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Old 29th July 2015, 11:22   #1
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Default My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

I look forward to Fridays... Friday 2:00pm is usually when I am in my car with my family en-route to my man cave in Wayanad. Ours is a 10 acre farm set in the Western Ghats and it shares boundary with Nagarahole to the west, Tholpetty to the north and Brahmagiri to the south.

This Friday was no different. The presentation on work force efficiency kept me busy all week and I was able to send it out by 12:00 noon. Reached out to my team, and after ensuring that nothing was burning, I walked to the basement car park, got in and drove the 4 KMS to my house, where my wife and kid were eagerly waiting. The TATA safari was ready & filled and off we went to the outer ring road, then to NICE road and we were finally on the Mysore Bangalore highway en-route to Wayanad. As always, we had packed the sandwiches to have on the way as we didn't want to be late to reach the Nagarahole forest check-post which closes at 6:00pm sharp. Thankfully, the road was relatively traffic free and we managed to cover the 180Kms till the check post in just less than 4 hours. We signed the name it the Nagarahole register and started our last stretch of 50 kms to our farm, through the jungle!

The usual suspects were there, the elephants, gaurs, chital in abundance... and after the thoroughly enjoyable 32km drive through Nagarahole, we reached the Kutta side, and soon we were on Tholpetty road towards Thirunelly. Our farm is 15 minutes away from Tholpetty sanctuary gate and by the time we reached the farm, it was almost 8:30pm. After parking the car and exchanging pleasantries with the caretaker and making sure that everything was in order, we settled in. The caretaker came up with a mug of warm coffee, and told me that there were elephants in the field. Taking the torch from him, I directed it towards the field and yes, there were 2 of them probably 50 meters or so from our house, on the other side of the electric fence. After enjoying the sight for a few seconds, not wanting to disturb their peaceful presence, we decided to hit the bed early after a very homely dinner.

The alarm calls of the Chital woke me up, it is nothing new, we hear it multiple times every day, the calls were coming from the west and the calls were non-stop. I sat up and listened, it was already 8:00 am and I had over-slept as I had plans to go birding early in the morning. Opening the door, I walked out to the balcony and listened, the calls kept coming and it was clear that it was a confirmed sighting and not just a false alarm which is often the case.

The weather was good, no rains, sun was out, and I didn't really have anything urgent to tend to, so I decided to go and have a look especially since it felt as though the calls were coming from inside the farm! Changing into my silent walking shoes and earth coloured clothes, taking my trusted 100-400L lens, putting the phone on silent, I told the caretaker Manu that I was going to see what the commotion was all about. Manu then mentioned that he thought he heard a low growl in the wee hours followed by a constant sound of something hitting the ground and he said that it went on for a good 3 to 5 minutes - a point I noted. As I checked the direction of wind to ensure that the deer wouldn't get my scent, I thought about what Manu said - about the sound of “something hitting the ground”, as I silently tip-toed and skirted around the lantana bushes towards where the calls were coming from.

I inched forward silently and carefully, pausing every 10 seconds or so to realign my direction based on the alarm calls. The calls kept coming at the same frequency, I was getting closer. I had already walked close to 200 meters from the house and it had taken almost 30 minutes to cover the distance, but the last 20 to 30 meters were always the trickiest. I had to ensure that the deer didn't see me, if it did, it'd stop calling and I would have no way to realign my GPS on the cause of the alarm. Worse still, if the deer ran off or stopped calling, the source of threat would also get very suspicious and slink away.

I was very much within the boundaries of the farm and I leaned against the large rock which hid me from the deer which was perhaps 20 meters ahead of me on the other side of the rock. The calls kept coming, the deer was not moving and so it was clear that whatever had spooked it was still there and not really bothered about being out in the open. It was 9am, and the sun was up in the sky and I was starting to feel the heat. This is usually when the carnivore, the source of threat would think about taking refuge in the shade because of the heat.

The deer would give the alarm call if they see/sense something that could harm them and the source of threat could well be a Tiger, Leopard, Wild Dogs, Sloth Bear, Large Snake or even a Large Eagle. It would also call if it sees a human close by and since it was coming from inside the farm I knew that there would be no humans around there, so I counted that option out. A Bear wouldn't stay in the same place for more than 30 minutes, it is a very busy animal and it is always looking for something to eat and always on the move. So it was unlikely that it was a bear. Was it a predatory bird? Probably not. When the deer has fawns, and if they are in the open, then there is a remote chance that a Black Eagle would swoop down to try and take a newborn. This was not the time of the year when the deer would have fawns and when they don't have fawns, they won't call seeing a Black Eagle. So that was another that I cut off my list. That left me with the big 3 - The Tiger, Leopard or Wild Dogs. I strained my ear and listened intently at the calls, there was one every 10 seconds or so. If it were the Wild Dogs, it'd usually be in a pack and more often than not, the deer wouldn't wait around and call knowing well that there could be other dogs close by. The calls were very high pitched, the deer has different calls for different threats, the pitch varies depending on what has spooked them, in this case everything pointed to the fact that the source of the threat could indeed be a Cat! Now the question was, was it the striped one or the spotted?

If what Manu said was indeed true, the low growl and the sound of something hitting the ground at regular intervals, then it was an open and shut case. A leopard had made the kill in the early hours and it had killed a chital and now it was back at the kill. You'd only hear the sounds of hooves hitting the ground - which is also called "drumming" during a Leopard kill, when there is a throat/choke hold and the long-legged animal was still trying to escape. The Tiger kills by breaking the neck and there won't be any drumming as the kill is instant. If the inference was right, then the source of threat was a Leopard and it was somewhere close by. Now, the question was, how do I look for the most elusive cat in the world before it sees me!

Nagarahole, Tholpetty, Thirunelli area has a large share of Tigers and it is not surprising why Naragahole is called the Tiger capital of the world - it has the highest density of Tigers anywhere in the world. It was past 9, the calls had been happening for more than an hour and if there was a Tiger around, it wouldn't need another invitation to come and see if it could get a free meal. So if it was a Leopard in a Tiger "infested" forest, with a kill to defend, and the fact that there was a kill, was getting publicized by the deer, the only place it'd feel safe would be where a Tiger wouldn't be able to get to it easily - on a Tree!

Now, leopards are creatures of habit, it has its favourite tree to perch on, regular paths it'd use and regular watering holes it'd visit. Since I knew the farm like the back of my hand I started thinking about the trees in that area that a leopard would find inviting. There were 2, and one was 30 meters or so from where I was standing – large, wide and tall, ideal for a leopard to perch on. The calls were coming from that general direction and I came out of my hiding and inched closer to where I thought the tree was. Keeping all the "theory" in mind, it was worth a try, I moved from one large tree to another, hid behind it, waited to ensure I was not spotted (no pun intended) and did the same again. The ground was wet thanks to the rains a day back, so there were no dry leaves to crackle and give out my presence. I was 20 meters away, the calls were still continuing, the deer hadn't seen me and the cat, assuming it was indeed the cat was perhaps still there.

I remember standing behind a large white-teak tree that hid the tree where I thought there was a chance of sighting the cat. I switched the camera ON, adjusted the lens and gently leaned forward inch by inch and that is when I saw him.. stretched magnificently, eyes closed with no care in the world...

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My camera does not make a clicking sound when I take pictures, the click would give my presence away in the jungle. But after the first few shots, the Leopard lifted its head, turned around looked in my general direction. I stood motionless hidden behind the tree. I waited with bated breath almost certain that I'd see the face of the Leopard looking back at me, from right next to the tree that I was hiding behind, after all, it was a curious cat and it moved like the ghost. Luckily, that didn't happen, after a few nerve-wracking minutes, I peeked back and it was still there, on its perch, eyes closed. I decided not to push my luck and retraced my steps back to the house, delighted that our visitor was very comfortable inside our farm!

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Anil

Last edited by GTO : 31st July 2015 at 13:03. Reason: Spacing :). Thanks for sharing this lovely thread!
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Old 29th July 2015, 12:20   #2
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jungle Retreat View Post

Ours is a 10 acre farm set in the Western Ghats and it shares boundary with Nagarahole to the west, Tholpetty to the north and Brahmagiri to the south.
This line was enough to get me hooked to read the rest of it. You live the dream of many of us here brother!

Excellent write up - it's a suspense thriller. I was so tempted to scroll down and see the pictures of the predator. But your words and deductions leading up to it were too much fun to skip. Top stuff!


OT: Are BHPians invited on one of your weekends?
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Old 29th July 2015, 12:40   #3
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Phew! That was really a thriller - read with bated breath. Excellent write up! rating it 5 stars.

Congratulations on living a dream - Do treat us with more pics of your farm and the 'regular' visitors.

--Anoop
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Old 29th July 2015, 12:45   #4
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Lovely KAesque touch in the writing

As Added-flavour says, you sure are living the dream of all of us!!

And loved the way you decided to let the leopard in peace

Hope this thread gets regular updates.
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Old 29th July 2015, 12:52   #5
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Great Writing. Please do post more photos. Do write a bit more about your farm. It would be interesting to many
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Old 29th July 2015, 13:29   #6
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Wow. Amazing write up. Kept me on the edge the whole time of the write up. I have been to Nagarahole many times while visiting coorge but have never seen anything apart from elephants and deer. You are a lucky man to spot the big cat. I am waiting for that lucky day to see one of the big cats in the wild.
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Old 29th July 2015, 13:50   #7
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It felt as if I am watching Animal Planet in HD. Awesome writing and you are truly living the dream lifestyle. Jealous.
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Old 29th July 2015, 13:54   #8
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Gave a 5 Start Rating. You are a good writer so why spend time on workforce efficiency

Must agree with others that You are living the dream that many of us can only, yes .. Dream!

Please do share more pics of the Flora and Fauna near your Farm.
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Old 29th July 2015, 13:57   #9
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Wonderful write up. Reminded me of the Jim Corbett books that I have read. Thank you for sharing!!!
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Old 29th July 2015, 14:00   #10
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jungle Retreat View Post
I look forward to Fridays... Friday 2:00pm is usually when I am in my car with my family en-route to my man cave in Wayanad. Ours is a 10 acre farm set in the Western Ghats and it shares boundary with Nagarahole to the west, Tholpetty to the north and Brahmagiri to the south.
Anil
Dear Anil,

Welcome to TBHP, what an entry, ever since I had read about your farm, it has been on my 'Must Visit' list.

Believe me, I have driven my wife crazy on how can we plan a drive down to your farm from Pune.

What a beautiful write-up, excellent story telling, reminded me of Jim Corbett anecdotes (my favorite) talking about stalking on foot.
Having such a place is a boon in itself, but maintaining it for all its worth is something worth a salute!

Reading about this encounter just makes my urge to travel even stronger, question is when!

Thank you very much for giving us a glimpse of what lies in store, and am sure you have many such amazing anecdotes to keep us enthralled.

Cheers!
Salil
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Old 29th July 2015, 14:22   #11
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Awesome! The narration is too good. Although we do not have more elaborate pics of the cat, your narration made up for it.

Good that you kept away from the cat and returned. It's hard to resist the urge to be adventurous and go further only to know something unexpected and beyond imagination can happen. After all it's a wild cat and not a pet. Good call.

And I promise you that I will not go even as much deep in the farm you went if you let me visit your farm for a weekend with family - Just kidding. But seriously, I would love to spend a weekend at such farms where things are actually homely (otherwise even homestay nowadays are commercial!).
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Old 29th July 2015, 14:37   #12
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I have read each and every book of Kenneth Anderson, Jim Corbett etc and this write up reminded me the narration in those books. Cheetals calls, analysis based on that was really awesome. I was so tensed on the point where you mentioned that Leopard would have had seen you. I am so hooked to this thread.
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Old 30th July 2015, 10:00   #13
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Amazing! Please take extra care as well. Am sure you do but just reiterating!!

Slightly OT, talking of Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson's books, one book I had read over and over again in my childhood was Norah Burke's 'Jungle Picture':

I recently managed to find it in India after a long time:
http://www.amazon.in/gp/product/8184...=A8CV0RPD7RR4Q

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Old 30th July 2015, 10:35   #14
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jungle Retreat View Post

I look forward to Fridays... Friday 2:00pm is usually when I am in my car with my family en-route to my man cave in Wayanad. Ours is a 10 acre farm set in the Western Ghats and it shares boundary with Nagarahole to the west, Tholpetty to the north and Brahmagiri to the south.

Anil
Hey Anil, would you mind if I also wanted to "Look forward to next Friday in the same direction as you would" ??

People (including me) spend hours if not days at many Jungle Retreats to just get a glimpse of a wild cat/dog and you my friend get the privilege of them visiting you at your door step!!

Would being a BHPian be good enough to visit your farm or should I also reiterate the fact that I am ardent wild life enthusiast !!
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Old 30th July 2015, 11:43   #15
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Default re: My Man Cave + A Close Encounter in Wayanad!

Brilliant write up Anil, your description was very much like the JC/KA books!

Please do write more about such adventures along with pictures of the place!
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