Earth Sublime

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Soaring like an eagle - INP's 3rd year.

Tucked away, next to the Banerghatta Wildlife Sanctuary, far far from the madding crowd, is a small slice of heaven called Camp GeeDee. The topography is excellent and of course the human hand has helped to add a lake or two, making it one of the most exciting place to be, especially for the nature/bird loving brigade and solitude seekers. Nature blending with aesthetics
(the stone cottage very tastefully decorated and the lovely photo exhibits of bird and animals),

Camp GeeDee is the brainchild of Krishna Narayan or K.N. And this is precisely the place where courtesy Vijay Cavale and our warm host K.N., INP decided to have its meet to commemorate (rather a big word, eh!) its third year in existense. So, they were all there (the INP members), getting together to swap stories or err coming home to roost!

K.N. told us about a hill nearby (within the camp precints) and we began the trek up the hill.

Camp GeeDee, I later learnt, was spread over an area of 65 acres. The climb to the top was fun (nothing very ardous). Of course, I do not speak for those who were lugging their heavy photo equipment. The view from the top offered a breathtaking glimpse of perhaps even greater delights all over the place. The sky looked a magnificent blue and it seemed as if one could just stretch a bit and touch it. Just an exercise in imagination, mind you, but the raptors, might well could have accomplished the feat. This time the raptors in question were the honey buzzards soaring amidst the vast blue expanse. Some managed to get a shot or two. K.N. has even witnessed the spectacle of the honey buzzard with a honey comb in its mouth!

We made our way down the hill and we could see many colourful butterflies fluttering around. Charu and I joked about the fancy names these butterflies possess. Blue tiger is not because of some cloning experiment gone horribly wrong (with the tiger) but the name of a butterfly!

As we meandered along, we came across a lake (man-made) where just next to it was a

shelter of sorts with a few people sitting around exchanging tales of birds and mammals. What calm, what peace, broken only by the twittering of a bird somewhere.

There were trails everywhere. Mysteries to be discovered, both soothing and delightful.

Our search for water proved to be rewarding. For cool lemon sherbet or nimbu-pani awaited us. We sipped the lemonade gratefully, whilst watching the antics of a bee-eater. Soon after, one by one, everybody started congregating at the nimbu-pani place (water hole) and talk went on about whether anybody had luck with sighting and shooting birds.

Soon, lunch was announced and over we went to Corbett Hall where a huge repast was laid out for us. That the food was excellent was a unanimous feeling and suddenly all was well with the world again. Nothing, they say, is attained on an empty stomach. So, after lunch, a discussion ensued about the merits and demerits of posting/receiving pictures on
INW and INP. Of course, no decision was arrived at. A meeting they say is where
everybody talks, nobody listens and everybody disagrees later on. Hey!
just jesting. I am sure a prudent decision will be taken soon in the
interest of everybody.

After that, some preferred to leave and a few remained. Talk again shifted as to how INP has gained in popularity and members. Vijay Cavale said it was indeed a movement and today INP could compare with the best in terms of picture quality and content. Hip Hip Hurray! To quote Victor Hugo, `No idea is as great as an idea whose time has come'.

The few of us who remained were later served tea and we had a tete-a-tete with K.N. who informed us that Camp GeeDee was started in 1995. Camp GeeDee is unlike your holiday resort where hordes of people arrive and make a nuisance of themselves. K.N. welcomes into its fold only those who have respect for nature and wish to discover her manifold secrets. Apparently, there are some 200 species of birds to be found on the farm and it is a common sight for K.N. to see some 50-60 elephants together in the valley. That explains the electric fencing all around the Camp. The uneven road to the farm is an excellent deterrent for those who come out of idle curiosity or no particular purpose. He has also employed watchers who look out for trouble making locals. Co-exisiting with the locals is not a happy experiment. Especially when you are in the exalted company of those who make short work of a domestic cat! Even the eggs of owls are targeted.
Later, as we said our byes to K.N., he hoped we would sight a herd of elephants. His words were prophetic for on our way back we saw a male elepant and a calf. Actually, Ganesh who was ahead of us, pointed it out to us. From a rather safe distance, we could see the male nudging the calf back into the thicket. What a perfect ending to an almost perfect day at Camp GeeDee.

Thank you K.N. Thank you Vijay Cavale. There is no looking back for INP. A very happy birthday (3rd) indeed.

Sunita Raghu.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Chugging off to Chickmagalur

This time round, celebrating our third wedding anniversary, we decided to check out Karnataka’s well guarded holiday paradise- Chickmagalur, about 251 km from Bangalore. Chickmagalur is a small town nestling in the Baba Budangiri mountain range. It could well be the coffee bowl of Karnataka, nay India for the place abounds with coffee plantations and estates, accentuating the beauty of the place.

We landed in Chickmagalur at 5.00 am. After a cup of coffee (what else!), we decided to head for the Baba Budan Hills, situated 55 km north of Chickmagalur. Without one’s own transport, one has to depend upon the local private transport. So, off we went on a jaunty old bus.

Actually, the hills get their name from Baba Budan, a sufi saint who resided here 150 years ago. Baba Budan is reported to have smuggled some coffee beans into India from Yemen and thus the coffee here has to be attributed to him. Baba Budan’s grave rests beside that of another Hindu saint. Muslims are known to come here from all over the world, during festivals.

The ride to the summit was truly spectacular unraveling bit by bit, nature in all her bountiful glory. When we finally reached the place, there was a nip in the air. From up here, we got a glimpse of the majestic Baba Budan range. The place was actually teeming with people and their vehicles. We visited the dargah of the great saint, Baba Budan.

Unfortunately, there is no accommodation here worth mentioning. That explains the general squalor all over the place. The summit can get very cold, situated 1895 meters above sea level and is normally off limits during winter. A trekker’s delight, there are trails all around leading perhaps to scenes of even greater beauty.

‘K’ for Kemmangundi

Time being short, we decided to head for the next place on our list, namely the Krishna Rajendra Hill Station at Kemmangundi. Kemmangundi, situated 1434 metres above the sea level is a delightful little hill station ringed by the Baba Budan range. This beautiful place is named after King Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar IV, who developed it as a summer retreat. After an hour long ride (again on the local bus), we reached Kemmangundi.

Kemmangundi presented a picture-postcard look. Flowers of every hue greet one all over the place with various species of plant life. For accommodation, there are some pretty cottages and a lone restaurant. This apart, accommodation can be found in Birur or Tarikere some 30 odd km from there.

There are great trails everywhere for walking. Also, there are certain vantage points from where one gets a beautiful view of the entire place. There are some more beautiful sights in store. Like the beautiful rock garden where one can take a break and relax.

Further on, there is also a waterfall. Again, we had to hurry as we had no accommodation and the last bus left at 5:00 pm. We decided to have a quick look at the Raj Bhavan which is located at the extreme top.

Here, one is greeted by rows of rose bushes and other flowers. There is also the red soil found here from where the place gets its name. This’s a great place to see the sun set. The bus arrived bang on time and a little shake and a little rattle and off we went to Chickmagalur where we planned to rest for the night.

The next day was reserved for a visit to the Muthodi forest sanctuary which is about 38 km from Chickmagalur. At around 7:30 am, the local private bus left. The ride was worth every penny as we swept pass acres and acres of coffee estates, negotiating steep curves with a river running alongside for company.

The entire journey left me awe struck and I felt it was the beginning of a delightful experience when we reached the Muthodi forest checkpost. The bus deposited us here and ambled on.

Go wild! The Muthodi Forest Reserve is one of the four main parts of the Bhadra Wild life Sanctuary, the other three being Tanikecoil, Lakkavalli and Hebbe. As if always the case with wild life sanctuaries, there was absolute silence here interrupted only by the bird calls and the antics of the langurs. Within minutes of arriving, we spotted a Malabar giant squirrel. Here again, one has to book in advance as there is limited accommodation (cottages and a dormitory). The same river (Somavahini) which we saw from the bus flows quietly through the forest, quenching the thirst of many a bird and animal. One can walk on the asphalted road which cuts right through the forest, a great place for trekkers and bird watchers. The forest cover protects one from the scorching heat and is a must-see for nature lovers. With no eateries here, one has to cart along one’s own food. There is a kitchen attached to the dorm though one has to inform in advance.

Peace prevails

The best thing about this place is the absolute peace and calm that prevails here. No noisy tourists, no pesky children. It is as if the outside world did not exist. One can also go on a jeep safari to have a look around in the forest. Having soaked in the delights of this green paradise, we took the last bus, which came at sharp 5:15 pm and off we went. As we took the 11:00 pm bus back to Bangalore, I was sure that I would want to repeat this truly exciting experience.