This year we have had an extended monsoon season in India and to enjoy this bounty of rain, we decided to drive to the Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, which in the monsoons transforms into a “Magical Green Oasis”. The ever so helpful folks at Kia India provided a Seltos for this “Monsoon Forest Drive” and after collecting it from the Hyderabad airport we drove directly to the Foxtail Eco Retreat (www.foxtailecoretreat.com) in Tipeshwar.
Getting out of the city consumed some time, but after we passed Medchal on the Hyderabad-Nagpur National Highway, the traffic volume reduced and it took us a little over six hours to cover a distance of approximately 400 kms. Foxtail Retreat is superbly located right next to the Sunna Gate of Tipeshwar WLS and offers comfortable and spacious air-conditioned tents, with attached toilet.
Uday Krishna, the owner and a wildlife enthusiast was away, and we were received very warmly by the manager Shiv Kumar Paraki. He immediately made us feel at home and served us some delicious home kitchen style snacks on the wooden deck that overlooks a pond. This pond also attracts some birds and became our hangout place for the next couple of days.
Next morning when we entered the Tipeshwar WLS, we saw for ourselves that the reputation of a “Green Oasis” was justified. Everything was covered with a carpet of green not only due to the good rains, but also because several rivers like the Purna, Krishna, Bhima and Tapti water different parts of this wildlife sanctuary that is spread over 148 square kilometres. And while this may be a small sanctuary, it abounds in different types of vegetation and also houses a variety of wildlife.
It’s quite a hilly region too, with the vegetation varying as per the altitude. Interestingly, the Tipeshwar WLS is home to about 250 species of bamboo, and a diverse array of flora and herbs and grasses, which form a unique pool of medicinal, and fragrant and beautiful plants.
Tipeshwar is also home to some 25 species of mammals, 180 species of birds, and 22 types of amphibians and reptiles. If in luck one can spot tiger, leopard, wild dog, sloth bear, wild cat, sambar, cheetal, neelgai, wild boar, peacock and so on. In my view the best part about this sanctuary is that it’s still not overrun by noisy tourists, as it is relatively unknown and situated in a remote part of Maharashtra.
Given this, one really enjoyed the peace and tranquility along with the immense natural beauty of Tipeshwar, which looked really pristine in its glorious green monsoon attire. But the thick vegetation made wildlife sightings difficult and the easy availability of water all over the jungle, also meant that the animals were dispersed, due to which one could not anticipate their movements or track them.
While one did not see much wildlife, fortunately I had ample opportunity to use the traction modes of the Kia Seltos in real life conditions. This was because most of the forest tracks in and around Tipeshwar were wet and muddy, allowing me to test the efficiency and effectiveness of these traction modes. If you press the Drive/Traction mode button, the driving mode changes from “Driving” to “Traction” control and you can select snow, mud or sand mode by rotating the knob.
Usually one gets such traction modes in all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicles, but the Kia Seltos despite being front wheel drive, has these modes. When you select any of the 3 traction modes, the traction control settings are automatically adjusted to provide maximum possible traction on slippery surfaces. What actually happens is that the traction control changes the slip or spin level limit of both the left and right hand side wheels and tunes the engine throttle response, engine torque and gear shift patterns according to the available traction levels.
Therefore, when I engaged the mud mode and tried to drive through the slush, I could feel that though the front wheels were spinning the traction control was not cutting power to them, and due to the higher wheel spin and increased engine revs, I could power the Seltos through the sticky slush in a far better and more controlled manner, than it would have been possible in a purely front-wheel drive vehicle.
Another good thing was that Shiv Kumar suggested we should spend a day exploring some of the man made wonders in the region like the 300 year old Gurudwara Sri Bhagor Sahib and ancient Pandavdevi Shiv Temple. And we are so happy we listened to him, because the visit to both these religious places turned out to be the highlight of our trip.
The drive on the narrow but scenic road was delightful and as the Gurudwara Sri Bhagor Sahib is in a very isolated location, we hardly saw any other vehicles or people. In fact we also had this serene and historic gurudwara to ourselves, and it was the granthi or Sikh priest who told us that the 10th Sikh guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji had stayed here for a few days, while on his way to the Nanded Saheb Gurudwara.
After this most rewarding religious pit stop, we proceeded to the Shiv Temple, at Pandavdevi. The pujari or priest here said it was about 400 years old, but looking at the rock cut exteriors I feel it’s definitely a lot older, and could even date back thousand years or more. Despite an extensive search on “Google Guru”, I was unable to find any useful information on this temple or for that matter, even the gurudwara. And if it was not for Shiv Kumar’s suggestion, we would never have visited either of these hidden gems.
Photos courtesy Suvir Mirchandani
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