Thursday, September 07, 2006

Biligiri Rangana Betta

Twas 2n 1/2-months since our last trip to River Tern Lodges from Junglee and our encounter with "THE WILD CAT" was still pending. "Go to BR Hills; Spotting a tiger is gaaarentee" - promised Gangaswamy; the Jungle Lodges(JLo) incharge at River Tern. The 4th trek was decided - Biligiri Rangana Betta(B R Hills) it had to be!!!!.

"Hatric trekker" that I was, involuntarily volunteered to organise the logistics of this trek. What would I do without the push, the support and the gyan from ex-organizers :) Worth an experience I must say.

We had 26 junglees who were keen to explore the animal territory. With exactly half the moon shining in the night sky, we started our journey at 11:00pm on Friday September 1st, 2006. B R Hills is just 225km from Bangalore and takes a little more than 5hrs to reach. Ironically, this was one time, we wanted the driver to reach beyond 6:00am only:) He tried his best, since we had Ramki commenting - "the bullok cart overtook us!Sowmya..." A night ride is preferred, so that we simbly can have some fun, mingling with the rest and generally breaking the ice;), and lo, the mandali broke records-mixing of sorts! Some Junglee regulars being senti about the good old custom of playing DCs indulged in it as usual. The highlight was Kriti's enacting of a hindi word"Angrezi" which transformed the DC group into a laughter club...Atrociously hilarious....With just one pit stop, our Ferrari zoomed to our destination(at bullok-cart speed!) and reached the foot of B R Hills by 4:45am. An hour to waste, a few of us played"bluff" with cards, a few chose to catch up on slumber inside the bus and some more were determined to wake the dead.

The dawn opened the curtains of darkness to expose the range of "giri" covered with "bili" mist. I have just one word to describe the scene"Beautiful". We boarded the bus and started to climb the snake like path amongst the dense flora. The breeze on my face brought an expectant smile and the memories of the river tern forest. "35 tigers, 27 leapords and lots of elephants...If only I could spot one!" crossed my mind. None of us were prepared to be welcomed in style - By His Highness, The Magistic Great Indian Tiger. Poovi, who was sitting in front saw it first and whispered loudly"Hey Tiger!" and obviously we did not believe him at first. However, we would rather see and be fooled than miss an opportunity of a lifetime. I stood with interest to check if there was one, and I just stood staring at it! The young cat was well built, crossed the road, stopped, turned and gave us a glance. No fear, just awe! Nothing haunting, just serene eyes. WOW.

The driver refused to stop till he saw the first human outside the bus. The Jungle Lodges have their accommodation midway to the top of the Hills. This place is called Kyatha devana Gudi, named after a small Shiva temple. We were greeted by the rangers who were audience to a chirpy gang of "tiger spotters". Ruchit's sis Roopal said," The trek's made!", She did not get to watch the stripped beauty at Ranthambore but in B R Hills:)

After a quick freshening up, we were guided to a nature walk. A botanical class, for teches...interesting isn't it? "Mimosa Pudika" is all I remember. We returned to attack the breakfast with full hunger. Amazing how the capacity increases when the pallet gets a taste of "close to home food" feel. We had in our possession only 3 tent houses out of the 10 we had booked till 11:30am, which is the actual check-in time. We could roam around, laze around or snooze till lunch time and later till 4:30pm which was time for a dusk safari. The tent house was neatly done, with cute windows, pitched on a raised platform. Far away on the rocks, the music from Vignesh's guitar filled the afternoon air(FM BRHills). A few snored in the easy cane chairs, a few ventured onto a machaan-tree house, few others imitated the monkeys on the jhulla, and few read books and few ...Close to 12:00noon, we drove to the Biligiri Ranganatha swamy temple, 20km from K Gudi for the Lord's darshan.

After tea at 4:00pm, we climbed onto 4 jeeps and zipped into the host's territory. The feel of this forest was less eerie and more pleasant compared to the previous forest visit(May be I just got used to it:)) Deers! Lots n lots of them - Mouse deer, Sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, you name it and we saw it. Bisons, this time with it's young and wild boars were sighted by all. A few lucky ones got to see the temper of Mommy Pachyderms:) and a few seconds of sloth bear visuals....Not bad at all!!! We had to get out of the forest by 6:00pm, when the gates close. The jeep in which I was, broke down in the middle of the jungle. "We are on 3Ft"- The driver blurted into the radio receiver...."I'm 5 ft" I thought (3ft is the name of the road-incidentally)...It was 6:30pm, darkness beginning to descend, I did not wish to experience "Kaal" live. My fellow passenger was thrilled that his prayer was answered..GOD..When did He start answering such ridiculous prayers, I thought!. Thank fully another jeep escorted us back to our tents. What a relief!

The hot coffee/tea melted our frozen nerves and geared us for the campfire. A spill over of BBG as usual- "the gang" ganged up in one tent to drown themselves in some divine fluid. If only you knew how to get "high" on nature for a change! Well, some of us did:) The campfire crackled in the center of our attention. The sound of silence, sprinkled with the gentle strains from the guitar leaves you quiet. Just quiet. We were glad to hear some folk lore and the flute by one of the locals which drew wholehearted applause. The simplicity in his voice, the meaningful lyrics- Soulful!

The Rain God seemed to have been mesmerized by the tribal song, he poured with gay abandon. It was time for dinner.We got back to out tents and Log huts with the help of Umbrellas and prepared to rest. The tent house was cozy with warm blankets and the company of fellow-souls. I could hear the rain till late after 2:00am and dreamt of catching the lush green early in the morning. There is no need of any alarm, when amongst birds...I promptly woke up to the chirpy sounds and the "tac-tuk" sound of the rain water dropping from the tent tops. I felt like hugging the Jungle- "Godly!". I was amazed how the lantern still burned gently till morn, defying the lashing rain. Sipping hot coffee and watching the stretch of green in front of me, I felt like Alice in wonderland.

By 6:30am, we set out for the dawn safari, hoping to meet some tigers for a Sunday breakfast - No we did not intend to BE their breakfast though! A ride through the forest is in itself worth experiencing, even if we did not get to see the VIPs of the forest. Back from the ride, done with the breakfast, we were game for a small trek along a mini trail. We had to keep it short, coz we had to pack up and vacate the tents by 11:30am. Those who missed the elephant ride the previous day, got to experience what it is to be The Mysore Maharaja/Rani for a brief 15-20 mins.
With still some time left till Lunch, we found ways of lazing around in all possible ways. A hearty Lunch wrapped up our stay at the K Gudi at 2:00pm.

The drive back was quite, unusual in a Junglee trip, though one should not expect the experienced all the time. A lot of us chatted, a few played cards, and few probably kept rewinding the activities of the past two days. We touched Bangalore by 8:30pm. All in all, I must say, another new place, a different experience, an interesting yarn, all worthwile in the end.

I have to note the active participation by the local monkeys during our breakfast, lunch and dinner on both the days. Some interesting incidents, which may bring a smile on the face of a few pranksters, and mock anger on the face of victims.
Also, the gooseberry and some root health drinks were yum:)


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