It began as a wild goose chase ,only the goose happened to be missing.. It was wild, alright – what with elephants, monkeys, malabar squirrels , bears , boars and buffaloes providing company . And to cut to the chase, we have been camping in wildlife sanctuaries and jungle resorts over the last year – six of them in fact , all in the radius of a few hundred kilometers . In the forests of Bandipur, Nagarhole and Mudhumalai , in the camps at Masinagudi, K Gudi and Wynad. Our wild life hunt had begun
At the outset, I must confess that we are not die hard wild life enthusiasts. We would not wish to pretend to be one . A natural curiosity for wild life, a little bit of adrenalin in our veins, a desperate need to get away from the city combined
with practical possibility of getting leave only during weekends led us up the jungle trail.
Our ritual began every morning . The mist played with mountains, the dew had just settled in. It was cold and damp. And the jungle presented itself to us, a collage of greens, yellows and browns . Shivering underneath our jackets and enjoying the nippy air, we drove through the forest in an open jeep, hoping for an unusual sighting .
In the beginning were the deer, the spotted and the sambhar variety. In great hordes , skipping, frolicking, playing .The birds and the butterflies flitted around as the peacock obliged us before darting behind bushes . Next in line were the wild buffaloes, majestic and proud, ;looking at us askance. Rustling amidst the trees are the wild boars, which even greeted us near our tents in the K Gudi Camp.
We chased and were chased. Eyes, though invisible to us were tracking us. We saw pugmarks of tigers , dung of elephants and heard stories of leopards. But they eluded us. At one occasion, in Masinagudi we even smelt an elephant very close to us, almost breathing behind a bush , as we got out of our jeep and trekked. It mocked us with a cry, almost like tempting us for a game of hide and seek.
You must have heard this before . The frequent refrain at every safari tour is, “If you are lucky, then … Hope is a funny thing. You very well know that it may not be your day to catch an elusive glimpse of the giant cat or encounter a tusker, but you still persist
The roads are bumpy, you get covered with slush, your legs ache as you trek , but hope does not let you down. It is this hope that made us continue and yes, we were finally rewarded. Not with a tiger or a tusker, but a bear almost 100 metres from us, that paused in its journey and sized us up Its companion was not far away, but it soon merged with the colors of the forest.. It was the twilight hour. A hush fell. We felt a sense of awe and said a silent prayer.
Every forest looked the same. Only the seasons change and with it, the colours. The water fronts get dried a bit, but they are still the haunts of the wild. We continued with same hope in our hearts as we touched Bandipur and this time , we got more than what we had bargained for. We pursued invisible shadows , but didn’t realize that it was our turn to be chased.
It must have been around quarter to seven , and darkness was slowly setting in. Shadows merged with trees and we were returning from another fruitless safari tour. We were on the Bangalore – Bandipur Highway , very close to our resort when suddenly we saw three elephants hardly 10 feet from us, on the edge of the road. We paused in an attempt to take photographs. We got out of the car . My friend was adjusting his camera, my husband standing outside the car beside us. Suddenly one of the elephants took a warning step forward. We backed a bit. A moment paused and we resumed our photography, when suddenly the elephant broke into a run…a very fast one at that . It was a race between man and beast.. a thin line between adventure and death, The car was at least 5 feet from where we were . We made a quick scramble to get in… We yelled, shouted, screamed and panted . We were unprepared for this ;. My friend rummaged for the keys . I flung the camera and looked back. The elephant stopped just a foot away from our bonnet.. A look which said, Get out of my territory.
The entire thing lasted for around 30 secs, may be a minute at the most. We raved, ranted and told the same story many times over, each from his /her perspective. We thought of the many possibilities of an IF added to the situation. I remember the last look, all it had to do was to stretch out its trunk and reach out to us. But it preferred not to do that.
We now speak of this incident in our inner circle as the most adventurous trip we ever had. We showcase our bravado and our story telling skills. We are probably looking for more adventures to score brownie points, to increase our adventure rankings. To us, it was a fantasy , an escape from our daily mundane lives But at that moment, however, it was about survival than exploits. It was fear , rather than hope and excitement . It was about encroaching another’s territory. And we were chased away.