Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bandipur Roadkills Campaign - 20/21 March 2009

As usual, the 6th Road Awareness Campaign a Bandipur was kick-started from Bangalore on Friday 20th March 2009. As per plan, all of us met near the Deve Gowda Petrol Station in Banashankari at 10pm. This 6th campaign had 3 new volunteers and the volunteers were as follows – Rakesh, Laxmeesha, Soumyajit, Satish, Vasanth, Ananth, Harish, Mani (first-time), Praveen (first-time) and Mohit (Praveen’s 7year old son). As compared to the previous campaigns, we had 5 bikes and 1 car (it is usually 1 or 2 cars).

We headed for the Mysore Road by 10:45pm and had a first tea-break soon. The next pit stop was at Kitty’s Punjabi Dhaba if I’m not wrong, close to Maddur. At the Dhaba, couple of the guys had a late dinner! After a long break, we started again and the next important pit-stop was Café Coffee Day Gundulpet.

Saturday morning started off with breakfast at Jungle Lodges Bandipur. Breakfast was confined to bread toast as other items had finished (we were actually late). Before heading for breakfast, we had our first sighting – a pack of 6 wild dogs, crossing the road not together but in different time intervals. After the wild dog sighting, we were in high spirits and hoped that we could meet “The King” soon!

Soon we started our work – pamphlet distribution and educating the drivers passing through the Kekanahalla check post. As always there were a few guys who thought these rules don’t apply to them, good listeners and a few appreciated the initiative taken by KANS. Lunch at Jungle Lodges soon followed (3 pm) and we were back at the check post by 4pm. At around 5pm a truck driver gave us a ray of hope – “Sir I have been driving on these roads for nearly 10 years but this is the first time I have seen a tiger and it crossed the road majestically”. His words really rejuvenated us as the location was less than half a km ahead from the check post.

Our brief period of joy was about to end. At around 5:40pm, there was a slight drizzle but the pamphlet distribution was going on. All of a sudden, a Maruti Omni (taxi) was speeding towards the check post and even as we lowered it to stop him, he hit the post and halted abruptly. Vasanth and Rakesh had a narrow miss as they were in his path. On closer inspection, the vehicle was already damaged before hitting the post and the driver was in real high spirits!! The impact caused the door to jam and we literally had to pull him out as he didn’t want to come out. The passengers told us “Sir we are going for a relatives death, please leave us”, but we firmly said no and told them that we would be handing over the driver and the van to the police. Meanwhile the forest guard Mr. Madhavappa took the driver to his room and give him a few slaps. The negotiations went on for some time and finally we decided to hand over the van and the driver to the police outpost at Bandipur Reception Center. As the Maruti VAN occupants were totally drunk, I drove the van accompanied by Guru, Vasanth and Mr. Madhavappa to the police outpost. Rakesh and other followed us in the car and bikes. After handing him over, we went to our room at MC Resorts and had our dinner.

At around 10pm we decided to go on a ride on the Ooty highway. Our first encounter was a female elephant and a calf just after crossing the check-post. Rakesh, Soumyajit, I, Ananth and Mani were in the car. Guru and Praveen were following us on a bike. Except for Rakesh and Mani, the others in the car were really sleepy and dozed off even before reaching Kekanahalla check-post. After Rakesh took a u-turn at the check-post, we woke up and were happy to head back to the resort as we were really tired. Just after some 5 minutes, we saw the first tiger crossing the highway at a distance – the feeling was just amazing. Immediately after stopping the car, we saw a second tiger cross and then a third one. Four tigers within a matter of 10 minutes (2 Males and 2 Females including one Alpha Male Tiger) – just sheer luck I guess! Finally our patience paid off with 6 sightings and two very close sightings. As they say sighting a tiger in a South Indian jungle is always special – it sure is!!

Sunday morning there was the usual safari from MC Resorts but a couple of us including me skipped it. After checking out, we had breakfast at Jungle Lodges and then proceeded towards Nugu Wildlife Sanctuary. We climbed a small hill and the bikers it was like off-roading as it was full of stones and loose sand. We could see Kabini far away and had to leave early as we had to be in Bangalore by 9pm. Our very late lunch was at Country Club Mysore (5pm) and after a good lunch, we hit the road back to Bangalore. Overall it was a very eventful trip – wild dogs, drunk driving and of course 4 tigers!!

Satish Pari
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Aiyur - Kodakerai Trek on 4/5 April 2009

After much planning, several emails and phone calls, the long awaited trek to Kodakerai finally happened on April 4/5 2009 when Karthik, Guru, Sudhakar, Tanu, Shan, Avishek and I made the 'full monty' from Aiyur to Kodakerai.

Sudhakar drove down from Chennai the previous night while the rest of us left from Bangalore on 4th morning. Met up at Denkanikottai (at Shankar Cafe...where else??) and then headed straight to Aiyur FRH. After parking the cars and re-filling our water bottles, we started the trek at around 10 am. Within few metres we came across a local who said that there were elephants further down the road. Thereafter, we met people at regular intervals...some warning us about elephants and some saying that it was safe. We anyway continued our trek and after 45 mins of steady walking, we took our first break at Sami Eri..around 3 kms from Aiyur FRH. By this time, all 7 of us were behaving like we had been childhood friends despite the fact that not everyone knew each other just about an hour ago.

Subsequently, our pace began to slacken as the sun's intensity grew, the tar road became hotter and the turn leading to Kodakerai did not appear. We began to wonder if we had missed it somewhere. Fortunately we sighted the hand-pump and opposite to it, the mud track!! By now we had covered 7 kms and with a spring in our steps, we got onto the mud track and for a strange reason the breeze also picked up. Spider valley showed up after few minutes and all of us took sometime to drink in the beauty of the view.

As our gaze swept Spider valley, we could see the mud track winding its way up, deep into the Gutherayan ranges and we wondered how we would make all that distance.

Thereafter, the breaks came faster and lasted longer than the previous ones. Every villager we encountered had his own estimate of the distance to Kodakerai...from 2 kms to 12 kms.

After sometime, we decided to ignore all estimates and carried on gamely. Stopped at a bamboo grove for lunch of puris, sambar, sagu and chutney (which we had packed from Shankar Cafe) and resumed the journey and finally reached the village at around 4.30 pm.

While we relaxed and drank the 'sweet' water from a tank and made enquiries for a guide, we got to know that Kodakerai was still 1 mile ahead! Picked up our back-packs once again and headed towards Kodakerai.

Shan used his charms to arrange lime tea for us while the rest of us busied ourselves in sourcing a guide, equiring about the forests etc. The headman finally organised Lingappa to take us into the forest to our camping site at Gutheri.

After an ardous trek of 2 kms, we finally reached the rocky ledge overlooking Gutheri. It was 7.30 pm...a good 9.5 hrs and 18 kms and several nutri bars since we started from Aiyur in the morning. However all fatique vanished as we sensed the dense shola forests around us. After some exploring around the lake, we came back to our camp site. We got a good fire going and soon we were enjoying a nice night in the middle of the jungles and under the dark sky, munching biscuits and cakes.

After deciding to take it easy the next morning (attempting to reach Gutherayan peak, which is a good steep climb of 4 kms, would have delayed our return to Aiyur), we all slipped into our sleeping bags while Karthik took to the safety of the tent. He was soon joined by Shan and Guru as the night turned colder.

Woke up in the morning to the sounds of birds all around us. Guru went down to the lake for birding and the rest of us slowly crept out of our sleeping bags and tents. Sudhakar got the gem of an idea to toast bread on the camp fire. With a stick poked into the bread, he got into the act and soon we were all served with hot toast and green apple jam.

With our breakfast done, we all went down to Gutheri and after some exploring and photo sessions, came back, packed and traced our steps back to Kodakerai.

Our aim was to reach the main road before 2 pm and catch the bus to Aiyur. However, when we noticed that a Tata Sumo had come to the village to repair the bore-well, all thoughts of walking down the mud-track went up in hot air (literally!) and we asked the driver to drop us to the main road. He adamantly refused and did not give any reason also for it. Fortunately, as we were having tea (milk tea this time), we were given the welcome news that a tempo was on its way to the village to drop some provisions and we could go in that. Much to our relief, the tempo came in soon after and thankfully, we agreed to drop us till Aiyur. We then quickly distributed all remaining biscuits, chocolates, cakes etc. to the kids around, boarded the tempo and in 50 mins were at the Aiyur FRH.

After a quick and sumptuous meal, we parted ways..with Sudhakar heading to Chennai and the rest of us to Bangalore, but not before deciding to return soon, scale Gutherayan and have a barbeque on the camp fire!!

Civet cat
A gun-shot
A growl + Loud rustle

Approx. 300 families in Kodakerai.
Around 15-20 hamlets surrounding Kodakerai.
Total population 3000-5000.
Source of water - borewell.
Conflicting reports about wildlife presence, with majority saying that there is no wildlife. But one gentlemen named Chandrappa stated categorically that the forests are teeming with all varieties of wildlife, except Tigers.
No schools and hospitals.
Most of the people practise farming or work as contract labor in Hosur and Bangalore.
No public transport. People normally walk 9 kms to the main road to catch the TNSTC bus.
Laxmeesha Acharya
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society

Guru Timmapur
Tanushree Das