Sunday, November 23, 2014

A visit to Bhindawas Lake and Wildlife Sanctuary in Haryana

Related links: Visit to Sultanpur

Bhindawas Lake is a large lake in Haryana near the town of Jhajjar. Around 80kms from Delhi (Dhaula Kuan); it is home to a large number of birds and some wildlife (though we didn't see any animals). It has been marked as a wildlife sanctuary, and its 12km perimeter is quite huge, and it is possible to drive in your own vehicle around the same. Scarcely known as compared to its more famous sibling - Sultanpur, this place too was well stocked, however most birds tend to nest in the trees in the middle of the water with ample fish and insects as food.

We stepped forth deciding to go via Rohtak Road and crossed Nangloi and Bahadurgarh at a swift pace with excellent road conditions. Therein we continued towards Jhajjar where we encountered a few small villages along the way with devastating speed breakers at the start and end of each village. reducing our speed drastically. 

Overall the road conditions were quite good and we reached Bhindawas by 8am, starting off at 6am. The one other thing to note is that Google Maps show a slightly roundabout route to reach Bhindawas, however there is a board and a direct right turn (the map below shows that path on the last stretch).

With most birds at a large distance we still got a quite a few sightings, more specifically a large flock of Black-headed white Ibises which were nesting for the winter. More below.

We spent around two hours before returning via NH8 and stopping for breakfast at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary's restaurant which is on the way. We were back at our respective homes before lunch time making up for an excellent and refreshing morning drive.

A lovely white pigeon!


Sparrow, most likely at a distance

Common Hoopoe
Just the silhouette, against the sun

Drive through the perimeter of Bhindawas Lake

Cormorant family
Sitting on a tree in the lake

A camouflaged Purple Heron
What a long neck!

Purple Swamp Hen

The prize catch! Took multiple pics of this fellow before it finally obliged posing perfectly against the sun.
A lovely Kingfisher

A view of the shrouded Bhindawas Lake on an October morning.

Black headed White Ibises
nesting for the winter

Red Wattled Lapwing

Another tree with even more Ibises

A Black Drongo family

Related links: Visit to Sultanpur


Friday, October 17, 2014

A four-day trip to the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh - Day 3 and 4

There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Mehmet Murat Ildan

Related Links:
Day 1 and 2

Day 3:

Kanger Ghati National Park
We set out on the morning post Dusshera with an intent to try and enter Kanger Ghati National Park. Talking to various sources, we were told that the park is closed until 1st November. However, our determination to enter the forest area gave us the idea of trying to enter the forest from another side - towards Nagalsar.

Greenery on the way to Kanger Ghati!

While most tourists visit the forest from the highway entry near Tirathgarh, we went via the Ulnar-Nagalsar road which also leads towards the Kailash caves. We expected to be stopped at some point by some barrier but to our surprise, there wasn't any barrier and we were able to enter the forests and also crossed the occasional village on the way.

People were still as friendly; however for the first time we saw many CRPF personnel in that area. We continued on till we reached the forest roads and for the first time we regretted not having a sturdier SUV vehicle. Our Indigo still made excellent progress and our driver gamely drove on without minding the roads in the least.

The forests seemed quiet as usual; only when we stopped and listened in the silence we realized the liveliness in the air. The leaves falling in the autumn, the quiet, the occasionally racket made by birds, all made us extremely alert as we enjoyed the forest surroundings.

The dense forest of Kanger Ghati National Park

In the forest, our intent was to try and visit the Kailash Caves (all caves - Kutumsar and Kailash are supposed to be closed at this time); however we were entirely unable to find the same. We got off our car, and walked for a brief while in the forest in the quest to locate the same but apart from the fact that we were on Kailash Gufa road; we couldn't figure out much else. One of those times, where either there should be more tourists or we needed a guide.

Still that notwithstanding, we were happy with our forest excursion. The other place that we desired to visit was much deeper in the forest (around 25 kms away) - a lake named Bhainsa Darha where there are supposed to be crocodiles. There are no images of the same on the web that we could find.

We desired to go there but the locals of a nearby village clearly told us that the roads are not in great condition and our Indigo wouldn't be able to go. We still thought of giving it a shot; until we were stopped at a CRPF checkpost and asked why we wanted to go in the jungle. The perplexed CRPF personnel told us that while we are free to go on (he hadn't heard of Bhainsa Darha); no tourists ventured in that area; and they wouldn't take any responsibility of any untoward happening. I don't believe there would have been any problem; but combined with the knowledge of poor roads, we decided to be prudent and turned back. Some thing after all must be left for another trip; and the exploration of that national park along with its caves and lake are on our list of unfinished business in Chhattisgarh.

Tirathgarh Waterfalls

By this time it was past noon and we ventured in the direction of the other famous waterfalls of the area - Tirathgarh. On exiting the forest roads, we made our way back on a much more comfortable and well developed road and rapidly reached Tirathgarh around lunch time.

This place is better organized with a small fee of Rs 25 to enter the fall area. The same also is the entry to the Kutumsar caves but as expected it was closed upto first of November. Located on the border of Kanger Valley, the route inside is also scenic before reaching the falls. With plenty of cars and hawkers and small shops in the area, we went towards the falls with an air of expectancy.

The first sight of Tirathgarh falls is as impressive as Chitrakoot. Whilst the volume of water is more normal (Chitrakoot being ridiculously high on volume); the height is much more imposing around 40 meters.

With a large number of people already camping, bathing or taking photographs in and around the falls, we found a secluded niche from where we enjoyed this tiered waterfall.

It is hard to get a measure of the true height in a picture! However, one can get a sense with relativity.
At the top of this waterfall near the rock on the left, is a small shape which is actually a standing man.
This should give a sense of the giant Tirathgarh waterfalls

Eventually after resting for an hour or so (the forest journey had made us tired) we followed the water flowing further down and made way for the same. To our surprise, the same Tirathgarh waterfall has another layer to it of almost the same (or lesser) height where again the water fell with volume and force.

The interesting part was this had one flow of water falling as a plunge (direct free fall); and the spray generated by the same was amazing. Not only that, due to the geography of the place, with the water plunging from an overhanging rock; it was possible to walk behind the waterfall something which is not-often seen. Walking behind the falls was truly a fabulous experience on the slippery rocks and more spray being generated than what torrential rainfall could accomplish; nothing else could have refreshed us enormously.
The second part of Tirathgarh waterfalls. On the left, a plunge falls behind which it is possible to go.

It was evening by the time we bade a regretful goodbye to Tirathgarh waterfalls.

Mandwa waterfalls 

Mandwa falls is a small fall off the village of Mandwa - a small diversion on the Jagdalpur-Tirathgarh road but it was nothing much to speak off; and frankly can be skipped.

However it is the knowledge that for every Mandwa waterfall; one might find gems like Tamra-Ghoomar or Ozarde waterfalls which makes us persevere.

We reached back post darkness and after dinner again ventured out in the market. There was Dusshera celebrations ongoing again;  but this time the much famed chariot passed our hotel itself from where we had a good view of hundreds of people pushing and pulling the chariot causing much excitement. Again for meaning, one must refer to wikipedia and other sources.

Day 4:

The last day of our trip was basically the road back to Raipur to catch our flights back in the evening. We left by 9am with a couple of planned pitstops. The first was Kondagaon with its handicrafts made by tribals. There is a NGO Saathi near Kondagaon, which sells multiple artifacts and handicrafts made by locals which we visited and appropriately bought a bunch of items. The most interesting of them being a bamboo made pipe which generated music on swinging the same.

Various items (brasswork) being sold at one of the shops in Kondagaon

We continued on the road to Kanker before taking a diversion for Udkura which are known to have prehistoric man's rock paintings.

On hitting the village, and asking for directions we were readily directed towards the rocks which were known to have been painted thousands of years ago. Reaching an isolated place with a temple and some boulders, we started searching for paintings by man; finding some pictures similar to the sample below.
Supposedly ancient rock paintings from thousands of years ago.
Palm prints and a stick figure in this one.
See this link
for more information

There is also the more famous UFO paintings in Charama; which we chose not to go. Continuing on our route, we just about made it to Raipur airport with reasonable amount of  time to spare for our flights.

Thus capped a marvelous and safe trip to the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh.

Things to know:-

- The road conditions everywhere were excellent.
- The normal tourist oriented places felt extremely safe with plenty of people.
- Travel (car hiring) - we went via justdial and Mr Dipesh from Sunny travels was extremely helpful in providing an Indigo at reasonable rate. It cost ~ 10-11K for four days and travel of 1100 kms in all. Mr Dipesh: 09617777121
- Stay at Jagdalpur- our stay was at Hotel Laxmi Palace which was average at best. Some of the other hotels which looked better (but we couldn't find accommodation) were Hotel Suri International and Hotel Devansh. In peak season, it might actually be better to book rooms in advance rather than searching for one on arrival.
- Food options - as a normal small town; there were a few options but not many. We particularly enjoyed buffet breakfast daily at Vaishanvi Restaurant of Hotel Devansh (Rs 140).
- All national parks and caves are officially closed from July to 1st November.

Related Links:
Day 1 and 2