US diaries-4: Camping in the Canyons

Last week, from May 29-31, Adarsh and I had gone on a camping trip to the Canyon’s of the west – the Grand canyon, Bryce canyon, Monument valley and the Antelope canyon!


May 30th was Adarsh’s birthday. 31st was mine. Need I say that I had the best birthday till date!!!

On May 28th night, we flew down to Phoenix from San Jose and then drove to the places mentioned above. Well, we started on a shaky note at Phoenix when the car rental guy told that our already booked Nissan Sentra would be parked at J-8 and that this was the ONLY compact car available there. Upon reaching J-8, we were taken aback to see a totally worn out car with its bumpers and headlights literally falling off!!! We were for a minute unsure whether to take the only car or to cancel it, but decided to do the later. Just then, we noticed that we were looking at the wrong parking slot. The place had 2 numbers for some reason. And both the J-8’s had Nissan Sentra’s. One nice car from the car rental guys.. the other, a torn down car belonging to someone!!! Laughing at our blunder and the strange coincidence, relieved, we jumped in and quickly sped-off! The time was 12.15am on Saturday.

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US diaries-3: Tule Elks

    Tule elks are the smallest sub-species of North American Elks that are found only in the grasslands and wetlands of California. Having gotten their name from eating the Tule grass found only in these parts, these animals roamed across California in huge numbers, believed to be at least half a million before the 1850’s.

Tule Elk

But the mad rush to hunt these wonderful creatures during the Gold rush and a decline in grazing land led to their count falling to as low as 28 in 1895 (source: wikipedia). They were even thought to be extinct, but for the effort of a good hearted California ranger called Henry Miller, who saved around 20 elks and reared their population towards recovery. Otherwise, these wonderful creatures would have been gone.. forever! Damning humans!!!

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US diaries-2: Vintage streetcars of SFO

They are old. They are slow. And they are small. Yet…, they are extremely popular!

You can’t miss them when you are in Fisherman’s wharf or in Pier-39 (or anywhere on the F market & wharves route). The beautiful vintage street cars!

Heritage street cars of SFO

 Having been sourced from all over the world, from places like Melbourne (Australia), Tokyo (Japan), Birmingham (UK), Milan (Italy), these street cars behold heritage status and have become an attraction by themselves! 

After having served in their respective countries / cities for several years, after almost being written off as junk, it is heartening to see these old horses being put to test again in this amazing melting pot (of street cars, if you will :-)) called San Francisco!

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US diaries-1: Prologue

Am starting a new series of posts covering my visit to the US of A. Blame it on my lack of imagination, I am plainly calling it “The US diaries”.

Golden gate bridge

I was initially thinking of writing in the day report style covering each day of actual travel (usually weekend).  But we do so many things in a day that a daily report post will be really long. Hence I intend to write short posts on just one subject area, for example, the Golden Gate and what we did there, etc. Maybe will link such reports together to stitch a timelined post. Let me see how it goes.

As the first in the series, this is just a prologue covering only a few details.

Destination: San Francisco (Emeryville actually)

Duration of visit: Apr-24 to July 11

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Gopalaswamy betta and Kalhatty falls

Last weekend, my colleagues and I had gone on a 2 day trip to Masinagudi and Ooty. We stayed in a place called Forest hills farms and resorts (location is good, place is kinda average). En route, we visited Gopalaswamy betta, Kalhatty falls, etc.

Himavad Gopalaswamy betta

I had written a lengthy post.. but the browser crashed and I am now mad with myself for not having saved it. My patience to sit and write it again too has crashed :-(.

Instead of a lengthy trip report, I will leave you with a few snaps, the route to Gopalaswamy betta and Kalhatty falls and a few pointers.

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Cycling in Neilgherries

Cycling in Neilgherries (old British spelling for Nilgiris) is fun.

The hills and curvy roads amidst lush green landscapes is so much fun for cycling… throw in a blanket of fog and rain, you have an even more interesting setup.

I had travelled to Nilgiris in Sept (18-26). This post is about my cycling experience there.

The initial plan was to cycle at least 300Km in Nilgiris, but I fell awfully short of it and cycled just 103 Kms in all those days. Since I was there for birding, photography and a ton of other things, I could manage only 4 rides.

  1. Havelock road trail (8Km)
  2. Woodhouse – Doddabetta trail (28Km)
  3. Kulishola – Marlimund lake trail (14Km)
  4. Coonoor – Ooty – Kalhatty ghat – Masinagudi trail (53Km)

The details follow!

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Birding spots in Nilgiris

Nilgiris! The very name evokes a fantastic feeling in my heart!

Green grass, clean air, fresh green leaves swaying in the wind, giant trees that seem to grow to the sky, amazing landscapes, a stream of water every now and then, curvy roads through the blue mountains, deeply gorged valley on one side and a treat of greenery on the other, ….. I can go on and on. That is Nilgiris. The place where I spent my childhood!

The place is also a birders paradise.

Grey Headed Canary flycatcher 1

Many people have asked me about the various birding spots in Nilgiris. This post is an attempt to answer that question. This will be a growing post. As of now, I have listed a few spots without enough information. I will gather further information and update the post as time goes.

Given below is a list of birding spots in Nilgiris, ones I have visited myself. And I have also listed ones I haven’t visited too. Hopefully by end of this year, that list should move to the visited list. View  My favorite locns and routes in Nilgiris in a map.

I have mapped these places on the map above. Do click on it and have a look at the larger format.
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Birding trip: Ragihalli

Last Saturday, Shreeram, Sushant and I had been to Ragihalli on a birding trip. This is a micro report on it.

Pied Bushchat @ Ragihalli

Route taken: Bannerghatta road – take left at the circle before Bannerghatta national park (I think the Veeranjaneya temple is there too just around the circle ) – keep going about 6-8 Km.

We stopped for birding at 3 spots, one being an open land en route, second being the rocks overlooking Jigani (I think) and the last one being an almost dry lake. Having experienced birders like Sushant and Shreeram helped me spot more birds this time. Highlights to me were the spottings of peacocks, barred button quail, juvenile yellow wattled lapwing, rufous treepie, etc. Also, when I was walking near a bush, a hare jumped out of nowhere and ran away just near my legs.. almost giving me a scare!

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Birding in Nilgiris – 2

In an earlier post, I blogged about days 1-3 of my Nilgiris trip. In this post, I will talk about day 4, 5 and 6 of the trip.  All snaps from this trip are uploaded to my my flickr account. If you want information regarding places and routes, please see this post.

Note: This is a lengthy post, but please do not miss the report on day 6 at Kalhatty falls early in the morning. It was the best phase of the trip.

Day 4 report: May 21: Ooty home – Doddabetta – Kotagiri – Longwood shola – Wood house area – cancelled Porthimund dam due to rain – Ooty home

By now, I was so used to the chirps of sparrows that I could hear them inside my head even if I closed my ears tight! They were my close friends. They were always there waiting for me at the window every day in the morning without fail.

House sparrow 2

Having stayed up late into the previous night trying to get more information on where and how I could spot the Nilgiri laughing thrush, I woke up at 7 am instead of the planned 6 am. I had planned to reach Doddabetta before 7 am, which was not to be. I reached there by 8 am with the sole aim of getting a very nice picture of the laughing thrush.

INWer Vijay Cavale had given me a few clear inputs. “Get the ticket –> Go straight to the tea shop and descend down the ladder –> Cross the fence. Try your luck there before crowd arrives. Or try you luck 5 km below (Kotagiri).”

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Birding in Nilgiris – 1

I had been to Nilgiris on a birding trip last week.

Nilgiri laughing thrush 2

I had a fantastic time there and it was easily one of the best trips I had done in my life. The trip had a lot of highlights, personally, like sighting the Nilgiri laughing thrush and the various flycatchers (Nilgiri, grey headed canary and the Black and orange). Also, this was my first birding trip outside Bangalore. (For new visitors to my blog, I started bird watching in April, 2009). And I was alone during this trip as all my friends were busy with work and could not join. Being alone had its own advantages and disadvantages. It was a trip that I would remember for long..

All the snaps from this trip are uploaded to my flickr account.

Grey Headed Canary Botanical garden 3

Nilgiri Flycatcher

Black & Orange flycatcher Botanical garden 2

Over a 6 day period, from May 18 to 23, I covered these places

  1. Ranganthittu, Mysore
  2. Doddabetta, Ooty
  3. Cairn hill forest, Ooty (could not enter due to permission, did a peripheral visit)
  4. Potato research center, Muthorai
  5. Kotagiri
  6. Longwood shola, Kotagiri (could not enter due to permission, did a peripheral visit)
  7. Botanical garden, Ooty
  8. Wood house area, Ooty
  9. Kalhatty falls and Kalhatty ghat
  10. Masinagudi
  11. Naduvattam (could not enter due to permission, did a peripheral visit)
  12. Mudumalai, Theppakadu & Bandipur without entering inside

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