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Kabini and Medikeri

  • Submitted by: sangeeta joshi, India
  • Submission Date: 23rd Nov 2005

Travelogue – Nagarhole, Virajpet, Medikeri
Destination: Kabini
Day 1 –12th oct
Left Bangalore at 0630 on a pleasant morning. Although the Mysore highway is not completely ready, drive was good and comfortable. By 0800 we stopped for a delicious hot breakfast at Kamat lokaruchis- few kilometers after Ramnagaram.
We spotted few blue jays and white breasted kingfishers on route.
We set course again and we reached Mysore at 1030. after a small badam milk break, we proceeded on Mananthawadi highway towards our destinayion- Karapur. The highway was ok till ‘Hand post circle’ (the quaint name has its origins in british times when this was the last area where the post would reach and at this point it would be ‘handed’ over to the messengers). Just past the circle was a small lake and we were thrilled to sight white ibis and black ibises blissfully foraging the green lakeside.

There was a shy white bird (A wader) which hid among the reeds- was it a juvenile jacana.
We pressed on the bumpy road with dense jungles on either side of us. It was a scary feeling-just imagining a wild elephant coming on the road and no help at hand for miles on end.
There was a big hoarding-Kabini lodeges 5 km left. We turned in. After 3 km the scenery changed suddenly. Gone were the think jungles only to be replaced by paddy fields and a small quaint village.
Feeling a trifle disappointed we continued on to the entrance of the Kabini river lodge Karapur.
The smile then came back to our faces. A thick wooded area having cottages on the riverside of the Kabini river. The view was breathtaking. The reflection of the distant hills on the serene clear water was a sight to behold. We luckily had got cottages on the banks of the river. The cottages themselves were luxurious –to say the least. Shivani (my 9 year old) was attracted by the bathtub. A first for her. After a buffet lunch at the Gol ghar we set out in an open Jeep at 4.30 p,m to the interior of the Nagarhole jungle 5 km away. Among the spotted birds were hill mayna,.bronzed drongo,racquet tailed drongo, blue winged parakeet, crested serpent eagle. The jungle was at its peak green everywhere thanks to the bountiful rains but this also meant that the wildcats were rarely visible. We spotted chital deer, sambar deer and Gaur which is the largest bison in the world. Langurs and barking deer were also seen. There was no sight of elephants, tigers,bears or wild dogs. The variety of avifauna was enough to keep us happy.
At the watchtower Shivani had her first brush with adventure as she touched a hairy caterpillar and we spent a good half an hour removing each single hair from her palm. From the watchtower we spotted two turtles and some spotbilled ducks. Back at the lodge we were treated to a beautifully made film on Nagarhole. We gleaned that during the summer months of March to May, when the forest dries up, the animals move to the rivers and watering holes and are thus easier to spot. A bonfire dinner over we retired to our cottages for a restful sleep.

Day 2: Virajpet:13 oct
A morning drive through the jungles again was followed by an elephant ride. The mother elephant had just delivered and her 9 month old calf was following her around being intermittently fed on ragi balls by the mahout. Next we crossed over to the other side of the jungle adjoining the river. There was a breathtaking view of the large river/lake reflecting the Waynad hill range on one side and the Mudumalai range on the other. We were treated to a ride in a coracle. A kind of boat made out of animal hide and having a curious circular shape. Back to the camp at 9.30 am we induldged in a sumptuous breakfast before setting course for Virajpet. At about 1100 hrs we went back on the Manantawadi haihway to Handpost circle from where we took a left to Hunsur. The rain Gods who had been very kind till now, showered us intermittently . At Hunsur after a short break at the petrol pump, we pressed on to Virajpet on unmemorable roads. But the high point was that we entered the northern side of the Nagarhole forest more darker and denser than the southern aspect. Very abruptly the jungle ended to be replaced by coffee estates as we entered Kodagu district. The coffee plantations look like small jungles from afar. The reason is that coffee is interspersed with trees for shade on which pepper plants climb. The biodiversity in these plantations is remarkable and hence attracts lots of birds. This is in sharp contrast to tea plantations which do not have too may trees. 8 Km short of Virajpet is the town of Gonikoppal. We witnessed a very unusual procession there. There were about 15 trucks and on each truck was a tableaux but not of gods/goddesses as one would have expected on Vijayadashmi. In fact they had varied themes and some of them showing gory scenes right out of guillotine days of the French revolution!! All well made but quite abstract and hardly the kind of thing one would expect in a sleepy village near the Kerala border. Moving on we came across miles of plantations and finally reached Virajpet. Dr SV Narasimhan , a private practitioner and an avid birdwatcher and author, was to be our host for the stay. After checking in into a hotel we set off onto the Kerala highway. This path through jungles and the air was filled with bird calls. We learnt a lot about the local plants and customs during that walk. Mrs Narasimhan an expert cook and a warm host fed our hungry souls with a festive dinner.

Day 3:
The next morning we set of to the nearby village and into coffee plantation for a good mornings session of birdwatching. The birds spotted were; Scarlet minivets male and female, Fairy bluebird, parakeets blue winged, rose ringed and plum headed.Warbler, Tickkel’s flowerpecker, racquet tailed drongo, yellow wagtail, spotted doves, barbets, white headed myna, bulbuls- red vented and red whiskered. The sun tried to peep out once in a while but did not show its full glory thus putting a slight damper on the birds . Somewhere in the middle of the climb, Dr Narasimhan looked at the ground and immediately asked for a leech check. Shivani had about 20 odd wriggling leeches on her shoes and she promptly went into a panic attack. No leeches had actually bitten her so far. Luckilly she did not see the one biting her from behind which mummy had quietly removed. DJ and divya all donated generously to the nourishment of the leeches - 3 bites each. After all they feed only once in a year, we were told. To Divyas horror her shoe was filled with blood . I escaped somehow. Seeing Shivani’s paranoid state we decided to abort the climb and set back to Dr SV’s house for a sumptuous idly breakfast and then the farewell.
At around 11 am we took the Virajpet-Medikeri road 25 km to Medikeri. This was the best route of the whole trip. Smooth roads, gently undulating betweed paddy fields and coffee plantations. A slow climb up to 1000 feet. The paddy fields-lush green and very inviting. The electric wires were good lookouts for the wire tailed swallows, pied bushchats and shrikes. The last 3 km stretch to Medikeri was a steeper climb. We headed straight for abbey falls 9 km away tucked away beyond a coffee estate. These falls were in their full glory and a cute yellow wagtail was wagging away atop a branch on the top of the waterfall. Maybe to enjoy the spray and a ringside view of all the people (including ourselves) down below swimming/standing in the waterfall. Back to the hotel Rajdarshan on MG road opposite the Rajas seat. After a short nap we set out to explore the town. Rajas seat has wonderful views of the valley of which we only managed a glimpse due to the clouds. The town was relatively clean and surprisingly not many womenfolk in traditional coorgi costumes were to be seen. We also checked out the tourism department hotel and were glad that we had avoided it. Evening snacks at Atithi hotel opposite the FORT and dinner was at our hotel. This was followed by good nights sleep.
Day 4.
8.30 am. After breakfast we set of on our last leg of the journey. The way to Nisargadhama 25 km away was all downhill on not so good roads. We descended quite rapidly and entered a veritable ‘nisarga”. A dense bambooed jungle on an island formed inside the Cauvery river. There were cute tree houses, a small deer park, and a nice a walk track. The serene atmosphere was punctuated by the gentle sounds of water. There were some govt run cottages here as well. Divya and shivani even managed a horse ride while we spotted a loudly calling bronze drongo. A grey shrike was on display as we entered the carpark. Another 7 km ahead was the turn to the Buddhist monastry at Kushalnagar. Our first sight of the golden temple was truly breathtaking. On entering the temple the statues of Buddha was awesome . We could not take our eyes off the magnificent painting all around. Wish our Hindu temples could learn a lesson or two about maintenance. We returned to the Mysore road via the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe. Back to Hunsur and reached Mysore around 2 pm. Lunch was at a hotel located opposite the kings court hotel. Back to Bangalore after a badam milk stop at Kamats lokruchi and reached home at 7 pm. It was a pleasure to be back to Bangalore after an exhilarating and invigorating holiday.

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