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Forgotten Empire, Unforgettable Experience - Abhi Madangeri

As I entered through one of the gates, I was awestruck by the beauty of the place, huge boulders perfectly balanced towering high above the city on all sides, the gaps between these huge boulders filled in with rocky walls forming a vast open theatre of architectural marvel. Temples exquisitely carved through the rocks topped with magnificent Gopuras made of bricks styled with architectural designs from all over the world, endless line of bazaars selling everything from spices and grains to animals and precious goods, tourists and travelers from all over the world freely roaming around, interacting with the locals and staying comfortably at the Khaali Mantapas, historians and scientists eagerly waiting at the Royal Darbar to meet the King, merchants trying to exchange their goods with the locals at the bazaars, cool breeze blowing over the ponds and tanks scattered all over the city, fed by the water from Tungabhadra by a network of underground canals and aqueducts, multi-storeyed buildings and palaces of sandalwood surrounded by the most beautiful landscaping, soldiers guarding the city and keeping an eye from the watchtowers strategically placed at high points, artisans at work carving stories on stones for future generation to cherish, beautiful dancers in sync with the musicians creating music out of the stone pillars, all this and much more welcomed me into the greatest empire man has ever seen.

 

I was walking around with eyes wide open, dumbfounded by the breathtaking architecture, landscaping, and life that greeted me at every nook and corner of the capital of Vijayanagara Empire, when a tap on my back brought me back into the present. We had reached the resort and it was time to return back to Bangalore, but one thought kept lingering in my mind for long, "If the ruins alone can bedazzle you to such an extent, can't even imagine what Hampi in all its former glory could have done to our mind". 


Let me start from the beginning, the beginning of a journey of unexpected experiences which has left me craving for more. We took the Hampi Express from Bangalore to reach Hospet in the morning, where the JLR bus was promptly waiting to receive us. It was a pleasant morning and not dry and hot as expected by us. On reaching the JLR property we freshened up and had our breakfast after an interesting discussion on the place and about our schedule for the next 2 days. We had a long time to go before we could head out for our evening birding session and a visit to the Sloth Bear Sanctuary. Couple of hours were spent birding around the resort looking for the quails which visited the bird baths. It was getting hotter but the breeze from the open scrub around was cooling down the temperature. We spent time photographing Jungle Babblers, Laughing Dove, House Sparrows, Green Bee-Eaters, Bay Backed Shrike, Rufous Tailed Lark and also spotted the Quails but couldn't manage to get a picture. 

After a heavy lunch, it was time for some birding along the Tungabhadra canal. As soon as we took a right at the canal, Venkatesh our naturalist said, 'Sir, Owl' and there it was, sitting on the concrete parapet staring at us. We saw 4 more Indian Rock Eagle Owl along the canal and also lots of other birds, but the highlight was the Owl drying its wings on a rock.

It was time to head towards the Sanctuary, but not before a quick stop at an open field to sight the Painted Sandgrouse. We saw only one Sandgrouse and were about to enter the Sanctuary, when Venkatesh decided to try our luck once again, and we ended up sighting around 5 pairs.

The sun was fast setting, and we quickly moved to the watchtower with high expectations of watching the sloth bears in their natural habitat. By the time we reached the top, the sloth bears were already out and feeding on the sweet licks, but the sighting was not as per our expectation because the bears  were very far away on the opposite hillock denying us the opportunity to make some decent close ups. We did enjoy watching the bears go about their activities and also spent a good time capturing the landscape and sunset. As we were getting down the watchtower a Painted Spurfowl emerged from nowhere and gave us ample time to make some nice images.

On our way back, the sun was down and we were going through the images and discussing about how far the sloth bears were to make good images, when Venkatesh suddenly applied the brakes and said, 'Leopard!!!'. The leopard was standing on the mud track just 100 meters before the entrance and looking at us. I grabbed my camera, increased the ISO, clicked a few images and asked Venkatesh to start the engine. I thought we would take our chances and get closer, but as soon as he started the engine, the leopard dashed across the track.

We slowly moved forward, and after a few meters we saw it again, lying low next to the track, trying to conceal its presence but all eyes on our vehicle to pass by. When we stopped, it got up and moved towards the bush, turned around to look at us and disappeared behind it. We waited there for sometime, then moved ahead and saw it again crouched low and looking at us. I managed to take a couple of record shots at a very high ISO before it disappeared into the scrub jungle.

We returned to the resort all excited and thrilled at sighting a leopard in Daroji, which as per the JLR staff was the first of its kind. The FD has many sightings mainly from camera trap, but we were the first to sight and photograph it clearly at close quarters. Still can't get over that feeling of sighting a leopard from one of the lesser known Sanctuaries of Karnataka.

The next morning was spent birding around the canal and major time was spent with a family of Pied Kingfishers. We ended up sighting 2 Indian Rock Eagle Owls and 8 Pied Kingfisher, out of which 5 were spotted together sitting on a wire surveying the canal below. 

After breakfast we were off to Hampi and what can I say about this place. All I can say is, I promised to be back just to capture the splendor of the ruins. May be that was the reason, why I didn't bother making too many images of this beautiful place, as Hampi deserves your dedicated attention.

Famous Pin Hole Camera Effect of the Virupaksha Temple Gopura

It was time for us to go back home, but not without a promise to return back, to capture the beauty of Hampi and of course, to look for the elusive leopard of the rocky terrain.

Sightings

Birds: Green Bee-Eater, Jungle Babbler, Laughing Dove, Rufous Tailed Lark, Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark, House Sparrow, Barred Button Quail, Black Drongo, Spotted Owlet, Grey Francolin, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Plum Headed Parakeet, Eurasian Collared Dove, Pied Kingfisher, Small Blue Kingfisher, White Throated Kingfisher, Painted Sandgrouse, Painted Spurfowl, Sandpiper, Red Wattled Lapwing, Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Indian Rock Eagle Owl, Rock Pigeon, Indian Robin, Grey Wagtail, Peafowl, Nightjar, Pond Heron, Cattle Egret, Darter, Indian Roller, Asian Koel, Sirkeer Malkoha, Southern Coucal, House Crow  

Mammals: Sloth Bear, Grey Mongoose, Wild Boar, Leopard, Black Naped Hare, Palm Squirrel

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Comments  

0 #1 mohit 2014-02-05 18:40
Dude. U are the bomb. Writing is getting better and better. :-). I will share this on some other site. Is that OK ?
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+2 #2 R S Satish 2014-02-06 05:59
Excellent Snaps . .Keep it up . . and thanks for sharing .
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+2 #3 Arun Farshi 2014-02-07 13:52
Excellent Abhi...
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-1 #4 Abhi Madangeri 2014-03-05 17:55
Thank you all for the comments.
Mohit: You can share it.
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0 #5 minecraft 2014-08-18 20:58
Saved as a favorite, I like your blog!
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