Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Visit to Ziro Butterfly Festival, Sept 2-9, 2019

September 12, 2019

Since it was a very, very long trip…Bangalore-Guwahati-Itanagar-Ziro-Pange WLS and back…I simply can’t describe everything in detail, but the visual story of what I experienced, with captions, is in a series of albums on Flickr.

Day 1, 020919, Blr-Guwahati:

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Fisherman at Deepor Beel

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Yellow Helen at Deepor Beel

Day 2, 030919, Guwahati and Rani WLS, overnight journey to Naharlagun (Itanagar)

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Grey Pansy, Kirtti Inn

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Crimson Sunbird, Kirtti Inn

Day 3, 040919, Itanagar, journey to Ziro

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Sonku and her son Ranka

Day 4, 050919, Ziro to Pange WLS

https://www.flickr.com/photos/86494503@N00/albums/72157710798479712/with/48716450193/

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Tytler’s Multicolored Flat

Day 5, 060919, Pange WLS

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Bhutan Glory

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Juvenile Dark-sided Flycatcher

Day 6, 070919, Pange WLS to Ziro

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Paresh Churi’s color-pencil work of the Kaiser-e-Hind, the queen of Talle Valley

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An Apatani priest recites a prayer to save the crops from destruction by pests

Day 7, 080919, Walk in Ziro, overnight journey to Itanagar

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View of Old Ziro from Ziro Point

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Lunch at Potin, on the way to Itanagar

Day 8, 090919m Itanagar to Guwahati, and flight back to Bangalore

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Moving furniture

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Blue-tailed Bee-eater

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Sri Lalit “Achar”ya, Cheetal Resort, Madhai, Madhya Pradesh, 010219

March 26, 2019

When I went for the Bird Survey at the Satpura Tiger Reserve, in Madhya Pradesh,I stayed at the

Cheetal Resort at Madhai

It was a most impressive home stay, but apart from everything else, I spotted this sign:

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Pickle and food research room! That intrigued me very much. Little did I know that I was going to get a course on Pickle Making 101 from Sri Lalit Khattar, who owns the resort!

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At lunch, Lalit ji noticed me taking a lot of interest in, and relishing, the ginger, small-mango (“midi mAvinkAi” in Kannada or “mAvadu” in Tamizh) and date pickles

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that Karthik Hegde gave me to try, and walked up, asking if I would like to know more, and see the Pickle Research room. I was delighted to agree!

A very instructive and interesting time followed as my friends Harish, Sharmila and I went with him. Here he is, with some of his pickle jars.

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Lalitji says that pickles can be made from almost any vegetable or fruit.Properly made, he adds, the pickle has as long a life as the person who’s making it, and possibly longer!

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Harish and Sharmila talk to Lalit ji

Some pickles, he says, need to be made with oil, and some without. Very few pickles need the constituent vegetable to be boiled or otherwise cooked beforehand. However, he cautions, the process must be very carefully followed.

Most Indian pickles (called “achAr” in Hindi..in Tamizh, it’s “oorugAi”, meaning, “soaked vegetables” and in Kannada the name is “uppinkAi” or “salted vegetables”) have condiments (a combination of various spices) added to them,stuffed or marinaded , to soak into the vegetable, fruit or flower, and add the unique taste. His research, he remarks, is to try various combinations of spices, and also vary the process of preparing the pickle, and to see what tastes the best, and lasts the longest.

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Lalitji shows some of the “masAlA” (condiments) made to be added to the pickles.

His oldest pickle, that he showed us, was made with lemon…35 years ago! It still smelt heavenly!

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These are pickles made with “kundru” (Coccinia grandis, the ivy gourd, or “tindOrA”) They were crunchy.

He had some very unusual pickles to show us, too. Here are pickles made from Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers. I knew that they were used to make a potent liquor, but the pickles were something new.

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He showed us a pickle made from Guava seeds, and mentioned how he’s made pickles with the seeds of the Tulsi (Basil) plant. “The cost of the seeds is about Rs.500 per kilo,” he said. “Oh, who buys it then?” I asked. “I don’t sell it!” was the reply. I make it for my own satisfaction and consumption.” Now that’s what I’d call a “consuming” passion for the pickle-making art!

Karthik Hegde, who manages the home stay, is an enthusiastic participant in the ongoing research. It was he who gave Lalit ji the recipe for the small-mango pickle…which was made perfectly, tasting absolutely authentic, from the small mangoes that grew on the trees in the homestay (which is also a farm in itself.) Here, Karthik and Lalit ji discuss the product and the process.

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Storing the pickles properly is vital to the long shelf-life of the pickle, Lalit ji is quick to emphasize. But if stored properly, he adds, metal, glass, or plastic containers, anything can be used for storage. His room bore witness to his words.

Many tart substances, such as lemon or lime juice, or tamarind, can be used as a base for pickles. These, too, should be properly processed to ensure a good shelf-life. Tamarind itself can be a pickle! So can chillies, apart from being a component of the condiment, in the form of chilli powder, or added as green chillies to give heat to the pickle. Apparently, chillies, and their varieties, are a huge subject by themselves, in this art.

Some pickles need to be kept in the sun for a few days or weeks; some need to be stirred at regular intervals. Definitely, there needs to be an investment of patience, time, and dedicated effort in making these delectable additions to our Indian meals.

A pickle can be eaten with anything; whether it’s rOtis, nAn, rice or pulAo, just with curds (yoghurt)..or sometimes, as I did lip-smackingly with the date pickles.. all by itself!

I did want to discuss some of the short-life pickles I make (such as “menthiya mAngAi” or “puLi miLagAi”) but alas, the survey that we had come to do didn’t leave much time for discussion! So I mean to have a further chat the next time I go to Madhai..and meanwhile, let me confer the title of “AchAryA” (respected teacher, and a pun on the word “achAr”) on Sri Lalit Khattar!

Long may his research on this tasty part of Indian cuisine last. I have been savouring the wonderful date pickles that he told Karthik to gift me as I left (I saw it only when I returned home!) and think of the very interesting time I had with the “AchAryA”!

Kidoor Bird Fest: Birding on the Border, 10,111118

November 29, 2018

Birds know no borders; the ones that we go to see in Karnataka fly off and can be seen once we cross over into Kerala!

So when the birders of Kasargod announced the second Kidoor Bird Fest, to celebrate both the first sighting of the

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
obgp by by Sarala Jeevanthi Gamage
Photo credit: Sarala Jeevanthi Gamage

and the birthday of

Dr Salim Ali, the noted ornithologist,

it was clear that this would be a productive birding weekend.

The participants and the organizers.
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The festival was a bigger event than it was in 2017, because this time, birders from all over Karnataka and Kerala attended. 65+ birders made a strong show at the fest, which was held in the hamlet of Kuntangeradka, in Kidoor.

Kidoor Post Office sign.
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The festival began with everyone gathering and registering.
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Beautiful palm-frond birds adorning the hall.
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Raju Kidoor
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and the entire team, including Maxim and Lavina
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worked very hard to make the event a success.

The birders of Kasargod, and some from Mangalore, brought the following local luminaries on the dais: Sri Pundarikaksha K L, President, and Smt Aruna Manjunatha Alva, Ward Member, both from the Grama Panchayath, Kumbla; Sri Biju P, ACF, and Sri Sunil Kumar, SFO, Social Forestry Division, Kasargod; Sri Chikkayya Rai,a practitioner of traditional herbal medicine; and Sri Radhakrishna, an eco-friendly businessman of Kidoor who eschewed plastic.

Dignitaries on podium:
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Sri Pundarikaksha inaugurated the event, and the dignitaries from the Social Forestry Division spoke about the valuable sighting of the Orange-breasted Green Pigeon in Kidoor, on 10th Nov 2016, and the decision to celebrate the birthday of Dr Salim Ali, noted ornithologist, on 11th November as well. Kidoor has proved a birding hotspot, with sightings of several birds endemic to the Western Ghats.

Sri Chikkaya Rai, Sri Radhakrishna, and Chi. Praveen (a young student who has spearheaded several ecological initiatives in his school) were felicitated.
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The local birders took the visitors for an evening walk in the nearby laterite/grassland area.

Sunlight on the grasses.
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and a pond that they are protecting for the birds.
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Participants on the evening walk.
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Children at the evening walk.
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They organized a cultural program, with many people, including these ladies who sang folk songs, taking part.
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Untiringly, they also conducted a night walk along the village roads.

Lavina, a doctoral student, explains about pond life on the night walk.
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Next morning,in the dawn light, they took the visitors on a morning walk, along a scenic trail.
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Apart from many endemic birds , several trees also endemic to the Western Ghats, butterflies, wildflowers, insects and other creatures were sighted (see photos below). The ladies were put up in the homes of the local residents, who were very hospitable.

The family who put up visitors at Kasargod, when they alighted from the overnight bus, on their way to Kidoor
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The family who put up the ladies at Kidoor
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Photo credit: Padma Ramaswamy

One of the impressive features of the fest was that not only was it conducted on a tight budget, but there was no sense of heirarchy amongst the organizers. Every one pitched in to do whatever tasks were required, whether it was setting up a screen, serving the food, or arranging the chairs in the hall. It made for a very homely, pleasant atmosphere, and the visitors also were able to do their bit. Another great feature was that no plastic was used in the course of the meals; each person washed the stainless steel plate, glass or cup that s/he used.

The meals were traditional and were delicious.

Breakfast of iddlis, sambhar and chai.
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Lunch in traditional vessels.
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After breakfast, the gathering settled down to watch some presentations on Odonates (Dragonflies and Damselflies), and Butterflies.
Murali’s presentation on butterflies:
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After this the participants were treated to lunch at the Gram Panchayat President’s home.
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Plantain leaf lunch.
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Full of the wonderful sightings they had enjoyed, and the new friendships they had formed, the birders dispersed.

The District Collector, Dr Sajith Babu, participated enthusiastically in the Fest.

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He promised to spare the laterite/grassland from human-centric “development”. This makes it possible that from next year, the Kidoor Bird Fest will become a larger, well-sponsored event, attracting birders from further afield.

Participants at the end of the fest:
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Birds and other living beings observed during the event:

Yellow-wattled Lapwing.
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Yellow-footed Green Pigeon.
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Malabar Lark.
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Flame-throated Bulbul.
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Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker.
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Nilgiri Flowerpecker:
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Yellow-browed Bulbul.
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Grey-necked Bunting.
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Chestnut-headed and Blyth’s Starlings:
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Scaly-breasted and White-rumped Munias.
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Curved flower or Woody Chassilia.
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Porcupine quill found on the ground.
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Blue Tiger Moth.
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Memecylon flowers.
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Nag Kuda Tree (Tabernaemontana alternifolia).
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Beautiful grass.
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Beauty of the laterite rock.
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Common Sailer.
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Weaver Ants.
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Red Pierrot.
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All photographs by me, unless otherwise credited.

Visit to FES for Grow-Trees, Kallimapalli, Karnataka, 230618

June 28, 2018

I got a call from my friend Srinvasa Shenoy, aka Srini, asking whether I would be interested in a visit to a site where afforestation is being done, near the Karnataka/Andhra Pradesh border, in a small village called Kollimapalli.

Since I am always interested in this kind of work, I asked a few friends too, and we set off. After a productive morning of birding at

Bhairasagara lake

which delayed us quite a bit, we drove to

Bagepalli

where we met Avinash Chowdary of

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)

Srini tries to offset the carbon footprints of his clients in the travel company he runs, by donating to

Grow Trees

and wanted to see the planting efforts on the FES site. FES is the local partner of Grow Trees for planting trees as a part of its efforts in ecological restoration in co-ordination with local rural communities.

We found the tiny hamlet of Kollimapalli nestled in a rocky, scrubby landscape:

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Blue skies greeted us as we entered the tiny village and walked up the forest path.

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The local people whom we met said that what was earlier a barren, arid area was now quite green with the establishment of the scrub jungle, with planted trees growing well.

However”The objective,” says Srini, “is not about planting trees only – rather, it is a broader perspective of ecological restoration through water conservation, planning, planting trees (local and at the right place), educating the communities, providing expertise and then working along with them and the local government. It is all about providing a sustainable solution at the local level.”

Here we are (at the end of the site visit) :

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It is critical that the rules and practices resolved by the local panchayat are followed, for the success of the project, as they allow everyone to participate in the effort.

FES follows a system of CRPs (Community Resource Persons). CRPs are not employed full time – but devote about half of their time for a fixed payment. The CRPs monitor, report, and co-ordinate with local people. Each CRP is responsible for 4-5 villages. They have 350 villages under their project.
They have corporate sponsors like Grow-trees, Say Trees, HUF (Hindustan Unilever), Axis Bank etc.. – who fund them under their CSR budgets. The Community Resource Persons we met were

Grazing is allowed in certain areas, and others are ‘prohibited’ zones for grazing, to allow for vegetative regeneration. Here is a river of cattle flowing down one of the paths in the permitted area.

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The impact of all these efforts is felt when the local stakeholders accept the results; the results are synergetically more than just the number of trees planted to prevent erosion.

Efforts also include building of bunds/tanks at strategic locations to provide for water throughout the year, and providing for ‘cattle ponds’ at strategic locations. Here is Srini, talking to Avinash and the CRPs, at one such cattle pond, which had been dug before the monsoon.

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Without co-operation from the local community, merely planting trees (even if the trees are monitored) is of no point whatsoever and is doomed for failure. It was, therefore, heartening to see the good equation that has been developed with the villagers; we were welcomed, we enjoyed seeing the children of the village playing.

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After the visit, the hospitable people gave us some delicious buttermilk to slake our thirst!

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We found that FES had planted Neem, Jamun,Indian Gooseberry, and other species of trees suited to the rocky, rain-starved environment. On our walk around the area, here are several beautiful creatures which we spotted, proving that the place is, indeed, a haven for all kinds of wildlife.

Lynx Spider

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Small Salmon Arab

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Robberfly

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Sirkeer Malkoha

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Oriental Garden Lizard male

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Oriental Garden Lizard female

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Catunaregam spinosa, or Mountain Pomegranate:

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Givotia rottleriformis, or the White Catamaran tree (Butti Mara in Kannada)

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As we walked back, a flight of Painted Storks overhead delighted us.

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In spite of the challenges, Grow Trees and FES seem to be making an impact with their work with the twin goals of afforestation and conservation.

Bird lists:

For Bhairasagara, click

here

For Kollimapalli, click

here

For Gulur Lake, which we visited on our way home, click

here

Permits and permissions…

March 22, 2018

Permissions…
Are required only by humans.
The scholars, the researchers,
Those who need to get
Their field work done, their business transacted…
To get the data
That their study requires.
Do the birds, the animals,
The butterflies and insects,
Our feathered and furred fellow-beings on this Earth…
Do they not slip from one region to another,
Across states, countries and continents,
Without a visa or permit?
It’s only humankind which trammels itself
With documents,stops, and gates:
We are allowed here,and not allowed there,
As we struggle for access
And find it increasingly difficult
To move around on our own planet.
We snake through serpentine queues,
Fill up forms in triplicate,
Just to enter the territory
Of other human beings
Amongst whom we seem to find ourselves restricted,
Barred, or even banned for life.

Why I travel by train in India

October 13, 2017

Why I travel by train rather than by flight.
1. I have to reach the station only half an hour before the train, not two or three hours ahead of departure.
2. The railway station is 15 km away as opposed to the airport’s 45 km. (which mandates a journey of its own).
3. I don’t have horrible luggage restrictions which mean I cannot take an extra pair of socks.
4. I don’t have to screen my luggage (well, except in Old Delhi Station).
5.I don’t have to stand in long security check queues.
6. I don’t need to have my sunscreen lotion and (yes, once) safety pins thrown away.
7. I can pack home food and lots of water for the journey.
8. I get a lot of free time on the train.
9. I have enough time to both strike up conversations with fellow passengers as well as commune with myself.
10. The view from the window is as spectucular as the one from the air.
Oh, and
11. I get a senior citizen’s discount!

I can also add to this, that train travel is definitely more “green” than air travel…and that food on the train is mediumly priced junkola as opposed to exorbitantly priced junkola at airports and on flights.

Blr-Pollachi-Anamalai-Top Slip, 100717 and part of 110717

July 20, 2017

Adnan and Sarrah, who are two of the most impressive young people, with unbounded talent only matched by their humility about those talent, invited me along on their trip to the places mentioned above, and I jumped at the offer…such great places to visit, and such great company to do the trip with!

I am choosing only a few photos from my Flickr albums of the trip, which are

1. Blr-Pollachi

here

2. Pollachi-Anamalai-Top Slip

here

3. Top Slip-Parambikulam-Top Slip (public bus route)

here

4. Top Slip-Valparai

here

5. Valparai, and my train journey back (that’s only the last 5 photos)

here

We started off from Bangalore rather late in the day, as they had to re-do their tickets to return to the US (18th August is their departure date). But though we did not take the “scenic” route, and travelled through Krishnagiri, veering away before Dharmapuri, on the Pollachi road, there was enough to keep us interested and excited all the way.

I told Sarrah I’d get her chai at one of the “copper boiler chai shops” on the way, and we stopped at Tiruppur, where Lily runs her chai shop. These copper boilers are slowly being replaced by more efficient,but less quaint, stainless steel ones.

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Lily’s mother lives with her, and she has two daughters. One is married and living in Coimbatore; the younger one works as a teacher in the school near the airport, just a few kilometres away.

Against the monsoon sky, these village guardian deities, called

Aiyanar

sit in conference…alas, the car hit a particularly bad pothole as I clicked!

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Saradha sat outside her biscuits/snacks stall, looking over her little daughter’s homework.

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We reached our hotel in Pollachi (Ratna Square, the building in the centre…the one on the left is a movie theatre called “Shanthi”, and don’t miss the amazing architecture of the bakery on the right!)

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The next morning, we had a superb brefus at Amutha Surabhi, just a few doors away,

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We stopped for a while at Aliyar on the outskirts,

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looked at the temples,

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the scenery,

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the fishes,

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the butterflies and flowers,

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the insects,

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Mating Damselflies

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and the people eking out their livelihoods

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at some cost to the environment

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We had to wait around until 9.30 am, when the Tamil Nadu Forest Dept office at Pollachi opened.

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We wanted to book accommodation at Top Slip, but could not book accommodation online, and had to wait to talk to the young lady in charge at the Forest Dept office. She did give us a lot of information, but did not even give us an acknowledgement slip; all she did was talk to the Forest Guest House in Top Slip. I do wish the booking could be streamlined…we found the morning enjoyable, but would have preferred spending it in the

Anamalai Tiger Reserve

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I’ll write about the trip through the Reserve and into Top Slip tomorrow…but will tease you with the largest butterfly in south India, which we sighted (amongst many other Interesting Things) on our drive!

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A life lesson and offer of help, Mysore trip, 240517

May 27, 2017

Everybody can dance…

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We must

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But if,during all that dancing, you get an acute abdomen,

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We can help

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This message comes to you from the

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And of course, from Anjana and me:

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Kolkata, Jorhat, Kaziranga, 07-130517

May 19, 2017

We visited Kolkata

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had an evening admiring the Victoria Memorial,

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enjoying puchka

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jhaal mudi

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and visited the family who brought me up.

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We visited Pradeep and Sulakshana Barthakur at their home in Jorhat, where they run a centre for children. (Pokamura, 7km from Jorhat)

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The location is

here

Their home is a veritable garden of Eden which they share with all kinds of beings:

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Bronzeback Tree Snake

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Blue-throated Barbet

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We went to Kaziranga National Park, staying at Wild Grass resort.

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Hog Deer

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Red Jungle Fowl

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Elephants

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Rhinos

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Swamp Deer (bArAsinghA)

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Here’s K1’s beautiful depiction of the elephant safari,

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where we saw so much of wildlife.

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The Flickr albums are:

Blr-Kol and visit

Kol, Science City and Gariahat Mod

Kolkata-Jorhat

Jorhat, 100517

Wild Grass, Kaziranga, 11,120517

Jorhat, 130517 morning

Jorhat-Guwahati-Bangalore, 130517

It was a memorable trip and I enjoyed it very much, through my own experience and that of my family.

Visit to Shivamogga, Mathur, Kudli, and Sakrebailu, 080417 to 100417

April 19, 2017

Kiran Kannappan and I went to Shivamogga to help conduct a summer camp for 85 rural children, under the aegis of

Vatsalya

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run by Shaila, Shruthi and Adarsh

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Morning prayer

Story-telling, some Sanskrit shlOkAs,

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nature around the campus, basic birding

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Red-wattled Lapwing on the school campus

basic origami,

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basic cartooning

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…these were some of the things we went through with the very receptive children.

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On the 9th evening, we visited

Mathur

where Sanskrit is taught, and still used extensively. We visited a couple who have settled down there, having built this beautiful house:

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Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Mathur

We then went to the shAradA temple at Kudli

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as it was about to close.

On 100417, we visited the Sakrebailu Elephant Camp.

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Kiran decided that we would return by the afternoon train rather than wait for the overnight one…so a memorable visit to Shivamogga came to a conclusion!

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