Nearest point of River Cauvery would be around hundred kilometers from Bangalore city. Whenever opportunity comes I visit this majestic river to get rid of monotonous urban life.
River has an unmatched attraction in human life. We were looking for a nearby place around Bangalore to spend the extended weekend of Ganesha Chaturthi. After a brief net search, we selected Galibore Nature Camp, a resort managed by Jungle Lodge & Resorts (JLR).
Galibore Nature Camp was an outstanding tourist spot located on the bank of Cauvery river surrounded by hills, deep inside Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. Distance from Bangalore was around 100 kms which could be covered in around four hours.
Myself and my wife were frequent visitors to JLR (Jungle Lodges & properties) properties. Unlike the indifferent attitude commonly experienced in Government managed hotels, their management of resorts as well as keenness for customer satisfaction was noticeable. Location of each such abode was surrounded by nature, quite far away from urban jungle, equipped with all required facilities. Tariffs of Resorts were not cheap, but after experiencing their hospitality we realised its reasonableness, to sustain the business with long term goals.
I was skeptical about the last stretch of around 9 Kms from Sangam (of Cauvery and Akravathy rivers) upto the camp, which would be thru kachha road. My car (Hyandai Xcent) was not an SUV. Also there was a devastating flood at Cauvery just two weeks back. Nevertheless, I booked our room.
But after contacting Mr. Sivaprasad, Manager as well as other staffs of the JLR office, Bangalore I was encouraged. They also assured me of any assistance if required at that stretch.
Sangam and Mekedatu
since the check-in time was mentioned at 12.30 PM in the afternoon, we started lazily after the morning tea break. It was a Sunday morning with empty roads. Kanakapura Road (NH 209) via Nice Road came very soon. Road broadening work was in progress here for months, if not years. Most parts up to Kanakpura Road was open at one side, either left or right. Other portions remained closed for construction work. Not a smooth ride, but manageable due to thin morning traffic.
Unlike Mysore Road, not many good quality restaurants could be located at Kanakpura Road. We stopped and entered a road-side hotel, alas there was a big queue. No other alternative but to have breakfast at Makedetu.
At Kanakpura we took a left turn and reached Makedetu after nearly an hour’s journey. The road was narrow but well maintained except few stretches.
Hotel Mayura Sangam run by KSTDC was situated very near to the confluence of river Kaveri and Arkavatty. It had both boarding and lodging facilities. We had a late but nice breakfast here.
While taking breakfast at KSTDC hotels I met a few staff of JLR who came to Sangam for collecting groceries. They saw my car and assured me that the route could be covered with a careful drive.
This place usually remained very crowded with day tourists, cars and buses. But it was too early. Not many tourists reached so far. Shops and localities were in a lazy mood.
We still had more than an hour to spare. Although visited earlier, we decided to pay a visit to Makedetu. In our earlier trip rivers were devoid of adequate water, could be crossed by walk. This time they became very wide and huge.
Coracle ride to reach to the other side was brief, thrilling but enjoyable, particularly thru a river in spate. Monsoon was the ideal time to feel a river, may be with slight risk.
We boarded the bus for Mekedatu ride. But considerable time was wasted waiting for other passengers to get it full. It was a bumpy half an hour ride. No other choice but to have a glimpse of the narrow gorge thru which river Cauveri was flowing at Mekedatu and returning thru the same bus.
A bumpy ride
The most awaiting journey began thereafter. Initially, we had to turn left and very soon reached the forest check post.
Contrary to expectations we noticed many habitats like meditation center, old age home and other residences even after entering the forest area. But the last few kilometers were an excellent drive. The country road proceeded through the forest with the Cauvery watercourse on the left. Forest was not very dense here but thick jungle could be visible on the other side of the river covering hilltops.
It was like any country road with muddy uneven stretches, stones spread at places and full of craters. When you are aware of the difficulties, you had to care extra care. It was a real challenge for my car. But we could overcome it with the careful drive. Of course, the excellent environment was the biggest encouragement. It was a cloudy and slightly humid afternoon. On the whole, it was a pleasant journey.
We reached the camp parking area at around 1 PM. I had a sigh of relief after noticing the Camp area.
Manager Mr. Sivaprasad welcomed us. Our accommodation was booked in a tent-cottage. We had a tent experience in other JLR Cottages. Design, Interior and facilities were excellent and similar in almost all the places we visited. Tourists would get all modern facilities quite difficult to arrange in remote locations where they were situated.
The most interesting feature of the tent was their location. All were facing the river which might be hardly a hundred meters away. The entire camp was built on the river bank. A hillock of moderate size was just behind the camp. The camp area was covered by countless huge and tall trees.
The view of the river was fantastic. It was moderately broad here, turbulent and lively. Cauvery flowed between mountains, deep gorges, and huge waterfalls almost across Karnataka before finally bidding adieu to the state and entering Tamil Nadu, which was not far away from here.
Sunlight and cloud were playing hide and seek. Whenever the sun appeared, river water was glowing in sunlight. Lush green mountain ranges on the horizon looked spectacular on the other side of the river. It was the end of August. Monsoon might be in its large stage of appearance.
After getting refreshed we joined for lunch almost immediately. A round-shaped courtyard, few yards from our abode was the eating place. We requested for having lunch outside in the open to get full river-view, which was nicely arranged. It was a multi-cuisine lunch with a choice of veg and Non-veg both. Non-veg included fish as well as Chicken. Each and every food was tasty and well-cooked. It was a pleasure to have food in such an excellent environment.
While taking food we were hearing about the catastrophic flood that occurred here just two weeks back. River in spate had overflowed and entire camp including tents where we were staying had been submerged in deep water. Surprisingly there was no trace of that deluge now inside the camp area. JLR Staff renovated the whole area with enormous efforts and care. Our sincere appreciation to all of them.
Trace of destruction was still visible near the riverbank, with skeletons of countless huge tree branches. Mighty river like Cauvery had two opposite contrasting characters. One was its vibrancy and exuberance to which we were addicted. Another face was fearsome, ruthless, swallowing everything on its way. Both were inevitable and complementary to each other.
Srinivas, who was managing the affairs at the lunch spot attracted our attention to the other side of the river. A huge crocodile was enjoying the sunlight, he pointed. Not visible easily in naked eyes, we had to spot them with our binocular. We identified not one, but three crocodiles getting dried in sunlight with jaws open like dead corpses.
Galibore was famous earlier for catching Mahasher and other large varieties of fishes. Fishing was later prohibited as a part of the protection of wildlife.
Tourists were busy relaxing with various entertaining facilities like a hammock, military net, cycling, etc. Most noticeable was a cradle made with a long rope tied with a tall tree branch.
The next program was a Coracle ride at 4.30 PM. Ample time to roam around the campsite. A U-shaped balcony was built pointing towards the river and surrounded by huge trees. We could listen to the chirping of various bird species sitting in the balcony. Far away, crocodiles appeared to have changed their places but remained immobile as earlier. Cormorant birds were a common sight here. Occasionally they were flying speedily barely a few feet above the water and again glide towards the sky like a fighter aircraft. Of course, a good binocular with appropriate focusing would be helpful to enjoy nature. I would love spending hours enjoying the river from here.
“Can u see the owl and owlet at their nest, sir?” Thomaraj, the ever-smiling JLR attendant pointed on top of a very tall tree. It was hardly noticeable with the naked eye. We pointed out our binocular and spotted them. They made their nest inside a big hole on the tree branch. Mother and kid could be witnessed. What a remarkable sight!
Coracle ride would start below the balcony. Suddenly there was a change in the weather. Torrential rain started. Our tent was equipped with two wide umbrellas. We returned hurriedly and returned with umbrellas. Crocodiles were still visible but not on the river bank. They were floating with their jaws pointed towards the sky. It was really amazing.
Thomaraj would accompany us at the coracle ride. I had earlier experience of floating on a coracle, but for a brief period. Here we would be having a long journey. River was broad, very powerful with strong current. Although we were wearing safety gadgets, I was a bit frightened.
Slowly and steadily Thomaraj sailed our coracle to the middle of the river and it flowed speedily with the streams. His art of controlling the vessel was worth watching. After a while he pushed the boat on the other side of the river for bird watching. I must acknowledge his in-depth knowledge of birds, trees, animals and the entire eco-system of that area. In our earlier ventures at other JLR properties also, we always noticed the profound knowledge those guides possessed. But he was really outstanding.
Due to afternoon shower just before commencement of our ride, initially birds were not easily accessible. Gradually, they were appearing in large numbers. Magpie, Robin could be seen amongst small birds. Varieties of Kingfishers with breathtaking colours, different species of eagles, and the most eye-catching were the group of parakeets. They were so restless, noisy, gliding in flocks, returning to their nests after whole day activities.
Sound of peacock scream echoed from distant forest. Intermittent, but they could not be spotted. Thomaraj pointed his finger to a floating spot just above river water. We could realize, these were two eyes of a crocodile, not very far from our boat. We were thrilled.
We could hear a bird’s repetitive call quite frequently. Thomaraj told that was the sound of Common Hawk Cuckoo. It was also named as Brain Fever Bird, since they sometimes call during night also. The sound was distinct with a tragic touch, but gave a different feeling of the whole environment.
It was late evening. Sun god already disappeared but there was enough light between the clouds. We returned at late evening after two hours of outstanding ride. Returning to the camp was thru a Jeep ride with coracle carried in the luggage van attached to it.
We immediately rushed to the riverbank leaving our belongings at the hut. Far away the forest was disappearing in darkness. Hills were not very distinct, only their borders were prominent. Dark clouds were spreading throughout the horizon. There would be shower at night. Cormorants were still busy in targeting catch. River water became dark and sound of river stream increased remarkably. End of a day at last. Nothing new, it used to happen everyday, but the majestic Cauvery offered a different feeling to us. It was simply inexplicable.
Barbecue snacks A delicious evening barbecue snack was ready for us. With round shaped sitting arrangement, firewood burning at the center and mouth-watering dishes, both veg and non-veg, we welcomed the nightfall.
Dinner was at 8.30 PM. We thought we could not eat much. But daylong activities aggravated our appetite. Food arrangement was elaborate with variety of dishes. All were cooked nicely and difficult to ignore.
Brief walk post-dinner
A brief walk post dinner. We reached the balcony from where our afternoon coracle ride started. River has swollen due to surging water flow. Its sound was loud and clear, emanating from the darkness. We heard a bird’s call with intermittent pause. It was the same Brain Fever Bird which we could listen in the evening. But in darkness of night it gave a different feeling. With powerful torchlight we attempted to spot wildlife. Eyes of animals were gilttering in darkness,might be eyes of a deer herd on the other side of the river. Harish, the JLR man intimated that elephant groups and sloth beers were common visitors at night.
A nice and immediate sleep was the reward after a hard yet pleasant day. Sometimes at night, I woke up. It was raining heavily outside.
I am not an early riser in my city life but rarely miss the early morning freshness in our visit to the wild. We got up sharply at six and refreshed ourselves. It was still dark but the quietness of night changed with the early morning symphony of birds. Entire surroundings became so melodious and lively. Morning tea/coffee was also ready.
Thomaraj assured us yesterday, he would accompany in the morning for a Nature walk. He came sharply at 7 AM. We started walking thru the same country road but on the opposite direction towards the forest. That was a city of birds. Birds like Sun bird, Green bee-eater preferred bushes and small trees. Thomaraj was an almanac of local birds, could pinpoint birds easily. We had glimpse of Red painted and White Brown Bulbul. White and Blue Barbets were visible for a while and many others.
We had a glance of a spectacular and colourful bird with long tail. It was constantly changing its place. We came to know it was a White Bellied Drongo. A Green Imperial Pigeon was sitting patiently on a dead tree branch.
Cry of a Red Jungle Foul from the bushes. That was an ideal morning call. Despite our efforts we could not locate the bird.
Bird watching was a test of patience and time consuming. In spite of that, witnessing so many varieties within a short span of time was amazing.
While returning to the camp Thomaraj brought us to a spectacular place on the riverbank. Whole surroundings were wide open. Hundreds of boulders scattered here as if a hillock was crushed by a demon. River was wide and took a mild left turn towards the horizon. Green mountains on the other bank looked serene, approaching the sky. No tree, no vegetation. Entire landscape was glittering in the morning sunlight.
We could have spent hours here but had to approach towards the camp since breakfast had been ready.
It was a delicious breakfast with varieties of dishes. We enjoyed it watching an Egret targeting its catch with immense patience, nearby.
It was a fantastic stay with great hospitality of Mr. Sivaprasad and his team, Srinivas, Harish to name a few, so caring and friendly. Last but not the least was Thomaraj, so knowledgeable but so humble and simple. We would remember him for a long time.
At 11 AM we checked out with reluctance. There was ample time to return to Bangalore within daylight. On return we spent nearly two hours on the country road primarily for bird watching. We switched off our car repeatedly for minutes to watch their movement and spotted varieties of birds. They were so colourful and vibrant. Return journey was effortless, virtually we did not feel that we were passing a difficult road.
We reached Bangalore comfortably, before dusk.