It had been almost 9 months since I last went to Thirunelli and we were 9 of us then. This time we were only 3 of us and we had decided to go on bikes. The day was 26th January. The start time planned was 7 AM but as usual, it was delayed.
We started off from Mysore and planned to go via Nagarahole national park. Unfortunately, the forest department had different plans. Two wheelers were not allowed through it and we were told to take a shortcut which borders the park. The shortcut as usual cut short our life span by atleast a day, thanks to the strategically placed road in between pot-holes. After 60 minutes of hardship, we were finally out on tar again. What should have been a 3 hour ride to thirunelli took 5 hours.
After a quick lunch at home, we went for a stroll in the forest. We were happily hopping from one stone to another to avoid getting wet in the small stream that flowed. Disaster struck again. One of us injured his leg muscle badly. Over a period of few hours, his condition worsened so much that trekking was out of question for him on the next day.
On day 2, after getting permission from the forest department and after a carbohydrate packed breakfast, we started our trek to Pakshipatala along with our guide. The trek was fast-paced and it took just about 2 hours although the distance was about 9 kilometers. We met two other groups on the way. One group consisted of two guys from the UK and we overtook them. The other were 5 or 6 people from Bangalore returning from a night's halt atop the hills.
Pakshipatala translated means "A bottomless valley of birds" and so is this place. The place is actually an amazing maze of caves with a small population of swifts. Bats also live here. The swifts build their bowl shaped nests clinging to the roofs of the caves using their saliva. After a lot of pain, when these nests are ready, the birds lay their eggs. Some people have a mindless taste for anything exotic. Demand creates supply and swift bird eggs never hatched as their home was now consumed in the form of bird's nest soup. In recent times though, the forest department is stricter.
The view from the top of this place is amazing. Beautiful Indian rainforests in all its glory. The forest rivers still flow all through the year and I hope this remains so for a long time. The trees of the continuously evolving forest compete with each other to get their share of sunlight. Elephants are kings in this part of God's own country. Sitting on the edge of a rock, calls of birds and animals are all that you'll hear.
After a short afternoon nap on one of the hills we reached home still fit for some more adventure. Some photographs of the palasha tree also known as "Flame of the forest" and some more photographs of a tomb-raider type of place saw us through the day.
When you are in such a beautiful place, there is no such thing as free time. There are always surprising birds to be photographed around.
The final day was the tiresome one. It was the return journey and we didn't know that we would ride for 300 kms that day when we started. Our first stop was at vadagara road. This is a biker's paradise. 11 hair-pin turns, rubberized road and engineered-to-perfection banking will definitely give any biker a "high".
Back from biker's heaven, we headed towards Banasura-Sagar Dam. It is the largest earth dam in India meaning that it is built naturally without using concrete. Dozens of islands with some huge hills in the backdrop make this place a beautiful one to watch and photograph. Only issue, afternoon is not a good time to reach here.
Our next treat was in the form of lush green tea estates in the Meppady region. The curving roads make the drive even more exciting.
Amidst the tea estates is a deep valley. Thousands of gallons try in vain to fill up this breathtaking valley and is called Soochippara waterfalls. The water falls in many steps, each about 50-100 feet high. The waterfalls still is less known and hence there are only a handful of tourists. Probably, there are more thieves here than tourists. Our unfortunate guy who had a leg pain earlier now lost both the rear mirrors of his bike.
The next part of the journey was just biking. The first section of the trip was again through tea estates. Next, thick forests that hardly let any light into the road saw us off from Kerala. Finally, we did some parasitic night driving behind larger vehicles so as to get a better view of the road. A shoulder pain and hundreds of kilometers later, we were back in Mysore.