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Old 11th May 2011, 20:24   #106
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Default re: Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon

Travelogues must be written at the end of everyday of the trip. Thus you remember the small details of that whole day. If written after the completion of the trip, then you tend to forget some finer details. You remember them later and by that time it is too late to edit your post and make modifications.

This is what happened with me as well. I forgot to mention one more incident of 16th evening.

After our dinner was over, Abheek suggested a night drive in the Scorpio around the buffer zone inside the village by-lanes. Wife & I jumped at this suggestion and after checking with Gauri who declined and preferred to stay in the room watching TV, we left around 10:30.

Abheek guided us on the by-lanes, nooks & corners. It was an unforgettable drive; dark alleys, no street light, anything could have been spotted. It was mysterious. At one place Abheek spotted something and asked for a torch. I keep a Maglite & a LED torch in the car. Gave the LED torch. He shone the torch in one direction.

And that entire area lit up with shining dots. It was a Cheetal herd grazing. I slowly reversed the car, parked it diagonally and switched on the high-beam. Now the herd was fully visible. It was fun and I had forgotten to carry my camera.

Since the villagers tied their cattlestock outside their huts we expected to see Leopard as there have been regular instances of it taking away goats etc. But nothing else was seen and after a round of about 40-45 minutes returned back to Retreat.

Remember, I mentioned earlier about 8 families with kids in the retreat. When we returned from this "night-safari", the lady of the family occupying the other room next to mine on the ground floor was raving & ranting at the receptionist for no water in the bathroom. Somehow the kid of this family had managed to break the contraption of the flush in his bathroom and it sprung a leak resulting in the emptying of the overhead tank. This alarmed me and I went & checked for water in my bathroom. Sure enough I too did not have water. So I also remonstrated with the receptionist. He said that by morning the tank would be filled as he would shut the water supply to that room and then switch on the pump. With two bottles of my stock of Aquafina, I brushed my teeth.

Finally called it a day..with apprehension in mind about availability of water in the morning.

to be continued.../-

Last edited by gd1418 : 11th May 2011 at 20:34.
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Old 11th May 2011, 20:32   #107
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Rated 5 stars...nothing more to add

Kenneth Anderson inspired khoks of langur and yump of cheetal gives a nice touch
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Old 12th May 2011, 15:06   #108
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Sir,
Seems like have missed out a lot in the past few days.
Superb narration with amazing pictures of wildlife and thier habitat,
Rated 5 *
Eagerly waiting for the rest.
Regards
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Old 12th May 2011, 22:33   #109
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17th April, 2011 - Pench - 04:00

I had set the alarm on wife's mobile and woke up on dot. Since I take a longer time completing my morning ablutions I try to get up a bit early than others. The room was a bit stuffy due to the cooler placed inside the room. Opened the door and a cool breeze greeted me alongwith a toungue lashing by the lady neighbour to the hapless receptionist. The reason - no water. As I stepped out, I saw the menfolk gathered around and both the dwelling units didn't have water at all.

On enquiring, I was told that the pump was not operated last night. I asked the receptionist who answered - " वोल्टेज कम आ रहा है ". I then asked him why he didn't switch on the generator and the answer was - " डीज़ल ख़तम हो गया ". This was too much.

I didn't want to ruin my day. Went inside, picked up the bucket and filled it with water from the duck tank. Completed my chores, filled the bucket again & kept it for the rest of the family. Somehow we all got ready by 5:10 and waited for Bablu.

I remembered that the power cut was from 8:30 to 12 daily. So when we would be back from the safari, the generator, if not filled with fuel wouldn't work and the invertor would run only the ceiling fan. I told the receptionist to get diesel before we returned. He nodded his head.

Meanwhile Bablu arrived and hoping that everything would be in place on return, we left for the gate where Abheek would join us. At the gate Abheek narrated a different kind of ordeal he had to undergo. He slept at " लल्लन का ढाबा " in his sleeping bag, was attacked mercilessly by the mosquitoes on the face, finally got fed-up and slept in his car and was woken up at 3 am by the gypsy drivers who had come to take the first-cum-first get current permits and were arguing loudly about the que.

Well, we were the 2nd vehicle to enter the forest and this time a different route was taken. Super cool breeze blowing across the face, the body felt rejuvenated and a different kind of energy was flowing in the veins. Why I don't feel like that in the city is mystery.

I saw this rising Red Star through the Sal trees and stopped to click.

Sun rise

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As we drove on Bablu was the first to sight this Jackal who was on the side of the road. How he did that every time while driving, was amazing to me.

Himalayan Jackal

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After clicking a few pictures we moved forward and then the vehicle slowed down. Bablu was pointing to a tree at some distance. It took me a while to see what he was pointing at - a pair of Brahminy Myna with the female feeding her young in the nest inside a hole in the tree.

Brahminy Myna

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A few hundred metres down the road he stopped the vehicle again and pointed upwards to the tree and said - Hornbill. Looked up, tried to see but couldn't as it blended in the surrounding. The bird turned its head & I caught that movement and spotted. It was the Malabar Pied Hornbill.

Malabar Pied Hornbill

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By this time we had covered some area of the forest and it was generally silent. We proceeded to a camp where the Elephants are parked and their food is prepared and also the Tiger show is held. One has to register here on first-come-first-get basis and if the tiger is sighted and the show authorised by the DFO, then it is Rs.200/- per person. The camp also has public washrooms and we stopped to use them.

Elephant Camp Area

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We were not interested in the Tiger show so left immediately after freshening up because sighting Big Cat by tracking has a thrill of its own.

Suddenly at one point Bablu stopped the jeep and said - "Monitor Lizard". This reptile had come out of its den and was sunning to warm his cold blood. The amazing part was that even the guide failed to see it. Abheek, wife & daughter too failed to see.

I followed Bablu's pointing finger & saw the face of the lizard and then looked through my lens. How did Bablu spot from such a distance will always baffle me. The lizard was so still that it looked like a twig. No way anyone could have spotted and recognised. I'm posting two pictures, one at an actual distance and the other a close-up to give the perspective.

Monitor Lizard

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It was quarter to nine and the weather had become warm with sun shining brightly. No calls or activity till now.

Pench Forest Habitat

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We were driving on in one of the denser areas of the jungle that a large herd of Cheetal decided to cross the track. In jungle, the animals have the right of way. Jeep stopped, engine cut down and we waited for them to cross over. I clicked some in Monochrome and some in colour.

Cheetal herd crossing the track

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After the last one a Male Cheetal crossed over, we moved further. Saw this beautiful Indian Roller on a branch.

Indian Roller or the Blue Jay

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to be continued.../-

Last edited by gd1418 : 12th May 2011 at 22:35.
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Old 12th May 2011, 22:42   #110
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A little further down the road, due to the downpour last evening, a big waterbody on the side of the road had formed. We saw a Jackal sitting in the water, cooling itself and drinking. This was a different Jackal - it was the one eared jackal or the " कानकटा सियार ". Must've lost an ear in a brutal territorial or mating fight.

One-Eared Jackal

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A bit more away as we drove saw this young Cheetal race across.

Cheetal in a hurry

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Bablu again. Boy is he amazing? That is an understatement. He stopped the jeep and pointed to something in a thicket & whispered - " जंगली कुत्ते ". There was a pair of Dhol resting in the shade. They were very far. I could see them through the binocs. Bablu saw them without the binocs. This is the best I could manage to shoot. As Amolpol said that to shoot wildlife no lens is adequate.

Dhol - Indian Wid Dog

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Abheek told Bablu to head for the Pench Delta. This is where the mighty Pench River flows forming a green Delta. Collarwaali Tigress and sometimes her mother Badi Maa Tigress come here to drink and cool off. We could see them if lucky.

As we headed towards the Delta, this Scops Owl was enjoying the morning Sun.

Scops Owl

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Pench River & Delta

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Cormorant

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Storks

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The time was up and we had to exit the forest. On the way saw this child play.

Mom, can I go further?

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Returned back, reached the retreat, asked Abheek to join for lunch and headed towards the room. The generator was not on. There was no power and only the ceiling fan was working on invertor. I buzzed the reception and asked why the genset was not on. The answer - " जेनेरेटर ने हवा ले ली, मिस्त्री को बोला है. खवासा से आएगा, टाइम लगेगा ". I couldn't do anything about it, but made a mental note about.

Fortunately there was water in the taps. Freshened up, bathed, ate breakfast and rested a bit. At 12 noon the power-cut was over and the cooler started bringing much relief. Switched on my laptop and transferred the photographs from the camera memory card to the external HDD. Formatted the card and put it back in the camera. Cleaned the camera & the lens.

The 8 families that had come were to leave. They went in first for lunch. Abheek came and put his handycam on charge and we went for lunch. Those families had not yet finished. Had lunch and we still had one hour to go.

The Turia Gate was just 2 kms from the Retreat. We called Bablu and told him not to come but instead get the formalities done & be ready. We would go to the forest gate in the Scorpio.

to be continued.../-
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Old 13th May 2011, 12:33   #111
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17th April, 2011 - Pench - 15:00

Peace and calm had returned to the Retreat. The 8 families had gone. They were there only for a day. The Bagheera Retreat was seriously understaffed. It consisted of a receptionist cum caretaker, a cook and his helper and two waiters cum housekeeping guys cum cleaners cum everything. The last two were raw and had joined only a few days back.

So now you can understand the level of efficienct & hospitality.

The mechanic to remove the air from the genset's fuel lines had not yet arrived. It was time for us to leave for the evening safari. Exhorting the receptionist to get the genset working by the time we returned, reached Turia gate in the Scorpio.

Bablu was ready with all the formalities done. Entered the forest.

Normally, in all the forests I've visited and undertaken safaris, the entire jeep would be at our disposal and our seating pattern would be - the driver & the guide in the front bucket seats, my camera gear & I in the middle row and wife & daughter in the back row. It would give me the entire middle row and the freedom to move to the left or right at will.

But in Pench I had Abheek as companion and he sat with me in the middle row on the right. Thus my movement to the right got restricted and the camera perspective also altered. While a turn or curve to the left hampered my vision with the trees blocking my view, it was exactly the opposite when the turn or curve was to the right.

Why am I mentioning this? Because certain photographs didn't come out the way it should have, but the same ones were captured beautifully by Abheek.

As & when Abheek decides to post them here you all shall understand.

While this evening safari was a blank in terms of Big Cat sighting, we had the rarest of the rare opportunity to see a lone Palm Civet Cat. Nothing much to narrate here solet the photos talk.

Airborne Cheetal from the moving vehicle - the left perspective

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Gaur

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Violation of Forest laws -

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Palm Civet Cat or the Toddy Cat

They are nocturnal animals, adept at climbing trees and run very fast when they sense danger. This appeared to be dehydrated, was panting, walking, stopping to gather its breath and then walking again. Initially we thought that this Civet was injured or sick, but then suddenly it reached near a tree and climbed to the top very fast, munched on some leaves and then leapt across the branches. These action shots were captured nicely by Abheek.

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4612.jpg

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Given below is the sequence shot of motherly protection by female Langur. What also intrigued me was the bloated stomach of the mother. Was she malnourished or pregnant again? Normally, seeing the size of the baby Langur, lactating mothers don't get pregnant again so soon. Watch the encircling hand of the mother drawing the baby closer to her body.

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to be continued.../-

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Old 14th May 2011, 11:30   #112
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17th April, 2011 - Pench

The evening safari ended on a high note, elated at spotting the Palm Civet Cat. Returned back to the Retreat. Abheek said that he wouldn't be joining for dinner as he had some other work to complete. He had plans to accompany me to the forest on the morning of 18th and then leave for Nagpur. I requested him if he could stay back and do the rest of the three safaris with me. He said he would take a call on Monday.

As usual, I set about transferring the photos from the memory card to the external HDD. Daughter & wife were busy organising knick-knacks. Everything seemed to be ok - water in the taps, power supply etc.

And then the bubble burst. Next to the Retreat located were three mobile towers - BSNL, Reliance & third unknown. There was a big blast in the Reliance tower and the Retreat & the Turia village plunged into darkness. The inevrtor took over and the ceiling fan and the night light in the room came to life spreading an eerie blueish glow. I waited for the genset to be switched on but it didn't. Cursing under my breath called the reception. I was informed that the reverse surge had damaged the switchover panel. The electrician was called for and we waited.

Shortly the electrician arrived and set about his work in torchlight. Resigned to our fate, we waited. Finally the so welcome "chugh, chugh" of the generator was heard and full power restored. In all this chaos the time was 9:30 pm and dinner was announced.

And then Abheek called with excitement in his voice - "Sirji, found a snake in one of the village huts and caught. Would you be interested in seeing before it is released in the wild"?

I replied - "I am interested and what snake is that"?

Abheek - "It is a non-poisonous Banded Krait"

Shortly Abheek arrived accompanied by two persons. One of them was Sudhir Maskare, resident naturalist, guide of a hotel called the Pench Jungle Camp and Turia village herpetologist in whose closed fist was this snake.

Banded Krait (taken from net)

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This snake strayed into one of the village huts from the wild and a call was given to Sudhir. He rushed there immediately before this snake would be killed as it looked similar to a Russel's Viper. Snake caught & rescued, villagers calmed and they were here at the retreat to show to me.

My wife has Ophidiophobia. She refused to even see it from a distance and went straight to the dining hall. Daughter & I saw the Krait and had a good view. ABheek & Maskare had to leave and they were in a hurry.

Bidding them goodbye, we proceeded for dinner. करेले की सब्जी, दाल, भुना मुर्ग मसाला, चावल और रोटी.

Reached room & switched on the TV. It was blank. With gritted teeth called the reception again. The TV had a Tata Sky connection. Was told that the dish got misaligned hence no signal. Wondering what else would be in store hit the bed.

Thus another exciting day at Pench ended..

to be continued.../-

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Old 14th May 2011, 20:38   #113
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18th April, 2011 - Pench - Morning

There was good power supply the whole night, overhead tank was full with water, slept well, got up at 4 am, came out of the room & did some stretching and wonder of wonders - tea for my wife arrived for the first time at the appointed hour..

Everything was turning out to be perfect, Was it a sign of good times? That time would tell. Well, we all were ready and Bablu was at the Retreat at sharp 5:20. Boarded and within 15 minutes were parked in front of " लल्लन भोजनालय " in front of Turia Gate.

लल्लन भोजनालय

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Abheek told Bablu to straightaway go to the Pench River Delta where a Forest Observation cum Guard post was located. That area of the Pench Delta was a known habitat of another famous Tigress of Pench - The Badi Maa ( बड़ी माँ ).

On the way we saw this herd of Gaur females who were grazing peacefully.

Female Gaur herd

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Reached the Delta, took a round near the river front looking for some tell-tale signs and stumbled upon Tiger Scat that was a few days old. The accompanying guide informed that this Tiger had eaten a Sambhar. The Scat can tell a lot of story.

Tiger Scat

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On the waterfront saw parked boats, some overturned and I cocked my eyebrow towards the guide. I was informed that earlier the Forest department allowed boating on the River but this resulted in a spurt of illegal fishing & poaching. The boating was stopped.

Pench River & Delta

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We then went to the Guard post. It was 6:58 am and we got talking to the Ranger there to find out some information. He said there were strong alarm calls early in the morning and asked us to check out the Pyorthadi area.

Armed with this information we went towards Pyorthadi and in a distance we saw two vehicles parked. On reaching nearer saw one of the vehicles was piloted by Sudhir Maskare. He pointed towards something in the thicket that was at a considerable distance. I couldn't see a thing. Then Bablu helped me - he pointed his finger and asked me to look straight in the line of the pointing finger and said (I've to reproduce the conversation):

Bablu: वो सामने दो पतले पेड़ दिख रहे हैं?

Me: हाँ

Bablu: उसके बगल में एक सिंगल सफ़ेद पेड़ है?

Me: हाँ

Bablu: उसके बगल में जो काला पेड़ है उसके ठीक पीछे सट कर पीला पीला दिख रहा है

Me: अरे हाँ हाँ दिखा और अब सिर उठाया

Phew... My question - how could somebody spot at such a distance a well camouflaged animal when there were no calls at all?

The picture that I am posting below shall give the perspective of the distance. The Lens was zoomed at its maximum on 200mm and this is what I managed.

The Glimpse

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And then I heard a snort that appeared to have come from my behind. In that excitement I had missed seeing this Gaur herd. They were grazing peacefully, the Big Cat was about 700 metres away across the track and they weren't alarmed. Why? They had appointed a watcher who had her gaze fixed on that spot.

Gaur watcher

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4653.jpg

The watch showed 07:41 and this show was to last for an hour. Some more gypsies were seen & heard coming to this area. By this time Bablu had parked his vehicle in such a vantage point that I had a direct line of sight to the Tiger and no other vehicle could obstruct the view.

to be continued.../-

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Old 14th May 2011, 22:03   #114
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18th April, 2011 - Pench - Morning

The way this Cat was sitting, we all thought it had settled down to rest and might not get up. In some distance we also saw some Cheetals foraging but alert. No alarm calls whatsoever.

Till this time we weren't sure which Tiger/Tigress was this though this was Badi Maa's (बड़ी माँ ) territory. The approaching gypsies seemed to have disturbed & annoyed the Tiger. The Cat got up partially with face buried down and then changed position once again as if it was holding on to something.

Faceless view

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4657.jpg

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4658.jpg

And then lifted its head and looked straight at me as I was right in the front. I could see & sense a flash of anger in its eyes. A whispered chorus emerged from the parked gypsies:

" यह बड़ी माँ है ". This is Badi Maa.

And then the calls started - yump, yump, yump. The foraging Cheetals had seen her and were giving alarm calls.

Badi Maa, another Tigress of the famous troika of Pench - Badi Maa, Collarwaali & Baghin Nala Tigress.

Badi Maa around 11 year old is the mother of Collarwaali and she had recently given birth to two cubs who were now 3-4 months old. Even Baghin Nala Tigress has given birth to cubs this year. Thus all the three Tigresses have given birth to 9 cubs in total - 5 of Collarwaali, 2 each of Badi Maa & Baghin Nala and all the cubs are healthy & growing perfectly.

Badi Maa

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4666.jpg

Something bothered me and I looked again through the lens and concentrated on her face. The lower jaw was red. Blood. Was it injured or had made a kill?

Close-up of face

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And then in a flash she turned, bent down and when straightened, the reason of her bloodied lower jaw was clear. She had made a kill of Male Cheetal just a few minutes ago and was catching her breath.

With all this combined cacophony she had decided to take the kill away to a safer spot & hide. The pictures below shall explain the scene the best.

Trying to grip

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4670.jpg

Opening the mouth wide to grab from the neck

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4676.jpg

Looking in anger to the right to see if any intruder

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4680.jpg

Caught a portion of the Cheetal's neck

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4681.jpg

Got the grip...phew..!

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4682.jpg

But what was that? The inner of her right leg had blood as you can see in the picture above. Did she get injured while hunting? Or did she suffer this wound in a fight? I would never know as nobody seemed to have noticed this. However, Badi Maa was not limping.

Dragging the kill

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4684.jpg

Aha, got a proper grip..picked-up and moving towards a nullah to hide the kill

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We all were watching this show mesmerised, not forgetting to click photographs. Then I remembered the female Gaur who was on the lookout and turned back again to see her reaction. With unwavering gaze she was watching the Tigress show.

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4687.jpg

to be continued.../-

Last edited by gd1418 : 14th May 2011 at 22:06.
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Old 15th May 2011, 00:00   #115
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Apologies for the late replies Gurudutt sir and friends.
Let me do justice to this wonderful thread, rate it five stars first of all and then proceed to reply and comment on each of the wonderful narrative postings one by one.

I want to tell my side of the story along with your narration and let me tackle your postings one by one. I will be writing in my comments to your posts, and will tackle one post every day so as to give community members time to discuss on them. I for one, have been overwhelmed by your back to back postings and I feel that the majority of your readership may also be feeling the same and only reading your posts

Request you to slow down a bit and let us all catch up with your frenetic pace.

Here's tackling post no 98:

Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
After searing heat, rains are like manna from heaven; it brings out the best in all, be it humans, birds, animals, insects or plants. And when the rains stop and the cool breeze wafts across, the world comes alive.....................

I mentioned to Abheek that if the rains stop in the next few minutes, surely a sighting would be possible. Either a Leopard or a Tiger would venture out.
How true your word were sire and how well you read the situatuion. It was all your experience that anticipated this sighting. Infact after listening to you, I made a mental calculation of the tigers in our vicinity at that point of time and decided to go towards Malkundam where collarwali was last know to be (which incidentally was also a spot very close to where we wre at that time)

It was your reading of the situation and the collective support from me, bablu and guide that actually laid foundation of this sighting.
Great job !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
When it rains heavily in the forest, all the traces & scents of urine markings are washed away. Thus normally after a heavy rainfall the Big Cats come out, patrol their territory and re-mark to establish their area.
very true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
Now here I witnessed Bablu's skill in staying in the lead, maintaining a safe distance from the Tiger and driving in such a way that you could take photographs without blurring. The time was 5:15 pm, light was falling fast.
Bablu was scintillating and he told me that he is extremely proud of his actions including his retort to the other gypsy drives around him. Do you rememember what he had said to the guys who were trying to overtake him and disturb the tigress?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
Bablu stopped the car and waited and sure enough in the bushes there was Collarwaali moving languidly. Her path indicated that she would cross in front of our jeep. Abheek mentioned that she would walk on the track.
Now this was out of exerience with this tigress. Tiger behavious is actually predictable sometimes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
It was here that I got to see & meet Amolpol, a fellow TBHPian with his 18 month old daughter and a friend.
She's a real sweetheart.


Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
COLLARWAALI TIGRESS - 5+ years old & so called because she has been radio collared by the Forest Department to keep track of her and her cubs as she has successfully given birth & raised twice. This third time she has given birth to 5 cubs (4 females & 1 male) and according to the latest reports has successfully taking care of them. Turning out to be the "Machchali" of Pench.
Absolutely. A wonderful mother. A virile tigress. A showstopper !!


Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
Droplets of urine in the air

Attachment 542915
With you to take care of all these detailed shots, I proceeded to video her. thank you for working in tandem and getting these great shots of her.

Here's a few videos of this encounter.




Last edited by abheekg : 15th May 2011 at 00:06.
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Old 15th May 2011, 09:43   #116
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Thank you Abheek for the kind words & rating... My responses are given below your comments..

Quote:
Originally Posted by abheekg View Post

Apologies for the late replies Gurudutt sir and friends.

Let me do justice to this wonderful thread, rate it five stars first of all and then proceed to reply and comment on each of the wonderful narrative postings one by one.

I want to tell my side of the story along with your narration and let me tackle your postings one by one. I will be writing in my comments to your posts, and will tackle one post every day so as to give community members time to discuss on them. I for one, have been overwhelmed by your back to back postings and I feel that the majority of your readership may also be feeling the same and only reading your posts

Request you to slow down a bit and let us all catch up with your frenetic pace.

Belonging to the medical community, you surely know that for men who cross 50, dementia starts setting in though very slowly. Before I forget my wonderful experience and the sequence, I'm penning it down asap..

Bablu was scintillating and he told me that he is extremely proud of his actions including his retort to the other gypsy drives around him. Do you rememember what he had said to the guys who were trying to overtake him and disturb the tigress?

I very vividly remember, and have a heart laugh recollecting it but "my aristocratic background" prevents me from reproducing it verbatim..

With you to take care of all these detailed shots, I proceeded to video her. Thank you for working in tandem and getting these great shots of her.

The video lets you relive the scene realtime. To convey the same through stills is an effort & pretty difficult. At times I've thought of arming myself with a decent camcorder, but my love & passion for still photography prevents that every time.

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Old 15th May 2011, 11:28   #117
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18th April, 2011 - Pench - Morning

The show continues

There was excitement all around. Badi Maa had made a kill; then surely the cubs would be around and sooner or later she would be calling for them for breakfast. Why breakfast? At 08:49 in the morning you've breakfast only, isn't it?

And sure enough she turned around and called for her cubs & they came bounding out of the tall lantana in which they were hidden.

Calling out for her cubs

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4689.jpg

Panthera Tigris tigris - The Royal Bengal Tiger

Highly territorial and generally solitary, they are seen in pairs only when the male & female are courting or when the tigress is raising her cubs.

A Tiger or a Tigress shall fight till death to save its kill from another predator and incase of a Tigress shall fight till death to save her cubs. A Tigress with her young is the most dangerous animal on earth and can attack to kill even without any provocation.

One can & might live to see another day even after coming face-to-face with a male Tiger but not so if you encounter a tigress with cubs.

You might wonder why am I mentioning this fact. Badi Maa became more touchy once her cubs arrived. She was highly irritated by the prescence of us gawking humans who generally make a nuisance of themselves everywhere and more so in a silent jungle, the noise of the engine of the more arriving gypsies and by the non-stop alarm calls of the Cheetal.

Here I saw another facet of the Tigress. She turned around and again looked straight at me, eyes flashing, mouth slightly open & curled and the tail curving and swaying gently.

When a canine sways its tail, it is a sign of love and affection but when a cat does the same read DANGER in big, bold & red words.

Badi Maa was furious, she sensed a threat to her young and had not the distance been a factor she might have charged. I cannot express in words the mood of that time.

In between all that I had committed another mistake - did not change the focussing mode of my D300 & lens from AF to MF. The pictures of the tigress came out blurred as the AF always locked on to the tree in front of her. My apologies and a lesson learnt the hard way. Let the pictures do the talking.

Looking straight with eyes blazing

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4691.jpg

The tail goes up

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4692.jpg

Tail curves & sways - cub appears

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4693.jpg

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Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4696.jpg

The tail goes down & she calms down

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4700.jpg

Turns back to go

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4704.jpg

One last warning look

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4706.jpg

Into thicket with the cub following

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4711.jpg

We waited & waited hoping the family might emerge again. It didn't, the alarm calls died out but we occasionally kept on hearing the growl of the cubs fighting for food and playing. Finally convinced that with the tummy full, and the day getting hot they would now rest the entire day in the shade we moved further.

Made a mental note of returning back to the same place and surroundings during the evening safari as anticipated that the family might come out to drink water and cool.

Saw this unusual tree that appeared as if it had grown out of the rock.

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4719.jpg

While on way exiting the forest saw this Mother Langur nursing her baby and simultaneously taking care of another whose mother was nearby only, searching for food.

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4720.jpg

Thus ended a very satisfying morning visit to the jungle.

to be continued.../-

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Old 15th May 2011, 21:44   #118
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18th April, 2011 - Pench - Evening

Returned to Retreat from that exciting morning safari, Abheek stayed back at Lallan's as he had some work related to his Tiger conservation. As I was collecting my camera gear, the receptionist approached me.

I thought - Oh no, not another problem.

It wasn't any but a minor issue. He asked me by what time would I check-out. I was a bit shocked, because according to my itinerary, I was supposed to check-out on the 19th after the morning safari. So, I told him that. He said that my booking was till the 18th. It seemed there was a mis-communication. I asked him to extend my stay by another day and told him that I would speak to Abheek and it shall be sorted out. He said it wasn't a problem and extended my stay by a day. I called up Abheek and explained this to him. He said it wasn't an issue and also informed me that he was staying back in view of the morning sightings and that he had managed at the hospital in Nagpur.

What did he do? Did he call his patients and tell them - "please hold on till 19th evening when I return and postpone heart attacks, suffer palpitations, breathlessness or angina"? I would never know, but silently prayed for them...

Matter sorted out, peace of mind.

After the usual chores were over, it was time for the evening safari. Reached Turia Gate, parked the Scorpio and hopped in Bablu's gypsy. Abheek joined, we discussed the morning sighting and decided that we would first go straight to Pyorthadi.

As we reached the spot we saw 4 forest guards armed with sticks & wireless handsets, sitting on a boulder across the track where the Gaur herd was grazing in the morning. That spot was overlooking that area where Badi Maa had made a kill in the morning. It meant that the Tigress hadn't moved out during the day.

They waved us to move away as the Forest department did not want the tourists to disturb the Royal family. We moved some distance and parked and waited, waited and waited. No activity, no calls & nothing. It was only 3:40 pm & hot. We surmised that around 5 pm there could be some movement when the sun would go down and moved ahead to explore the forest.

At a some place on the track, jeep stopped and Bablu & the guide simultaneously said - " थिकनी ".

I was stumped. What the hell was this? I asked what was that. They pointed to something on the left on the ground and said - " थिकनी, थिकनी, अंडे सेंक रही है ". Now I understood that they were referring to a bird and I scanned the ground.

Had it not been her eye, I would have still missed it. It was so well camouflaged that I marvelled at Nature's creation. This was the Eurasion Thick-Knee or the Stone Curlew. In a short distance from her was the male guarding and keeping a general look-out. The male's expression said it all; he was alarmed at this intrusion.

Eurasian Thick-Knee

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4728.jpg

Male standing guard

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4731.jpg

Thick-knee refers to the prominent joints in the long yellow or greenish legs.

Moved ahead and were exploring a rocky region hoping for a Leopard sighting that we saw this female Sambhar looking very intently & alertly at something on the rocks. Was there a predator? It surely was a predator but not something big or else this Sambhar would not have been standing so close and silent. It was a Ruddy Mongoose.

Ruddy Mongoose

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4734.jpg

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4738.jpg

It was 4:45 pm that we again returned to Pyorthadi. Sure enough the 4 forest guards were at their perch, 3 gypsies were standing and waiting. We also parked ourselves at a tri-junction from where we had a 360 degree view and waited. Not a leaf stirred. Waited till 5:30 pm and decided to go somewhere else to look for something else as it was becoming clear that Badi Maa, if she decided to move out for a drink, would do so only when the night fell.

Moving here & there and finding nothing, headed towards exit as it was 6 pm. At a culvert on the way the guide exclaimed - "a dead Cheetal". In what looked like a dried drain, was the carcass of a Cheetal female with the stomach split open and partially eaten and then abandoned. The carcass was covered with flies. This was strange. On the face of it looked like a Leopard or Hyena kill.

Cheetal carcass

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4745.jpg

Jungle crow feasting

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4746.jpg

A tiger eats from the rump, the Leopard from the stomach and so does a Hyena. The rump was intact. So it wasn't a Tiger kill.

Bablu eased the jeep a bit on the rough. We wanted to see the neck area to see any injury marks that would establish a Leopard attack. Since the neck was at an angle couldn't see properly. But why was it abandoned? I scanned the tree-tops to see if a Leopard was sitting overlooking the kill but couldn't find any. Waited a few minutes to see if any action happened. It was 6:15 pm and we had to be out by 6:30. Moved and got out of the jungle.

The next day was going to be the last day in Pench and then I would move to Kanha.

Returned to the room. The TV was still blank. The antenna had not been aligned.

Just before dinner, went to the reception and told the receptionist that since I would check-out the next day morning, I would like to settle if anything extra expense was incurred. There was an extra food bill and I settled, the extra stay of a day would be taken care by Abheek that I would settle with him later, made the entries in the guest register and then he thrust the visitor's book for my remarks.

The remarks were not complimentary at all. Tomorrow was going to be another day.

to be continued.../-

Last edited by Eddy : 16th May 2011 at 13:28. Reason: As requested
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Old 17th May 2011, 22:57   #119
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19th April, 2011 - Pench - Kanha

Today was the day we would leave Pench for Kanha. What a wonderful 3 days it had been - unforgettable.

The distance between Pench & Kanha was roughly 210 Kms and I expected to cover this in about 3+ hours and decided to leave latest by 11 am. The route that I was going to take was through Seoni, on the Mandla Road through Nainpur, Chirai Dongri and Kanha.

The route

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-pench_to_kanha.jpg

Before hitting the bed last night, I thought i would take it easy and get up leisurely. But that was not to be. Wife & I are early risers on a daily basis but getting up at 4 am in the morning for the last 5 days tuned our biological clock and I was awake at 4:25 am. Got up, opened the door to let the morning cool breeze waft in and saw this beautiful scene. The previous day was the " चैत्र पूर्णिमा " and the full moon was hanging on the horizon. I got my camera out and took two pictures handheld.

The white tank is the duck pond filled with water that came to my rescue on that waterless night/morning mentioned in my earlier post.

Exif:

Shutter: 1/20
F stop: F5.0
ISO: 3200
Focal Length: 24.00mm

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4750.jpg

Exif:

Shutter: 1/15
F stop: F2.8
ISO: 560
Focal Length: 70.00mm

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4751.jpg

I also saw a Bolero parked next to my Scorpio and thought that some other guest had checked-in the previous night. Later I got to know that was not the case but it was the owner of the property who had come in after getting to know of the not-so-complimentary remarks made by me.

Got ready, had breakfast, settled the bill and started loading the luggage in the vehicle. Just then Abheek & Bablu too came in to bid good-bye. Abheek too was leaving for Nagpur and he wanted to hand over his second Canon 40D body that was having some shutter issues, to me to get it repaired in Delhi. Kept it in my bag and bid farewell.

Bablu's Gypsy, Abheek's Alto & my Scorpio

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4727.jpg

While I was adjusting my last few pieces of luggage, the owner came to me and asked if my stay was comfortable. I gave him a piece of my mind for which he mumbled something that I didn't understand. He asked me to come again and said that the next time my experience would be great. Skeptically I said - "I'll see" and zoomed off. Time: 7:00 am.

After cruising on the excellent 6 lane to Seoni the Mandla road was a single lane but smooth. Winding through Ghat section & the buffer forest of Pench the drive was again through the flat lands of Madhya Pradesh. Brown all over, dotted by blue thatched huts of cluster of villages, golden patches of wheat fields and village belles walking with water pitcher on their heads.

I had a grown a salt & pepper beard over the last few days and near Nainpur spotted a saloon. Stopped, walked in and asked him to give me a shave. I could see the almost shocked expression of my wife in the car. If I die of AIDS, then she will know whom to blame...

The young around twentyish barber cleaned & washed the razor, inserted a new blade, washed the shaving brush, opened a drawer & took out a tube of shaving cream and then from a small wooden trunk took out a washed & ironed towel. The he got on with his job. In 10 minutes he had given me one of the smoothest shave ever and not even a small nick. Then he proceeded to give me a dry head & neck massage that rejuvenated me as no spa would do. Total cost - Rs.20/- Tip - Rs. 30/-. I had a Rs.50 note that I gave him and asked him to keep the change.

Asked the barber for the direction and he said that on the same road after about 20 kms I would come to a village called Chirai Dongri and on the right would be a railway crossing. I would have to take a right cross the railway crossing and then head straight to Kanha.

Followed his directions to the T and sure enough at Chirai Dongri on the right was a railway crossing. Took a right turn, crossed the rail line and then I saw this board. It was 09:24 am.

Kanha Board

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4753.jpg

Kanha National Park straddling over two districts of Madhay Pradesh - Mandla & Balaghat is spread over an area of 1177 sq. km making it the largest National Park in Central India.

Kanha's pride of the place is the Swamp Deer or Hard Ground Barasingha as it is the only sub species of swamp deer in India (Cervus Duavcelli Branderi) that is adopted to hard ground unlike swamp deers of the North which live in marshy swamps. Kanha National Park has been instrumental in rescuing the “Swamp Deer” from extinction. Indian Bison or Gaur (Bos guarus) is in reality an ox race found in Kanha.

There are three gates for entrance into the forest. The most famous is the Kisli gate, best accessed from Jabalpur and stops at the village Khatia, inside the buffer area. The second gate is Mukki and the last, and most recently opened gate, is Serai.

My safari bookings were for the Kisli gate and my lodging arrangements were at Motel Chandan.

The straight road winding through small villages & huts on either side passed the Tatri village after crossing a forest barrier and then I saw a board of Chandan. Stopped enquired and found Satish, my point of contact in Kanha at the motel. This motel has 7 aircooled and two recently added airconditioned rooms. Though I had booked aircooled room, I was asked to take a look at the AC rooms and if wanted to upgrade could have them. One look & opted for the AC room, brought in the luggage & settled.

Motel Chandan

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4941.jpg

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4942.jpg

The motel people were not expecting me so soon. They were amazed that I covered the distance between Pench & Kanha so fast.

Handed over my safari permits to Satish and he asked me to be ready by 3 pm as the evening safari would start by 3:30 pm. It was 10:40 am and we had ample time to rest & recuperate.

The best part was that the Khatia Gate leading to Kisli was barely 50 meters away.

Khatia Gate

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4943.jpg

to be continued.../-

Last edited by gd1418 : 17th May 2011 at 23:01.
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Old 21st May 2011, 21:16   #120
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Default re: Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon

19th April, 2011 - Kanha (evening)

Fresh after a good rest & lunch, got ready for the evening safari. At 3 pm, I was informed that the jeep had come. The driver was Dhaniram. Loaded our stuff and off we went, parked our jeep in the que at the Khatia gate and waited for Dhaniram to get the entry done and a guide allotted.

Earlier the entry was from Kisli Gate that was about 2 kms inside the buffer. Also housed there were the Bagheera Log Huts of MPTDC, Forest Rest House and the VIP accommodation. The crowding of many jeeps at the Kisli Gate and the cacophony thus created prompted the Forest authorities to shift the entry point to Khatia Village just on the fringe of the buffer area.

The gate opened and we proceeded inside the forest. The road till Kisli is a well tarred smooth road but one is not permitted to drive above 25 kmph. Reached Kisli, already many jeeps were ahead us and an entry was also being done there. While we waited for our turn I clicked this picture.

Scene at Kisli Gate, Kanha

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Wandered around the forest; was not interested in spotted deers & peacocks that were roaming about here & there.

Kanha Habitat

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I wanted to see a particular species of Barasingha or the swamp deer found only in Madhya Pradesh, especially in the Kanha National Park - The Hard Ground Barasingha (Rucervus duvauceli branderi). What is so special about this Barasingha?

The Barasingha are found in total 3 pockets in India! Total three races have been recognised in Barasingha. These are Cervus duvauceli duvauceli (soft ground Barasingha) which is found in Dudhwa N.P. (U.P.) as well as Kaziranga N.P. in Assam.

The other one is Cervus duvauceli ranjitsinhi and the third one Cervus duvauceli branderi (hard ground Barasingha) which is the only population remaining in this world and restricted to Kanha N.P. only. According to the present status, only 400-500 members are left for this particular race.

Barasingha or Swamp Deer as the name denotes lives in a marshy habitat, rarely coming out of water. But this particular sub-species of Barasingha found in Kanha lives on hard ground the same way as other members of the deer family like Cheetal or Sambhar do.

It was nearing 5 pm and light was fading as cloud formation was happening. I looked at the sky with distress. We reached an area called Umarpaani where the forest mahouts bathed the resident elephants used for the Tiger Show. We saw three elephants being scrubbed & bathed. Moved further and reached an open area that had a natural water spring flowing in a distance. The track was above that area. The guide whispered to Dhaniram to stop. What had he seen? I too got up from my seat and scanned the area. And then the guide said - Umarpaani Tigress with her 18 month old cub Refer to my post #: 46.

Sure enough we all saw both the Cats. At that time the guide had said that it was the female cub, but later when I scanned the photographs carefully, it was a male cub. The Tigress had made a kill that morning and had hidden it behind a rocky area. The mother & son were coming back to the kill to finish off whatever was left.

Let the pictures do the talking.

Umarpaani Tigress and her 18 month old male cub

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After they vanished away into the thicket, we headed back towards the exit. On the way we saw the elephants coming back from their bath.

Elephants

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4810.jpg

Royal ride

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4813.jpg

As we neared the exit point, I saw what I wanted to see - Hard Ground Barasingha

Male with a few females. One female giving out a call

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4812.jpg

Male Barasingha - his skin has a wet look because it drizzled

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4816.jpg

The day ended on a very happy & satisfying note. The sky was heavily overcast, a slight drizzle had started and a cool breeze was blowing. I sat in the verandah outside my room along with my daughter. Suddenly a power failure happened. In that darkness I saw an intermittent glow in the air moving around. It was a firefly. My daughter hadn't seen one in her life. She was thrilled. Slowly this firefly settled on a leaf of a plant in front of my room.

I told my daughter to come near the plant with me and I said I would show her something interesting. With a quizzical look she arched her eyebrows. I shone my pocket torch on the firefly and the glowing stopped, I shut down the torch & the glowing resumed. Did this several times and when convinced that the firefly was settled, ran inside the room, picked my camera and installed my Micro Nikkor 105mm F/2.8 lens on it. Asked my daughter to point the torch at the insect. Went as close as I could and with the flash on took one shot. Wasn't satisfied and was looking for a some support that the insect flew off making light patterns in the air.

Firefly or Glow Worm or Lightning Bug (Lampyridae)

Gurgaon - Jhansi - Khajuraho - Bandhavgarh - Pench - Kanha - Bhedaghat - Gurgaon-4820.jpg

Enjoying the cool weather, had dinner and retired for the day so as to get up early for the next day morning safari.

to be continued.../-

Last edited by gd1418 : 21st May 2011 at 21:26.
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