Monday, June 4, 2012

Pench Tiger Reserve - Second Safari

Road to Indore and Back Part V

10 May 10

We had to get up at 0400 hrs as Lallan, our Gypsy driver was to pick us up at 0500. We had a quick cup of tea at Kipling’s Court at 0455 hrs and Lallan arrived at dot 0500 hrs. We reached the Turia gate at 0510. After making the permit by showing our web booking print out, I gave the permit and money to Lallan who did remaining formalities. Sudama was our guide for this trip.

We set out at 0530 hrs and ours was the second vehicle into the forest. First, we went to Junewani Talab, as last few sightings in the morning safari were here. There were many animals for whom the daybreak was just happening. Lake was full of life and merriment but obviously, there were no tigers because if there were tigers, the remaining animal kingdom would be in super quiet mode.

After some wait we decided to look for other animals and also check other water points for tigers too. The sighting was good with all the animals that we saw yesterday were registering their presence with us with regularity. We also saw various types of Owls sitting in the voids of various trees, a pair of male and female jungle lizards again in a void of the tree.

At a spot when we saw restless Deers and two Jackals we thought the Jackals were hounding the Deer’s. We were focused on jackals and here came Wild dog with near orange coat and black bushy tail (like German Shepherd dogs) charging behind the Deer. We saw the dog but even before our son could click his Canon 450 D, the deer and the dog chasing them vanished behind rocks. We got to see a wild dog but no photos could be clicked.

Driving further we saw variety of birds including two types of Eagles, Black Stork, scores of Peacocks, Jungle Fowl, etc. On the way to Hand Pump, there were pug marks of a tiger. Also at a spot on the route there was smell of Tiger Kill (dead Animal), so we went to Hand Pump region where yesterday two Gypsies had sighted the Tigresses with collar but no luck there too.

We decided to go to Elephant Camp at Alikatta and check for Tiger Show This is how the show works:-

Forest staff takes their Elephants out early in the morning and track tigers. At one such location they keep track of the animal and later as safari vehicles arrive the Elephant camp they are given token for sighting the Tiger in that location.

The safari vehicle then takes you to that location where the tourists board the Elephant, go in the wilderness (where Gypsies can’t go) sight the Tiger and return to their vehicles. The charge per person is Rs 100 for this elephant ride and sighting.

There was a sighting very close to Elephant camp and we went there, boarded the Elephant and saw the Tiger (actually the Tigress with radio collar, the lead actress of BBC documentary, ‘The Spy in the Jungle’, available at Animal Planet (and other e commerce sites too) website for USD 19 only, other actors are her cubs) in flesh and blood for the first time resting under shrub kind of growth. She was the same animal whose pug marks we had seen.

There was a sense of fulfilment though I must admit that other sightings had already made our trips more than ‘Value for Money’. When we returned to Elephant camp (only place where toilets are available) as the group members found there way to rest rooms, we could witness Rotis being made for Elephants right from making the dough to making the Rotis (no stretch of imagination one can call such thick rotis ‘Chapatis’, if one does it all the Chapaties of the world would commit suicide). It was interesting to watch. Each Elephant is fed Chapatis of 10 kg dough apart from vegetation in the Jungle that they eat.

From this place we set out again to check Pench river bank and other water points. After all, we had seen only one Tiger where as as per 2005 census there are 33 Tigers in Pench Reserve and the actual numbers have only gone up. On our way we also saw Bison, herds of deer resting in the shed, some standing and some sitting comfortably. Another interesting sight was to see group of three female Langoors sitting around a tree trunk, huddled facing tree with their young ones clinging to their stomach sheltered from rapidly increasing heat of the jungle between the mothers and the tree.

Eventually it was nearing 0830 hrs and the guide and Lallan decided to try our luck at Junewani Talab yet again. Reason, for last four days, a pair of Tiger and Tigress has been sighted at Junewani around 0900 hrs. We reached Junewani at about 0905.

A Tata 207 with two foreigners was the only vehicle waiting. The driver told us that Tiger roars and deer’s warning calls were being heard for last half an hour. We also decided to camp there (in the gypsy, no one is allowed to get down from vehicle). At about 0910 hrs there was commotion among deers in the vicinity of a dry nullah which leads in to Junewani (though now blocked by bandh which also serves as road and a bank of the present lake created by this bandh. Sudama, our guide sensed that Tiger(s) is present near by. Then the roar was heard yet again.

Within 3-4 minutes my wife noticed some rapidly moving object in that area and alerted the guide who checked with his binocular and confirmed that it’s a Tiger. There was no further hint for next five minutes and suddenly out of no where a Tigress climbed from the dry nullah on to slightly higher ground.

What a majestic sight it was to have an audience with King of the Jungle for the first ever time in the wild and in the open. That was not the end of a romance with Tiger for that day, it was merely a beginning. Soon yet another Tiger appeared and both sat there on the high ground. From there if they had to come to the lake they had to climb the bandh and climb down to the lake and the prospects of that happening looked good.

Soon enough the tigress started the climb, came up on the bandh, inspected the surrounding and walked down to the lake. She got into the water to cool herself and drink water. She sat down into the water and started drinking it intermittently.

In another 3-4 minutes the Tiger came up on to the bandh but did not get in. He walked down to opposite side of the lake and got into water in repeat action of what the tigress was also doing. As the tigers landed at the lake there was a pin drop silence among all the animals. The mischievous Langoors climbed the nearest tree. The small duck like birds (I was told the name but cant recollect) who were fishing into the pond just went underwater and came up to breath only to go underwater again. Peacocks and Pea hens went into hiding and there was a different kind of silence in the area. As the tiger’s roar was heard by other guides too, at the final count there were a total of six gypsies / Tata207 out of 28 that entered when tigers came.

After some time the Tigress came out of the pond and joined the Tiger on the other side of the pond in to the water. After about five minutes they both got up and walked into the nullah leading to Kalapahad. Soon we could not see them and the scene changed.

The Langoors started playing vigorously as if they were trying to make up the lost time, the small duck like water birds came up and restarted fishing in the water, peacocks also could be seen. In fact one langoor rushed to water and drank water to his hearts content as soon as the tigers were out of the scene. What an experience it was. How many in this world would get to see the Tigers up front and close? We were among the few lucky ones.

Time was nearing 1000 hrs hence we returned from the Reserve. Had good breakfast at Kipling’s court and rested. We had called for an AC Indigo taxi to drop Mom and daughter to Nagpur (Charges non AC 1600 and AC 2000 irrespective of the vehicle one hires) for their flight which was at 2035 hrs. That taxi came at 1400 hrs. we started from Pench and went to Rukhad to Bison Retreat (another property of MPSTDC, 35 km from Pench and 23 km from Khawasa on the way to Jabalpur) to have lunch. Lunch was excellent. Post lunch, mom and daughter went to Nagpur and we started form Jabalpur at 1555 (172 km). NH 7 within Pench forest was two lane. It became four lane and stayed so till few km beyond Seoni. In fact the Seoni bypass was not officially opened but we were told that we can go through it. We did go and there were little adventures crossing it but we did cross. In any case it is fully ready and would open in about 10 days (by 25 May). The two lane NH7 post Seoni has okay surface and not too heavy traffic. We reached home at Jabalpur at 1845.

Travelogue - My Journey from Hyderabad - Indore and back - by road IV

Part IV 

In the Lap of Mother Nature - Pence Tiger Reserve

09 May 10

Started from Nagpur post good breakfast at 0910 hrs for Pench Tiger Reserve. Traffic was heavy till Kamthi which is about 20 km from Nagpur. The road is two lane through out and not so good in Maharashtra though when the road (NH 7) enters Pench Forest, the road is good even in Maharashtra. Crossed  Sillari junction  (where Maharashtra Tourism has a out sourced resort where one can stay) and reached Khawasa at 1030 hrs. 

We had booked FRH at Khawasa which is immediately after one turns left for Turia. FRH rooms were good but they did not have coolers and back up power supply. Power situation in MP is bad. MP Forest has also upped the room rent to Rs 900 per day. Despite rooms being good, for two reasons ie power cuts coupled with no power back up and no coolers, we decided to check out Kipling’s Court at Turia (A MPSTDC resort).

At Kipling’s Court the AC double room was at about 3900 per day with Rs 800 for extra bed, non AC @ 2900 with Rs 700 for extra bed and dorm at 700 per head. All plans are American plan (AP) with three meals and two tea included but for dorms only Veg food is given where as for rooms (both AC and Non AC) non veg and veg cuisines are given. All meals are buffet.   

They have two Dorms of five persons each and have three toilets and three bath common between these two dorms. Dorms and non AC rooms have coolers. Only drawback of Dorms is, only Indian type toilets are available. One can make use of Western type at the reception though. We liked the place and checked in into five seater dorm.  One can book all accommodations of MPSTDC at .If it was winter we would have stayed in FRH Khawasa. 

Gypsies for afternoon safari and next day morning safari were fixed. The rate for Gypsies is Rs 1200 per safari. Lallan would be driving us tomorrow (he is praised by many on the net). MPSTDC also has its own safari Gypsies. One can hire Gypsy if it is not a week end and crowd is less for even Rs 1000 per safari by prior discussions with Gypsy owners/drivers.

Afternoon Safari starts at 1600 till 1900. One needs to reach the gate by 1530 (this seems to be time during summer when temperatures are high). Chandan was our driver and he arrived on time at 1520 hrs at Kipling’s court (pick up is from your resort/ hotel). We reached the main gate at 15:30. The procedure is complicated, in that, either one gives net booking print out or fills up a form (and pays the charges) at a window where they make a permit (530 on web booking and current booking). Pick up your permit and then go to another hut where show your permit and the forest people make entry in a register and take guide fee of Rs 150. After you pay guide fee and attach its receipt on permit, another forest person allots you a guide (so three queues in all, thankfully, your safari driver does the last two jobs for picking up the guide). Actually all these tasks can be done at one place where they should make permit, take fee for guide and allocate guide. Three queue system just appears to be a method to give work to more people but it ends up harassing the tourists.

We finally entered the main gate at around 1600 hrs. The sanctuary was awash with variety of animals. We saw Langoors, Jackals, Peacocks and Peahens, Wild Boar, Deers, Nil Gai, Sambar, etc many times during the safari. We could see variety of birds also like owls, Tiger Brush, etc. Our guide searched for elusive tiger on large number of water holes but we had no luck. After looking for tiger at around six water holes (out of twelve) and Pench river bank we returned to Junewani water point (Talab) at around 1815 hrs.
                 Spotted Deer                                                                                   Sambar

What about Tiger? No we could not see any but the scene was superb. The Deer, Peacocks and Langoors were giving tiger sighting (Danger) calls. Very different kinds of sound then their usual calls. All of these animals wanted to drink water but in the hierarchical Jungle none could dare till ‘King of the Jungle’ (at least this jungle is ruled by tiger) has had his drink of water. The animal kingdom was stand still with a pregnant silence and the mankind around (about 10 safari jeeps full) were excited that finally they would sight the King. The animals were standstill and fearful, the humans were excited but the King was unmoved. He was somewhere there but would not oblige any one of us. At 1830, the forest inspector (or whatever they are called) indicated that the time is up and we must go out of the park.
Langoor                                                       Wild Boar                                    Jackal

All safari jeeps returned with heavy heart without sighting. Morning safaris has had sighting of tigers (one male and one female) at the same spot to their heart’s content. We were very happy with all the sightings and had no special regrets for not sighting Tiger. We also knew that tomorrow morning again we would go to Jungle and have our chances. Only Dr Abheek Ghosh of Nagpur and some of his friend had sighting of one tigress (who has a radio collar on her which is likely to be removed in two days as her tracking would be discontinued on 11 May 10) at Hand Pump area.

We came back to Kipling’s court at 1920 hrs. Had a cup of tea and had dinner at 2100 hrs. Food was good. We were all tired and slept off at 2200 hrs. In any case, tomorrow morning Lallan (our Gypsy driver who is very famous naturalist) is to come and pick us up at 0500 hrs as park entry starts at 0530 hrs.

Marathi Nataks (Dramas)

After many years I got the opportunity to see Marathi Nataks at Mumbai, courtsey Dept of Culture, Govt of Maharashtra.

It was the Finals of 25th Marathi Commercial (and not amateur) Drama Competition being conducted at Marathi Sahitya Sangha Mandir at Girgaum by the Dept of Culture, Govt of Maharashtra. There were a total of 10 dramas selected from about 25 entries of variety of Drama Companies. I could See Love Birds, Karun Gelo Gaon, Sukhanshi Bhandato Amhi and Mi Revati Deshpande.

It was real fun  watching such quality dramas produced by these companies. The situation dead that I write the researched views about them but have no time to do research.

Let me put my quick thoughts about these dramas.

Love Birds - a thriller which holds you spell bound. the plot is superb. The struggle of Amruta Subash, the lead actress, to (so called) educate her husband (who has lost his past memories in an accident, but can remember what is taught) about his past life. One sympathises with her, the drama goes on with realisation that the hero and heroine might have killed old lover of the leading lady. As the plot unfolds, the heroine also committees one more murder. Every thing was to go as planed (for whom, guess it or see the Natak, I am not going to let the cat out) but for a private detective who has joined this plot out of sheer luck (or may be bad luck).

What comes out at the end is a action packed (emotional and not stunts) thriller which keeps you glued to your seat). The Music was good, the use of video to link up the events outside of the set, crisp dialogue delivery and acting of all the people are the strong points.

Karun Gelo Gaon - Is a marathi - Malvani (or so I thought) comedy with all the actors being natural and good. Vaibhav Mangale happens to be the pack leader. The drama had slapstick humour with all the ingredients thrown in like a tamasha dancer, a local MLA, film crazy villagers etc. There were some sutle but below the belt humour, some high quality humour and some very vital points made humorously. At the end the drama succeeds in highlighting the plight of the soul of Konkan, the land on the west coast.

Sukhanshi Bhandato Aamhi  - is a serious drama with a lead role of a psychologist and a split personality patient. the doctor, an idealist as a Young boy from village has become materialistic due to pressures of his ambitious wife and the city called Mumbai. He is minting money and thinking that it is essential for him to mint to provide better avenues to his son.

He has been neglecting his mother who is still at his village, neglecting other aspects of life till this patient whom he admits in his hospital show him a mirror to make him understand that the mirage that he is running behind in his life is not happiness but rather a fight with real happiness. The doctor tries to run away from reality till his son decides to seek his Happiness!!! by leaving the doctor and his wife behind and migrating abroad. A very powerful story delivered superbly.

Mi, Revati Deshpande is a off beat drama. It is about gender disorder in a professor who has been living duel life of a lady and a man. his family always thinks very poorly of him because they think he seeks company of females to satisfy his male ego / taste without realisation of the reality. Only his female servant and psychologist  friend who knew reality try to manage the rift. The rift widens by the additional affection shown by the professor to his erstwhile student and now his daughter in law, who is pregnant.

The rift reaches a stage where all efforts of the psychologist fried and the servant fail and the professor decides to let go of the male in him and decides to live life as a female.

a complex subject handled skillfully with lead roles of Mohan Joshi as professor, Ramesh Bhatkar as doctor friend. It was well enacted drama except for where I got the seat (in the balcony) the audio was very poor.

A very unconventional story delivered with care and elan.