Friday, November 16, 2012

Visit to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary - 2012

Link to a subsequent visit in 2013

Three of us went on an early morning exploratory trip to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary located 60 kms from Delhi (towards Gurgaon). We left around 6 am and crossed Delhi at breakneck speed (courtesy the cab driver) and sped on our way towards Sultanpur. (Note: if you miss the small right turn to Farukkhabad, the road which leads to Sutanpur; the next u-turn is available after around 5 kms which implies 10kms of extra travel).

We reached the place around 7.30 am and went inside. The way Sultanpur is structured is there is a walking track around the circumference which would take a couple of hours or so to walk through. There is a big lake in between where most of the birds camp. In between there are a few paths which would lead you up to near the water to get a view of various water birds. On the circumference too, a bunch of birds are seen flying around frequently.

Sultanpur lake view
The walk around the perimeter is a very pleasant one on a cold wintry morning. There was scant human population there; we just saw around 10-15 people throughout. If one isn’t too interested in birds; just a morning walk in fresh air close to nearly undisturbed nature is worth the effort of visiting this place.

We walked through the circumference of the park and took a couple of hours to do the same. We saw a bunch of beautiful birds; sadly none of us being ornithologists, we could identify only a few of them. However most of the birds sadly sat right near the lake at a point which was still some distance away from the nearest path for humans. Well, personally if I were a bird, I would do exactly the same.

The following are what we saw (and could identify) in Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary–

  • A few neelgai, cows and buffalos – we came across along the way

A male neelgai crossing the path ahead of us
  • Four red-necked Sarus (Indian crane). Probably a family as they were moving together – two adults, and two younger ones.
  • A big elegant swan (seen from a distance) – gave a nice feeling when it flew gracefully over the lake.
  • Hordes of ducks
  • Lots of Egrets – despite their commonality; I still find them fascinating and beautiful.
  • A few Kingfishers – gloriously colorful bird
  • The Black Drango – I don’t claim to be sure of this nomenclature
  • A few Peacocks – even after seen them so many times; still love to see them whenever possible.
  • Bright-green parakeets
  • Two gangs of Sultanpur woodpeckers (10-15 members each) followed us for a fair distance whilst we were walking.
  • A lethal kite (or a vulture – don’t know which – but some predator)
  • A few sparrows – which reminded of how we used to see them frequently in cities in our childhood but are no longer visible that easily.
  • Crows and pigeons – which while commonly visible in cities still deserve a mention.
  • Colorful butterflies – nimble and swift they weaved their paths while flying around us
  • Lots of red/black ants – which seemed to converge into ant-hills.

I haven’t been there in the afternoon or evening; but probably early mornings or evenings are the best time to visit a bird park. We had a pair of binoculars to be able to spot some of the distant birds; but our cameras weren’t powerful enough to get too many good shots.

Still for they are worth, more pictures are placed here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trip to Kolli Hills, Tamil Nadu

Kolli Hills is a quiet hilly area in Tamil Nadu ranging around 3000-4000 feet above sea level; around 85 kms away off the city of Salem. On my first trip with GHAC group (a group which encourages various trips/treks with different people and this was my first such trip); it was an enjoyable experience to meet new people, amidst awesome weather and serene background.

21 of us started on a bus from Hyderabad to Salem (a 12 hour journey) and reached the city next morning 6am. To reach Kolli Hills from the city of Salem; one needs to interchange three buses to get there. We freshened up at one of the stoppages and eventually reached the start point of Kolli Malai after the last bus took us through 70 hair pin bends on a uphill road.

(As a side note, must admit I was impressed with the steering ability of those bus drivers. On every bend I thought, here we go colliding into the wall; and just at the last moment the wheel spun away leading the bus to smoothly stay on the road without a fuss.)

Post those bends, it is a 12 km trek to the Agaya Gangai waterfalls (refer link above). We had lunch (it was lunch time by the time we got here) and started off on a fun-filled trek. The route was easy, and not laborious; we stopped multiple times for photos and had good fun along the way.

Misty - green hills
The scenery around the place was full of greenery with a misty backdrop lending an easy-on-the-eye pleasant background as we walked along. The weather was an unexpected bonus as it stayed cloudy throughout the weekend with occasional bursts of rain but essentially cloudy and misty for most parts giving the place a 'serene-mysterious-uninhabited-countryside' look.
Beautiful greenery with a misty background
 Towards the evening, we stopped at an off-small-waterfall around 15-20 metres high and had a good time there. After that, we continued our walk/trek to the intended destination. As it grew dark, we accidentally separated into groups and one half of the group got lost. Walking and asking about our way (luckily there were folks who knew Tamil); we managed to find the other half after an hour of hunting.

After reaching our destination, we set up tents with the help of our group lead; and had dinner under torch lights. Our dinner was pretty basic with some energizers like chikki (i don't know its english name), dates along with ready-to-eat sambhar/lemon rice which we heated using a stove.

We set up watch in batches over our belongings for a stipulated time period during the night which was good fun until it started raining on my watch. A good night's sleep still (for most folks at least); and we were fresh and ready to move next morning.

Early morning - ghostly trees
Continuing our walk to the waterfall; we were in for a disappointment. The road to Akash Gangai waterfalls (a series of 1200 downhill steps - a real trek) was blocked because of an accident a couple of days ago. That notwithstanding; we found another mini falls and spent some good time there trying to go as close to the force of water flow. (It never ceases to amaze me what power a simple chunk of water falling from a height seems to generate).

After lunch, we were ready to go back and completed our return journey to Salem in bus and Omnis. Thereafter the bus back to Hyderabad capping off a nice weekend.

It is a little inhibiting when you plan to go on a trip with folks unknown. I am glad to say that after this trip; there are no such inhibitions and I ended up meeting and befriending a lot of folks along the way.

For further pictures, visit this link.


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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A trip to Hogenakkal falls from Bangalore

Three of us went on a trip to Hogenakkal Falls from Bangalore. These falls are on the Karnataka -Tamil Nadu border and off the river Kaveri.

The falls are approximately four hours and 180kms from Bangalore. We booked an Indica, left at 8.30 am in the morning stopping for breakfast on the way. The drive along the way was beautiful with lush green mountains visible in the distance as we neared our destination. The roads were wide with divider for the most part.

We reached the town of Hogenakkal around 1pm and our first sight was one of chaos. The town is an extremely dirty one with heavy crowds – people getting oil massages, fish curries flying here and there – for a fair bit of time we were perplexed as to why this place is rated so highly. We followed the directions to the waterfall and the falls only mildly impressed us. The crowd was the overbearing oppressive factor especially as the intent to go on such trips is to be away from human beings. People washing, bathing, dripping in oil and what not off the various multiple waterfalls (which were actually beautiful had it not been for the crowd) really repulsed us.

Waterfalls near Hogenakkal town
At that point, our desire for a brief instant was to go back and never tell anyone we came to this place. Glad, we didn’t follow that thought. The other pending thing on our agenda was the Coracle ride (a small basket-like boat in which you’re taken around the waters) which had been rated very highly on the internet.

We bargained for the ride - 3 people for Rs 900 (typically the boat contained 5-6 people; but I suspect we overpaid by a fair bit) and went off on to the Coracle. It was totally worth it! Period. The Coracle ride was the first thing that happened which was great; if nothing else, the fear of colliding into oil-dripping human beings was gone.
View from the Coracle ride
We enjoyed the ride, got drenched off a small fall, had good fun and stopped off at a different point from where we were asked to walk to another point. Without understanding the local language, we just followed directions and instructions and then we had a pleasant surprise in store. We then realized why Hogenakkal is so famous and for nothing it is not called the Niagara of India.

The real falls for which this place is famous is away from the town and reachable only by Coraikal (not sure if this is correct – might be reachable by road – if so, any one should attempt to directly go there and not waste time near the town). We were left awe-struck on our first sight of the real Hogenakkal Waterfalls.

There is a giant pit or cavern – extremely wide (maybe 100 metres perimeter) and water flows off from all direction and flows down with a stunning force. We spent a lot of time at the falls just gazing into the water and taking photographs. The height of the falls is probably around 20-30 metres.
Some images on the web seem to indicate you could take the coracle near the falls – but given the monsoon time and force of water which we saw it seemed scarcely believable. The only other point of note was a solitary giant rock (see pic) which seemed to be right in dead center facing the brunt of those waters and still managing to maintain its dignity and laugh off the pressure. Wonder how many years pass before it is finally eroded ! But whilst it stays, it bravely has to constantly withstand the enormous pressure and force of those waters.
Hogenakkal Waterfalls

Due to time constraints, we left the falls to continue the remainder of our coracle ride which in stark contrast was through absolute serene back waters and reached back to the Hogenakkal town. There was also a Crocodile Park in the town which we couldn't go to due to time scarcity.

We left back at 4pm and entered the city of Bangalore around 8pm. All-in-all capping off a satisfactory day’s trip!

For further pictures, visit this link.


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Monday, September 3, 2012

A trip to Kuntala Falls from Hyderabad

Six of us went to Kuntala Falls on an overcast Hyderabad morning. Kuntala Falls are the highest waterfalls in Andhra Pradesh (falling from a height of 45 meters at one point) around 280 kms from Hyderabad.

We left at 6am and got around to the outskirts of the city soon before connecting to NH. On a glorious morning, it is a pleasure to travel by road especially when the road conditions are extremely good as was the case here.

En-route to the falls, we stopped over at the Sri Ram Sagar Dam which is around 80 kms from the water falls. It is a nice dam over the shimmering vast expanse of Godavari river; but on the whole, the area was not-so-clean, so we didn’t spend more than half an hour there.

Godavari view from Sri Ram Sagar Dam

The majority of the route to Kuntala Falls is covered under the North-South corridor road (Srinagar to Kanyakumari) which meant the roads were in impeccable condition. The last stretch to reach the falls is a 10km narrow road with bumps which was painful but we were still able to reach the falls by around 11.30am making the total travel duration to be 4.5 hours keeping aside one hour of stoppage for the dam and breakfast.

The falls are hidden by thick foliage of greenery, and one can hear the falls even before it is visible. We first instinctively followed the sound and ended up at the spot where there is a plain area just before the water drops off. It was amazing to see the water flowing down (not an absolutely free fall but through the rocks) with such force. We went close enough to the water from above, had a nice time and could see the downward flowing water and could see people at the bottom end of the falls in the far off distance below.

We went back and had lunch (there is no provision there apart from a small shop for chips, cold drinks etc. so better make own arrangements); and then went off to the bottom of the falls which was a more chartered route with steps (lots of them) and fencing etc. 

Finally on reaching below, and then getting a clean sight of the falls we realized that we weren’t getting the complete glimpse of the falls from above (the view was blocked off). From below, the sight was truly magnificent.

You see the water just thudding off from a height with such enormous tremendous force – if it was amazing to see from above where we could only see partially; this, from below was just plain unnerving. With the sun on us as well at noon, some of us claimed to see a rainbow at the point of impact of the water (I wasn’t so lucky to see the same).

The area near the falls is covered in frothing, steaming white which obscures visibility. The droplets off the impact of the water hitting the plain area could be felt up to a large distance of about another 50 meters or more. We had a good time there attempting to go as close to the point of falls hitting the water as we could – this was achieved by walking over a bunch of slippery rocks covered with green moss. Most of us ended losing balance and then crawling the rest of the distance on all fours like a baby. Gazing at the falls from a close distance gives a mesmerizing effect and you tend to feel how weak humans really as compared to the forces of nature.

Kuntala Falls from the river bed

Having spent some good time in the water, we turned back from there around 3.30pm. We left for Hyderabad and had a good time looking at different cloud formations in the sky attempting to spot different patterns. We were able to hit the city outskirts by 8pm all-in-all capping a nice day’s trip.

Tornado-shaped cloud (on the way back)

Link to photos: here.


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