Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BR Hills and K-Gudi Jungle Lodge

This was one of the many trips we friends had with our families. There were four couples (Priya and Mahesh, Priyanka and Mohan, Nidhi and Deepak, My wife Bindu and I) with 2 very special people, one was Mark who took the challenge of traveling as the only bachelor along with married couples and the other my very active(one of the alternatives I use for the word naughty) 11/2 year old son, Johan Anthony. The more number of friends meant we had to forsake the luxury of the Innova (Our usual and desired mode of transport), for the more accommodating and not so comfortable Tempo Traveller. We soon realized the advantages of Traveller, it meant that all of us were together in the same vehicle and true to the quote ‘more the merrier’ we had our share of the fun with the usual stories, chit chatting and singing (especially the tour numbers like ‘In the morning...). We took the Kanakpura, Malavalli, kollegal route while going which is shorter, compromising the better roads of the Mysore highway.

The travel was comfortable (Apart from the bad roads) in the sense that we were only 10 including my son, in a vehicle which could easily accommodate atleast 13 people, ensuring we had enough space to stretch a leg or two if needed. It also helped the men to sit together in the backseats and peacefully have a few cans of beer with out causing inconvenience to the ladies. Priyanka was kind enough to prepare and bring cakes and muffins the delicious taste of which we savored while traveling.

The Biligiri Rangana Hills, commonly called B R Hills, is a hill range situated in the Chamarajanagar district in south-eastern Karnataka, sharing its border with Tamil Nadu. It is understood that the hills got its name from the famous temple in this place dedicated to Biligiri Rangaswamy. The area is actually a Wild life sanctuary sharing the name of the Temple, spread over 525 sq km, scattered with valleys, streams and scenic spots.

We usually plan our trips well, but for some reason we assumed that we might not have too many problems and hence had not booked the stay in advance. To our horror we realized, after checking a few places that this was one of the rare weekends when most the places were booked. We also took help of a young teenager from one of the resorts, in his Avatar as the local guide to look for possible options for us to stay, only to be disappointed. The only comforting fact was that we were able to visit the BR temple on route to one of the places in his very small list.

We discussed a few options like going to Madumalai and Bandipur, before deciding to try out the Jungle lodges. The Jungle Lodge resort at K-Gudi is located at the heart of the BR hills Sanctuary, surrounded by nature and woods. As luck would have it, the only remaining rooms available there was one single room and one 7 bed room, which actually suited us well and we decided the three couples will use the 7 bedroom with Mark getting the privilege of using the single room. At 2250 per person (18000 for 9 people, after waving of one persons charges) for a day including the Stay, Lunch, Dinner & Breakfast, Jeep safari into BRT Wildlife Sanctuary, Guided Nature Walk, Elephant Ride , Forest Entry Fees & Taxes, the price did feel moderate after the experiencing the comforts, suppressing the initial opinion that it was slightly expensive.

We had a good buffet lunch with one or two Non-Veg dishes at the ‘Gol Ghar’ probably named so because of its round shape and decided to spend some time exploring the outdoor activities at this place. We enjoyed the experience of getting on to the large rope Hammock supported by a few trees as much as we had fun rolling around in them. Some of the couples also effectively used the smaller individual rope hammocks for intimate moments, probably trying to compensate for sharing the common room, which was duly captured by my zoom camera, to become the priced photos for the jokes and fun we shared. Someone even mentioned the name of a Hindi movie starting with Jungle to aptly describe the happenings.

We had hardly set out for nature walk along the road to the resort with a guide, when we saw a ‘spotted deer’, who looked quite comfortable with the frequent visitors to this place and were not bothered even when we got very close, probably only a couple of meters from them. The guide explained that it was common to see Deer’s and Wild Boars inside the premises of the resort.

The walk was very nice, relaxing, with hardly anything on the road to disturb the peace, with only the sound of birds and the rustling leaves following us, reminding of the wilderness enclosing us, allowing us to share soft discussions and moments of collective solitude.

The men of the trip was feeling adventurous and requested the guide to take us on a trek through the forest, which he agreed after a little persuasion together with a slight hint of tips. So we left the women in the comfort of the room and after agreeing with their demand not to be over adventurous, set out to explore the forest with lot of expectations for some unique occurrences. It was definitely an experience with the narrow path, at times completely covered with trees and shrubs, providing visibility of only a few feet, and combination of the diminishing day light and stories of the guide explaining about the encounters with wild animals including tigers along the path, mixed our expectations with a slightest of hidden fear, to provide the much sought after different experience. I should admit that for our disappointment or comfort we did not encounter any wild animals, and we could only see the foot prints and droppings of few animals which were exaggeratingly described by our guide.

We returned to the rooms by twilight and had tea with light snacks. Some of us watched a wildlife movie at the audio-visual room, others choosing to play a quick game of table Tennis or Carrom or just relax. After changing to some comfortable clothes, we went to the Gol Ghar, which had a campfire on one side surrounded by people, having discussions, some over a glass of drink, munching the unlimited starters provided by the staff. The night was cold and it took a while for us to get a few comfortable seats next to the campfire, to enjoy a few drinks and starters along with the high level discussions. The ladies preferred a more quite place in the Gol Ghar, and looked very comfortable with their gossips without us, probably enjoying their freedom as much as we were. It was pleasant surprise to find our ladies asking us continue with our ‘discussions’ and retiring to the room looking seemingly happy after their dinner. When we went back to room we could still find them laughing and visibly enjoying their private discussions. Soon it was time for Mark’s Ghost stories, which usually has a bigger introduction then the story itself, it took a while for Mark to exhibit his remarkable narration skills, thanks to the well disguised intimidating questions in the name of genuine curiosity by Mahesh. I should say we slept well, despite the odd efforts from some to scare the others.

Surprisingly, we were up and ready early in the morning for the much awaited Forest Safari. We traveled on the common road before entering the narrow mud roads going deeper in to the forest, as usual we saw herds of spotted dears, few Monkeys and wild boars on the way. We were also lucky to see Bisons, Barking Deer and some elephants.

To our pleasant surprise we saw couple of Elephants at very close range peacefully eating, not in the least bothered by our presence. My son has special fondness for elephants and was thrilled, Shouting ‘Ana Ana’ and pointing to the Elephants making sure none of us missed the great spectacle, only to be calmed by my apprehensive wife, as we were too close to the elephants for her comfort.
The thrill of watching wild elephants in their natural habitat from close quarters is an experience in itself, their unmatched majestic presence skillfully hiding their incredible power and potent threat. We stayed for while watching and admiring them, till my wife felt they had noticed us and had taken the smallest of the steps towards us, urging us to move on.

We returned from the Safari and had delicious breakfast at the resort. There is a beautiful lake right in front of the Jungle lodges, to our joy we realized that the elephant ride was along the path circling the lake. We spent sometime sitting and relaxing, admiring the beautiful lake and pleasant surroundings.
It was really surprising to see my son so excited at seeing the Elephant and at the prospect of riding it, I was thinking probably he will get a little intimidated by the real size of the animal, in reality we had to hold on to him to make sure he did not fall from the high platform built to climb on to the Elephant, in his effort to jump on to its back even before it reached.
The Elephant ride was real pleasure, 5 of us sitting comfortably and enjoying the slow and steady swaying motion, occasionally waving at the rest of our friends below. It was sheer joy to see the happiness on my son’s face, resting my initial doubts whether he may get a little scared on top of the Elephant, the satisfaction of seeing my son enjoying so much was beyond comparison.

We left the jungle lodges by 12:00 noon had a simple lunch (which is the only option in these regions) at Kollegal. We reached Barachukki falls by 3:00 pm and made the one kilometer steep climb down to the foot of the falls. To our disappointment the place was very crowded, and most of my friends decided not to take bath under the falls, but the temptation of the chilling fresh waters was too much for me. I jumped into the waters, swam a little, reached under the falls and enjoyed a quick refreshing shower, my son also joining me for a very short while. The climb up from the falls was little tiring as usual and we ensured we did it well before dusk.

We reached by around 9 PM feeling that we saw and did a lot of things in just the two days and one night, and also relaxing as much a possible. This trip will have fond memories because all the odds (like traveling in Tempo Traveler, Difficulty in getting the rooms, Sharing a common room, Mark the only bachelor, my young son) all becoming positive sources for collective joy and fun. It is amazing to know that a group of like minded and fun loving friends can overcome any odds. I would like to appreciate all the friends, who made this trip so enjoyable and meaningful.

1 comment:

swati said...

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