I am all for breaking the monotony of daily life. All the more better if that ‘break’ involved water and the hills - my idea of a perfect getaway! According to my horoscope I should avoid water, or bad things might happen. My mom is never tired of reminding this to me every time I tell her that we are planning something outdoors. Usually I ‘forget’ to mention that there is water involved when I tell her the details. So when she calls up again to ensure that I have reached the place safe and sound (yes, she is kind of paranoid), something like this takes place:
Maa: Have you reached?
Maa: What are you doing now?
Me: Playing in the river water.
Maa: River!!! What??
Me: Yeah, and now we are going white-water rafting, you know those little inflatable boats that go over the water.
Maa: B-b-but you can’t do that! It is written in the horoscope!
Me: Oh, these guys are calling me, I need to practice some rowing or the raft might capsize.
Maa: Wha ---- !
Me: Bye Maa!
Life is so exciting when you have moms like mine!
Anyway, so the story is, I jumped up the moment the husband proposed going on a birding trip to Thattekere Lake, also known as Mahadeshwara Temple Lake. We looked up the internet for its exact location and found that most people were going around in circles to locate it. Time to be careful and alert, we thought, though this theory had been proved otherwise in some cases.
So, on Saturday morning in September (2012), we packed a nice breakfast and set off for the elusive lake. According to Google map, the lake was located off the Anekal-Harohalli Road and we decided to stick to that route, unlike the time we had created our own short-cuts to reach Hessaraghatta grasslands. We continued to be on ‘alert mode’ though and were soon driving along the aforementioned road, our eyes straining out for that off-shoot which would lead to the lake. Thanks to my eagle-eye (huh, says the husband), I spotted a gate with something written in Kannada (no, we don’t understand Kannada yet). There were small Nandi bull type figurines carved on it and we guessed that it might be the gateway to the Mahadeshwara Temple.
It was around 8.00 am when we entered the area. The road was unpaved and had electric wire-borders on one side. Somehow, we felt as if we were entering a jungle. All around us there was loud chirping of birds. Not a soul was to be seen. We went on and after some time we caught sight of the temple. Where was the lake? As we drove past the temple we glimpsed a little of the lake ahead. I had expected the water of the lake to have almost dried up, like all the lakes that we had visited previously for birding. But there lay the lake, a vast one, its water shimmering in the morning rays. It was bordered by hills on the other side and a thick forest surrounded it. It was almost like a secret lake, hidden away from the human populace. I felt terribly possessive and wanted to claim the lake as my own. The beauty of the lake was such that we almost forgot what we were there for – the birds!
Surprisingly, we could not locate many birds in the water. Maybe the season was not right. There were only a few grey herons and cormorants sitting along the water in anticipation. A pair of white storks was flying about, unsure of where to alight. The forest seemed more inviting and after a quick breakfast we ventured towards it. Small birds were zipping all around us and we had difficulty at first even to identify them. There were sunbirds, munias and bulbuls creating a musical ruckus in the forest. We walked a bit into the forest and came upon a narrow mud-track. I rightly guessed that the track was used by the villagers from the nearby village because just a few minutes later we were greeted by the sight of a person leading his bullock towards the lake for a sip of water. The person tried to tell us something disapprovingly but since we did not understand the local language, we could only nod our heads.
Baya Weaver's nests
After some time we decided to walk along the banks of the lake and came out into the clearing. There were broken bottles and plastic bags strewn all over. So the lake was not such a secret after all. I then noticed some clumps lying on the ground near the lake and it struck me that they may be elephant dung. But that would only mean that there were elephants in the forest! I made the husband turn around and beat a retreat, although I had to bear his jibes about me being a jungle girl and yet scared of elephants. Dad being somewhat of an expert on wild elephants, I was aware of what they were capable of.
In any case, we left for the day but the beauty of the lake was too much to keep us away from it for too long. We went back to the lake again in October (2012), this time with my parents who were visiting from Assam. The water seemed to be less but the temple wore a festive look. In the previous occasion the temple was locked and looked quite deserted. We had reached the lake at around 7.00 am and were astounded to see fresh elephant footprints and dung on the banks of the lake. The temple priest, who knew Hindi, warned us about a herd of elephants and told us not to venture anywhere near the forest. We heeded his word and turned back. And you should do, too. Do not enter the forest or walk to the far side of the lake, however tempting it may look. We understood then why there was electric wire fencing, cordoning off the forest.
We went down to the village and spotted a few more birds thereabout. Bee-eaters were to be found in plenty as well as shrikes. We noticed that every house in the village reared silk-worms and maybe that is their main source of livelihood. Just driving around the area gave us so much pleasure, we did not have to do anything else.
Although we had come to Thattekere lake to do birding, I think we relegated it to the back seat and enjoyed the sight more. I was dismayed to see the callousness of people who had left behind beer bottles and plastic bags after their bouts of revelry. I truly want to live to see a day when better sense dawns upon human kind and these pristine locations are preserved with love and care. I hope you will visit the place and feel the same about it, too.