Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Checklist for RoadTrips

Layers of BRHills

Given the holidays we had around Christmas, Keshav and I planned a short migration of our own to the Western Ghats. We decided to drive down to BR Hills.
This was our first long drive, by ourselves, so to be safe we thought we'd better do our research and make sure the car is in good health as well.

I googled extensively to find a convenient list of items to be carried along on such road trips. My searches yielded results intended for people driving across states/countries, lists for traveling with small children and some very girly list of must have cosmetics and how to fit as many outfits as possible into a small bag. We finally sat down and compiled a list on our own, taking some help from our colleague Ravi ( who travels extensively by car, interstate)

I thought it might be useful to post the list of what to carry on such road/jungle trips.

Ravi's Comprehensive List

1. Flashlight + batteries

"Britelite" brand with rechargeable batteries (comes with a single LED bulb) and lasts for 3 - 4 hours once charged for 8 hours.
Its a little expensive but worth it if you plan to keep doing trips. Available in majestic area in quite a few shops.
There are several models. We bought the "Ezkort" model.
There's another brand called "MAGLite" which is equally good/better. Not easily available in Bangalore though.

2. First Aid Kit

Ensure that this has: An antiseptic liquid like dettol, bandaids, cloth used for covering wounds, cotton, tablets for headache, Dolo650 (for fever),
maybe one round of antibiotics (Amox - 500mg - about 9 of them).

3. Thick Nylon Rope

Useful to tow your car incase its required or while climbing or in slippery areas. Lots of uses. Can keep it in car and if not used, its okay.

4. Map of Karnataka

TTK has a good one. Or you can buy the Eicher road map. Its very good.

1. Good binoculars (military grade is also available in the same store as where the Canon 350D was got).
2. Its going to be cold in the mountains in the night. Carry warm clothes. Shoes which cover ankles (incase you are going to walk).
Cotton/ear plugs to cover your ears (to shut out the cold wind) or a monkey cap.
3. Carry drinking water. Budget about 1.5 litres of water per person per day. You can get 10 litre water cans. You can also have one litre water bottles
with big mouths so that you can refill easily from the water can.
4. Plenty of fruits (like apples, oranges). Knife (or a swiss army knife if you have one).
5. Toilet paper rolls.
6. Backpacks - to carry water bottles, fruits, knife, flashlight while walking.

Some tips on driving:
1. Every 2 - 3 hours take breaks while driving and stretch out. If you feel sleepy, pull over and take a break.
2. Don't mess around with trucks, buses on the highways. If they want to overtake, let them go.

For the Car:
1. Check the airpressure for all tyres (including the spare one in the dicky). If you have tubeless tyres, carry a puncture kit.
Usually in the driver's side of the car door, the recommended airpressure for the front and rear tyres are mentioned.
For the spare tyre, add a few pounds more.
2. A spare tube (if your car has tubed tyres).
3. Ensure that you have the 24 hours emergency number of your car Manufacturer. They have a toll free number but based on the location, they do have local numbers
available. This should be there in the car's service manual.
The nearest Hyundai service point (in case you need to take your car there).

Not mandatory but if you can do these for the car, it would be good ......
1. Get the air filter cleaned. It takes a few minutes to get this done.
2. Replace car's headlamp bulbs with Philips Halogen (90/100w), 200w dc cutout. This should take about half an hour.
3. I am assuming that you've got the engine oil, gear box oil, coolant etc... changed and these don't need attention.

Our Brief List

Jackets + Pullovers (layering is good, jackets are handy since they have pockets and hoods)
Extra Pair of Clothing ( Just In case )
Extra shoe pair + Extra Socks ( In case they get wet - this has happened)
Sunglasses with hard cases
Led flash light (strap on/pocket size)

Basic Toiletries
Shampoo sachets (to avoid spills from bottles)
Body Lotion / Cold Cream
Toothpaste + Tooth brush
Paper soap / Facewash
Moisturiser + Lipbalm
Wet Tissues (for dusty roads)

For the visually challenged
Contact lens extra pair + solution
Hard Spectacle case + glasses

Camera Chk List
Equipment cleaned, settings set to normal
Cards erased
Batteries charged
Chargers + cord
1 plastic bag in each camera bag to protect from rain
1 soft lint free cloth to clean lenses.

Phones charged + chargers
iPod charged + cord
Mp3 player + batteries
FM transmitter + batteries ( for the Car )

Car Carry ons
1. Torch with batteries
2. Torch LED - rechargeable
3. Nylon Rope
4. Spare tyre with pressure checked.
5. Jack and other tools
6. First aid kit (dettol, bandaid, cotton, paracetamol, painkillers)
7. Tissues (use these to wrap around chewing gum and dispose safely)
8. Map
9. Water Bottle
10. Notebook + Pen
11. Outlook traveller and / or Times Food Guide :)
12. Bird book
13. 1 pair Scissors / Swiss Army Knife
14. Towel ( Remember the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy :) )
15. Full Tank and car serviced
16. Drivers licence, photocopies of vehicle documents (We never carry originals)
17. 1 small backpack
18. Plastic bags, large heavy duty ones - incase your purchases of souvenirs dont fit in your luggage. My Mom also uses these to pick up any plants she can find :)
19. News Paper to line the floor/ dispose off fruit peels /etc
20. Umbrella

Carry suffient Cash (for fueling in small towns) with enough Change
Carry at least one Debit/ATM card. Dont carry too many cards.
iMint card + Credit card - useful for fueling in cities (no harm in earning points)

Nutrition Bar ( if you want to be healthy)
Chocolate Bars
Biscuits / Crisps
Fruit - take something that wont spoil easily.
Medium size Water bottles ( as needed )
ButterMilk / Flavoured Milk tetra packs /Caffeinated beverage cans
Disposable Thick Plastic cups (Paper cups if you want to be Eco-friendly)

Note: Avoid the thin plastic cups, they cause spills if held too tightly.
Buying very large bottles of water is not advised for short trips, its heavy to lift and lug around in case you need to. More flexibility is achieved with smaller bottles.

Pls do not litter, help keep nature pristine. Keep a garbage bag in the car to collect the trash and dispose in a proper dustbin at hotel/home/on route. Pls drive safely.

For those who are interested, the Trip report of BRHills will follow shortly. Pls consider the picture at the top to be a preview :)
If you liked this post or have suggestions or criticisms to provide, pls leave a comment. You can also subscribe by RSS or email.

Fly South for the winter

Its migration season and the winter migrants are arriving bringing cheer and some variety to birding :) I did a little research and compiled a little list of the birds we can see in and around Bangalore.

Pls feel free to provide additions or corrections.

1. Rosy Pastor / Starling

They come in from Europe and are seen in large flocks.
The breeding range of this bird is from easternmost Europe across temperate southern Asia. It is a strong migrant, and winters in India and tropical Asia.

Rosy Starlings

This photo was taken just as we rose from slumber and a large noisy flock decended upon the tree outside our balcony. Was shot without my glasses on, so it was really point and shoot. Flock composed of about 20 odd individuals. They sat happily for around 20 minutes, before leaving. We never saw them again.


2. Black Naped Oriole

They come from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where they are resident.

Black Naped Oriole MaleBlack Naped Oriole Male

This handsome guy is often seen, both photos were taken on different occasions. He sings quite badly, and often wakes us up with a horrid squaking noise. He sadly never shows himself when the light is good.

3. Verditer Flycatcher

Is a resident in Himalayas and north-east India and winters in the subcontinent.

Verditer Fly catcher

Was seen just twice in the same week and never again.

4. Blue-capped Rock Thrush

Blue Capped Rock Thrush

This thrush breeds in the foothills of the Himalayas and winters in the hill forests of southern India. This particularly bad photo was taken during our recent trip to BR Hills just outside our Tent. This is a record shot and I apologise for the poor quality. Lots more on our trip will follow in subsequent posts.


5. Bar Headed Geese ( Can be seen in TG Halli )
6. Green Sandpiper
7. Eurasian Golden Oriole ( Can be seen in Lalbagh )
8. Grey Headed Myna /starling ( Can be seen in Lalbagh )
9. Brown Shrike
10. Grey Drongo
11. Brown Flycatcher
12. Dull Green Leaf Warbler
13. Indian Pitta ( Can be seen in Nandi Hills)

Source : http://www.karnatakawildernesstourism.org/default.asp?id=20

"You better watch out,
You better not sigh,
You better look out,
I'm telling you why,
The winter migrants are coming to town"

Happy Holidays to all! :)

I would welcome any info on the sightings of the rosy pastors or other birds mentioned here. If anyone has seen any of them at lalbagh pls do let me know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Butterflies at Bannerghatta

Common Blue Butterfly
Common Blue

A couple of Sundays ago, we drove to Bannerghatta National Park on an impulse, starting late for the first time, after a very leisurely and heavy breakfast. We left home, Im ashamed to say; at 11:00am.

It was my first trip to the park, which is rather surprising to most people who wonder why we go all over the place for birds and wildlife and ignore the park that lies in our backyard so to speak.

Ever since learning of the opening of the butterfly park there and reading Kousik's post on it, I have been wanting to go there.

The Butterfly Park is among several glass houses that serve as nurseries, there are a large variety of flowering plants and the area just around the entrance has huge numbers of Red Pierrot Butterflies. It was a first time sighting for me.

Red Pierrot
Red Pierrot

Also found was a Common Blue, also a first time sighting for both of us. I was hoping, given the numbers outside, there must be hordes on the inside.

I was wrong. The park is a large glass house, temperature controlled with trees and plants that are butterfly friendly. There is an artificial waterfall inside that forms a small stream and ends in a pool. A few gold fish swim about in the pool and a small bridge has been constructed over the stream.

Common Sailor
Common Sailor
Common Grass Yellow
Common Grass Yellow
Angled Castor
Angled Castor

At first sight, its quite impressive. Hordes of common grass yellows flutter around, as do the Common Mormon. Sadly though, other than a few Angled Castor and a solitary Blue Mormon there were no other species. A greater variety is seen in my office garden. Surprisingly, given the hordes of Red Pierrots and others just outside, there is not a single representative inside.

I was extremely disappointed to note that few of the larger butterflies had injured wings. There are several boards within the park with photos of various butterflies, but no live specimens. Even the Tiger butterflies, Lemon Pansies and Chocolate pansies that are quite common are not present here.

Common Blue Portrait
Common Blue Portrait
Red Pierrot Back
Red Pierrot
Common Mormon (Male)
Common Mormon (Male)

Still, it is a recommended outing for small children and those wanting to try out new camera equipment. It was quite nice to see small children looking at the fluttering butterflies in wonder!

I also did see a rather stern looking, heavily built man be completely disarmed by an Angled Castor that decided to sit on the sleeve of his shirt. The man was immediately surrounded by a group of youngsters with mobile phone cameras who told Uncle to please hold still while they clicked away.

Nitty Gritties

Avoid the weekends, particularly Sundays, if you don't want half of Bangalore there with you.
Parking is plentiful.
The park is open on all days except Tuesdays.
Timings : 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Cost of ticket: Rs 20 (Adults) Rs 10 (children)

Where to eat:
The park has a lot of stalls and the atmosphere resembles that of a fair.
The Jungle Lodges & Resorts have a restaurant, we reached there at around 2 and found that the only thing available was meals (North and South-Indian) Amazingly the North-Indian meal has curd rice and the south Indian meal has Dahi. :)

Black Shouldered Kite
Black Shouldered Kite

Before leaving for home, we drove around the bannerghatta area and spotted a few birds, notably a Black Shouldered kite and an Indian Roller.
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