Doddamakkali – A tryst with the River Cauvery
We were at Kabini yesterday and today, lets soak a bit in the Cauvery at Doddamakkali, which is more than just a fishing camp. This story was published in Jungle tales, a magazine brought out by Jungle Lodges on their 30th anniversary. A shorter version was also published in my column, Inside Story in The Hindu
My car jerks violently for a moment as the mud road brings it to a grinding halt .In a moment, the entire landscape is filled with a flock of birds .And that’s when the river Cauvery presents itself, looking deceptively quiet as it meanders below me. Descending from the Shivasamudra falls, the river flows here, bordered by the rolling green hills. I continue my journey and trudge along for a while when a nervous jackal rushes past me into the forest. Finally, I enter the portals of the Doddamakkali camp as the resident grey hornbills greet me.
Doddamakkali is not just a river bed, but a beach with pristine white sands. Rocks stand out with their reflections sparkling in the blue green waters. A lesser fishing eagle calls , but it remains hidden in the trees. “We just spotted some otters this morning,” says Karthik, the manager as I sip some lime juice. A langur pauses and sizes us up before carrying on. Elsewhere monkeys freely roam around the camp . As my coracle is getting ready, I see the brahminy kite dive into the waters.
If you are at Shimshapura, Dodamakkali is the first among the fishing camps as it is upstream. Bheemeshwari lies just 6 kms from here on the river and Galibore is further downstream. This is the course of the Mahsheer, one of the best sport fish sought after by both anglers and poachers. However, I was in no mood to fish, but we set sail to see some jelly fish which had resurfaced in the pools caused by the rapids .
The sun slips behind the clouds. Cormorants open out their wings and strike a pose, while the river terns fly around us. A crocodile basks on a rock. Surrounded by forests, the Cauvery divides them into two ranges – Malavalli and Kollegalla. The forests come alive with elephants, leopards, wild pigs, mongoose, sambhar, spotted deer , grizzled giant squirrel among others.
We sail alongside the Malavalli range where a hillock stares us in our face.”You would’ve passed it enroute,” adds Karthik following my gaze.”You will also find a similar one and that’s why its called Anna Thamma Gudda .”
We are suddenly beckoned by the forest officials from the Kollegalla bank and we sail towards them. The RFO tells me that they are planning to have a shed with guards here for conservation and protection. The forest is dense as we stroll around . “Have you tasted the pickle made of makkali root?” he asks as we wait for the boatman. I nod, remembering the unique taste.” This place is called Doddamakkali because of these plants that used to grow in plenty here ..now you find then in Chikkamakkali .” he adds.
We discuss poaching and the camp has quite a few former poachers who have now been employed in the camp.” You must meet Soma Naik who had a case against him filed by his own brother as he used to be a poacher once. Now, both of them work here and are into conservation,” he adds. The water gets deeper as the currents become stronger. The boatman deftly strokes the river and finally anchors the coracle near the rocks. He warns me to watch out for snakes , mainly cobras and pythons . We climb the rocks and reach a small pool where tiny jelly fish swim deep below. We almost lie flat on our stomachs and peer right into the waters to catch a glimpse and with great difficulty see tiny rings floating right inside .
As the sun’s rays light up the pool, we catch a sight of them, before they magically disappear deep into the pool.I sit on the rocks and look up at the sky .The blue is fast turning grey. A few drops of rain shower on us. A pied wagtail lands on a rock. A white breasted kingfisher perches on the branch looking for its next meal. A green eater looks away. We circle a bit on the coracle and set sail towards the camp, listening to the shrill cry of the red wattled lapwing, “ Did you do it ?”
Doddamakkali is one of the most remote fishing camps in the river Cauvery , barely 8 kms from Shimshapura .A beautiful landscape littered by rocks , the camp is located on the banks of the river on the Malavalli reserve. The patron Goddess Kali lends her name to the hamlet and there is a small shrine on the mud road leading to the camp.
The camp has about eight tents with attached toilets. The ambience is natural as there is less electricity here and the camp runs on generator. So, your tents will be lit with an electric lantern with fans at night. A torch is a must have if you are headed here .
Best season :
The months between September and February will be the best time to visit as its also ideal for birding and to see jelly fish. Angling starts here at the onset of early winter as well. Summers can get very warm and humid there.
Doddamakkali is approximately 140 kms from Bangalore. You can either take the Kanakpura route or the Maddur-Malavalli road. If you are taking the Kanakpura road from Bangalore, reach Halgur and from there drive down to Shimshapura village. There is a gate with a watchman there. You make an entry there and then drive down the 8 kms of mud road that reaches the camp. The last km is a bit tricky, so ensure that your vehicle is in good shape.
If you are driving via Maddur, take a deviation towards Malavalli and Kollegal . You would reach Shimsha Hydro electric project. Follow the JLR board there until you reach the Shimshapura .