Moving outside hyderabad - Vikarabad

Post Saiha, our walks together have been restricted to city limits. Nimesh of course gets his share of walks during his work and while I’m happy to listen to his experiences, we decided it was high time to resume our explorations together. Thanks, to the reference from a colleague , we found Grass Walk close to Vikarabad, a comfortable distance (below 100km)from our place in Secunderabad.

After multiple calls and an emails, we managed a booking last weekend. While inquiring with a colleague on how to get there, close to 1/3rd of the office flew in with suggestions. Though a little disconcerted by all the excited help, I do occasionally love the fact that folks here are such willing guides. 

So our trip begins one morning, with 2 tickets for the Vikarabad passenger train in our wallets and ears straining for the announcement of the platform. We found ourselves an hour before time with no one around with a clue about which platform this elusive train would grace its presence with. We found it in time and found ourselves on our favourite side births. At no point in the two hour ride was the compartment more than half full! We caught the same train back and found ourselves and one other gentleman to be the only ones in it. – Rs 48 – that’s what it took for us to and fro the two stations! My love for the railways and Nimesh’s patience with the IRCTC website- grows!

At Vikarabad, an auto organised by grass walk picked us up and we set out on the pleasantly bumpy 10 km ride to Udupally, where the camp is located. An error/oversight (?) on part of the manager saw us planted in the deluxe tent. And to use a cliché it was pretty much love at first sight. The tent had a thatched roof keeping us well shielded from the sun, it was covered on three sides and the fourth had a net leading into a machan type balcony overlooking an expanse of fields leading into the hills and forest. The error seems to have worked in favour of Grass Walk and we decided to continue in the room  for one day and shift into the regular tent the next.

On one of our walks, Nimesh pointed out how the grassland appeared post the fields and then gave way to bushes/shrubs and the forest lay ahead. The walk was to end at a temple and we were a good kilometer or so away from it, when we heard shouts , grunts and the sounds of sticks. A little alarmed, I asked the young sullen boy who accompanied us where this was from. No response for a while, and then he figured it out and shared , Dussera preparations at the temple. I was not convinced. What kind of preparations could call for such violent sounding activity?

We reached the pond adjacent to the temple and found out. Over 50 cows and were being forced in all possible ways to enter the pond. They had to be scrubbed clean for the next day and they definitely didn't seem happy with the idea. So, loud mooing, lots of beating from the young boys high on testosterone, chases in and around the pond ensued.

Huge banyans covered an adjacent compound, the roots just about fondling your head, Nimesh’s attempt at swinging on one alarmed our companion to a great extent. We were quickly ushered towards a small cave and a shiv temple. We returned soon after.

We also had a great time watching birds. A little one flew across the path and picked up a worm from a bush. It let us watch as it persistently whacked and squashed the worm on a branch till it was dead. A very pretty and rather cute creature I‘d be tempted to say. I’m sure the worm would disagree.

But the highlight of my trip was definitely getting a glimpse of a paradise flycatcher and snooping around till I got a good dekho at the Blue faced Malkoha in a bush!
While I think of how my excitement with birds has grown, I can’t help but be amused. Our first trip with binoculars and field guides for some birding was in Saiha, on a road called 10km. All I could see were some raptors high up and then some little ones in the bushes. Was bored as all of them seemed to flee the moment they sensed our presence. I was sour and irritated with Nimesh for barely having a conversation with me during the walk. It has been a long journey since and I have looked forward to sunrise walks and being witness to all their activity since.

What remains a constant is how I describe a bird to Nimesh. I find myself performing a subtle dumb-charades of sorts. “Black crown” has me trailing my head while I say “black”, a white band on the wings and I’m drawing imaginary bands on my arm , yellow belly and I’m pointing to my own, brows and gesture to my eyebrows. I realised that even when I am describing a bird on the phone these are the gestures accompanying it. I’m happy doing this dance and repeatedly forgetting labelling of their anatomy. 

I’m thrilled that I know only little and am able to enjoy most birds I see around on a trip like this. A little like my niece who squatted on the holy family campus herbarium boundary wall - transfixed when she watched for the first time a robin taking its bath. She just squatted there in absolute fascination.

 When I grow up, I want to be her !

PS- The management and coordination of activities at Grass Walk is in a pitiable condition. Great place/infrastructure with minimal responsiveness and lost personnel.