Saturday, 13 December 2014

Hampi, beauty admist ruins ~ Part I

If you have just thought that Rome was not built in a day let me assure you that Hampi was also not built in a day. I have seen both Rome and Hampi, and to be honest, I was more amazed by the latter.

Vittala Temple Stone Chariot
  Hampi is more like an open museum. You will see history in each of the numerous stones scattered everywhere.Though now everything is in ruins but still one can feel the vast magnitude of an once prosperous city of Vijaynagara.

  One thing we realised while seeing Hampi was that it is IMPOSSIBLE TO SEE HAMPI IN A DAY. Please keep aside atleast 3 days if you are planning for a Hampi visit. We kept 2 days for Hampi and at the end we still felt that we should have kept 2 more days.

  From Dandeli we drove till Hampi. The road is good and its roughly 250 km. Once we reached Hampi, it was almost 4:30 in the afternoon. There are quite a good number of lodges (people rent a few rooms in their own house to tourists) in Hampi. We checked in one such lodge that was just outside the Virupaksha Temple. It was a no fuss and pretty okay lodge. From the lodge we could get a clear temple view whenever we used to go to its roof top restaurant.

Virupaksha Temple

Lodges near Virupaksha Temple
  A lot of tourists stay at Hospet which is just 12 km from Hampi. The reason for staying there is that there are lots of hotels in terms of choice and budget. Moreover in Hampi both liquor and non-veg food is not allowed. Tourists can enjoy those luxuries in Hospet.

  Since the day was almost nearing to an end, we decided to check the Virupaksha Temple and the adjoining Hampi Baazar. The Virupaksha temple is kept open till 8:30 PM and buses ply between Hospet and Virupaksha temple. It is a huge temple complex and house temples of Pataleshwara, Muktinarashimha, Suryanarayana, Laxminarasimha and Mahishasura Mardini. The main deity is Lord Virupaksha, after whose name the temple is, also referred to as Pampapati (husband of Pampa).

  Since it was already dark, we did not go to the back of the temple where there is a dark chamber. There is a hole in the eastern side through which sunlight enters and an inverted image of the temple tower is formed on the western wall.

  Next we went to the adjacent Hampi Baazar. The Bazaar is now a lot more slimer than what it was even a few years back. There are shops mostly selling souvenir and jewellery. It makes a lot of sense to hire a guide for a day and also get equipped with one of those numerous ASI guide books. You will find them almost at all important sites in Hampi.

From the next day we will start our actual Hampi exploration.
Please read the next part here Hampi,beauty admist ruins~Part II

Hampi moment: At the gates of Prasanna Narasimha Statue

Hampi Moment: Early Morning; Krishna Temple overlooking Krishna Bazar

Hampi Moment: Ready to move towards Vittala Temple

Hampi Moment: Hazara(one thousand) Rama Temple; Sun Down.

Hampi Moment: Just above Krishna Bazar, Early morning.

Important Pointers:
Hotels: There are plenty of hotels in Hospet which is 12 km from Hampi
             In case if you want to stay in hampi you can opt for the lodges near Virupaksha Temple.

Guide: It makes a lot sense to hire a guide. There is so much of interesting history in each and every corner of the ruins that if you actually roam aimlessly it actually does not make much sense.

  Hampi is an UNESCO World Heritage site and a no plastic zone, so please be a responsible tourist. Most of the places and monuments do not take any charges for entry and photography.

  Best time to visit Hampi is during the winter months, it really really gets hot in Hampi during Summer.    

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Dandeli,Hornbill's heaven

 A trip to Dandeli was long due. We had planned a 4 day trip,one night at Dandeli and 2 nights at Hampi. After we confirmed our stay at Pansoli guest house,we were good to go.

We started really early from Bangalore at 3 AM and this time also as usual the three of, Ankur and our Sparky :)

The route we took was Bangalore-->Tumkur-->Sira-->Hiriyur-->Chitradurga-->Ranebennur-->Haliyal-->Dandeli.

The road is good but be prepared to pay around 400 bucks as toll tax on this route. Also a long stretch of the road do not have any food joints or petrol bunks.

We reached our guest house around 11:30 am.We were greeted by our host Mr Krishna who showed us our cottage.The facilities are minimalist yet satisfactory but to us that's okay. Another good option to stay at Dandeli is at Kulgi Nature Camp which is government owned. For booking one need to confirm over phone and then fax them the DD.

Wooly Necked Stork

Our first bird for the day was a wooly necked stork perched high on a tree at our guest house. By the way check in time at Pansoli guest house is 12 noon till 10 AM next day and there is no mobile signal in Kulgi except for BSNL. So be prepared to be cut off from the hectic world and enjoy your stay in Dandeli.

There are quite some places to see in and around Dandeli. There is white water rafting in Kali river,the Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserve,the Syntheli rocks,Supa dam,Kavala caves. If you are planning for a jungle safari then its a good idea to stay at Kulgi because the safari start point is very near to the Kulgi Nature camp.

Malabar Grey Hornbill

Malabar Pied Hornbill

Malabar Pied Hornbill and Malabar Grey Hornbill

Malabar Grey Hornbill

Since our plan was to see hornbill so after a quick lunch we headed straight to the Dandeli timber depot which is quite famous for hornbill spotting.There we spotted  12 hornbills, 3 malabar grey hornbill, 9 malabar spotted hornbill all just in one evening.

We previously had planned for a coracle ride on Kali river whose banks are also hot beds for hornbill sighting, but because of time constraints we did not went for the coracle ride. Incase if you are a bird enthusiast don't miss out this one. Apart from hornbill a lot other birds can be sighted on the banks. You can book for coracle ride at the Kulgi reception centre.

It was a little dark when we were returning to our homestay. Suddenly we noticed a slight movement in the bush ahead.First I thought of deer or something, then we realised it was a small black panther. It vanished quickly, all I could capture was its tail.

Next day morning we took a bird watching walk through the forest. There are several treks available like timber walk,Kavala trek, bird and nature walk. These have to be booked from the reception at Kulgi camp. The bird watching walk is a 1.5 km walk inside the jungle accompanied by a guide where you get to see various birds some endemic to the region. The cost is Rs 100 per head and Rs 100 for your guide.

During Bird Trail

Bee eater

                                                               scarlet minivet


Serpent eagle

Spotted Woodpecker



The best time for bird watching is September-October and for animals its March-April.We saw a lot of birds though we could not take all the photos.Below are some that I managed to click.

From Dandeli next we headed to the historical city Hampi.

Some vital info:
 For booking
 Kulgi Nature Camp : Dy. Conservator of Forests (08284 231585)
 Pansoli guest house : K.M Madadolkar (9448893691/9448318376/9449912439)

Buffalo, having a good time

Lone Tusker 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Bandipur, Call Of The Wild

Initially after our marriage, I was never fond of jungles. It was Ankur who used to love the jungles and used to tell me how much enthralling jungles can be. So once we moved to Bangalore, the first jungle that we visited was Nagarhole, and quite honestly since then I have also turned into a big time jungle fan.

 There have been innumerable times we have been to the various wild life sanctuaries and our fascination of the wild continues. We have been to Nagarhole quite a few times and this time we thought of Bandipur.

  Ankur had already done the booking  in the government guest house which is situated in the Bandipur Park itself. The booking can be done from Its a nice accomodation equipped with the basic amenities. The rooms are big and the bathrooms bigger. There is also a canteen where you have to order your meals before hand else there is no options for food inside the national park. Another good staying option is the Jungle lodges and Resorts.


  We started from Bangalore at 5:30 am and reached Bandipur at 11 am. We took the Mysore-->Gundulpet-->Bandipur route. The road is good and we stopped at quite a few places for tea.

  Check in time at the government guest house is 12 noon; since we reached 1 hour before we loitered here and there till they gave us the rooms. We had two jeep safaris, the same day evening one and the next day morning.

  Each jeep safari costed 2000 bucks. There will be one driver cum guide. For the jeep safari, the earlier you can stand in the queue the better it is, there are a lot of takers and the number of jeeps is only 3. We were lucky that we got the jeeps on both the days, there were a lot of disappointed souls too who could not get jeeps and had to take the bus safari.

  The evening safari started at 4 pm. The driver took us to the jungle stretch that lies on the right side of the road that passes through the national park. The driver had seen a leopard in one of the water holes just the other day in the evening. Just a few metres inside the jungle we saw a monitor lizard. It was resting still enjoying the warm rays. We got ample of good shots and moved on.

Hide and Seek
  Next we saw the customary monkeys. Though monkeys are common in forests, still if I don't see monkeys I feel something missing. There are so many varieties of birds. There are orioles, barbets, magpie,cuckoos, kites,mynas, kingfishers and many more. All of a sudden I noticed a small stretch where there were several small ant hill sort of structures from where lacewing type of insects were coming out. And there was this big group of mynas who were notoriously waiting just outside the openings of the ant hills preying on the insects as they leave their nests.

Monitor Lizard

Flame back woodpecker


Streak throated woodepecker

Streak throated woodepecker

Crested Serpant Eagle

  We came to the water hole were the guide had seen a tiger a few days back and waited for sometime but there was no successful sighting for the day.





Dancing Peacock

  Next day early morning we took our second safari. Bandipur is so famous for its big cats and we were praying to see one. Even a few second's glimpse would also make us happy. Ankur had already researched a lot about Bandipur and he requested the driver to take us towards the Mulapura water hole. Our friends who had accompanied us to Bandipur were also with us on both the trips and so, naturally there were four pairs of eyes all speckled and be-speckled scrutinizing the jungle for any luck.

  Suddenly our driver whispered "Leopard sitting right in front" and we all were like "Where ??" It took us a few seconds to figure out the animal. It was sitting on the grass and looking straight at us.It was such a beautiful animal and we spent the first few seconds just awestruck by its presence.







  Slowly the leopard got up, looked at our jeep and slowly and gracefully crossed the road in front of us and then vanished into the wood. The leopard was a full grown male and the driver told us that seldom they get to see a full grown male leopard crossing the road. In most of the cases they just turn back and vanish.

  We were so happy to see the was our first leopard spotting; on top of that, we got ample of good shots. We thanked the driver for all his efforts and also our luck and left Bandipur with a happy heart.

Pelicans, On our way back to Bangalore

The forest bungalow where we stayed

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Masinagudi, poorer cousin of Mudumalai

   When we visited Mudumalai some years back, we were quite impressed with the animal sightings. So we decided to visit Mudumalai once more, but then the drastic thing happened.Because of a forest fire a good portion of Mudumalai was burnt and the forest was closed for visitors indefinitely for some time.

So we thought and thought and finally decided going to Masinagudi because of its close proximity to Mudumalai. We booked a single night package at a resort called Secret Ivory. The resort was nothing great but was sort of reasonable as far as the price was concerned. The resort location is good and one can have a nice view of the Nilgiri range from the resort itself. Food  is also sort of okay and the price needs to be paid extra.

We booked two jeep safaris, one in the evening and the other the next day early morning.We requested the resort to arrange the safaris for us.The jeep safaris are quite cheap, you can book the full jeep for 2 hours at Rs 1500. If you book the jeep all by yourself and not through any resort or hotel then you can go for some haggling. There are plenty of jeeps just outside the Masinagudi forest area which anyone can book.

So called jungle track of core area

The jeep driver told us that the jeep safari will take us to the core of the jungle. We were impressed but very soon we realized he was bluffing. There were tar roads leading to a functional temple in the core forest. How is that possible ?? We have been to some of the best national parks in the country and nowhere the jungle tracks had tar roads. We roamed till it was dark and did not spot anything except a few spotted deer. Feeling our frustration the driver suddenly told us "You guys are so lucky...see there is a big nilgiri gaur standing under the tree". Since it was all dark we could not see anything, the only thing we saw was a big structure standing still.



The next morning we were ready for our safari at 6 but to our dismay there was no jeep or driver.We wasted almost 45 minutes when finally a jeep was arranged. The track was the same as that of the previous day. Morning safari was better that the last one. We saw some deer, a herd of elephant,peacock and a chamelion. Next the driver took us to the same spot where the previous day driver spotted the stationary nilgiri gaur. We were so much embarred to find that the nilgiri gaur was in fact an ant hill.
 Not able to spot anything is fine, we all understand that animal spotting in the wild is luck but telling lies is so awfully disgusting...

Herd of Elephants

Colorful garden lizard

Mother and Child Monkey

 In my opinion Mudumalai, Bandipur, Nagarhole are far better places to see wild life. The part of Masinagudi where Secret Ivory is located is not a national park at all. The resorts and local jeep drivers try to create a hype in order to get tourists......else how come the so called core area of the forest have motorable tracks, a functional temple where people get down from their jeeps to visit, no forest check post,no limit on the number of jeep safaris and also no government forest safari?

 Anyway I am not going there next time, I have better places to visit. 

Langoor, taken at the resort at night

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