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Celebrating the outdoors

FOREST IN THE CITY For nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike. Photo: Rahul k. Thomas  

It’s a halli within the city. It’s a halli that welcomes the Bengalurean with wide green arms and a vast open space to indulge in adrenalin-driven outdoor sports, is also a rock-climbers challenge, a runner’s haven, a cycler’s dream track, and a birdwatcher’s paradise too. What more could one ask for?

Which is why, people who have enjoyed spending their mornings and weekends at Turahalli are celebrating Turahalli Day, coming together as a community to save a green space. Sunday November 30 will be celebrated as Turahalli Day with adventurers coming together voluntarily and inviting anyone who wants to experience what they have always enjoyed, at no charge.

For the uninitiated, Turahalli in is south Bangalore, a few kilometers down Kanakpura Road, and a stone’s throw from J.P. Nagar. It’s a state reserve forest area spread over approximately 1,100 acres, with rather rich biodiversity for a place so close to a city, and where wildlife can still be spotted! A dry deciduous forest, with huge rocks and hillocks dotting it, Turahalli has much to offer everyone.

Birdwatchers have catalogued more than 120 species of birds including the Great Indian Horned Owl, Sirkeer Malkoha, Black-winged Kite, Brown Shrike, Rosy Starlings, Scimitar Babbler, Spotted Owlet, Blue-rock Thrush, Loten Sunbird and Bee-eaters. More than 50 species of butterflies inhabit the landscape. People have occasionally spotted the Asian palm civet, leopard, jackal, chital, black-naped hare and mongoose.

Rahul K. Thomas, freelance writer and photographer, started visiting Turahalli in 2009 as a rock climber and went on to enjoy cycling there. He visits Turahalli as often as once a week, as most Turahalli-ans do. He talks of how Turahalli was ‘discovered’ by rock climbers more than fifty years ago (around 1960), and has gone on to become Bengaluru’s bouldering cradle – “a place where some of the most promising climbers in the country train and get back in touch with the rock that the city deprives them of”. He’s one of the 15-odd volunteers who have come together to organise this festival. “It’s actually in its fourth or fifth avatar, starting as the Turahalli Habba organised by climbers. This time, we are tying to be inclusive, with cyclists, photographers, runners, birdwatchers coming together as a community, mobilising mass attention to bring this space into the mainstream consciousness. We’re not any formal association. We are a bunch of enthusiasts who have spent many happy hours and years at Turahalli and hope to protect and preserve it,” says Rahul.

Protect and preserve because, of late, the area has become a mugger’s paradise, says Rahul. Police have also taken to keeping all people out, including adventurers, despite it coming under the forest department’s purview. “Thugs and goons have taken to drinking here on weekends, leaving behind broken glass bottles.” Early morning walkers at Turahalli from neighbouring apartments have also been observing truck loads of garbage illegally dumped in the forest space. There have been many attempts at land-grabbing, and proposals to make it into a landscaped “park” have also been mooted, and then opposed by environmentalists.

Suma Rao, 45, an analytical chemist, a climber, runner, and cyclist, has been visiting Turahalli since the 1980s. “I remember taking a bus from Banashankari and then walking up to the trail. There used to be a stream running through it during the rainy season. Of course, now, there is no trace of a stream! Climbing was one of my main interests, till I had a baby and then I took to the triathlon. I still go running in Turahalli and it gives me a high,” she says. She uses it as hill training territory for her runs because the landscape offers a steady climbing gradient through eucalyptus forest.

In recent times, the city’s thriving cycling community have taken t this space, she observes. An enthusiastic mountain biking culture has taken shape here; weekends see plenty of bird watchers, trail runners and walkers too.

The day is for Bengalureans to come experience the outdoors and enjoy nature, without having to go too far out of the city, point out organisers. “On this day, we want to encourage people to come and experience nature in its truest sense — not the sanitised landscaped versions offered by parks. Anyone can show up and participate in a number of activities, led by experienced people in the field,” concludes Rahul.

The organisers have two appeals: do not litter and, if you can, bring a trash bag to take back any rubbish you might come across.

The location is Turahalli Forest, off Kanakpura Road, (behind Karishma Hills) Bangalore. For details look up the events page on Facebook for “Turahalli Day”. There’s no registration required, and no fee charged for any activity.

WHAT’S IN STORE:

6.30 a.m.: Birdwatching

6.45 a.m.: Trail Running

7 a.m.: Climbing

7.30 a.m.: Mountain Biking

7.30 a.m.: Slacklining

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 1:18:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/celebrating-the-outdoors/article6643415.ece

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