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Old 26th October 2010, 20:12   #76
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Default Call of the wild: second trip with the Fortuner

My previous Bandipur trip was not that satisfactory, apart from the tiger sighting – I felt too claustrophobic at the resorts I stayed at. I love relaxing somewhere imbibing the atmosphere of the jungle. Like feeling the breeze, smelling the woodfire, listening to the animal cries and bird calls – the alarm call of a Cheetal, the frightened bark of a Sambhar, the sound of junge fowl as evening descends, the cry of peacocks, the trumpeting of elephants. So I decided to visit my usual haunt in Masinagudi (actually 7 km from Masinagudi).

This is what the place looks like:

At the foothills of the Nilgiris
Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-dsc_0424.jpg

In the rainshadow...somewhat like the African savannah...but teeming with wildlife
Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-dsc_0438.jpg

I have been lucky to witness some great sunsets there
Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-img_5523.jpg


Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-img_4193.jpg

The place is surrounded by an electric fence (happened a couple of years back, after an elephant ambushed a foreigner within the compound while he was coming to the dining hall for dinner). I was lucky to capture this jumping the fence scene during a previous trip. Btw, the fence is only live in the night, and that too using battery power. Connecting to live electricity is banned by the forst department to prevent animal deaths. Result: animals come in during the night. But thankfully elephants stay out nowadays.
Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-dsc_04261.jpg

Can you faintly see the Kalhatti houses at the back? This place is less than 25Km from Ooty.
Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-dsc_0414.jpg

Last edited by nilanjanray : 26th October 2010 at 20:21.
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Old 26th October 2010, 20:49   #77
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If my last trip was filled with Gaurs, this trip gave me an overdose of elephants. Especially one male elephant. A 10 feet tall tusker. In musth. Who came 6 feet close to me one late afternoon, and almost banged into the Fortuner while I was returning to the resort after a solo night drive. Imagine – while turning into a dirt track (that leads to the resort) - seeing in the headlights that there is behemoth standing 4 feet from the track? And you are already into the turn, and can’t stop! A preview of what he looked like.

Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-dsc_3074.jpg

Can you see the fluid trickling down from his eye?

Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-dsc_3096.jpg

Don’t believe me about the 6 feet part? See these pictures – taken at the same place where I met the above chap, but during a previous trip – they are of another male tusker, who unfortunately died a month back. Excuse the picture quality...I was not using a DSLR, and anyway forgot to adjust the settings (was more concerned about avoidng his trunk in case he decided to give a swipe).

Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-img_5996.jpg

Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-img_6341.jpg

In fact the second chap (who may be in elephant heaven, but I doubt, since he bashed up 16 vehicles as far as I know...and rumour says that he even killed a couple of people during his heydays) even banged my old Indica – see below (a repost, incidentally – I had shared that photo long time back somewhere else in the forum). This picture was taken a couple of seconds before he decided to first push, and then gently (thankfully) kick my car.

Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-img_4805.jpg

He was shot by a poacher a month back. The forest department tried to tranquilize him to get out the bullet, but unfortunately gave him an overdose. May he rest in peace. Thankfully I have hundreds of his photos – all sorts of poses. Though elephant population is increasing in the Nilgiri Biosphere, poaching still continues, apparently often with the connivance of forest guards.

Can you see how different the tusks are of the two elephants?

Soldier of Fortune: Wanderings with a Trusty Toyota Fortuner - 100,000 kms up!-img_4789.jpg

DISCLAIMER: Wild elephants, especially single males, are very dangerous. And single male elephants in musth are extremely dangerous and unpredictable. I was able to take these photos since I was at a naturalist’s place – one who lives alone in deep jungle 365 days a day. The elephants feel safe around him, so are usually not aggressive there. Please don’t ever go close to a wild elephant unless you can gauge its moods and warning signs, and always have a line of retreat open.

Last edited by nilanjanray : 26th October 2010 at 21:06.
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Old 26th October 2010, 23:28   #78
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Once again, thanks for posting these wonderful snaps from Masinagudi. Now, it is on my agenda.
OT - Since you are a regular, can you share which is the best route to take and which place to stay? Guess it takes you 3.5 to 4 hrs to get there?
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Old 27th October 2010, 08:50   #79
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Easy route: Bangalore - Mysore - Nanjangud - Gundlepet - Bandipur - Thepakaddu (Mudumalai). From Thepakaddu, go straight through the narrow bridge instead of taking a right towards Gudalur. Masinagudi is 7 km through the bridge.

The Masinagudi route closes at 8 or 8:30 PM, and reopens at 6 AM in the morning.

It takes me 4.5-5 hours to reach. I usually take a short break at the Gundlepet CCD, and also drive slowly through the forest.

Good places @ Masinagudi: Jungle Retreat, Jungle Lodges, Forest Hills, Wild Haven (where I mostly stay). But Wild Haven is a somewhat spartan place without the usual luxuries, so some might not prefer it.
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Old 27th October 2010, 08:56   #80
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Wonderful snaps there. Fantastic work with the camera.

The encounter with the elephants would be a hair raising experience.

Glad to know that the Fortuner is serving you well as expected.
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Old 27th October 2010, 09:03   #81
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Stunning pics of those tuskers ! Werent you scared to take those pics? I dont think you have used any zoom either! And were you so sure that the one in front of the house would not have tried entering into the house?

Imagine some one sitting there not noticing the tusker and it places the trunk on some one's shoulder and the person turns back to see this right behind them !!! OMG !! They might die of a heart attack !
Sends a shiver thru my spine when I see the pics !

Looks like you are quite obsessed with black color for your vehicles ! I see the Fortuner, SX4 and now the indica as well - all blacks.

I have saved the route to Masinagudi anyway. Wanna go there once.
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Old 27th October 2010, 09:51   #82
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That is outstanding photography. Jumping the fence pic has come out really well. Seems all your cars are black
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Old 27th October 2010, 09:51   #83
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I didn't/couldn't use any zoom for the house/elephant pictures taken earlier - it was too close. The elephant came that close this time too. But I was using a 70-300 lens, so couldn't get any good shots at that distance. The other pics were taken with zoom.

On hindsight, I shouldn't have come within its trunk range. An elephant can strike in split second, and a blow from its trunk can break the spine easily. I have decided not to take that risk again. I felt very uncomfortable this time. The exit route was a half open door, and there were 4 others with me. If the elephant had tried to reach us or hit us with its trunk, all of us couldn't have escaped in time and squeezed through the narrow door into relative safety - there would have been a traffic jam :-) And we were within its reach. Others in that area have mixed feelings about what the naturalist does with the elephants, and say that he is crazy, and that someday things could turn very dangerous if an elephant just happens to be in a bad mood. I have never taken my wife and daughter there - too risky.

The elephant wouldn't have entered the house - it couldn't, it was too big. But it could have broken parts of the house. As I mentioned, elephants feel safe there (in the naturalist's place), so don't do anything apart from bashing up a few cars. But if they find a person on foot, they can very well attack and kill.

At Masinagudi, there has been too much of elephant-man conflict, and elephants are apt to attack humans. People throw stones at them, use camera flash, use bombs to scare them away, shoot at them, blow horns at them. They have lost fear of humans, since they know that a human is a puny creature - especially on foot.

After the Indica pushing/kicking incident, I hire a jeep to drop me there, and then pick me up after a few hours. Not safe for vehicles to remain there. I know of a new AHNC and a new Scorpio that were bashed up by the elephant that died. Would hate for anything to happen to my new Fortuner.

Regarding the encounters - they were thrilling, but not hair raising. I cut my hair very short anyway :-) I make it a point to listen to people who have lived in elephant territory for all their lives, and also read about wildlife. There are certain warning signs and body languages to watch out for. Especially while driving, if I have to cross an elephant that is close to the road, I try to observe it closely before I will take the plunge and drive past it. Grazing elephants will usually not do anything. A mother with a calf can get nasty - depends where the calf is. A single male elephant is always dangerous.

Yes, I do like the colour black on vehicles. I almost went for the Grey colour, but changed to Black after making the Fortuner booking. Difficult to maintain though - a dusty black vehicle doesn't look good. And my vehicles always get dusty and mud splattered during a trip.

Last edited by nilanjanray : 27th October 2010 at 10:10.
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Old 27th October 2010, 11:07   #84
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Now thats someone using the T-Fort as it is supposed to be. An elephant in elephant territory. Would love to accompany you on one of your "Bachelor" trips to treacherous places like this one. Elephants are my fav animal for a lot of reasons.

By the way, have you used the 4WD yet on your elephant/bison??
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Old 27th October 2010, 11:49   #85
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sorry for posting in your thread , wanted to share an incident about elephants. In 2004 we had a team outbound training at Bandipur after the training on the last day we had been on safari in a gypsy , my boss was a coorgi and had worked in many plantations for many years .He was sharing his experience about estates , elephants etc , all of sudden we saw a group of 5-6 elephants with 1 huge male among the trees, my boss screamed to the driver to stop.I dont know what he thought he instructed the driver to reverse slowly and move back atleast 20-30 mts and at the same moment the male just charged towards the gypsy trying to scare and stopped around 10mts from the gypsy.We all just went pale and dry in the mouth .after this i have never ever ventured near an elephant and my remember my boss telling us that we were just plain lucky to escape that day without being attacked.

And once have seen an elephant killing his mahout at Thissur temple with the tusk and kicking & tossing him , man that was plain horrfic.
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Old 27th October 2010, 12:20   #86
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Hi Nilanjay

Beautifully written prologue.

The opening pic of the Fortuner looks smashing.

And from the opening dialogues, it reminded me of one fact of life.

" Life is a wheel. What ever goes up in life( prosperity) shall come down one day( humility) and what is down today ( sad times) will one day go up( better days)"
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Old 27th October 2010, 12:37   #87
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@devnath: haven't used 4HL or 4LL yet. Waiting for the running-in period to get over. Not much chance to use them unless I pick a real bad trail, which I haven't (with the Fortuner) yet. Wherever a bus, Sumo or Qualis can go (and they go to all sorts of places in our country), the Fortuner can go easily in normal 4WD mode.

@arjuna: yes, elephants can be scary. In fact, I don't walk around alone in these jungles - whi ch I love to do in other parts of the country - only because of the elephants. My first time at Wild Haven, I didn't know that it was so dangerous, and was exploring the bushes near the resort. Suddenly I heard a snort, and realized that there was an elephant in front. Luckily the wind was not blowing from me to it. I turned back, and later came to know about the ongoing man-animal conflict, and crankiness of the pachyderms in that area.

Elephants have a 'zone of comfort' - that depends on whether they have a calf with them, whether they are in a group, whether it is a single, cranky elephant etc. The zone of comfort distance also depends on whether you are on foot or in a vehicle. One is much much safer in a vehicle. If you are within the zone of comfort, it will either move away, or mock charge, or actually charge. Too many variables, including the temperament of individual elephants.

I was staying at another place during a previous trip, when an elephant came to visit on a full moon night. My machaan was 200m from the nearest building/human presence, and I had to call up for help before I could get down and go for dinner. The elephant came 2 feet away from my SX4 that was parked below, and started sniffing. It was about to poke at the car with its tusks when I started shouting at it and clapping my hands, which I hadn't earlier, because it could have easily pulled away the rods supporting the machaan. It thought for a while, and then decided to move away. Whew! The resort jeep came, made lots of noise, and chased the elephant away. But it was pretty upset, because it kept on trumpeting and breaking branches, moving around in the night. That was one scary incident, because I was almost certain that my new car was about to get totalled.

Last edited by nilanjanray : 27th October 2010 at 12:41.
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Old 27th October 2010, 13:38   #88
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Looks like you have quite a lot of experiences and stories! I think you should start a new thread on your travelogues so far and share all those stories. With your writing style, I am sure everyone will enjoy each and every moment of it!

So one question here ! In case we are driving thru a jungle and unfortunately came close to an elephant [single male] what should one do? stay idle or reverse the vehicle to a safe distance or try charging towards it incase the elephant also tries to charge [remember the SX4 advertisement against a trailor] ?

Because as far as the animal instict is concerned, i think its better to hold ground if we dont want to get hurt? Or should we try scaring the animal by charging towards it in case it also charges? or simply back out? I have a swift and would not try charging against a bison or elephant ! Again its for the security of passengers and no fun intended in this activity or not even to scare it simply.

Point to be noted is - this will be a reaction to the attack the animal is planning and how better we can reduce / get rid of the impact or damage that it can bring.

Edit : Just gave you a 5 * rating for all those beautiful pics and narration.

Last edited by swiftnfurious : 27th October 2010 at 13:40.
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Old 27th October 2010, 16:40   #89
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Arnab, agree with your 'fact of life' :-)

Thanks swiftnfurious for the rating!

DO NOT charge towards any charging elephant or bison - it is a game of chicken, and the animal might decide not to play along :-).

Can't tell you about bisons charging, because haven't faced that much. I have found them pretty placid (but they attack when wounded). Single male elephants etc. - if they are standing on the road - better to reverse and wait for it to pass. If they refuse to budge, you can try following a large bus or lorry and getting past it - the animal will move out in such a scenario.

If it is an elephant her with a calf/baby, then better to move back when one charges - they are only trying to make you go out of their comfort zone, and do not wish you any harm.

I am not sure when it makes sense to stand put - I guess it depends on a case by case basis, and needs an expert to answer. Only scenario when it perhaps makes sense to stand ground - if you can't reverse fast for some reason, and you feel that 'running away' will make the animal follow through on its attack.

I know many safari guards go pretty close and seem to get a kick out of those close encounters where the elephant charges and then stops short, but I think it is playing with fire (but then again, they probably know the temperaments of the individual beasts).

Couple of warning signs to look out for (elephants): shaking heads and ground pawing - these are precursors to a charge. Also, if it is hurt, in musth or angry (e.g. the previous car threw bottles at it or irritated it honking loudly) - please watch out.

I was reading a book by a wildlife expert...he used to get charged by one elephant regularly - it would stop short. Only once, his tribal companion sensed it was serious - they ran, and hid under some culvert in the water pipes where the elephant couldn't reach them. It was trying to kill then that time - it tried to reach them within the water pipes.
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Old 27th October 2010, 16:45   #90
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+100 to Swiftnfurious.

Pleasee do the favor of documenting these experiences. It will definitely help more people understand these giants and hopefully the elephant man-conflict reduces.

By the way, I do love these pachyderms.

Last edited by nkrishnap : 27th October 2010 at 16:47.
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