On Tuesday, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, Sally joined me for a trip south to the Cauvery River and Goats' leap. The ride was overwhelming and I realized that the trip was NOT going to be about birds but about India. Everywhere my senses were overwhelmed. The beauty of the people was stunning. Their open smiles and sparkling eyes came from genuine warmth.
The colors of the women's saris was more than I could have imagined even in the most spectacular plumage of a bird. This was contrasted by astounding poverty and squalor. My Guide, Dr. Kumar Ghorpade, told me that India was living many generations simultaneously- an old poor agrarian generation, a newer industrial one , and a rising middle class of the educated. All were visible from the car and on the street.
We rode for two hours over decaying roads, swerving around other vehicles, people, and ever present cows, goats, chickens, and feral dogs. Finally we burst into the countryside and starting a steep descent into the Cauvery River gorge. The road had a hair pin turn every few hundred yards. At each turn a terrible sign with a skull and crossbones warned of our certain death and then to underscore the warning, a sign read'You have been warned".
We passed a film crew making a movie on the edge of the steep banks and I managed a joke that Kumar and our driver enjoyed. I suggested that perhaps we would meet with Prety, a beautiful star of India's Bollywood films. They clearly enjoyed knowing that I knew about her.
We reached the river and Kumar arranged for us to be rowed across the river by a boatman in a peculiar craft- a coracle. This boat looks like a large flat bottom bread basket made of woven bamboo, covered with canvas and then tarred for waterproofing. It is perfectly round. The boatman positioned us evenly in the craft, placing me nearest him and his single paddle. It was quickly apparent that I was needed as ballast near his position. Being the heaviest of the four in the coracle, I sat in water that is always present. Everyone else remained dry!
We reached the other side laughing. The current was strong and the method with this round boat was to spiral around to reach the opposite shore. Immediately upon getting out on to the rocky shore we say hundreds of butterflies feeding on nutrients dropped on the banks by the flood waters from the monsoon rains of a week before.
Walking into the brush, we surprised spotted deer, macaque monkeys and many birds such as a drongo, a golden backed woodpecker, rose ringed parakeets, and babblers. Pictured below is the green bee eater.