Anamalaai-The Elephant MountainThis May, thanks to a dear friend, Mohammed, I along with my family made a trip to Anamalai which in Malayam, means 'Elephant Mountain'. It is one of the last refuges of the Asian Elephant. We first visited the Parambikulam Tiger reserve which is part of the huge wildlife reserve in south India.On arrival we had the good fortune of accomodation in a beautiful forest bunglow where normally the high and mighty stay. The pictures say it all so I won't describe it.We went around in conducted tours to see wild life which was plentiful and did not seem unduly perturbed by a set of idiotic humans gawking at them and taking pictures.The high point of the trip was off course the 'trek' i undertook with a tribal guide. It was a hot, to say the least, and humid, with rains having fallen a few days back. The timing was also very inappropriate, afternoon after lunch when I should have been at my siesta. But then we all want to
make the most of our holiday, don't we? The girls (wife and two daughters) were smarter andtotally refused to be drawn into any such idiotic venture. Anyway I paid for the trip at the office and we set off. I shouldn't have been surprised to see only the guide and me taking to the woods. Within minutes I realised the folly of my venture. The guide was a nimble tribal fellow who was used to the woods and trekking and I was an unfit city dweller who was used to a nap in theafternoon after lunch instead of a walk in the woods full of dangerous wild beings. In the beginning the walk was only tiring me a little and we started seeing numerous wild life around us. Here a couple of female elephants grazing placidly with their calves, there a few monkeys gamboling around in the trees.
Then we came across a couple of Gaur, mistakenly called the bison. My guide asked me to stop and be quiet since these animals are known to be unpredictable. He clapped and made other sounds which made the animals get up and walk off our path. Then came across some Nilgiri langoors, in the trees. After dutifully videographing them the guide again set off away from the trail, which incidentally as going uphill. As we continued, I suddenly noticed a very strong odour of fresh Elephant dung. Now, I am no wild life expert, but I do have some common sense (borne out of sheer survival instincts) and I brought this to the guide's notice. He turned towards me and said that he too had noticed the smell. Before he could say anything else there was a very loud crack to our right and slightly behind us. Accompanied by that I heard the most unearthly sound of an enraged elephant trumpeting. Apparently, we had disturbed a highly agitated male Elephant in his
afternoon rest. It also was the mating season as the guide later informed me. I looked back and saw an enormous head complete with huge ears and matching tusks charging at us through the bamboo thicket. I looked at the guide and saw the fear in his eyes just before he took off down the trail. He off course did not have to tell me what to do next. I have never run so fast in my life and that too uphill. The elephant in the meanwhile was trying to find us but due to the intervening bamboo thicket and the still air prevented him from detecting us. He presently continued with his extremely terrifying rumbling. My guide said "saar, very danger sound" he didn't have to tell me that!! I was close to fainting from tiredness and wanted to stop for getting my breath back but the guide kept asking me on to get as far away from the tusker as possible and I didn't argue.I soon learnt that Adrenaline can help anyone only so much and after that your legs and
lungs go on strike. After some time, just before I thought I was about to faint the sounds stopped since the Elephant had probably decided to continue with his mate hunting. We stopped for a while for rest and then continued on with eyes alert for any more unfortunate encounters.Soon the forest changed dramatically and huge trees converged over us overhead. This was an evergreen forest. "Saar, no danger here, no elephants, no Gaur, no sloth bear". I sat down over a large fallen log heaved a sigh of relief. "Saar, here only leaches, and Tigers". I wanted to hammer him, was he trying to pacify me or scare me further? "How much more to go" I asked him, since I had had enough of trekking by then. He held up four fingers, "Only 4 kilometres"!! "let us take a short cut" I said. So we went off on a short cut which took us away from the usual footpath countless other tourists had used in the past. We cut back into the DDF, or dry deciduous forest and
kept our eyes peeled for animals. We came across a few but took detours to avoid them. Finally we made it back to the tourist camp. Later I learnt that wild elephants kill 7 to 8 people every year and I had come very close to being part of that statistic. Now when I look back I realise the dangers wildlife photographers are exposed to regularly. It now seems really funny the way we ran and I laugh about it. The Elephant was probably only irritated by us and only wanted us away. But then I do not want to test that theory.Animals in the wild are treat to watch and so is their habitat. Unfortunately it is dwindling at a rapid rate all over the world.
Sent from my BSNL landline B-fone
Tel - 09370010424, 0253-2361161
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]