Sunday, August 28, 2016

My birding trips to Valley school

It is quite surprising to know that there are nature spots within Bengaluru city. One such place is around valley school near Kanakapura road. The school which is spread across 120 acres has densely wooded areas but it is out of bounds for public. But the authorities allow people to walk around the school which is still serene and peaceful. You have to register yourself at the entrance of the school to walk around the area.

Indian Gray hornbill
Early morning is the best time to visit. One can easily spend few hours watching the birds. The crowd is consist of people interesting in birds and plants. It is common to see parents bringing their kids to expose them to the nature.

Black shouldered kite

Some of the birds seen in Valley school.

Copper Smith Barbet

White Cheeked Barbet 

Oriental White Eye

White Browed Bulbul

Great Tit

Ashy Prinia

Where is valley school?

While driving from Bengaluru, take the first right after NICE road junction and drive straight for 1-2 km till you reach the dead end which is the entrance of valley school. Sign boards also give clear directions.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Revisiting green route trail

The railway route between Sakleshpur and Kukke Subramanya was one of the most scenic trekking trail in Karnataka. That was the time when the track was closed for meter to broad gauge conversion. When the trains started running again, the trail was closed for trekkers. Having trekked twice on this route (link here), I wanted to experience this journey on train. My family was also interested and I made a plan combining it with the visit to Kukke Subramanya.


Crossing the "killer" bridge
Our travel
Having reached Kukke Subramanya in morning, we spent some time visiting temples before heading to Subramanya road railway station. The train was supposed to come at 1PM but it was late by 45 minutes.


Since the stretch from Subramanya to Sakleshpur involves climbing up the western ghat, the train is supported by two additional engines by pushing it from the back. They were ready and were waiting for the train to arrive!!



The train has general compartment, 2S and AC chair car coaches. While general compartment is crowded, the AC chair car is not ideal for scenic route as the windows are not transparent. 2S coaches are the best to view the scenery and the seats could be reserved.

When I boarded the train, I realised that the window seat was facing towards the hilly side of the route and not the valley. To get better view, I went towards the door and sat there. I expected Ticket Collector to oppose but he did not bother. 


The train moved out of the station and was soon entered into the forest. As the train made its journey through the first tunnel, people greeted it with “hoo hoo” sounds!! But very soon the tunnels became a norm!! 


There are four stations between Subramanya road and Sakleshpur. They are Siribagilu, Yedakumeri, Kadagaravalli and Donigal but there is no scheduled stops at these stations. The train did stop at couple of station to pick up railway workers. 


For me it was a retrace of my trekking journey in opposite direction (both times I trekked from Sakleshpur). Being monsoon season, the greenery was abundant, the scenery amazing with lot of waterfalls. Only before reaching Sakleshpur, it becomes disturbing as the area is filled with huge pipes and forests being cleared. Looks like some “development” work in progress.

Views near Yedakumeri
Railway workers are seen all along the route to ensure the maintenance of the track. Dilapidated and abandoned buildings are seen in the route. 



Which one was better?
It took two hours to cover the distance through the western ghats. I had taken two days to trek this distance by walking. It was like seeing a movie in fast forward mode!! The excitement of crossing the railway bridge over the gushing water could not be felt from train. No doubt, the trekking experience was much better but given that that option is no more available, I must say that the train journey provides a glimpse of that experience.

A waterfall seen from the train
Note

As mentioned there is only one day train on this route and it runs between Yeswantpur and Karwar and it runs very alternate days. There are no trains on Sunday. The journey between Hassan and Yeswantpur is longer as it goes via Arasikere. To save time, you can also get down at Sakleshpur/Hassan and take a bus. That would save an hour of journey.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Few hours in Marin headlands, California

During my recent trip to San Francisco, I got an opportunity to meet few of my old friends. Vivek, close friend and room mate during my bachelor days was staying in Bay area. My stay was just for a week and could not find time to meet during weekdays due to busy schedules. Luckily, my flight was at late Saturday afternoon which gave us an opportunity for a quick meet.

Golden gate bridge
After discussing about the probable places that we can visit in that short period of time, we decided to head to Marin headlands, north of golden gate bridge. The area was known to be very scenic and I was excited.

Golden gate bridge and San Francisco skyline
After crossing golden gate bridge, we took the hilly road that overlooks Golden gate bridge. Unfortunately, we could not stop as the parking lots at the vista points was full!! We proceeded further to reach point bonita lighthouse. Thanks to great weather, the place looked like heaven.

At Bonita lighthouse
We roamed and drove around that area for some time. The scenery was awesome!! It was a pity that we did not had much time to enjoy this place as I had to head to airport to catch my flight. Vivek told that it would require a day or two to explore that area. He was already preparing the plan for our next trip!! We had not seen each other for last 11 years. Hope the next meet will not be so long.




While returning back, we went to a small town of Sausolito to have lunch and took highway 101 south to head to San Francisco airport.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trek to BKT waterfalls

Visit to this waterfalls was in pipeline for a long time but I kept postponing it due to various reasons each time. When the first rains of the monsoon arrived this year, I made a plan to visit this falls during a weekend. Subbu and two of this friends joined me.


In order to trek to this waterfall, we had to reach the village at its base which was about 25 km from the nearest town. We took an auto to cover this distance. The last five km was on mud road and being rainy season there were stretches with slush. Our auto got struck at couple of places. We had a round of warmup exercise by pushing the auto!! Sharath, our auto driver was a cool person who did not bother much about these hardships. 


The waterfall made its appearance as we reached the village. Sharath had some relatives/friends in the village and he would spend time till we returned back from waterfall. As we started walking in the village, I felt that we were seeing one of the best places in Karnataka. The huge mountains of western ghats were towering in front of us with the majestic BKT waterfalls. This against the backdrop of the village was an amazing scene to watch. 


To reach the base of the falls, we had to walk through the forest. The path was surprisingly clear though we had to take several detours to avoid crossing huge dead trees. A village dog had decided to accompany us.


On the way we spotted a viper. Being scared of snakes, I would have moved away from that place as soon as possible. But ended up taking a photo thanks to my friends. Not a great shot as I was scared while taking the snap!! Being rainy season leaches were plenty. Our walk was non stop with occasional checks on our legs for leeches. 


We had walked for 45 minutes and were near the falls. The path was steeper and slippery. The last 15 minutes of walk was arduous but the tiredness was all gone as the waterfall made its appearance suddenly. What a sight!!


The falls direction changed based on the wind direction and speed. 



We could see the village from where we climbed and its surroundings. Amazing place!! Spent a long time enjoying the beauty.



The return was slower as the path was slippery. Realised that the dog had returned back while we spent our time in waterfalls!! We had our lunch at the temple in the village with waterfall in the background. As we departed the village, we had complete satisfaction and fulfilment. It was one of the best waterfall trek I had.