

 

 

tent houses at the mandakini magpie bird watchers camp

 

Tent houses

He runs his camp all himself with some help from other people of the area. The tent houses are well maintained and are very inviting with names like ‘Woodpecker Tent, Sparrow Tent, etc!

In his camp, very little of ‘transmitted’ electricity is used. He has solar lanterns which are extensively used instead of the regular electricity.

Solar lanterns at Mr. Negi’s Mandakini Magpie Birdwatchers camp

Solar Lanterns at Mr. Negi’s Camp

 

All in all, a visit to the Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp is a must for every bird watcher, nature lover or for anyone who wants a lesson or two in Ecotourism!

Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi can be contacted at the following number: 09412909399

 

Little Known Destinations

Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary - A pictorial travelogue!

Posted by Govind on September 07, 2007

 
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Travelogue: A Visit to the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary!

Location: District Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand

Visited in: Feb-March, 2007

While words may fail...pictures never! 

1. Sonprayag Township: The Base Camp. While it is difficult to find a place to step a foot during the warm season (of the Sri Kedarnath yatra), the town is lazy and ghostly during the rest of the year.

2. Sonprayag: Concfluence of Songanga (on the left) and Mandakini (seen in the middle) Rivers 

3. Entry bridge to the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary - just above Sonprayag.

4. Gaurikund: The last motorable town en route to Sri Kedarnath. Steps lead to the entry-gate of the 14 Km. trek to Sri Kedarnath.

5. and 6. Poly-bag menace at Gaurikund

   

7. To Sri Kedarnath

8. and 9. An interesting fungus and the HIMALAYAN TAHR!!

      

10. and 11. Leopard Pug marks..apparently not alone!! (Verified by Dr. Sinha of the WII)

             

 

 

 

 

 

12. Jangal Chatti

13. Nature is kind enough to the wildlife - to prevent people from going above Jangal Chatti (owing to avalanches, snow, etc.) Am glad it is! So, the best view of Sri Kedarnath that I got.

14. Back to Sonprayag - to make the long journey back home.

15 . A View of the Chaukhamba peak several kilometers away from where it is (zoomed into focus)! Just a reminder of the glorious glory of the Himalayas. Reminded me of a poem I had read long back in my Hindi class.."Giriraj Himalaya ka Bharat se kuch aisa hi naata hai...."

P.S. The above was a University of Delhi Research trip. Unless one has a permission (at times not even then), it is not possible to go beyond Gaurikund during off-season.

The images can be used for any socially useful purpose after proper citation.

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