A weekend in BR Hills, Karnataka

For quite sometime, there was tension within the extended family of not having been successful in getting everyone together for an outing. Some of us were getting edgy, not being able to get out of the city. Push came to shove, and we had to go ahead and plan a small getaway with only a subset of people. That’s how it is sometimes. Anyway, cutting to the chase, we picked BR hills as the destination and made the necessary travel and stay arrangements almost a month in advance – to kinda lock-in the people who had signed up and not letting them slip away. Now, we just had to wait for the travel dates.

Not many of us had anything in specific planned as to what we’d do in BR hills. The important thing was to spend time with the extended family and relax. As always, I had other (ulterior?) plans in the making. I spent the weeks before the travel, trying to research about the place, finding good places, vantage points, etc for photography. I was also growing anxious of the weather. It was simmering hot in Bengaluru and I was starting to get worried about BR hills being totally dry when we travel. We should have had some rains after mid-April, but this year, the rains were too little. But in early May, Bengaluru started receiving rains and I read reports and accounts of other travelers online, that it had rained in BR hills too. Phew!

The whole trip party synced up a day before the travel and still no one had any specific plans. That meant, my plan would become everyone’s plan :D. We had two days at our disposal in BR hills -We reached there on a Friday by noon time, and we would be there till Sunday morning. A couple of years ago, I had stayed at the superb jungle lodges in K Gudi (About 18km from BR hills). This time, we stayed at one of the farm houses at BR hills itself (Champakaranya) – partly because wildlife safari was not on any of our wish lists this time.

Friday evening, we went to visit the ancient temple of Biligiri Ranganatha swamy. The temple sits at the edge of a hill cliff and overlooks the vast hill ranges of the BRT tiger reserve forest. The kachcha roads leading up to the temple (seems like a new road being made for vehicles going till the temple), at one point, offers a superb panoramic view of the western side of the hill ranges. This made for a nice spot for sunset viewing. We first visited the temple before settling down at this view point to observe and record the sunset that day – all of us recording it to our memories, and I tried to record it onto my camera’s memory card too.

Sunset seen from near the Biligiri Ranganatha temple

Sunset seen from near the Biligiri Ranganatha temple

Layers of hills, seeing the last few minutes of daylight left for the day

Layers of hills, seeing the last few minutes of daylight left for the day

The temple’s gopura overlooks the eastern side and from here, the view shows the small village of local Soliga tribe, nestled snugly among lofty hills around it. I’d seen this from the temple, before heading to the sunset view. So, next morning, I’d come here really early and try to capture the sun rising from behind the hills. When I craned my neck out of my room the next morning, it was still 5:15 AM, darkness still prevailing. While walking up to the temple, the first of the daylight showed a cloudy sky. I’d almost written off the sunrise to be bleak and dull. But, the view from the temple gopura was breathtaking. Yes, it was still cloudy, but the clouds were fast moving and the whole scene was dramatic. The greenery surrounding the village in the hills looked fresher in the morning hour. To show the cloud movement, I opted for a long exposure capture. I also made a timelapse video capturing about 45 minutes of cloud movement with the sun peeking out at the end of the video.

Clouds swishing rapidly atop the village in BR hills

Clouds swishing rapidly atop the village in BR hills

 

A short half hour walk from here, took us to another view point looking at the western side. The view point turned out to be the back-side of the forest department guest house. It was still cloudy and foggy/hazy. A local person told us that once rains start in the hills, the mornings are usually like this and only starts to get clearer after 8:30 am or so. So, we waited till the time we could tolerate our hunger – waking up early in the morning and not eating anything was being reminded to us repeatedly. This was as clear as it got.

View of the western side from BR hills in the morning

View of the western side from BR hills in the morning

After a satisfying morning outing, we ate to heart’s (and stomach’s) content and lazed around in the farm house itself. In the evening, we drove towards K gudi, just to experience the jungle and no other specific agenda. It rained on and off that evening and that seemed to amplify the jungle’s inherent beauty. I added to my collection of images of winding jungle roads :D.

Winding jungle roads after a brief spell of rain

Winding jungle roads after a brief spell of rain

The rest of the trip was dedicated to family and we had a lovely, relaxing time. Soon, it was time to head back to the concrete jungle. Below are some of the logistical details of the trip.

Onward journey:

  • Start at 7am from Kanakapura rd/Nice rd junction.
  • Breakfast at 8am in Kanakapura (Vasu hotel – absolutely delicious masala dosas)
  • Follow the Kanakapura – Malavalli – Kollegala route
  • Take the village roads (left turn from highway) about 4km after Kollegala (There’s a board indicating this as a way to BR hills). This was shown as the best/shortest route in google maps. The roads are narrow and patchy. But nothing a car cannot handle. This road joins the BR hills road just before the forest department check post
  • BR hills is 15km from the check post.

Return journey:

  • Start at 10am from BR hills, after breakfast
  • Follow (a slightly different) route from BR hills – forest checkpost – Yelandur – Kollegala – Malavalli – Kanakapura
  • Lunch at MTR (near Art of living, before Bengaluru)

 

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