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Old 29th May 2009, 09:28   #1
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Default Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)

Once a great traveler said “the journey is more important than the destination”, my idea of an ideal vocation was not very far from his thought, I never thought that the vocation would turn so spontaneous even after 2 months of extensive planning and I will end up doing things, which I never thought I was capable of doing. As this was my first major vocation (7 Days) I wanted it to be perfect. The initial plan was to drive from Trivandrum to Ooty and stay there for two days, then head towards madumalai forest and stay in a deep jungle home for the remaining 3 days, but fate had other plans. I was in for some major surprise.

Ride: 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer GLXI
Total number of days: 6 Days and 5 nights
Navigator: Jeni

Day 1

I was coming from Trivandrum Kerala and Jeni was coming from Hyderabad AP, so we decided to meet midway. We were supposed to meet at Coimbatore on 20th May 09 at 8:30 AM and then continue to Ooty. On the night of 18th may I check all the essentials in the car, got nitrogen filled in all the 5 tyres from the new shop near techno park and packed my bags, I was supposed to leave in the afternoon but as the saying goes “in kerala rains and strike/harthal can come out of nowhere” 19th may was no different, there was some riotes at Beema Pally which killed 4 people and numerous hurt(My condolences to the ones diseased) there was a harthal in the capital city. But the time tested trick works, I took a printout which read AIRPORT and stuck it on the wind screen and I start my journey at 10:30 AM the moment I turn the ignition key on there was an ear to ear grin a really wild and wicked one, at the same time somewhere in the concrete jungles in Hyderabad an auto stops (Just to add that dramatic effect) and jeni boards the Auto “Bhiya Nampally railway station chaloge” Auto Guy “Chalege madam” and she reaches Naampally after a lot of spine breaking pot holes and suicidal hyderabadi share autos and Bikers. At 11:30 Jeni boards the train from Hyderabad (recession had affected all of us). I was on NH 47 and suddenly it started raining heavily as I approached Attingal, this slowed me down but I was un-stoppable the grin was getting wider. It took me nearly 4 hours to reach Cochin, I felt like I had to drive through the city (I regretted this decision afterwards). The roads in and around marine drive were bad with a lot of spine breaking pot holes but who cares I was on a mission, that grin was still there, I just missed one right turn which would have taken me to Kaloor and guess what I had to take NH 17 from cochin that slowed me further because of the bad weather, finally I reached trissur by 7 PM in the night and decided to halt there for the night.

To be continued.....

Last edited by pramodkumar : 29th May 2009 at 09:31.
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Old 29th May 2009, 09:52   #2
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I like your style - this has started off more like a novel than a travelogue. Keep it coming.

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........but as the saying goes “in kerala rains and strike/harthal can come out of nowhere”.........
A little (and no offence meant to Keralites) but this saying reminded me of a joke that started after Misbah ul-Haq holed out to Sreesanth in the 2007 T20 World Cup final - "he forgot that there is a Mallu in every corner of the world".
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Old 29th May 2009, 10:08   #3
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Day 2


Started early at 5 AM had to reach Coimbatore by 8:30 AM, the roads were empty so the drive was fast at 80 KMPH constantly. Reached Coimbatore by 7:30 AM, desperately looking for a floweriest found a guy selling roses 5 RS each, brought the entire bunch, and then started the longest one hour wait in my life. The train was on time but each second went like a year. Finally the train arrives, my desperate eyes are searching for her and she knows that, she ducks in her seat to play a prank. And finally the train stops and her seat is right where I was standing. She gets down and I hand over the bunch of flowers to her with a disclaimer “This is the best I could get at this time” she laughs and holds the flowers. I turn into a part time porter and carry her luggage till the car. We sit inside, and we head to the nearest filling station. Then we head to the nearest restaurant to have some breakfast. By 10 AM we were on the metupalayam road. This road is extremely scenic and there are some 14 hairpin bends, that day it was slightly cloudy and the weather was even more romantic. It took us 4 hours to reach Ooty and we realized the mistake we did, we should have booked. There was a rose show on that day and all the hotels were booked and finally we had to live in one of the hotels on the Mysore road, Can’t remember the name (I was looking nowhere but in her eyes she is very beautiful). We took a shower and left for sightseeing after lunch, the lake was beautiful we did a 30 minutes boat riding, we spent some time at the lake and i took her for go karting, while returning to the hotel finally she broke the silence she said ,she wanted to do something adventurous she is not that silent romantic type she likes to do crazy things, so we decided we go to to Madumalai forest the next day, but I know of this thing she got for snakes so I asked her if she had seen the latest Show on king cobra on Nat geo she is not sure. So we decided to call the head of her group Mr. Raj kumar “The Friends of snake society”is what they call themselves, He tells us that there is a research going on in Agumbe. So we decided to go Agumbe. We find out and we have to take the Mysore route for this and then head towards Hasan and then to Singeri and then to Agumbe.

To be continued.....

Last edited by pramodkumar : 29th May 2009 at 10:21.
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Old 29th May 2009, 10:29   #4
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Hi Pramod,

The research station in Agumbe is called ARRS -- Agumbe Rainforest Research Station.
I would like to plan to this place too... i am a big time fan of Romulus Whittaker and his programs on NGC !

Post pictures real quick... tough for ppl to wait for a novel to finish
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Old 29th May 2009, 10:31   #5
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Originally Posted by pramod View Post
Hi Pramod,

The research station in Agumbe is called ARRS -- Agumbe Rainforest Research Station.
I would like to plan to this place too... i am a big time fan of Romulus Whittaker and his programs on NGC !

Post pictures real quick... tough for ppl to wait for a novel to finish
pics are only available for day 4 as of now....please wait till then.
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Old 29th May 2009, 13:03   #6
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Default Day one pics

The pics are for 8 MP nikon camera, excuse me for the quality.

Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)-kerala-rain.jpg

The infamous kerala rains

Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)-dscn1506.jpg

My ride

Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)-dscn1524.jpg

Beautiful Kochi (i sure every one agrees, why its called the queen of Arabian Sea)
Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)-dscn1525.jpg

Last edited by pramodkumar : 29th May 2009 at 13:16.
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Old 29th May 2009, 13:05   #7
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Default Day 2 Pics

The Road to Ooty

Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)-dscn1547.jpg

View outside our hotel window

Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)-dscn1570.jpg

On the road to dodabetta

Across South India-Tracking the elusive King (ophiophagus hannah AKA: The King Cobra)-dscn1594.jpg

Last edited by pramodkumar : 29th May 2009 at 13:08.
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Old 29th May 2009, 14:11   #8
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Day 3

It was late afternoon as we left Ooty after all sightseeing so we thought we halt at Mysore. We started from Ooty at 3:00 PM and believe me the route to Mysore to Ooty is extremely scenic. Every other town we passed by made both of us think of getting down and enquiring the land rates, so that we could build our holiday home there. We were above the cloud line and there was dense fog around us, this made us feel as if we were the only people on these roads, it was magical. We stopped at the Bandhipur reserve and took a 45 minutes safari. Was upset that there were not many animals there, Jeni hates the noise these safari buses create and was constantly telling me that we are destroying their homes. We could only spot some dear and some Bison, which made other people in the bus very excited. We started again from Bandhipur and reached mysore by 7:30 PM and slept.

Day 4

Jeni sees an SMS on her phone and she is excited, her loud yell wakes me up. Its Gauri Shankar’s number, she had a dislocated shoulder and the way she threw both her hands in the air due to excitement made my heart come to my mouth. She speaks to him and hands over the phone to me for directions, I asked Gauri for a phone number for which he told me to ask anyone in Mysore, and guess what he was right. This Man is a living legend; yes some of you have guessed it right and for the others who don’t know him. Hmmmm well his name is Snake Shyam, I wanted to write things like he is a living legend and blah blah but there are hardly any words to describe this man. Well I have seen him on discovery he drives an auto (doesn’t own any more) he picks and drops school kids and what else. So thats all I knew about him, I call him and he tells me to come to ontikoppal venkateswara temple and he will guide me. I have no idea how to speak kannada though my mom speaks fluent kannada, mom if you are reading this I do regret of not learning this language and made you learn Hindi to speak to me. Anyways you ask for directions its always straight hoge.. Left hoge etc…so as you have all thought I got lost, jeni was like we have seen the railway station thrice and I hope they don’t have 3 railway stations in Mysore. I called him again and guess what he is so nice that he tells me the way and also tells me that he is on a call hmmmmm its now getting better we reach the temple in no time and we see a yellow bike coming and standing in front of us. And we see this man in a weird outfit Jeni takes her cam out and started taking pics.

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Guys the guy is so passionate about his work that reasons his eccentric looks, he takes us to his home, there is a red SS80 standing fully restored spot less but reasonably dirty, Jeni warns me about the stench the snakes carry, but who cares I have already booked my tickets to the seventh heaven. The entire Mysore knows this guy and his right arm is literally out all the time to wave at people, he is so down to earth that you do not feel that you are with a person who carries such an importance, his phone is constantly ringing (some snake movie ring tone) and that make me think how much we have invaded into the animal habitat. He tells me that he had documented over 20000 catches and releases and he is about to release a DVD on his experiences, Shyam if you are reading this I am definitely going to order two, he is a one man army he does this from his pocket, he is been bitten thrice, twice by a cobra once by a Russell’s viper he still does it regardless to his doctors warning him about his body being allergic to anti venom, he is the ultimate guy, quite shocking Jeni who is like been there done that all opens her mouth
Jeni: How do you manage your expenses?
Shyam: Smiles mostly my own pocket, some people are generous
Jeni: Can’t you fix a fee.
Shyam: No they will kill the snake, they don’t even give me fresh pillow covers to put the snakes in, its because of by hero and he touches his locket (Satya Sai Baba) that I am alive
Jeni: Any help from the Govt.
Shyam: None as of now
I just wonder how many lives he saves both man and animal then why don’t we do something. I wish I could raise some fund for him but I am just a small spot on the map, anyways. On the way he speaks a lot about how people come take pics with him and finally claim they caught the snake and put them on the net, I was very inquisitive and Jeni was upset with the way I was putting my questions to him. I asked him from why he catches the snake to the ICE in his SS80 which BTW is good. His love for Bappi lahiri and his fetish for tattoos and rings. I can write 10 pages about this guy, anyways we reached the first rescue spot it was a highway dhaba, there is a snake on the roof of a shack they have, and I quickly took a snap.

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All my excitement turns quickly into fears, next thing I see is he drags out a very angry serpent and Jeni is like I will bag it, thanks that Shyam who took the bag from her and bagged it. We then document it and leave from there. The next two rescues the snakes escape before we reached there and guess what the guys don’t even tell that before we arrive. He drove close to 50 KMS and all that was right out of his pocket. I wish some people with heart read this and help him in his quest any ways I tell him that I am going to Agumbe and if he wanted to join us and this is what he says.

“If I leave Mysore for a day there will be havoc”

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So I finally conclude it’s not just the love for the animal but also because of his commitment to the society he does that. So we go back to his home he lets Jeni handle some snakes (I am scared and shameless to admit) and finally after thanking him big time we take the directions and leave, the distance is roughly 350 KMS from Mysore. So the first major city we head to is Hassan, and since we start somewhere at 3ish we reach Hassan by 6:00 PM and then we had our lunch/Dinner, and headed towards Singeri it was pitch dark so could not see any major landmarks on the road and we saw 2 snakes on the road, We reach Agumbe by 9:30 and we see a police check post and a shop. I walk into the check post and ask for Gauri Shankar’s house and they tell me the way. I go straight and then take a left about 1 KM from the check post and I am about 4 kms in dense forest, both of us thought we got lost hence headed back to the last human settlement (Little dramatic again) the check post, the guy comes along till the mouth of the forest and tells me follow the tire tracks, finally we see a man holding a torch about 4 Kms inside the jungle and we finally stop. There were jungle sounds all around us and trust me it’s not for the week hearted. Cannot see a thing and finally we meet Prashanth who was holding the torch, we were greeted in nicely, Gauri was not there in Agumbe he was in Bangalore. Prashanth took us inside the main building and introduced us to Gautam. He showed us the place around. Jeni wanted to know how they get power (typical woman, there were 100 other things which she could talk about, but power?), so he showed the solar panels and left us at the cottage, it was beautiful. Within no time I was sleeping like a small baby and woke up in the morning, really fresh.

To be continued....

Last edited by pramodkumar : 29th May 2009 at 14:30.
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Old 29th May 2009, 15:38   #9
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Day 5 :-The Agumbe Rain forest Research Station

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We just stepped out of the cottage and could not believe our eyes, it was beautiful. Greenery everywhere, I was from Kerala but still I have never seen anything like that. It was mind blowing. We took our shower and went for breakfast; there were some steamed balls with freshly grated coconut chutney, my bad I forgot to ask the name of that dish, there was a pretty little girl brushing her teeth (prashanth’s lil daughter) very friendly indeed. We had a nice breakfast and heard Gautam was leaving for tracking the Snake “ The Opha 100” Or “the patient" (Gautam likes to call him like that),Before leaving prashanth shows us his inventory.

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There are just 4 cases of king cobra bite in the last 4 decdes, so they do not have any local made anti venom, this one is imported from Thailand

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Prashanth drove us to the nearest village and we picked up a local guide who knows more about the forest. The forest is so claustrophobic that you cannot make out which direction to go in. We go to a spot and we stop, get down 5 feet in to the forest and everything is so dark and damp. Gautam gives us a few quick lessons as to what to do in case of an emergency and we head towards the sound of the beep. Gautam is very particular about not disturbing the snake and to maintain a safe distance, he is a great guy, he came to Agumbe 2 months back to stay there for a month as he had some mountaineering classes starting the next month, but he fell in love with this place and decided to stay here till his classes start in late Oct. He also warned about the naxal activities and told us that he used to wear bright colored cloths when he ventures into their domain. We were walking along with him, for a change Jeni was extremely inquisitive, at one point he stops and he says the snake is in 15 feet range and since it’s a rainy day it will be very sluggish and he was very particular about us making any kind of sudden movements, he says it was so well camouflaged that sighting it even at 3 feet was difficult for the untrained eye. And this not the kind of risk I wish to take, it made me happy to hear the beep going up and down every time the snake moves. We were there till 1:00 PM, this place was infested with leaches Jeni donated a lot of blood,

Leach Bit me
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The one which bit Jeni

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I was fine. We took pics of some spiders and some other small crawlers, but Gautam informed us of their agreement with some company on their filming rights and I did not want to breach any of their contracts by taking unnecessary pics. Jeni was very happy and wanted to stay there till the evening and as her dislocated arm was hurting we had to leave. She promised both Prashanth and Gautham that we will come back for a one month volunteer work.

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She was very upset when we left. I decided to teach her driving, as she likes driving a lot and this kind of helped me to get that bad mood of hers out. Finally we decided to go to Manipal and looked for a Doc, by the time we reached there it was late and most of the places were closed. So decided to take her to the beach, she had never been to the beach, we went to the Malpe Beach, the moment we parked in front to the beach, her eyes were wide open. She looked at the beach like a 7 year old looks at fireworks. She was smiling and she had tears in her eyes. To me it was like mission accomplished we spent close to 2 hours at the beach and I asked her how was her arm, when she said its better we decided to hit the road again. We had 2 options either we go back to Coimbatore and I drop her on 26th evening and leave or accompany me till Trivandrum and leave on 26th morning in the same train she is supposed to board from Coimbatore. She says she wants to see my office. So we drive till Cannore and decide to call it a night.

To be continued.....

Last edited by pramodkumar : 29th May 2009 at 15:51.
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Old 29th May 2009, 15:45   #10
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We had invited snake sham to a function and he is just great and a good human being too.
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Old 29th May 2009, 16:05   #11
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Originally Posted by pramodkumar View Post
“This is the best I could get at this time” she laughs and holds the flowers. I turn into a part time porter and carry her luggage till the car.
@pramodkumar,
nice novel like narration.
btw, after marriage, everyone becomes...... full time porter.
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Old 29th May 2009, 16:34   #12
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Day 2


So we decided to call the head of her group Mr. Raj kumar “The Friends of snake society”is what they call themselves, He tells us that there is a research going on in Agumbe. So we decided to go Agumbe. We find out and we have to take the Mysore route for this and then head towards Hasan and then to Singeri and then to Agumbe.

To be continued.....
I would be interested in knowing your Jeni just for the passion and love she shares for snakes like I do. The Friends of Snakes Society is located in Hyderabad,run by RajKumar as you have mentioned. Dont know him personally but heard he is a genuinely nice guy.

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Hi Pramod,

The research station in Agumbe is called ARRS -- Agumbe Rainforest Research Station.
I would like to plan to this place too... i am a big time fan of Romulus Whittaker and his programs on NGC !

Post pictures real quick... tough for ppl to wait for a novel to finish
I had been to ARRS 2 yrs back in June 07. It is a wonderful place. Still have pictures of mine with Prashanth and the place. Could only spot a Malabar Pit Viper :( Still in search of my Hannah. I guess Pramod and me are the only 2 tbhpians to have visited ARRS. You would never feel like returning back to any city in the world after that.

I have been planning to visit ARRS once again Pramod, why dont you find some time and we both team up and head over to the Jungles? Just the drive to Agumbe via Shringeri would make the trip worth all the money. Good to know some snake fans here.

Last edited by princezahed : 29th May 2009 at 16:41.
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Old 29th May 2009, 16:40   #13
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I have been planning to visit ARRS once again Pramod, why dont you find some time and we both team up and head over to the Jungles? Just the drive to Agumbe via Shringeri would make the trip worth all the money. Good to know some snake fans here.

Both me and Jeni have signed up for the one month volunteer programe, and we would soon be quitting our jobs and heading for the wild.
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Old 29th May 2009, 16:40   #14
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Good to know some snake fans here.
I knew when the thread started you would find your way to it.
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Old 29th May 2009, 17:11   #15
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I knew when the thread started you would find your way to it.
Ha ha ha. You sure could expect me where there are snakes.

OT: Btw guess who visited me at 2am the same night you left Coorg? .


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Both me and Jeni have signed up for the one month volunteer programe, and we would soon be quitting our jobs and heading for the wild.
I have been wanting to volunteer for the Telemetry program since last year but family is scared to let me go. Would surely love to meet up with you both once you decide to go to ARRS again.Let me know so that I can take a month off too and head over to the loveliest place ever.

OT: Can you please ask Jeni if she knows any place where I can get a good pair of snake tongs and the approx cost. Need a pair badly here with so many snakes around in the estate.
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