Anil organized a trip to Bellikal this weekend. There were five of us
in the group: Anil and Poornima, Mandya muscleman Mohan, ace
photographer and PVR Gold Class patron Manjula and me of course. Before
I ramble on, here are the photos from the trip:
My album on flickr
Manjula's photos on webshots
The Silver Stone Estate
Bellikal (belli = silver, kal = stone in Kannada) is a tea estate off
the steep Kalhatti ghat road to Ooty from Bandipur. The place is
unspoilt and not frequented by tourists. No one stays at the estate
full time. The estate owner, Mr. Pannalal comes down to host the
occasional visitors. Panna is a nature lover and seeing Anil's
unbounded enthusiasm for nature and wildlife, agreed to come over this
weekend to host the five of us.
Accommodation was in a portion of an ancient estate house built by the
Britishers. The place has no tarred roads, electricity or telephone
lines. The estate adjoins the Mudumalai and Bandipur forests. The lake
in the estate is a major water source for the surrounding areas and
attracts wild animals in the evenings. The tea plantation covers only a
part of the estate lands. The rest of the land has been forested and it
is frequented by bears, bisons and even elephants.
On the first day the travel weary gang had a nap on the rocks at a view
point in the estate. After the refreshing nap we went bird watching.
Manjula got some great shots of the birds around the estate. Birds seen
in the estate included the shrike, wood peckers, bulbuls, drongo,
morning dove and the crow pheasant. After the bird watching session we
went to a view point overlooking the Moyar plateau. While returning we
spotted a bison at a distance. The first day's experience was pretty
good, marred only by some Jiddu-babble from Anil. The beautiful
environs inspired Anil to give his unwilling audience a spontaneous
discourse on the universal mind and the self. The night was very cold.
So cold that Mohan couldn't do a Salman on this trip.
The next day, the water was freezing. Anil and I entered into a pact to
not bathe over the next two days. Manjula walked off alone to the lake
early in the morning to get some great shots of the lake at dawn. At
this time no one realized the dangers of wandering about alone near the
lake. Though Panna had warned us about the bears and bisons that roam
the estate, we thought he was being overcautious. After breakfast, we
trekked along the estate boundaries to the adjoining hills. Panna
showed us the droppings of many animals including that of a tiger. The
path also had bushes trampled by elephants. At one point we could hear
a barking deer nearby but we couldn't spot it.
In the evening, we set out again to the sunset point. A little
downhill, we spotted a bear near a farm. Though it was at a good
distance away, the thrill of spotting an animal in the wild cannot be
matched by watching the same creature at close quarters in an
enclosure. Anil missed this sight since he had wandered off to the
lake. At this point we realized the dangers of venturing out alone. It
was very close to one of the trails to the sunset point. We hurried to
the lake since the bear was climbing as it foraged and it would soon be
near the path that we took. As we were returning, Chandru, our driver,
noticed some movement in the pine forest near the lake. A little later
Manjula noticed the pine tree tops swaying deep in the forest. This was
an amazing moment. Only an elephant coming towards the lake could push
the trees around like that. Mohan borrowed a jacket in panic to cover
his white t-shirt (elephants don't like white). As we waited, hiding at
the opposite end of the lake, we saw not one, but five elephants come
out and drink from the lake. It was quite dark and we couldn't
photograph them. This was the high point of the trip. After we
returned, all plans for a star gazing session from the viewpoint were
scrapped. Our star gazing guide Mohan was too shaken anyway.
The next day we started our tiring trip back to Bangalore. This was
another adventure. The driver was speeding like a maniac to be on time
for another trip in the evening. We stopped at Mysore for lunch. Mysore
is beautiful and calm. I think I'll join the gang at Kodiak that is
planning to settle in Mysore.