Christmas Break with wife and Scorpio- Wildlife spotting in Masinagudi area
Here goes the 2009 Christmas + Wife's Birthday trip!
Christmas eve - approx 1730 hrs - Diesel filled, air checked and parked the Scorp at home in readiness for take off. A few odds and ends bought for our quick holiday and there we were in a fever of excitement, ready to run!
Day 1: Cut to the chase: The rosy fingered dawn breaks on Christmas morning to the sound of furious luggage loading into the open maw of the jeep boot. (No golf clubs and other paraphernalia this time strangely enough but you will see why, by and by)
A quick hug and bye bye to my much loved dogs, hurriedly whispered set of instructions to Man Friday and Wifey and I leap in the Scorp and set off - the Holidays are here again! - feels JUST like getting out of School at the end of term and buzzing off home !
Had made some arrangements with friends in the Masinagudi area to celebrate Christmas with them as well as my Wife's Birthday -which is the day after Christmas day. Couldnt be better, we thought, than to get away from the madding crowds, fumes and pollution, escaping to a sort of Shangri-la, so to say, with the added pleasure of some superb wildlife to look forward to!
So there we were in the faithful Scorp, zooming along the empty roads of Bangalore towards the Bannerghatta exit. Reaching the exit and the toll booth, a tiny little altercation with an idiot Logan who could well see there was a queue, but yet chose to try and barge in, horn blaring and literally trying to mount my left rear wheel! A quick twiddle and a twaddle with the steering of the Scorp soon settled his hash and we departed amidst Siren Song, with that fool's horn blaring out a cacophony until the toll booth chap told him off and quite sharply too! A salutary lesson to the dunderheads on the road who try to jump the queue! (I know Christmas Spirit ought to have inspired the turning of the other cheek and all that, but Im sorry, there are some things that simply arent acceptable, in terms of road manners!)
Onto the Mysore road then doing a happy 110-120 standard and enjoying the ever green sound of my Turbo whine!
Braving the wicked traffic - looks like everyone and their grandma are out on the Mysore highway for the holidays!!
an hour later, pulling up at McDonalds for a quick bite, we chanced upon some dear old friends - also apparently on the road for the holidays but heading in a different direction altogether. Having repasted well, we bid them compliments of the season and bid them goodbye to hit the road again.
peaceful drive all the way to Bandipur - a quick stop and prayer at the little temple at the entrance, another quick stop at the Pug Marks place for a wash and brush up, one quick call to our friends to announce our imminent arrival and there we were, doing the regulation 40-50 through the jungle. Spying three beautiful deer by the side of the road I slowed to a crawl so my wife could snap them quickly - accelerating again so as not to hold up the traffic behind us. Saw a few friendly langur and rhesus monkeys standing hopefully to the side, waiting for the crumbs from passers by - poor things - they've become accustomed to this sort of largesse which is completely NOT OK! Steeling my resolve I went on, without taking a second look because they really have the most put upon look about them, which can cause the stoutest heart to melt!
Then it was at the Mudumalai check post, exchanging pleasantries with the staff on duty, wishing them a Happy Christmas etc - as always, we were waved on, with easy familiarity and genuine friendship.
Turning left onto the ancient little bridge it was on to Masinagudi and Mavanalla then and the beginning of the Sigur Ghat. At the pre-appointed place a quick turn off the main road and there we were, arriving at our friends home!
Parking up and a quick wash and brush up later, we wished them all a Merry Christmas, handing over the special Christmas cake we'd brought to the accompaniment of huge smiles and happiness! - it is truly a lovely feeling to "give".
A little relaxation on the broad verandah and then we were called in to lunch - a sumptuous spread of the best chicken curry Ive ever wolfed! And then, my friend quietly draws my attention to the scene behind me in his broad acres of garden area - a family of wild boar were visiting! Possibly drawn by the idea of lunch they were buzzing around browsing on the delectable shoots of young grass and plants, quite peacefully!
Post lunch, a well earned siesta and some photography and then my friend suggested a night ride in a jeep (permission from the DFO/Chief having been procured earlier of course), to do some spotting.
A quick pre dinner drink in the verandah and we were treated to the superb sight of a whole small herd of deer, breezing in to my friend's garden, to browse and rest in a peaceful, safe environment - a sort of bivouac for the night as it were. Brilliant opportunity provided gratis and right at our doorstep, for some careful night-time spot-light photography on the timer exposure with the tripod for steady shooting! Wow- What Fun!!
Then, after Dinner, there we were, hopping into the (permit carrying) jeep an ancient CJ 500 Mahindra with a wheezy engine and an alarming propensity to shut shop completely if the engine was turned off. 2 hours of rattling up and down the various trails to Moyar, Singara and so on, we turned a corner and came upon a superb Sambhar, browsing quietly in a hollow, about 500 yards away - stopping quickly, we tried our best to take a photo of him with a really wide aperture and slow speed setting - but the vibration of the jeep proved too much for my shaky hands to deal with! However, this was an excellent birthday present for my wife who thoroughly enjoyed her first view of a Sambhar in the wild!
Day 2: Action:
The next day my Wife's birthday dawned, to the accompaniment of some beautiful spotted deer visiting the garden again and a few wild boar as well! a huge breakfast later we took a drive to the nearby river and generally disported ourselves on the rocks there. A lovely sylvan setting indeed! A little light off road work on a reasonably steep incline near the river - not enough traction for the wheels so it spun a bit but once it bit, we were off in a cloud of dust and pebbles!
Back home to a sumptuous lunch and a quiet afternoon with a good book - a truly interesting Douglas Adams Wildlife book - quite an apt choice if I say so myself!
Awoken suddenly by Wifey who said the Wild Boar family were visiting again and indeed, there they were - right outside our bedroom window - quickly setting up the tripod arrangement I merrily clicked away, capturing some really close up shots of the big old sow - who apparently was in litter - she obviously was quite comfortable because she lay down with a sigh just 6-7 yards away and peered at me quite peacefully, indeed, posing for some excellent pictures!
Evening fell, and we enjoyed some good times by cutting a cake and wishing wifey on her birthday to the accompaniment of the Piano, played by our friend's wife and daughter! What a talent it is indeed, to be able to play a musical instrument well!
Some chin wagging on the verandah a little more photography and we settled in to a good dinner and a good solid sleep!
Day 3: Relaxation.
The next day was grey, cloudy and cold and wet-tish - some good rains right from the morning, but that didnt stop the photography part - a procession of pea-hens and a couple of peacocks buzzing around.
Much of the day was spent however in deep and refreshing slumber -as Shakespeare said, "sleep that knits the ravelled sleeve of care" - this was never more true than of my yesterday!
Another post dinner drive this time in my friend's excellently maintained MM550 to try and spot some wildlife was quite abortive on account of the huge amount of Sunday evening traffic in the area, trying to beat the 9pm gate closure deadline. A guaranteed put-off for any sensible animal indeed! Add to that the lashings of rain in the forest and we were quite ready at the end of 2 hours to return to the cosy home and a nice hot dinner!
The evening had its high points where we spotted a beautiful Brown Owl which came to roost in a tree right outside the verandah! Almost as if he were posing for his portrait - which of course I promptly got! And as a bonus, a little Hare stopped by around 30 metres away, lurking in the long grass and foraging for his dinner! Best of all, the deer came again and flopped down in the front of the house with the ease of long practice and genuine peace!
Day 4: Departure etc and the Discovery of a New Skill for me!
The next morning dawned (today!!) - again a grey day and time to head off, brief holiday over, to the misreable-ness of the life of a common wage-slave!
Another massive breakfast and a few photo ops later, we were invited by my friend to try the art of water divining, with the aid of a coconut and a couple of copper rods.
To my absolute surprise and quite inexplicable, the coconut shuddered a bit on my palm and then heaved a bit and then stood right up, when I balanced it on my fingers and walked towards the underground water source.
A pleasant surprise indeed, to find that I actually had this dormant skill within me, until its rather spectacular discovery this fine morning! (No photos of this though because the camera was already in the jeep)
So there we were, bidding everyone good bye and thanking them for a most wonderful 3 day break from the humdrum, irritating city life we lead!
Back in the jeep and on our way through the forest - hoping for a sighting or two, but in this, we were doomed to disappointment!
A quick rest stop at Pug Marks and zooming away - another quick stop outside Mysore for some Diesel and then another stop at CCD Maddur for some lunch around 330 - they really do have an excellent biriyani there, as well as a very good omelette with toast!
So after an uneventful, relaxed drive, we clocked in at the NICE road around 445 and hurtled across its expanse to reach home at 530pm sharp to the usual raucous welcome from the dogs with much barking and jumping asking to be hugged and played with!!
Quick Scorpio performance update:
Have crossed 24000 Kms - the Jeep is almost exactly 21 months old now:
Performance: Nothing to complain about - love the turbo whine and Scorpio acceleration, pick up and general performance!
Rattles and so on: None- I am glad to say.
FE:Indeed the Jeep has returned 14.3 kmpl on this trip - 515 Km done when I filled up 36 litres outside Mysore - I think it is to do with the driving style - hardly any use of the AC this time and maintaining a regular speed of about 80-90-100 kmh - driving peacefully in other words!)
Total KM driven on the trip - 647.
Enjoyment and Fun Factor: 100%
Cheers and now, have a look at the various photos - they are not in order of capture but I m sure you will like them!
edit with a few more photos...
More Photos: This is the last bit owing to only 30 snaps at a time being allowed for uploading at one-shot! I particularly wanted to share the last one which was done by white light with my super powerful LED torch and slow speed with high aperture plus tripod for steadiness.
nice pics and narration! The animals seems pretty nearby esp. the deer or did you zoom in on them with your camera? which camera did you use?
thanks a lot
the boar were about 5-6 yards away for the close up shots and the deer were about 30-40 yards away in general except for some which were more than 50-60 yards off, the owl was about 4-5 yards away and the hare was about 30-40 yards away.
the Sambhar was far off - about 500 yards- In all the pics I zoomed in with my camera which was mounted on a tripod - aided by my pistol grip hand-held hi-powered spot-light.
i use a simple Sony Cybershot H10 with a Carl Zeiss Lens - its got a 10X zoom and several shutter speed settings programmed in it.
While it may not be the cutting-edge & definitive thing in camera technology, I think it serves me very well indeed, judging by the quality of the snaps Im able to get.
Dear Shankar Balan- awesome write up and pics
Shankar liked your adventure to the wild.The write-up and pictures are fantastic. In fact I too was to go to a tiger safari today and do a night halt with family (Pench National Park) but dropped my plans and took an outing to a nearby temple and lake resort.
The Scorpio is awesome on the highway. I could go upto 95kmph and no more as the roads (though its the NH 7) were'nt that good.
a suggested edit/crop:
P.S.:Hope you don't mind that I tweaked your image.
distance estimation is as near as i can manage - since i play golf im not that bad at estimating distances!:)
the yellow light in the pics is a standard yellow spot light with pistol grip - it is like a search light and NOT a photographic accessory. this has a range of about 80-100 yards - where I can at least see if there's something there or not - i usually keep it in the jeep as a car torch.
the pure white light is a normal LED torch - the light cast by it is in the last picture. this is my normal car torch - its like a maglite, uses 3 big cells, is rubber coated like a police truncheon and was given to me by a friend from Australia. i normally set the ISO setting at 400 ISO but in some night photos I had moved it to 800 ISO for greater sensitivity, coupled with slow speed of exposure - night mode on auto, with flash (though i know flash is useless beyond 5-6 feet in front). in most of the photos I used a tripod because my hands are not that steady as all that especially when using slow speed settings and high aperture - there will be too much shake despite the "steady shot" being switched "on".
your tweaking makes the picture clearer for everyones enjoyment so i have no problem. You seem to be quite a camera/ photography pro? good to learn from experts because while I am highly enthusiastic Im only an amateur photographer who cut his teeth on the old box camera and 120 film and learned to develop and print pictures in school, a long time ago! todays digi cams are absolute bliss, since one can see instant results!!
@anjan - thanks. the scorp casually hits 120-140 but i prefer driving at 110-120 max on account of its high stance and heavy body. on rough-ish roads i do not go more than 70-80 max because i dont want to kill my alloy wheels, tyres and suspension by going fast. additionally the comfort of passengers is of paramount importance while driving.
Shankarbalan, that was a wonderful report i loved the narrations and also the pictures. Wishing you all the very best for the year to come and also hope to see more of the travelogues to come.
Very beautifully narrated and illustrated! Thoroughly enjoyable!
Very nice. My bandhavgarh trip was EXACTLY the same!
Almost the same animals :)
very nice narration and pictures. its so pleasant to be close to the wildlife.clap:
so how long it takes to stay to spot a tiger?stupid:
Nice writeup. The pics are awesome. Really good to see the wild life captured so beautifully in the lens.
A well narrated travelogue, it is nice to see the wildlife in abundance unlike other forests. Masinagudi is a very nice place to spend a couple of days leisurely sighting and documenting wildlife.
A beautiful traveloge Shankar. Very nice. Nothing like enjoying a holiday in the wilderness, totally makes up for the traffic infested drive to reach the place!
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