wings on the wheel

It was quite an unlikely combination. A Liverpudlian environmental activist and bird expert of Irish-Scots descent who works with a project in Lebanon, on a Czech origin two stroke, loud, smoky and rather battered Yezdi (Iranian name, if you were wondering); uncertainly steered by a novice biker of Mizo-Malayalee descent who trains for the Call Centre/BPO/Software industry in Bangalore. Colin can tell the difference between a Great Cormorant, a Little Cormorant and an Indian Cormorant. If that isn’t bird expert enough for you, you are welcome to go find your own. That be as it may, we were quite an exercise in international understanding!

We were headed for Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore, and had decided to ride there and back, assured by a travel guide friend that the trip would take 2 hours at the most. Considering we left at 0600hrs and reached at 1000hrs, those were the longest 2 hours in Colin’s and my life. Though warned by “them” that the Mysore road was in bad condition, I managed to cross the 100kmph mark multiple times on that road. That speed did not make for much conversation, but Colin and I managed to size each other up on our multiple idli-wada-coffee breaks. I had tried to get other riders of the Yezdi club interested, but none could make it. Pity. There is something about the smell of dawn on the highway and the taste of wind in your teeth that longs to be shared. One sometimes flies best in a flock.

Ranganthittu has a rather small area, and seems quite welcoming of the Sunday picnicker. A group of young men in a car wanted a picture taken with Colin. They were not so keen on me-I should have said I was from Brazil. We did see quite a few birds, though not as many species as Colin would have liked. Plenty of Black headed Ibis, and fruit bats I initially mistook for weaverbird nests. Though I like collecting feathers, I am not really a birder, but Colin’s enthusiasm had my interest peaked. The Black Headed Ibis (or the White Ibis if you follow Salim Ali) is definitely a beautiful bird. Quite similar, apparently, to the Sacred Ibis of Egypt, and distinguished by markings on the underside of their wings. More international relations for you. The Flying Foxes (fruit bats) were rather active-seems not all bats are completely blind! It didn’t take us too long to finish the sights, and just in time too-we were beginning to be swamped by busloads of rather noisy tourists. Sigh. The Great Indian Tourist. But that is another story.

We headed back towards Kukrebelluru, a village that has the distinction of being a nesting ground for Pelicans. We also expected to find Painted Storks there, though we didn’t see any. The villagers were quite blasé about the two strange looking people trying to get decent photographs of the birds. Matter of fact, on the 12 km stretch after the turn off from Somanahalli we had directions shouted out to us without even having to ask!

All in all, it was a good trip. Apart from the fact that Colin’s backside and my shoulders ached in ways we had never quite experienced, we came home quite satisfied. There is a philosophical link, I think, between the ecological movement and the motorcycling attitude. There is an understanding of one’s vulnerability, a certain searching for the intangibles, a willingness to be inconvenienced in search of a good trip. Through grimy face and bleary eyes, I have learnt a new respect for birds and their world, and Colin, I hope, will someday actually consent to get onto a motorbike again. For information on Colin’s work, go to http://en.arocha.org/lebanon, and for info on the Yezdi, to www.yezdiclub.com


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