This Article and Photos were published in Go-getter GoAir Inflight Magazine Feb 2011 Issue. I never received the printed magazine or even the pdf but. yes. precisely my point.
A hundred and fourty kilometers busy strech from bangalore to mysore known as mysore highway, is one road which hosts some of the most popular weekend getaways from bangalore for both adventure and just peace-seeking nature enthusiasts. while ramanagaram hills are famous for rock-climbing and night trekking, srirangapanta, ranganathittu, and kokkrebellur are few amongs the regular hot-spots for birdlovers. on such a busy route haunted by the tourists, its next to impossible to find a lesser known spot for a day-night long trip or lets say we got really lucky to have found tonnurkere and being able to make a camping trip to this place in January 2010.
The credit goes to harsha, my friend and also a member of our small group of trek enthusiasts, called trekmaniax for introducing this place to me. since I first heard his stories of tonnurkere, I was asking him to take me to this place, but it never happend. then earlier that year when we planned our travel calender, amongst few options, like agumbe, tikarpada orissa, and madhugiri, tonnurkere seemed the most doable and after much discussion on the perfect date, we headed out to this place on republic day evening for a night camping trip.
most of you must be wondering, what is this place I am talking about, and why I had been so excited to go there? the answer to that question is a 1000 years old, manmade, beautiful 2000 acres spread over fresh water lake tucked away from the maddennings of the city situated on an off beaten track around 8kms from pandavapura, a small town in the district of Mandya, and about 150KMs from bangalore.
In Kannada, kere means tank or a lake. tonnurkere (mostly a slang), or thondanur kere, also popular by the name, moti talab was originally built by Saint Ramanujacharya who named it Tirumalasagara. it was formed by an embankment carried across the gulch between two hills, which stem the water of the river yadavanadi and few other mountain streams. Mughal called it Moti Talab i.e. Lake of pearls and later Tipu named it Thondanur/Tondanur who possibly reparied it too. at present the lake spread an area over 2000 acres and is main resource for the paddy and sugarcane fields and the fishermen living in this area. across a small dam, a flight of steps takes you to the village tonnur. there are two beautiful temples of hoysala styled architecture, in the village, worth visiting. a country road with thick green trees on both sides, 8km long, takes you to a small hillock , where there is enough parking space for a couple of four wheelers. and a few hundred meters walk opens up to the beach like shore of the lake surrounded by the rocky hills on three sides. a tree, a small room which belongs to krishna, a local villager who arranges for food and also provides adequate security for night campers like us, and enough space to pitch tent, makes this particular spot the best of all spots around the lake for camping in the night.
Hoping to witness a moonset, 9 of us, started around a little post 7 PM from MG road & Airport Road of Bangalore on Jan 26th.With one car taking the double road, PESIT and later Nice Road, and the other following the Mysore road, Banashankri route, it took us almost 2 hours to pick everyone and get out of bangalore city on not so unusual heavy traffic evening. After a small stop near Gurukul, a little ahead of Nice/Mysore road Junction, we drove ahead to Ramanagaram to meet Jagdeesh. Jaggi, who provides tents, sleeping bags, life jackets, boats etc at nominal rates, also runs a club called X-Adventure there. he arranges sports events like rock climbing and rappelling, parasailing in the areas around. his place is on the highway itself.
We picked up our Camping stuff, life jackets and an inflatable boat and pedals from Jaggi and reached McD/Kamath around 10:30 PM. After a cheesy meal at McD, we drove to Mandya. there is a right turn on the highway after Mandya city to Pandavapura. from Pandavpura the straight road which took us to the lake was in excellent condition and was more than a pleasure of a long drive on almost full moon night with some great music on. the round little white beauty shining in the sky and following us to tonnurkere was so gorgeous that we couldn't help but pull over the cars for a while and take some night shots of the full moon.
Soon we reached the lake, and it turned out to be an awesome treat to watch the moon set with its beautiful reflection brightening the calm and crystal clear lake water at night. the little hill on the right which from the top gives a heart shape to this lake, was looking like a sleeping alligator's mouth slightly open, with its big teeth shining bright, in that unshaded patch line of water in the midst. The bright stars in the clear sky took me to good old summer days of childhood spent in my village, where we used to sleep in the open, staring at thousands of stars twinkling all night long.
Around 3 AM, the moon bid goodbye and left us alone in cold and silent dark night in the company none but a few stars. we pitched in our tents and decided to continue the night with few games of uno in one of the torch lit tent. I first heard of uno in 2009 in my first trip to Karwar, and now I was playing it for the second time after once learning a bit of it in ombattu gudda trek. for few of us it still was their very first time, and boy, what fun it was. guess, everyone won once for sure, and got addicted to the wildest of those cards too. after the games were over, I beside the lake for a while in silence, closed the night around 4:30 am after much of a meditating like experience.
Morning was a bit cloudy, and there wasn't a clear sunrise, I overheard some one talking, while I was still in the tent, half asleep. it was around 7:45 That I got out, and saw Pavan, KD and Ravi all on the top of the hill, Nandita was climbing too, and rest all seemed to be sleeping still. So I too climbed up after taking a few snap shots of the lake from our camp site.
Climb to the left side of the rock hill is just 5-10 minutes long and easy. and it gives a great view of the entire lake spread, we sat there for sometime and then came down to tents as the sun got hotter, ready to get in to the water. Krishna, whom we met last night, brought us some idli/dosa for breakfast while Me, Nandita and Prakash made a quick tooth brush trip to the tip of our alligator's mouth.
After breakfast, some of us just relaxed a bit in the tent, while Karthik was slowly getting in to the water. I was still waiting for that motor mount sort of boat, which harsha took to the village to get inflated, but seeing few groups soon approaching the area, decided to get in to water. we played water volleyball and other games just to pass time before the boat could arrive, but unfortunately my dream to kayak in tonnurkere was unfulfilled. Harsha came with a bad news that he couldn't find any place to get the boat inflated. so we thought of enjoying a little swim to that three-birds island. Well Now thats an imaginary name I gave to the only rocks I saw in the middle of the lake. the sharp rocks were tiny space for birds to rest, and If I could remember from previous photos I saw, those were atleast 10-15 ft out of water. so what happened. harsha told the water level was 10 ft below when he came here one year back. well that explained it all. the lake was dangerously deep. and swimming with out lifejackets not advisable at all. so while six of us continued on the shore, Me, harsha and Nandita donned our jackets and swam half km to those rocks, an unforgettable experience not only that swim to n fro was, but sitting on those rocks where I saw only birds sitting was a feel of real bird flown over to the rocky island and now sitting like a queen.
By the time we were out of water and ready to depart, it was 2:30 PM and lot of strangers were trying to get in to our little space. for a change I figured out the popularity of the place, and the reason of the litter around too. well, most of them were locals of Mandya. we left 'em there and headed back to Bangalore, spotted Kunti betta on the way back. later stopped for lunch at kadambam, then Chennapatana kamath, to buy some toys and to download camping gears at Jaggi's place. We reached home around 8pm tired and sleepy, but sure with some beautiful "wow" moments to begin our 2010 with.
More images here