|The calm Cauvery|
The road to the Bheemeshwari Adventure and Nature Camp, about 100 km from Bangalore, took us through the beautiful Karnataka countryside, past villages, ambling livestock and verdant fields, with the Western Ghats peeping from a distance. On reaching the borders of the Cauvery National Park, network coverage failed. With no Internet, GPS or any other form of remote communication, a collective sigh of relief went through the car when we saw the yellow gates of the camp, half an hour later.
Maintained by Jungle Lodges and Resorts, the Bheemeshwari Camp is nestled between the Cauvery National Park and the banks of the river. Home to the giant ‘Mahseer’, one of the largest fresh water sport fish known to man, this camp used to be popular haunt for angling enthusiasts. Due to over fishing, angling and other related activities have been discontinued and a host of other alternatives have sprung up to keep the flow of guests constant.
We had opted for an ‘Adventure Day Package’ which included Zip Lining, Parallel Walking, Burma Loop Walking, Cat Walking, Elephant Walking, Kayaking and a Coracle Ride, along with lunch. Although we had a rough idea of what each activity entailed, nothing had prepared us for the actual task.
|Climbing the unsteady rope ladder|
First up: Zip Line. Harnessed and fitted with a helmet, I was led to a rickety rope ladder which disappeared up a tree. “How high is this?” I asked the man wearing the Outback Adventures shirt, who was busy attaching a thick coil of rope to my harness. “Not much ma’am, 40 feet.” was his answer. With a shout of “Climbing!” I was left to pacify my rapidly rising heart rate while hanging on to the swaying ladder with all my might.
The sweeping view of the Cauvery flanked by the verdant Western Ghats had a calming effect. After giving me a few seconds to catch my breath, the instructor hooked me up with the line, gave me a push and I was off! The mountains whizzed past as I zoomed from one tree top to another, the sky an azure blue over my head and a few cables keeping me from plummeting to the river – an adrenaline rush like no other. A severe case of jelly legs when I landed few moments later did not deter my enthusiasm about the next task. Little did I know how high the ante was going to be.
The next set took us to a grove where a network of ropes and cables zigzagged around five adjoining trees, forming a rough circle. The same routine followed, tightening of harnesses, helmets and the ominous shout of “Climbing!” First, I would have to ‘Cat Walk’ across a thin plank to reach the next tree. Second, ‘Elephant Walk’ via a set of wooden discs suspended by ropes. Third, walk across a rope bridge or a ‘Burma Loop’ onto the third tree. Fourth and the toughest, ‘Parallel Walk’ across a thin cable, while hanging on to a thick rope for support.
The ‘Cat Walk’ and the ‘Burma Loop’ were easier than they looked. The ‘Elephant Walk was simple too, once I figured out how to distribute my weight. The ‘Parallel Walk’ was a toughie – with the cable swaying dangerously at the slightest breeze. Hanging on to the rope for dear life and praying that my harness holds, I shuffled across, not daring to look below. A special treat awaited me on the other side; hooked to another rope, I was rappelled down from the last tree. What a fitting finale!
After a scrumptious lunch of rice, dal, and chicken, we were content to laze on the many hammocks on the river bank. Wading into the river, I sat on a partially submerged rock with the sun on my back and the cool water lapping at my feet. Nameless birds and insects flew around, schools of tiny fish swam near my toes. I let my thoughts meander with the river, until they too, disappeared into the horizon.
|Coracles lined up|
The familiar Outback Adventures shirts appeared again, and we were herded off towards the next set. The round, lightweight coracles belie their strengths, carrying five adults with surprising ease. We set off upstream where the current is strong, towards the opposite bank, where ancient gnarled tree roots skim the water. Back on land for a few moments, it was time to get back into the water again, on a two-man inflatable kayak.
|Kayaking down the river|
The sun started to make a move, and so did we. It was a very introspective group of eight who trouped into the car. Soon, we crossed the forest and the first bars of network coverage blinked on our phones. As the forest thinned and city lights became brighter, missed calls, text messages, social network notifications crowded our inboxes. The sounds of civilisation drew us in, horns blaring, phones buzzing, people shouting and dogs barking. Driving on the NICE road, as Deepawali fireworks lit the dark Bangalore sky, I dreamed of flying high above the river, and the sacred silence of the wild.