All my previous posts were more of nostalgic memories or the journeys that were done years back. This post is something i wanted to share and it is new. It was a memorable journey which we will cherish forever. Read on......
My architect friend Namit had told us about GORU KANA, a Eco resort in BR Hills (Biligiri Rangana hills) in Karnataka (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biligiriranga_Hills
) he had designed for Dr. Sudrashan - Magsaysay award winner - who is doing pioneering work for upliftment of Soliga tribals in the region for last three decades. On a lazy Saturday afternoon last week we just decided to go and check it out. We called up to see if accommodation was available and having confirmed, we packed our bags and within half hour we were on the road.
Staying close to NICE road is advantageous and we hit the Kanakapura road and drove towards Malavalli and then onwards to BR Hills via Kollegal.
On the way, happened to see the beautiful barrage on Kaveri near Shivanasamudram. We did not deviate to the falls which we had seen number of times.
|An quiet flows Cauvery - magnificent sight near Shivanasamudram|
I had been to BR Hills as a kid to the famous Ranganathaswamy temple on the Hills and had vague memories of the region. I was amazed at the beautiful landscape as we neared the forest check post after Kollegala. The undulating hills with dry forests looked beautiful. Having come from Kanha last week, it was like returning to the wilderness again.
As we crossed the check post and started driving, we saw a water hole and lo, there were two huge wild boars playing in waters! They were really huge. As we drove to the resort, our expectations grew of seeing
ore animals. But we had to wait for the grand spectacle to unfurl the next day.
|Entering the forests of BR Hills|
|First sight of wild life - Wild boars!!|
Evening was spent quietly and soaking in the song and dance of Soliga tribals. These songs talk about nature, forests, gods etc. A backward tribal community - i was told by Jadeiah (Jade), our guide – that there are few villages deep in the forest even today. They have their own distinct culture and traditions.
They speak their own language which is a remote dialect of Kannada. Jade was telling us how they hunt for honey and other adventures in Kannada. The most interesting part of their tradition is that of a boy choosing the girl for marriage. They celebrate "Rotti Habba" in which tribal villages come together to cook Rottis and have feast from dusk to dawn. Dancing goes on through the night. In Soligas, boys dance and girls sing. As the boys dance, if he likes a girl in the group, he throws a stone at her and both boy and girl run away into the forest and stay for a week in caves living out of forest. After a week, they will come back when the marriage is solemnised by elders with the boy giving a penal fee of Rs 12.50 to the village head! It is as simple as that!!
|Men from Soliga tribe - children of forest!|
|Soliga men dancing to Gorukana song|
Jadey our guide was ready at 6 in the morning next day to go for a drive. The forest department have stopped safaris due to forest fires and we had to go only on the road. After a cuppa, we were ready to go. As we crossed the check post – we were the first and had to wake up the guard to open gate - towards K Gudi, Jade spotted a Bison. The chap was very close to the vehicle and we could clearly see the famous "white socks" they wear.
|Indian Guar |
Barking deer, Sambhar were the next ones. We stopped at many places to see beautiful birds. Suddenly Jade asked us to look up and there we were seeing the Malabar Flying squirrel with long tail (could not capture on lens). We moved on as the grand spectacle opened up!
Jade shouted "Leopard". I stopped the car and switched off. The cat was majestically walking on the road. Came closer, did potty and started moving towards us. We thought we will chance of our life time as he came less than fifteen feet from the vehicle. I don’t know what happened and suddenly turned left and vanished into bushes. Seeing the spotted cat in all glory was something we had not bargained for. The adventure was only to begin!!
|Leopard on Morning stroll!!|
|.........and he vanishes into the jungle!!|
As we drove back from K Gudi, Jade asked me stop. There on the road was the lone tusker. Jade asked me to back up and i did. The guy possibly sensed us and started walking towards us. We backed up more. As we were keeping our fingers crossed, the guy vanished into the forest as we heaved a sigh of relief
|The turn of tusker now!!|
BR Hills is a birders paradise. We could see numerous birds and Jade was explaining us the details.
GORU KANA – word taken from Soliga folk song - is the eco resort promoted by Dr. Sudarshan of Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK), an NGO working for welfare of tribals for last thirty years. It has beautifully designed rooms by Award winning architect Namit Varma. The profits earned out of the resort will fund his NGO .
This place is so close to Bangalore, it makes a ideal weekend getaway!
If you are lucky, you may also spot Tiger like Mithun Hungund was. Take a look at this link
Mother and a cub in BR Hills
Distance from Bangalore – 200 KMs
By Road - Three hours in my Scorpio without break. Keep four hours for easy drive.
b) Bangalore – Maddur – Malavalli – Kollegala – BR Hills
b) Bangalore – Kanakapura – Malavalli – Kollegala – BR Hills
Route (b) is the best bet. We went by route (a) and returned by route (b). NH 209 is done up very well except for two KMs before Halagur and there is not much of traffic beyond Kanakapura. The road between Maddur and Malavalli has bad patches at many places.
There are direct buses from Bangalore to BR Hills
There are only two options
a) Jungle Lodges and resorts - This used to be the only one until Goru Kana started recently. http://www.junglelodges.com/
b) Goru Kana - Excellent cottages, Nice location. Good team. We had given many tips to improve food which was average. The very fact that this resort is run as a part of NGO makes it worthwhile to stay here. http://www.gorukana.org/
a) Carry good Binoculars and a torch
b) Get up early and hit the road at dawn. Chances of seeing wild animals will be bright at this time
c) Don't worry if you can not see a tiger or leopard. There are other wild animals to be seen.
d) BR Hills is a bird watchers paradise. Take a look at this link on birds of BR Hills
e) The naturalist at Jungle Lodges and Goru Kana are knowledgeable about flora and fauna. Do not hesitate to ask questions.
f) Trekking inside forest at this time of the year is not allowed.
g) Club your trip with a visit to twin falls at Shivana Samudra and beautiful Somanathapura temple as both are on the way. Click on this link for beautiful images of water falls
On somanathapura http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somanathapura
h) VGKK, The NGO has a retail outlet from where you can buy organically produced items. Look out for the furniture made out of Lantana shrub. Looks very good and cheap. http://www.vgkk.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
i) The park looks beautiful after rains.