|The temple at Bokhapuram|
|Fresh, green and wet|
We drove ahead into the woods for long and reached the entry gate of Bandipur national park. From there we returned back and on the way we spotted a group of guars at a distance enjoying their solitude. We were quite happy to spot them and to have ticked one off the list (elephants being the other). We explored more and drove along slowly so as to not miss any wildlife sighting. Did not find anything interesting on our way back to theppekadu other than langurs and spotted deer. Our driver insisted on driving in the other direction and wanted to make sure that we did sight interesting wildlife in addition to whatever we had already seen. So off we went on the road that lead to Ooty and stopped within half a kilometer. A herd of elephants (mostly females and a couple of babies) numbering 7-8 were strolling a few feet away in the woods. The young one was quite playful and kept running around while its mother pulled it back. After capturing a few photographs of this wonderful herd we went ahead.
|Guars in the woods|
A few meters ahead a vehicle had stopped but when we turned our head to check, found nothing. Upon asking the people in the car ahead of us, one of them blurted- "Tigerrr". They had seen a glimpse of it while it was about to cross the road but suddenly retreated back into the bushes. All looked at each other and my guide was more than sure with his huge experience that there was a stripped cat in the bushes. On to our left was thick bushes, then a small valley and a river further down. The tiger must have gone down to drink water and now wanted to cross the road back into the forest. The engines stopped grumbling, people spoke in hushed voices and waited patiently for the big cat to cross over. The tiger had sensed human presence and probably that is why it never came out. Suddenly my co traveller screamed and claimed she saw half a paw. Excited about seeing the big one come out, we waited and waited for long. The tiger never came out and we had to return back with heavy hearts. So close, yet so far. As we waited for the cat, there was a peacock that showed itself on the other side of the road. Gorgeous it looked. The tiger must have gone back to the river and crossed over to the other side is what my guide said as he drove back.
We were back at the place where we had seen the elephants. Many vehicles had stopped by to see them. The herd had moved closer to the road and wanted to cross over and go down to the river. However with so many vehicles parked, they were quite apprehensive and waited near the road. The one in the front was a large female and she was the one to take the lead. We were first in the line of vehicles and had a good view of the elephants. The herd still took its time to cross and we waited patiently at a distance of 50 meters away from them. Suddenly the elephant that was leading the way got onto the road, trumpeted and did a mock charge towards our vehicle. There was a scream inside the vehicle. Our driver being the sensible person with good reflexes immediately started the engine and flashed the headlights. The pachyderm stopped after 20 meters and then waited. We also waited as the other females in the herd along with the babies came closer to the road to cross over. Only the first one crossed over and while it was crossing our sensible driver turned senseless. He wanted to make it more adventurous and went closer to the elephant that had almost crossed over.We were at a distance of 5 meters from her when she turned around, took two steps towards us and trumpeted. Had I stretched my hand out, I could have touched her trunk. The jeep being an open one, the dreaded thought of being airlifted by the elephant ran through my mind for a second. We shrieked, shouted at the driver for being senseless and then drove back before the remaining herd crossed over. Phew, that was a terrifying experience.
He justified his act and said he was well aware of animal movements, their reactions and their mock charges. However we were quite upset with his actions and did give him a hearing. We just wanted to see wildlife, not encroach into their territory and irritate them. However, he wanted to make it a memorable experience for us and that was a unforgettable one for sure. It was already dark by the time we reached back Theppekadu and on our way to the resort we spotted a couple of guars by the road in the dark grazing away happily. Without bothering them much we drove back to the resort. An eventful day came to an end with the sound of cicadas through the night.
Masinagudi and the safari through Mudhumalai sanctuary was definitely memorable for interesting sightings and frightening experiences. It had all- elephants, guars, deer, langurs, fowls, peacocks and a just missed stripped cat!
Signing Note- As wild as it gets...!!
Route- Bengaluru- Mandya- Mysore- Nanjangud- Gundlupet- Bandipur- Mudhumalai- Masinagudi
Distance- 240 Kms