The Junglee group from Juniper went to a trip to the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, (or the River Tern Lodges as it's now known) [link 2, map]. It's a tiger reserve as well. Some statistics about the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary are available. (When will I get to spot a tiger in its natural habitat?)
It was organized primarily by yours truly along with the usual Junglee junta -- Sowmya, Chirag and Amit Jain. Shivaram got us a great discount with the Jungle Lodges people. Tojo got us a great deal for the travel. So despite the high costs of trekking + safari'ing + enjoying great food + having a blast all the while with the JL group, our costs remained well within the budget. Except that it did overflow in the end, the reasons of which shall be mentioned later (something to do with the water sports there).
This place is situated on the banks of the river Bhadra, near the Lakavalli dam near Shimoga in the north-west direction of Bangalore in Karnataka. It's a 6 hours drive. 20 of us made it to this trip. Chirag has the details over at the Junglee blog post.
In addition to what Chirag mentioned, I'd like to give a few behind-the-scenes info and some additional footage of what happened at the RTL.
First, about the place: I kept referring to this outing as a 'trip' -- there were so many things that could be done here -- trekking, safari, canoeing, coracling, playing water sports, swimming, bird-watching and having general fun.
Jojo, Tojo's brother, who joined us at the last moment, had this to say about the group: "Man, I thought software guys are just nerds and we (shippies) are the best for fun and its not at all true. Absolutely a no hang up attitude gang"
I think this summarizes the group pretty nicely. After the three outings we've had -- a trek, a fun watersports + trek point and now this -- we've got to see an amazing bunch of people from Juniper and a few non-Juniperites as well. Although the number of people who have done two trips is less, and the number of people who've done all the three trips can be counted on the fingers of one hand, the spirit remains the same -- to have fun and explore around Bangalore. Aravinth mentioned that it seemed like the group had been filtered before being formed. Everyone gelled so perfectly well.
Of course, the presence of Jojo and Theo, Mukesh's friend, made it even more interesting. Jojo's in the shipping industry and Theo's a software professional. However (sic), he's from Greece and works in the UK. Both of them had varied experiences and great stuff to share -- something just the Juniperites wouldn't have come to know otherwise.
I also managed to get a couple of videos of a (few?) very protective mother elephant(s). The way they scream is unbelievable -- they shriek and make sounds like wild felines. Some of us thought there was a tiger around. Some thought there was a wolf making that sound. The safari guide, Sharanappa said it was just the elephant that was trying to get us out of its territory. The elephant charging video was shot by Theo; I'll check if he can upload it. I have a couple of videos in which the mother elephant growls. Keep up the volumes to catch them.
Growling elephant video 1
Growling elephant video 2
It was very eerie, you could sense tension in the air. Everyone was scared. Our jeep just missed the charge, but the people in the jeep that got subjected to it have a very interesting tale to tell. Chirag talks about it in the aforementioned blog.
The JL people were very courteous and helpful. We reached there at 5:30 in the morning and they were already preparing the rooms for us to check-in. All this, even though our check-in time was 12 PM! We had a few Kannada-speaking folks; they had to translate stuff which the staff wanted to get across -- and stuff that we wanted to get across to the staff. However, most of the people (and most importantly, the important people) knew English. So communication wasn't much of a problem.
However, they said they would charge extra for any water sports. Even for swimming. We weren't intimated about this earlier. Rs. 200 per head extra would mean overshooting the budget. All this for just 2 hours of play in the water! I had to do some bargaining with the guys. They refused to go down on the costs, but then they allowed us unlimited time in the waters and we could also get into the waters (and get to do all the activities) the next day as well. I think this was a good deal. Finally, we ended up overshooting the budget by Rs. 60, despite the extra money we had to fork out. Pretty decent!
Some people, in hopes of spotting other animals in the jungle, wanted to go for another safari the following morning. Gangaswamy, the caretaker of the place, said that the probability of spotting any other animals would be very low in the morning. However, he helped us secure entrance to the jungle and arranged for a jeep and driver (they're at his disposal anyway) late in the night. The ones who wanted to go for a trek early morning went for a trek. The rest went for the safari. This gesture by the JL people too was well-received. They didn't even charge us extra for the extra safari.
Wrapping it all up:
Since I volunteered to manage the show this time, handling the finances was on me. I'd like to say I'm good with handling money. I think I did the job pretty well, but there might be a few disappointed souls. I received the bill from the travel guy pretty late (nearly a month and a half since the trip). So the final calculations, settlement, etc. took some time. I'm still to finish settling all the accounts.
Initially, I had planned to write a script to handle the finances. Like the number of people, total costs, money pooled in, money to receive, expenses and so on. But I didn't get around doing it. It's still one of the TODOs, but the motivation is much less, as I won't be doing this for some time now (we have a rotation policy for the head fall-guy for organizing these trips), and there's just so much on the platter. I do intend to get around to doing it, though.
However, I did the finances using Google spreadsheets. Writing some formulae and such, the task was easier to finish. Google spreadsheets, however, has some bugs (or features, I don't know), which I found to be pretty irritating. Anyway, it's all almost done now and I'm getting ready for the next trip being planned.