Thursday, April 15, 2010

At home in India-Homa

Continuing my saga on the trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. For starters it was a pretty long (3.5 hours) drive through the prairie lands of North Texas and Southern Oklahoma. The drive was pretty boring except for the colorful spring blossoms that line the highways. There were blue, yellow, pink, and other colored flowers moving in the wind.

After what seemed like an eternity we finally pulled into the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and were greeted by a large American Bison grazing beside the road. We stopped to take a closer look and get some pictures of the giant beast that was grazing away oblivious of the attention it was getting.

Wild Bison grazing in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Wild Bison grazing in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

After spending some time at that site, we moved to the swank, and sprawling visitors center-cum-nature museum. Every wildlife sanctuary, national park I have visited be it in India, Nepal, Bhutan or US has an information center/ museum/ history center meant to provide information about the park's history, geography, wildlife, etc.

A giant mural at the visitor's center

The only difference is that in India the information centers are built with earthy materials like stucco, concrete, and brick and are mostly not air-conditioned. Here the building was built of wood, metal and drywall and of course it is centrally air-conditioned and heated. The natural history museum/ visitors center was one great documentation of the park's history, flora, and fauna. There were two huge stuffed wild bison's welcoming the visitors into the display area. There are numerous other stuffed creatures displayed in almost their natural settings. The museum is pretty interactive and simulated, the small theater showcases films on the night creatures of the park.

Stuffed animals on display

Stuffed animals on display

Stuffed animals on display

After spending about 45 minutes (short, we need at least 2.5 hours to see the museum thoroughly) we moved to do a short hike at the Lost Lake area. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hills, Rocks, and Boulders of India-Homa

The visitors Center

It has been several months... almost years since I touched a rock with an intention of climbing it. There are no rocks or hills in Dallas area, which is in the heart of the Panhandle Plains of Texas. Last Sunday I was lucky enough to visit a place known as Indiahoma in the neighboring state of Oklahoma. This small town is home to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The sprawl of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, India-homa

As we drove on flat-as-a-Dosa landscape I was joking that Indiahoma and Oklahoma get their names because one of the ancient Hindu saints... Rishi Kapila traveled from Kapilaranya (California) with his cattle (Akalu in our language) and performed some sacred rituals to rid the land off its curses. Hence the state came to be known as Akalu-Homa and later became anglicized to Oklahoma. The place India-Home is the exact location of the sacred rituals and hence even today it is associated with India and Homa.

Anyway Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is quite different from Texas and I simply loved the rolling rocky hills that mark the area. This is a 59,020 acre refuge and is protected habitat for several native species that have managed to survive the Whiteman's Greed. When the first Europeans landed in this country, their sole intention was to plunder and destroy whatever they found here so they can become rich. It was only after several decades that they started settling down and forming this United States of America. Some of the commonly found species in this wildlife refuge include the American bison, (We saw many of these gentle giants) Rocky Mountain elk, white-tailed deer, Texas longhorn cattle (what are they doing in Oklahoma??? Oh! these were the ones brought in by Rishi Kapila to perform the Yanga, and they are protected because, here they are sacred). Apart from these notable creatures there are over 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive here.

Rocky Terrain

I will talk about the short hike we took in the refuge in my next post. For now I have to get ready and get to work... enjoy the pictures.