Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Destination Jalamangala and Ramadevarabetta

On our way to one of the many trips to Mysore, I happen to spot a board by the highway which said Vulture sanctuary. Thus began the desire to visit the sanctuary. Armed with the vague information we found on the internet, we set out on our favorite Mysore road one early morning. Mysore road has multiple choices of restaurants and break out spots. Among the popular ones are the shiva thatte idly and kamat loka ruchi.But on this particular day , we stopped at the over crowded Adyar Anand Bhavan as it is closest to city and we were hungry by 7.00am. Next to us we had a senior couple who were well into their 70s and 80s  traveling with a younger companion and their Indian guide/driver. The old man needed help of elbow crutches but here he was holidaying in a difficult country like India with his wife far far away from his home country.The three of us could only sit back and admire this adventurous couple and wish and hope we would be doing the same in our old age.

With our belly full, we set out towards the sanctuary. We had an idea that the sanctuary was  around the Ramadeverabetta but the conflicting information in the blogs had confused us and to top it,the goggle map had no information of the sanctuary.Close to Ramanagaram , we kept a look out for the board which read Vulture sanctuary.But when we hit the main cross road of the town, we knew we had missed the all important right turn.We used the GPS and directions from the locals to get back on the path. After what seemed like a long drive, we hit the end of the tarred road and the mud road ahead did not seem to lead to any place. We asked some kids out there if there is any sanctuary around and they said there was nothing ahead on that mud road. Disappointed and assuming we were on the wrong side of the hill, we went with the directions mentioned in one of the blogs. The blog mentioned that vultures were spotted near Jalamangala. Thus started our drive to a new destination which did not exist on our list till few moments before.

A 35km drive and the fact that we were going away from the hills made it certain that we are not going to spot any vultures that day. We decided to drop the trip as a bird watching rendezvous and make it a drive into the country side. Some turns here and there after the Jalamangala village and lo behold a beautiful expanse opened up in front of us and we could hear the sweet sounds of different birds. The small little lake surrounded by hills was a surprise gift like none other. Active with different birds and unspoiled by visitors, we camped there for a while much to the amusement of the local villagers. Vultures long forgotten, we feasted upon little grebe and their chicks,lesser whistling ducks, bronze winged Jacana,Pond heron, flower pecker,green bee eater, laughing dove, grey headed swamphen, sun birds, indian robin, great egret and many more!

Pale billed Flower pecker?

Laughing Dove
Little Grebe with chick
Little Grebe
The local villagers

The local villagers

 The hidden gem - Jalamangala lake

After having our fill with lakes' inhabitants, we decided to give the elusive sanctuary another try. We had contacted our other birding friends for the directions and decided to once again take the same road as we did in the morning. So here we were for the second time on the same day, taking the tarred road  towards Ramadeverabetta. This time around the mud road did not stop us. We proceeded  ahead ignoring the kids this time around. And what did we have here less than half a kilometer but an entrance gateway proclaiming it is Ramadeverabetta Vulture Sanctuary. We felt ecstatic and foolish at the same time. A short drive into the sanctuary and my fellow birder spotted the endangered long billed /Indian vulture high up on the Sholay rocks.  These scavenger's number dropped drastically due to  Diclofenac contaminated carcass. Hence for a birder , it was nice to see them perched high on inaccessible hills and doing alright.

 Ramadevara betta

Long billed/ Indian Vulture

Long before the vulture made this hill their home, the legend associated this place with Ramayana. There is a temple honoring Lord Rama and Sita atop the hill. A short climb up of about 300 -350 steps was only broken by the sights and sounds of nature. Spiders at home on their web, the elusive paradise fly catcher and calls of few other birds pushed us to climb the steps in the middle of the afternoon. The beautiful quaint little temple surrounded by rocks carved by nature over millions of years with a small pond by its side is a sight that let us forget the lunch we had forced ourselves to skip. By 3.30 pm the hunger pangs forced us to leave behind all of this and head back to civilization. A good day to get lost !! I hope we have many days like this one !!!

Date: December 2015
Place : Jalamangala and Ramdevarabetta, Karnataka

Tip: Local language helps while navigating unknown rural paths
First: Vultures
The Travel connection: All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.- Martin Buber

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