July 2011 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reflections in the Wild

I was enjoying my evening jungle safari at the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka when I came across this very interesting sight. I guess this was a regular jungle moment, but to me, it was a special experience in the wild.

Checking out her reflection in the water 
I saw this grey langaur (Hanuman languar) drinking water from a rainwater puddle and may be also checking its reflection in the water. A natural mirror for the denizens of the wild!

A Hanuman Langaur and her reflection 
Even though the day was grey and the lighting low, the reflection of this grey langaur in the wild sure did brighten up my evening. It is such a moment that gives you the sense of satisfaction during your jungle exploration.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Wildlife Photography: Wild Dogs (Dhole) from Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India

Like most other predators across India, their numbers are dwindling and one can see them only rarely and that too in very few wildlife sanctuaries and national parks across India. And hence my joy new no bounds when I spotted these Wild Dogs (locally known as Dhole) during my visit to Nagarhole National Park.

Wild Dog or Dhole at Nagarhole National Park 
These predators hunt in packs and are known to even take down very large prey water buffaloes, wild boars and the deer species. These predators are highly endangered, but survive in good numbers at Karnataka’s Nagarhole and Kabini National Parks.

Wild Dogs...checking out their territory 
I saw these wild dogs twice during two separate jungle safari trips. Both times, I saw two of them. Once early in the morning when they were catching the scent on the trail and second during an evening safari trip when I saw them stalking a large group of spotted deer (chital).

Wild Dog at Nagarhole...following the scent trail 
Here are some more pictures from these two different sightings.

Wild Dog at Nagarhole National Park 
2 Wild Dogs at Nagarhole National Park 
Wild Dog crosses the jungle jeep track 
Wild Dog at Nagarhole National Park 
Wild Dog cooling itself in the water and also getting rid of its scent 
2 Wild Dogs at Nagarhole National Park

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thindi Beedhi – Bangalore’s famous food street

How many of you Bangaloreans know ‘Thindi Beedhi’? I would not be surprised if 50% of Bangalore isn’t aware of this place? Well, for starters this place is very different from today’s mall and swanky restaurant culture. But, having said that this place has a lot of culture and history attached to it and is one of the more famous landmarks in the garden city for those old citizens of Bangalore.

The mobile shops at one end of the food street dished out some lip smacking flavours of the corn masala 
Thindi Beedhi or Food Street is a street in VV Puram, one of Bangalore’s oldest corridors. It is a lane that dishes out some of Bangalore’s best traditional cuisine. In it’s hey days, it used to be a line of hawkers selling their wares on mobile carts. Today, it is a mix of small shops and mobile carts. But, even today, the taste quality hasn’t changed much or at least that’s what the old timers say.

A 2 foot long Paper Roast Dosa 
I used to frequent this place a lot about 6 years back when my workplace was just a stone’s throw away. I literally used to have dinner here on all work days of the week. Happy memories or should I say happy tastes lingered in my taste buds for a very long while. And it was after a gap of 6 years that I got to visit this iconic street yet again and that too on a rainy evening along with my colleagues from office.

Ramu Tiffin Centre- Makes some yummy south indian snack items 
The food street is known for its food and not for its facilities. One should go here for the food and not seek up market hotels or restaurants. In all probability, the food dished out to you will be great in taste, but you will have to stand in the crowd and relish it. The hygiene may not be great, but having said that I have never fallen ill after eating food here.

Ramu Tiffin Centre's Menu

My evening experience at food street began, when I parked my motorcycle in front of V B Bakery, which is at one end of the Thindi Beedhi. V B Bakery, is one of Bangalore’s oldest bakeries and is known for its kara biscuits, honey cake, benne biscuits, special bun and more. First, I did a customary walk around the shop and then dug into the yummy honey cake.

Daya waiting for his Kali Dosa, Satya for his Onion Dosa and Rajeev for his butterless Kali Dosa 
With this the evening began on a sweet note. I had to go search for my colleagues who had arrived a short while earlier and who were first timers here. When I found them, they were already munching into some pani puri and other chat delicacies. I was happy to see them enjoying this place.

Lemon Rice - used in the famous lemon rice dosa 
Then began our marathon walk up n down the food street in an attempt to savour all the specialities offered here. The group started with hot jalebis. And then some more piping hot jalebis. In my mind, this is the best way to titillate your palate. Then came the turn of some Kali dosas, benne dosas, onion dosas and paper roast dosa. The best part here was when we saw the paper roast arrive. It was more than a good 2 feet long.

Yummy food galore at VV Puram's food street 
After satiating our stomachs for the time being, we decided to check out the mobile carts at the other end of this street. Here, we had some mango corn masala and boy was it totally mind blowing!! Corn cooked over a charcoal fire along with the raw mangoes and their secret masala recipe made this item a hot favourite in our group. The only sad part here is that these mobile carts are at the mercy of the local policeman, who make life miserable for those who do not pay them a bribe.

Everyone enjoying their bites 
Next, we went to a shop where we saw a huge crowd in front of it. Here we decided to indulge in some paddu and dosas. While, we were waiting for our orders, I decided to ogle the menu card, which was printed right on top of the shop along with the fluorescent lighting. The specialities here, apart from the ones we ordered are Ragi Dosa, Akki Roti, Bele Holige, Hot Jamun and Hot Jalebis. Soon the Paddu came along with the coconut and chilli chutney. This combination is one of my personal favourites and it tasted excellent here.

This shop selling specialty Kannadiga snacks was the most crowded 
By now, some of the folks in the group were feeling the effects of this over-indulgence and hence decided to sign off with some hot badam milk. The more daring group members went off the other side and back to the mobile carts to try out some masalai mandakki. The masalai mandakki was freshly prepared in front of us and came out on top as yet another great snack sold here.

After the masalai mandakki, nearly everyone in the group was feeling full. Hence, we decided to sign it off with some Kesar Elaichi Kulfi, which was like the icing on the cake. A signature end to a great evening. Once all of us had finished our kulfi, we called it a night and parted ways. But, me and my friend were not over yet. He bought some jackfruit for his home, while I picked up some hot jalebis.

Fruits that go into the Corn Masala 
My 6 year wait to food street was definitely fulfilled that evening! I just hope I don’t have to wait that long for my next time.

For all those who do not know this place, the food street is located on old market road in VV Puram and is sandwiched between Sajjan Rao Circle, Minerva Circle, RV Road and National College Fly over in South Bangalore. The detailed map can be looked up here.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Jungle Overdrive Weekend Getaway–Kabini National Park, Karnataka, India

Kabini National Park, in my mind, is one of the best national parks in the country and definitely the best one in peninsular India. Hence, this park is always in high demand throughout the year. Bookings need to be made at least a month in advance if not more.

A tusker in musth at Nagarhole National ParkTusker in musth (mating heat)

And this rush is omnipresent irrespective of the budget limits. Even most of the premium accommodation options always run full round the year. So whether it is Jungle Lodges, Cicada, Orange County, Water Woods or the Serai, one needs to plan well in advance.

Looks like this male sambar deer was injured in a fight Male Sambar Deer showing off the wounds from a mating battle

The wildlife lover to Kabini National Park is exposed to the twin jewels of this place. One, the Kabini river and near bouts and the second is the thick and diverse forests of Nagarhole National Park (Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary) that runs contiguous with Kabini National Park.

Leopard on a tree branch – This is truly a Kabini only moment

While the Kabini river is best explored on a boat, the Nagarhole jungles are best suited for the jungle jeeps. Both these places offer great avenues to explore the wild in its true sense. But, the Kabini river area is where most water fowl and fishing birds are found. The odd pachyderm and tiger are also seen here.

Grey Junglefowl - one early morning at Nagarhole National Park - 4 Grey Junglefowl

The winding jeep tracks of Nagarhole National Park are the ones that lead the wildlife lover to the pride of this place, which is the leopard. People travel from all around the world to see the leopard sitting on a tree or a leopard carrying its kill to the top of a tree. Leopard sightings are fairly common in Kabini, though as it is always in the wild, sighting is a matter of pure chance.

Tusker crosses the forest jeeps filled with tourists Tusker crossing the jeep track. Everyone watches with bated breath

Even India’s national animal, the Royal Bengal Tiger is also sighted here quite frequently, though the dense foliage do not make for great visibility. Both Kabini and Nagarhole are very popular for its pachyderms. This stretch of forests houses one of the highest populations of the Great Asian Elephant in South India.

A Painted Stork Family next to the Kabini River Painted Stork Family Sunning themselves on a Kabini Island

During the summer months, a lot of tourists and wildlife enthusiasts and photographers arrive at Kabini to see the grand spectacle of a massive herd of elephants (about 100-300) grazing together on the banks of the Kabini river.

Wild Dog at Nagarhole...following the scent trail Wild Dog (Dhole) looking for a scent trail

It is believed that during the summer months when the river waters recede, fresh tufts of grass make their presence felt and it is this very grass that is considered a delicacy by the elephants. And hence this mass congregation.

Check out the long tail of this Hanuman Langaur Hanuman Langaur and its supremely long tail

Kabini and Nagarhole are also known for another type of predator and this one hunts in packs. They are the Wild Dogs or locally known as Dhole. They look like your typical domestic dog, but pack a meaner look and possess a great killer instinct. The wild dog packs are known to bring down large opponents.

Its breakfast time for this tusker at Nagarhole National Park Lone tusker forages in the bamboo thickets

These forests also house other mammals like the sloth bear, spotted deer, barking deer, sambar deer, gaur, Malabar Giant Squirrel, hanuman langaur, bonnet macaque and wild boars.

Hanuman Langaur and his reflection while drinking water at Nagarhole National Park Hanuman Langaur quenches its thirst

In terms of birdwatching, the river side offers great views of the black necked stork, black ibis, black crowned night heron, river terns, spot billed ducks, painted storks, darters, Great Cormorants, little cormorants, large/intermediate/little egrets, grey headed fishing eagle, brahminy kite, black shouldered kite and many more.

A small elephant family enjoy the lush green grass of Kabini The Kabini banks - The congregation grounds for these Pachyderms

And when it comes to the jungle, the birds are much smaller in size, but offer a great balance of colour and sound. From woodpeckers to jungle fowl and from hoopoe to cuckoo and from peacock to Indian Roller, the jungle offer a magical concoction for the birders.

A common Hoopoe Silhouette Common Hoopoe –A Silhouette

So depending on your preference, you will either take a boat and explore the river side or take a jungle jeep and explore the various trails inside the forest. The forest is open from sunrise to sunset, but jungle safaris are typically arranged for early morning and late evenings as these time slots are best for sightings and the slant rays of the sun are ideal for photography.

2 Wild Dogs at Nagarhole National Park Wild Dogs cooling down in the rainwater puddle

A long weekend (3 days) would allow you to indulge in a total of 4 safaris (1 each on day 1 and day 3 and 2 on day 2). A normal weekend would give you 2 safaris. Most of the jungle stays offer their own jungle packages around these models. Such weekends or long weekends would include a half day drive from Bangalore to Kabini on Day 1 and another half day drive on Day 2/3 from Kabini to Bangalore. The distance is close to 230 kms and could take you between 4 and 6 hours depending on traffic and timings. 

Spotted Deer in monochrome Spotted Deer in Monochrome

The time in between the safaris is spent relaxing in the countryside settings of the jungle stays. For me, this time is spent working on my photographs and sometimes I head out to the river for a stroll. You never know when the river otters show you their pretty faces.

Great Cormorant enjoys its dip in the Kabini River Great Cormorant

A typical weekend day should cost you anywhere between 3,000 to 10,000 rupees per person per day. This would include your stay, your jungle safaris, your park entry fees, guide fees and your food. Tips, alcohol and any other local sightseeing would come at an additional cost.

Leopard enjoys its siesta on top a tree branch at Nagarhole National Park Leopard enjoying its afternoon siesta

Personally, I prefer Jungle Lodges as they are within my budget and offer the best jungle experience through trained guides and naturalists. But, there are others who are nearly as good too. I had a great time with them during my long weekend at Kabini. When are you planning your jungle weekend at Kabini?

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Black Crowned Night Heron at Kabini National Park

The Kabini river is a bird watcher’s paradise. It’s rich catch in the waters, the green grass on its banks and the surrounding dense forest cover ensures that it attracts a wide variety of birds to its waters and banks.

Black Crowned Night Heron at Kabini National Park - 2 
A boat safari on these waters will allow you to see terns and storks and ducks and herons in huge numbers.

Black Crowned Night Heron at Kabini National Park - 1 
It was during one such boat safari that I spotted this black crowned night heron sitting on a tree branch. This was the first time that I had seen this bird and I felt happy to have added one more bird to my bird memory.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Wildlife Photography: Spotted Deer at Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India

Like how the blackbucks are the most handsome guys in the antelope family, the spotted deer are such handsome ones in the deer family. The young males sporting their new antlers and their fresh coat look the best.

A male spotted deer sports his beautiful antlers 
I spotted this group of spotted deer during a jungle safari into the Nagarhole National Park. Each one of them looked sparkling in their fresh colours. They had all joined together as a group of wild dogs was chasing them. Each one of them was staying alert and keeping watch. And the best part was that nearly all of them were males. So all we got to see was a maze of new antlers everywhere.

The proud antlers of spotted deer 
And that is when we landed in our jeep. These guys are great photography subjects. They are curious and at the same time known to take a leap. Both of which offer great variety in the photography frames.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Guest Post: Turn Departure Hell into Departure Heaven

I’m sure you have all experienced departure hell; arriving with kids and bags galore, to be greeted by harassed-looking airport staff trying to contain the chaos in the delightful check-in queue, culminating with that dreaded moment when you discover your flight has been delayed by three hours. Not the most ideal way to begin what is supposed to be a relaxing trip away.

However, HolidayExtras.co.uk have come to the rescue. The answer to all your prayers lies in an airport hotel. Now I know what you’re thinking; those stuffy hotels are for official looking businessmen who travel weekly with pinstripe suits and briefcases. However, you couldn’t be more wrong. Book into one of the many discount Manchester airport hotel or a room in one of the Stansted airport hotels, and add on an extra day of your holiday before you have even left the country!
These hotels, and many more dotted all over the country provide fun and enjoyment for all the family. A great many include a swimming pool and spa where you can indulge in a few treatments, as well as excellent restaurants so you are well fed and rested before you depart.

These hotels are a stone’s throw away from the airport so there’s no last-minute rush, just a nice easy transfer. You can casually stroll over to the terminal after breakfast so you are well prepared and ready to enjoy the holiday ahead.
What is more, if your flight is later on in the day, some of these hotels are situated near some of Britain’s greatest cities. If you are staying in one of the Dublin airport hotels, then be sure to visit the sights of this wonderful city, and of course drink a pint of Guinness.
I stayed at Gatwick as part of a Gatwick hotel and parking deal before my last holiday and it took away all that departure stress and made my whole holiday experience so much more enjoyable that I’ve never looked back!
So book an airport hotel now and say goodbye to the days of departure hell.

About the author of this post: Laurence Brown has worked in the travel industry for over 7 years. Having travelled around the world on a budget he is a firm believer in economical travel. His favourite international destination is Ecuador.

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Green Carpet

GREEN is the flavour during the monsoon months. The earth dons a new look during this season. Everything is fresh and green and the beauty gets accentuated after a spell of rain.

This moron drove his car into a restricted forest area and then got stuck in the soil there. Thankfully, for him, no elephants came his way 
Recently, I was at the Kabini National Park and was enjoying the natural beauty of the greens in the rains. I was traversing through the forest during a jungle jeep safari when I spotted this Maruti Swift car stuck in the soft mud on the banks of the lake. It is illegal to bring in private vehicles into the jungle, but I was kind of entranced with the sight of a white automobile in the middle of total greenery and hence decided to capture it forever.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hanuman Langaur from Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park (a.k.a Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary) is one of India’s richest sanctuaries. Tourists throng to this place to see the elusive leopard. But, the tiger and the elephant are also fiercely popular here.

Hanuman Langaur at Nagarhole National Park - 1 
But, if you are a true wildlife lover, then you will definitely see much more than the rare cats and the mighty pachyderms. In this case, I saw this Hanuman Langaur one early morning during a jeep safari into the forest.

Hanuman Langaur at Nagarhole National Park - 2 
This langur seemed to be unaware of our presence and was busy staring at something interesting. This Hanuman Langaur is known for its mighty leaps and for its supremely long tail.

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sunset Silhouette Moments from Belur Channakeshava Temple

It was a typical monsoon day and all I could see was dark clouds and gloomy weather. I knew this type of bad lighting was not ideal for architectural photography and was hoping that the sun would come out and bless us with some golden evening light.

Setting sun from the Channakeshava Temple, Belur 
And it was one of those days when hope turned into reality. In fact, the day made a complete turnaround from grey skies to brilliantly blue skies with golden evening rays of the sun. It was right at this opportune time that I found myself at the Belur Channakeshava temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the pride of the Hoysala empire.

The light became so good that I decided to indulge in some silhouette photography keeping the temple architecture in the foreground and the designer clouds, blue skies and the setting sun in the background.

Sunset at Channakeshava Temple, Belur 
Personally, I don’t know how to categorize these photographs. Should I club them as landscape photography or skyscape photography. Or should I categorize them as silhouette photography, if there is such a category. These photographs seems to have all the right combination of elements and hence the dilemma.

A grand entrance to the Belur Channakeshava Temple 
What is your opinion? I am more leaning towards silhouette photography!

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