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Old 23rd March 2021, 20:41   #1
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Default Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

Road Trip To the Central Indian Savanna

In the 2nd week of March, in between the lull of the first and the second covid wave, we made a family trip to the forests of Madhya Pradesh. The experiences with the rural folk, enchantment of the forests, mesmerizing roads only added another dimension to our widespread belief about the diversity of the great Indian outdoors. Such a scale of diversity, I do not think many countries can offer. Read on....
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Here are some some photos to start with.

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Some photos to start with:

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Sun setting in Panna National park.

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Our first tiger sighting,a cub, at Panna.

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Green bee eater.

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The dried trees of Panna.

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Sambar Deer at Bandhavgarh National Park.

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A pair of spotted deers at Kanha.

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A beautiful scenery, afternoon safari at Panna.

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Guess, this is an Indian Roller. Corrections are welcome.

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Sambars playing with their antlers.

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Blooms of Palash.

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A Nilgai.

Quote:
Thanks Due!
The wealth of information I received from both Samba and Angshuman-da while planning the trip was invaluable. And the travelogues they have written are evident of the richer footprint. For readers looking for detailed information on trip planningand also vivid photography, I happily refer them to these travelogues! Mine, is only following their footprints, with the addition of Panna.

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Old 21st April 2021, 20:14   #2
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Default 13-Mar-21: Calcutta to Rourkela

13-Mar-21: Calcutta to Rourkela

Darkness hasn’t descended in the great Indian outdoors yet. But the orange streaks of the setting sun, hitting the bellies of the clouds, indicate that the long day is coming to an end. We are speeding through a singularly varied and beautiful country road in the tribal lands of Jharkhand with pockets of villages ensconced by fences, colourful chickens nibbling over mud swept courtyards and patches of wavy hillocks contouring the horizon.

A burst of rain a while back had made the roads wet and the wind brought with it the smell of rain soaked earth. We were on our way to Rourkela, where we had decided to halt for the night. At Jagannathpur, as we left the rural road and joined the main highway, we paused for a tea break at a barely conspicuous chae shop. The air’s relaxed, we feel at ease and the strong tea fires us with bursts of energy…and the vibes that we are on a holiday finally start to sink in.

We were on road trip to the forest lands of Madhya Pradesh and this pause in the journey, compels me to take a step back in time, when I had first read the Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag. Jim Corbett’s narratives on man eater hunting were legendary, but it was his portrayal of the great Indian outdoors which captured my imagination. Be it the streams where he caught mahseers or the misty forests from his winter home at Kaladhungi, the glades, the oak lined forests, blooming rhododendrons or snowcapped peaks, Corbett’s essays left an indelible mark in my young age (and I am sure it was the same for many of us).

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At Azad Hind Dhaba, Uluberia.

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Breakfast.

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Galudih Barrage.

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Subarnarekha river at Galudih



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Lunch break in the outskirts of Raipur.

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But forests are not only about wild animals, they also offer natural beauty. The mist filled mornings, water holes, hills, fire tracks, jungle tracks, a flowing stream are part of a forest. My visit to the forests of Dooars and Eastern Orissa has reinforced it. And if the natural beauty is accentuated with a lurking beast, it does elevate the adrenaline levels even further. Corbett’s days of predawn forest walks or game hunting are long gone now and we know that remains of those days are time bound Gypsy safaris - and so, it was within these confines that we wanted to discover the forests and may be also steal a slice of Corbett’s time .

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Dinner at Kanha Jungle Lodge, Mukki Gate, Kanha.

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One of the rooms at Kanha Jungle Lodge.

Night had fallen as we resumed driving. An 11 AM start from Calcutta ensured the lateness of this driving. The road surface wasn’t exactly smooth till we entered the Saranda Singbhum range. From Saranda, the feeling of eeriness started to haunt! To give an idea of how desolate this stretch was, from this point onwards till we refueled at a fuel pump near Manoharpur, roughly a stretch of 50 kms, the only persons whom we met was a group of motorcycle riders. With mobile towers not working , we felt lost at a crossroad till we trusted our instincts and took the right. Our intuition proved correct. So, we kept going and the hills continued to curve, restricting our speed. A hint of joy we felt, when the curved road turned into an arrow straight tarmac but in a few moments we were climbing yet another hill again. But mercifully this didn’t involve too many switchbacks and we were on straight roads soon.

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Morning Safari, Mukki Gate.

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An serpent eagle.

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Early morning light.

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An amateur attempt at bird photography. Figured out for the first time ever, the amount of concentration required to click good bird photographs. An Indian Roller.

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A barking deer camouflaging in the grasslands.

At Manoharpur Google maps started to show confusing directions so we asked a local for directions. But the road condition deteroriated and we lost a lot of time at a railway crossing. Finally around 9.30 in the night we reached our hotel at Rourkela. Check in was smooth. We were feeling very happy to have successfully adhered to our plan and after a hot bath we had a superbly cooked dinner of rice, dal and chicken curry and were off to sleep soon after.

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New leaves sprouting on sal trees.

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A stagnant river, Kanha.

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A Langur.

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A deer, giving a stare!

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Old 21st April 2021, 20:27   #3
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Default 14-Mar-21: Rourkela to Kanha (Mukki Gate)

14-Mar-21: Rourkela to Kanha (Mukki Gate)

A traveller left his city home in the search of a land where peace prevailed, unalloyed and perpetual. The first hundred miles he drove through the long and wide expressways, the traveller noticed how the horizon broadened and he felt younger by a few days the moment he left the city behind. But civilization showed itself: factories, warehouses, long distance trucks…He continued further, the road narrowed down and he started to see wheat cultivation, sometimes paddy fields and sometimes sunflowers. But he still didn’t find a place that filled up his quench for peace. As he turned a corner, he found that he had slipped into a narrow rural road. He slowed down and started noticing little settlements, palm trees, children playing. Yet peace proved elusive. And after driving for days, he came to a forest, at the base of a mountain, on which he gradually drove up. Woods gave away to conifers to shrubs and then meadows. And then he felt, may be his search had ended! For mere mortals though, such an idea is impractical and I do not harbor or advocate such a thought for city living has its own benefits and compulsions. And to escape that we have the little sanctuaries that we build when we travel.

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Jungle track towards breakfast point, Kanha.

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Barasingha.



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Packed breakfast.

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A tiger and her cubs hid below the tree, denying us a sighting.


This westward journey of ours had a pleasant revelation in terms of the Biju expressway and it set the tone for the subsequent days. And not only the surface and the sparse traffic, this road cut through the hills, hillocks, forests now blooming on a riot of red coloured Palash and Simul trees that indicated it was spring.

We had started from Rourkela around 0715 HRS. After crossing Sambalpur around 1000 HRS, we rejoined the Calcutta – Bombay highway, which we had left at Kharagpur. It was also time to refuel and break breads. Incidentally, as we were to discover later, this was also the first day of packed breakfast and it lasted till the penultimate day of the trip. Wolfed down on the tasty mayo sandwiches and fruit juices. The road from Rourkela offered another delicious piece of tarmac and our almost dozen years old Swift sailed through. A sip of cold drink, a bite onto a sliced cake, some in cabin conversation on what to do next and son raised a pertinent point of having lunch at a truck driver dhaba. And so, around 1400 HRS, on the outskirts of Raipur, listening to the ambling of trucks, speeding of cars, we rolled into the red soiled courtyard of a truck driver dhaba. But the tropical sun, now shining in its full glory served an indicator of how fierce summer would be in these parts and under a tall ceiling fan, moving assiduously, we ordered rice, dal, egg bhujji. Salad was complimentary. The meal was simple, but tasty and freshly prepared.

Road Trip to the Indian Savanna-_dsc1412.jpgGreen bee eater.

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The natural beauty of Kanha.

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First safari ends.

The road from Raipur, initially a 6 lane highway, narrowed down to a 2 lane highway. It was late afternoon, when, we first spotted a few miles from the road a hill that stood at a distance and the afternoon sun now mellowed down, casting long shadows on the savanna like grasslands. It was later that we understood the road that we were on, would take us over Chilpi ghati, the distant hills. In march, after being long deprived of rain, the leaves of the trees and the shrubs on the ground dry up rendering the forests sparse through which one could see a series of low rising hills spreading in circles, expanding till the horizon. A long trailer chugged slow over the steep uphill curve whereas we slipped past it, now gay and merry that our destination was near.

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Pack of spotted deers grazing beside a watering hole.

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Up close.

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A few moments later the deers got alarmed at the smell of a kill, thinking that the tiger was resting nearby.

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The deers now apprehending an attach from the tiger.

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Look how they have on alert, as a cormorant watches. However the tiger wasn't there and they gradually make their way into the shrubs.


As the spiral road straightened out to an arrow straight road, we paused at a little tea shop more to absorb this beautiful setting than it was to rest. My mother was provided with a chair, whereas a cot was arranged for the rest of us. A whiff of cool air had an inkling of spring in it as we sipped the freshly prepared tea and our son: a complimentary toffee. The mild natured shopkeeper, in his 60s, was amongst the many gentle human beings whom we met along the route and whom we will remember for a long time. The pandemic had impacted the travel and tourism industry amongst the worst and our thoughts go out to the people engaged in the profession.

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A colourful tree.

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Termite mound, during a guided evening walk from the Kanha Jungle Lodge.

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Evening descends on the Banjar river.

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Kanha Core area on the opposite bank of the river.

From Chilpi, the final run to Kanha starts. Though a 2 laned NH, the road condition was prime and the around 60 kms to Mukki gate took us an hour. The final stretch to Kanha wound like a spring , exposing the first touch of the forests. Cries of insects cut through the plunging darkness and as if years were rolled back, a firefly blinked on the car’s windshield of the car….we were in the domain of the wild!

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Spiders spotted by our guide.

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A scorpion viewed through UV torch.



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Sambar deer.

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A majestic peacock crossing the jungle track.

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Fire tracks on the either side of the jungle track.

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A jackal dragging a kill.

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Old 21st April 2021, 20:44   #4
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Default 15th & 16th Mar, 2021: Safaris at Kanha

15th & 16th Mar, 2021: Safaris at Kanha

It was 15th March. Back in Calcutta, it was getting warmer and Kanha being at the same latitude, we had presumed that the weather would be warm here too. But here we were shivering in the early morning cold and hot water bags and blankets were being handed to us as we got on to the gypsy. And as we entered through the Mukki Gate (our first safari was in the Kanha zone)…a sight, which I had read about in Corbett’s books greeted us..mist filled grasslands with trees in the distance were teeming with game. Birds were singing. We then spotted a serpent eagle sitting on the branch of a tree with its back towards us. My hands were shivering and often a single, short press of the shutter was resulting in multiple shots in continuous high mode.

A few miles along the jungle track, the rays of the sun was filtering through the canopy of trees. Here, perched on the top of a dead tree was an Indian Roller: these were also my first lessons in bird photography. Next we came across a vast open ground, called the Maidaan. We saw langurs eating tree leaves, monkeys on branches. Spotted deers were grazing in the shadows. Langurs and deers have a unique relationship – whenever a carnivore is in the vicinity, the langurs warn the deers. Around 8.30 in the morning, we reached the breakfast point at Kanha.

Breakfast was being taken at a leisurely pace, when then guide announced that there had been a sighting of a tiger and her cubs. This was around 9ish and we wrapped up our breakfast and headed for the gypsy. The cold weather, which had forced us to purchase jackets, had suddenly disappeared and it had become quite hot. A run of around 15 mins at high speed – theres speed limit in Kanha but the GPS of our vehicle was disabled due to some reason – took us to the designated spot where a few more vehicles were waiting. A tiger had crossed the road with of her cubs and was resting under a tree. She had two more cubs waiting on the other side and hence the hopes that she will fetch those cubs too. So we continued waiting for some more time. And when the sun got intense, we too reversed our vehicle and exited and reached our resort around 1100 HRS. With five more safaris remaining, we were hopeful!

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Lavender coloured tree. First time seeing such a lovely tree.

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Tribal villages on exiting Kanha (Mukki Gate)

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Resting under the shade of Palash.

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Beautiful scenery on the way to Bandhavgarh.

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A pic of the steed.

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Smooth, black tar.

After a quick lunch and some rest we were back at 3 PM for our next safari in the Mukki zone. The sun at 3 PM was quite hot. During the first hour, beasts were hard to spot and apart from some of the deers – barking and spotted – that were resting under the tree shades we didn’t spot any other animal. And then at a spot we saw the familiar sight of gypsy’s waiting in a line. We heard that there was a deer alarm call in the area which had prompted the wait. But after waiting for some time and receiving no further alarm calls, we were off exploring again.

As, narrated by the guide, tiger sighting chances are highest early in the morning and later in the evening. During the daytime, most of them sleep or rest. Tigers did give us a miss, but around 6 in the evening, as the sun had turned into an orange ball of fire, was a sight too good to miss.

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Undulating lands, interspaced with Palash trees.

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A closer look.

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Bandhavgarh, Tala Gate entry.

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Tracks of Bandhavgarh.



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Deers ambling towards a watering hole, as the sun gets stronger.

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At Bandhavgarh Jungle lodge.

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Candle lit dinner.

As evening descended and we returned to the resort, we were welcomed with drinks of lemon grass – a flavour which was invigorating too. As the others went off to take rest, I went on a short walk with a guide deputed by the resort. A thing or two about Kanha Jungle Lodge, the resort where we were staying: surrounded by a dense population of sals and with rooms built using traditional architecture the resort was very much a part of the buffer area of the jungle. Infact, the rooms does make one feel that the colonial age hasn’t passed by many days ago. The Banjar river which flows behind the resort serves as the boundary with the core zone and tigers are often sighted in the sal trees of the resort. And at night, with the myriads of stars that shone above and the fireflies blinking in the forests, the place looked magical indeed.

The second night we wore jackets and pullovers as we dined under the stars – Orion, Cassiopeia, Leo – that we used to see in our childhood. But with both air and light pollution in the city, sightings of stars have become impossible.


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Dessert: Gajar ka halwa.

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Sambar Deer.

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A Lesser Adjutant Stork (sorry about the image quality).

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Kingfisher. Highly zoomed.



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A colourful tree.

An element from my memory here..

One of my favourite movies of Satyajit Ray is the movie Aranyer Din Ratri. The movie depicts the camaraderie between four friends on a road trip trying to disconnect from the cacophony of the city and search life’s rhythms in the forests of Palamou. An honest, simple story with many happy accidents is how I would like to remember it. Long after having seen the movie and its imprint erased with time, a discussion around the hinterlands of Bengal, revived that movie during our Sunday adda.

Ullas-da, now retired, but who was during the 80s, an upright and dynamic police officer with a penchant for travel, music and gifted narration style had travelled to Betla. Of course they weren’t on a road trip, for, not many people during those days owned a car. Two of them, both police officers having secured leaves after a long struggle, right before the Durga pujas, took an overnight train that took them to Daltongunj. At Daltongunj, after having stayed the night at a relative’s place bombarded by plates of luchi, begun bhaja and traditional Bengali meals they left for Betla the next day in a bus that was stuffed to the brim. People, luggage and livestock – bleating goats and caged cocks included and a smell of perspiring human beings and the animals which can only be described as an abominable cocktail.

As they alighted from the bus at Betla, a dhoti clad man, with a worn out unshaven face, came towards them and introduced himself as the chowkidaar of the Betla forest guest house. As evening fell, Rambilas, the chowkidaar set a table and chair out in the open and put a lantern on it. From the small thatched hut that served as Rambilas’ living quarters, a deep bowl of ‘dhowa otha murgi’(the Bengali used to emphasize smoking hot chicken curry) arrived. Of course, as young men, the icing of a wild side wasn’t duly ruled out - for tea glasses were soon converted to liquor glasses and just like a proudly held trophy, the Rambilas thrust upon the table a tall drink of mohua. The rest can only be imagined: two friends without a care or worry in the world, under a star lit sky, in the gathering darkness of the forests filled with blinking fireflies, listening to crying insects and enjoying the hard country liquor.

Forests are romantic and abound with stories of forest rest houses and chowkidaars of bygone days ..forests for me means stories such as these and stories of Corbett which I so long to find!

This addendum is a long digression…but how little stories build the traveller’s background brick by brick is essential to understand the traveller’s view point.


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Gaurs, spotted deers and sambar deer moving to the shaded trees as the heat takes over.

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A sambar deer,as we exit Bandhavgarh.

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A consolation, that sums up our feeling as we end 5 safaris at Kanha and Bandhavgarh included without a single sighting of a tiger. In a recent post, BHPian, SVK Rider had mentioned, he is yet to meet some one who hadn't spotted a tiger at Bandhavgarh - that unfortunate crown comes to me!

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Fixing a punctured tyre.

After dinner we went out on ‘scorpion walk’ and under a UV touched saw glowing scorpions. We were discussing about the life of indigenous tribal of these parts – who, we came to know earn their living primarily through agricultural produce. Sometimes they are employed by the forest department. There are weekly bazaars where they sell goats and chicken and sometimes the village liquor from mohua flowers. Man animal conflict is a real threat in these parts and loosing cattle and livestock to a tiger can spell economic doom.

The next day we went on our third safari of Kanha. I saw my first sambar deer, green bee eaters, barasinghas, game tracks and fire tracks. We came to know that there are three things that Kanha embodies: Sal trees, Barasingha and Tigers. The first two we saw in abundance, as much as we enjoyed nature. But tigers, they gave us a royal miss!

As we returned around 1130 ish from the morning safari, we saw the sight of trees shedding leaves, a strong wind was blowing. And, after a warm send off, we passed by the tribal villages and rolling hillocks. The heat was fierce now and the AC was running at full blast but when we joined the National Highway, we saw dark clouds rumbling in the horizon.

On the outskirts of Mandla, we rolled the windows down and could feel a moist breeze and so we stopped under a tree to have our lunch. The road from Mandla climbs another hill. This was also the land of Palash trees. Being from Bengal, Palash holds a special place in our hearts. And finally around 6 in the evening reached our destination Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge.

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Old 21st April 2021, 20:54   #5
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Default 17-Mar-21 & 18-Mar-21: Safaris at Bandhavgarh

17-Mar-21 & 18-Mar-21: Safaris at Bandhavgarh

Danger looms everywhere....
A wild jackal runs after a fawn.
A serpent eagle screams through the sky searching for its victim.
A herd of deer moves anxiously in the scrub jungle anticipating the presence of a carnivore.
A peacock cries deep inside the jungle.
And the jungle track on which we ride has clear imprints of a tiger that had taken this track for quite a distance.

We have embarked on our first safari of Bandhavgarh and these early events indicate that the signs of sighting look bright.


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Towards Panna from Bandhavgarh.

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Lunch Break.

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Packed Biryani from hotel.

The sun is just coming up and casting its bright rays through the sparse canopy. Bandhavgarh’s jungle is light and largely hilly. The gypsy’s 4X4 system comes to the aid during a few water crossings. Tracks often are over entire rocks. Within the first hour the repeated alarm call of a deer causes our driver to stop and reverse the vehicle. But the alarm call dies after a minute or two.

We then head for the breakfast point. On the way we find a barbwire separating the core area from the buffer zone. Huts and settlements don’t look far away and we see cows grazing near the boundary, making them quick diets of tigers. At the breakfast point, packed breakfast is taken out. But we were tired of packed breakfasts by then. So, instead we ordered some maggi and tea.

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Resigned to the fate that tigers have given us a miss, I started shooting the Palash (Flame of the forest) flowers in bloom. The amount of Palash seen in MP, is enough to give Purulia a run for its money.

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Ken River at Panna.

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Embarking on a boat ride in the Ken river.

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Thats the restaurant at Tendu Leaf Resort, under a giant Palash tree.

A large eagle sits on the branch of a tree. A kingfisher sits on the branch and sings – far away. And hidden in the grasses is a Lesser Adjutant Stork. Sambars are aplenty. A huge grassland spreads in front of us where we see barking deers and gaurs, now ambling towards the shades of the trees. We see parasitic trees. Over the next 2 hours we imbibe a little by little of the way and means of the jungle, till it’s time to leave the jungle.

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The sight of green paddy fields of Bengal are replaced by fields of gold in MP.

The journey tiredness finally tells on our body and after a fulfilling lunch at the hotel we take siesta. Dinner that night is out in the open. Lanterns are lit and a candle is set on the table - the food again mesmerizing.

The next day we go out on a safari yet again but return without any sighting of tigers. We were consigned to the fate of being one of those rare tourists that didn’t get to see a tiger in either Kanha or Bandhavgarh. A little sad we were but there were a number of things we had seen and observed despite not being able to spot a tiger.

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The 'deck' over Ken river where we enjoyed cold coffees with the sun going down.

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The scope of absorbing and knowing about jungles and animals is a cavernous pit. Naturalists, wild life photographers, conservationists whom I have met, read or heard about had been to these forests hundreds of times. Some might have spent days or months in search of a single shot. This is beyond our scope for we were tourists not travellers or explorers – a transient phase in the life of the jungle. And whereas this disappointment was real, the lack of a sighting was not unnatural.

And so, with only one safari remaining I focused all my energies photographing the flaming red Palash trees that we saw that day on the way to Panna, a journey of 220 kms which was polished off in 4.5 hrs.

Last edited by sayakc : 5th June 2021 at 13:02.
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Old 21st April 2021, 21:02   #6
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Default 19th Mar, 2021: Stay at Tendu Leaf Resort and Safari at Panna

19th Mar, 2021: Stay at Tendu Leaf Resort and Safari at Panna

Let a word or two be said about the past evening as we reached Tendu Leaf Jungle resort located on the banks of the Ken river. After an outdoor, yet private shower, we freshened up and went to the deck, as we saw the sky turn orange and the Ken River flowing idly. Glasses of cold coffee with ice cream and home baked cookies were served and the gentle breeze blowing across the deck was tinted with some sadness: the end of the trip was near. Tendu Leaf’s opulent log hut style accommodation was an addiction for us. And along with that was the made to order food menu.

We had booked a morning safari the next day. But given our poor luck we opted out thinking that lets try the afternoon safari. So that morning we went on a boat ride in the Ken River and picked up some essentials from the nearby grocery stores, since we were leaving for Calcutta next morning.

Panna doesn’t have much fanfare. Pre-bookings aren’t required nor are there long queues. Expectations are low and tourists haven’t taken a fancy to it. So, we swam with the tide and changed the telephoto lens affixed to the camera with the wide angle lens.

Panna is even more sparse and one can see long distances straight through. Grasslands are dominant and all the trees are leafless, arid and barren. And with the fire tracks that had turned black with sooth, it looked as if it was struck by a natural calamity. And within this ruin, we saw monkeys, langurs, sambars and deers.

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Entering Panna through the Madla Gate. The dried forests and vegetation and sparse growth really unique when compared to Kanha and Bandhavgarh.



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This deer probably saw or heard something and remained alert. The guide said it was probably a leopard and so we stayed stationary for sometime. Finally not being able to spot anything we moved off.



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Without tigers, I was busy photographing the varied topography.


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Ken River.



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A watering hole.

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Dried grasses, around 5 foot high.

But perspectives change. And through the barren trees we got a glimpse of the Ken River. And on the opposite side saw emerald green trees. Rocks jutted out from the river bed…and then we caught a view of a long, slow turn of the river that seemed to be coloured almost green…and reigning over this landscape was a slow burning sun..

The Gypsy then took a hilly tract and we were climbing higher. The Ken river which was at quite a distance was flowing beside us now…and then in the distance we saw another stationary vehicle with its occupants pointing towards something.

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It didn’t take us long to realize. Oh boy! And behold a male tiger cub drinking water after its afternoon siesta from the opposite bank of the Ken river. This was the sixth and last safari and it made sense for all of us now. He stayed there for 30 mins, resting and drinking water and finally moved into the bushes. We stayed at the same spot for may be around 10 mins more hoping that the cub will make another entry when a barking of deer alerted us. So we moved a few metres behind and lo, behold the mother. She stayed there for an hour but the distance was too much for a good photo. It growled and looked as if flies were disturbing it. On the banks of the river now came deers and then a peacock with the plumes spread. And all of these were within a 100 metres diameter almost like an opera. Finally as darkness started to take over, the tiger walked away into the bushes.

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We took a hilly tract and were climbing higher. The Ken river flowing beside us when we see another vehicle stationary. Oh boy! And behold a tiger cub drinking water after the afternoon siesta from the opposite bank of the Ken river. This was the 6th and last safari and it made sense for all of us now.

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Looking up and playing antics.

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He stayed there for 30 mins, resting and drinking water and finally moved into the bushes.

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The beauty of Panna lies in its landscape, green forests and a wide river cutting through it.

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We stayed at the same spot for may be around 10 mins more hoping that the cub will make another entry when a barking of deer alerted the guide. We moved a few metres behind and lo, behold the mother. Highly zoomed - apologies about the quality.

The gypsy driver narrated to us the story of an old British couple who had visited Kanha and Bandhavgarh but couldn’t sight a tiger but in their only safari at Panna, when they finally saw a tiger roaming in the wild, the lady was especially choked with emotion. This was something that we could completely relate to. The desire to take close up photos of tigers still remains, but sighting a tiger in its natural habit is something we had finally accomplished.

As if, nature’s bounty wasn’t complete yet. While returning, we saw the most picturesque sunset. A serpent eagle perched on a branch. And sambars were locking their antlers. A barking deer strayed in open grassland and from its movement it looked as if it was highly alarmed due to some reason. The guide suggested the presence of a leopard in that area and we knew it was true because we met another group of tourist who had sighted a leopard the previous day in the same area. That night was a celebration for us but before that we finished packing our bags so that we lose no time in our return journey.


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She stayed there for an hour but the distance was too much for a good photo. It growled and looked as if flies were disturbing it. Finally as darkness started to take over, it walked away into the bushes.

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And then we retrace our path.

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When we see these sambar deers playing with their antlers.

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And witness the most beautiful sunset of our lives.

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Old 21st April 2021, 21:09   #7
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Default 20th & 21st Mar, 2021: Return to Calcutta with a stop at Dhanbad

20th & 21st Mar, 2021: Return to Calcutta with a stop at Dhanbad

Writing the last few lines is also the toughest because it can be wrapped up in a single sentence. But I choose not to do so for multiple reasons – the primary one being it’s going to be a long break before I can come up with another travelogue. So, on the morning of 20th March, around 0630 HRS as we checked out from Tendu Leaf Jungle Resort our trip was unofficially over and the only bit remaining was the transit back to Calcutta. Route suggested by the locals and Google was Panna – Allahabad – Varanasi – Calcutta. The hotel had packed breakfast for us yet again and whereas the others had their share, I wasn’t going to have any of it, I swore.

Around 1000 HRS we drove down to a dhaba where I had Aloo Parantha and tea. It was lip smacking and fired up my senses. As we entered Allahabad, traffic was dense and unruly. But as we exited to the Allahabad – Varanasi expressway things changed. A delicious piece of tarmac unfolded. As we reached Varanasi a huge traffic jam ensued and the road surface deteriorated too. We had lunch at one of the highway restaurants.


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A close look at a serpent eagle.

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The sunset kept getting better.

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And better.

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Contrast of colours.

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We decided to travel as near as possible to Calcutta. And with that in mind, Dhanbad was determined to be the place for overnight stay. This was the first time I was driving on NH 2 and I am not sure whether it was night with poor visibility that influenced my conclusion that the road surface was very poor. We booked Hotel Vivana over the phone. Good thing, it was right on the highway. We reached around 2300 HRS.

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A nilgai.

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Next day as we drive from Panna to Dhanbad, we stop at a dhaba.

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To savour the most tasty aloo paranthas and dal fry.

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Quirky post on the wall of the tandoor.

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Mandatory stop at Hindusthan Hotel for a Sunday lunch of Kosha Mangsho .

The next day we left leisurely at 1000 HRS and with a lunch break at Hotel Hindustan we were back home around 1600 HRS. Of course we packed some Butter Chicken, Biryani, Rosogolla and Mishti Doi. And that’s how our trip ended. And all we have now are some incredible memories!!

Trip Advisor Reviews:
1. Radhika Regency, Rourkela
2.Kanha Jungle Lodge
3.Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge
4.Tendu Leaf Jungle Resort, Panna
5.Hotel Vivana, Dhanbad


Thanks for reading.

* * *

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Old 7th June 2021, 06:55   #8
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Default Re: Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!

Will go to our homepage this week
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Old 8th June 2021, 00:43   #9
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Default Re: Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

I am glad that after doing some pretty random stuff through the day, I went through the delightful post of your’s Sayak. Such vivid details of a wonderful journey through the jungles and some superlative pictures including some astounding pictures of sunset. The food pictures, as always are drool worthy. It was equally fantastic to see the Palash flowers, for which Purulia has now become an annual pilgrimage for many during the early part of summers.

MP has been the favourite hunting ground this year for Calcutta BHPians and I now know the reason. And yes, tiger sighting in Bandhavgarh can wait I guess, for we will get to read another lovely log from you next time you decide to visit. Thanks for sharing this brilliant write up, made my otherwise mundane day !!

Keep travelling and I hope we all get to drive on the good roads again, pretty soon. You have a way with the words, loved the narration.

Regards,
Abhishek.

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Old 8th June 2021, 19:35   #10
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Default Re: Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

I was waiting for this travelogue to come up! Beautifully done. Rated 5*

Even though you have missed out on sighting a tiger at Kanha & Bandhavgarh, the pictures itself portrays how good the safaris were & Panna overcompensated it with two beautiful sightings.

Just like Himalaya, jungles are addictive too. The silence, the beauty, the thrill of sighting animals inside a reserve forest is what I always crave for.

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Old 9th June 2021, 18:48   #11
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Default Re: Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

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Originally Posted by sayakc View Post

The next day we go out on a safari yet again but return without any sighting of tigers. We were consigned to the fate of being one of those rare tourists that didn’t get to see a tiger in either Kanha or Bandhavgarh. A little sad we were but there were a number of things we had seen and observed despite not being able to spot a tiger.
Nice and detailed writeup sayakc. Glad you could spot the big cat in Panna.
One thing i have learnt in many years of visiting these famous parks is never to get disappointed if there are no cat sightings. Law of averages will surely play out at some point. At one point i went almost 9 safaris (Kanha & Bandhavgarh combined) without a single bit cat sighting. Law of averages finally worked in my favour and my last trip to Kanha (Mar 2021) resulted in 9 tiger sightings.

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Just like Himalaya, jungles are addictive too. The silence, the beauty, the thrill of sighting animals inside a reserve forest is what I always crave for.
Cannot agree more with Samba. Jungles are extremely addictive. There does'nt exist any therapy for de-addiction
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Old 10th June 2021, 23:06   #12
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Default Re: Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

What a delightfully wonderful narrative with absolutely the right recipe of words and visual cues Reading this makes me yearn to be on the road again !

As Samba has so aptly put it , jungles are equally addictive as the Himalayas . No doubt you will be back for many such beautiful adventures and bag more than a fare share of the majestic cats.

A small anecdote : During our safaris on the lookout for big cats - each of our guides went on to stress the fact that we should be there during the summers , apparently all the cats just line up at the waterholes awaiting the Gypsies. Possibly you might have heard just the opposite during your "hunt".
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Old 11th June 2021, 22:51   #13
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Default Re: Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

This is indeed another beautiful travelogue from the 'tiger heartland' of India! Although I am yet to visit Panna, thanks to your superb narration, I can finally experience a piece of the magnificent forest. Encounters with the big cat are moments that we cherish forever and I am happy to read that you got 'the' sighting that takes a jungle safari to a whole new level ! The landscape shots are terrific and the sunset picture looks like it belongs with the frames of 'The Lion King' movie. Thanks for sharing sayakc !
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Old 13th June 2021, 11:25   #14
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Sayak, firstly I would like to apologise to you for reading your travelogue late. Finally took out time on a Sunday and sat down with a cup of tea to relish your write up and what a travelogue it has been. Simply stand mesmerised by your writing which seems like poetry punctuated with breath-taking pictures of the great Indian wilderness. As if i could sense the joy you experienced while travelling, there was a constant smile on my face while reading. Rating a well deserved 5 stars. Keep munching miles and keep exploring brother.
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Old 13th June 2021, 17:44   #15
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Default Re: Road Trip to the Indian Savanna

Thank you Abhishek! I am hoping that the roads will open up again for us now and we can explore the greeneries of India yet again.
P.S. - A tired body and oversleeping meant that I had to give our Maharani breakfast a miss today. But, will be there next time around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ABHI_1512 View Post
I am glad that after doing some pretty random stuff through the day, I went through the delightful post of your’s Sayak. Such vivid details of a wonderful journey through the jungles and some superlative pictures including some astounding pictures of sunset. The food pictures, as always are drool worthy. It was equally fantastic to see the Palash flowers, for which Purulia has now become an annual pilgrimage for many during the early part of summers.
Thank you Samba and Angshuman-da! Like I have mentioned, the detailed threads that you had shared last year, set the standards. And thanks for all the help during the planning phase which ensured that the trip went perfect. I believe the lure of the hills will be calling yet again soon and we will see you both back on the roads!

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Originally Posted by Samba View Post
I was waiting for this travelogue to come up! Beautifully done. Rated 5*....Just like Himalaya, jungles are addictive too. The silence, the beauty, the thrill of sighting animals inside a reserve forest is what I always crave for.
Yes, dada - for us they mentioned winters are the best time to visit . Possibly tricks of the trade!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DriveTrain View Post
What a delightfully wonderful narrative with absolutely the right recipe of words and visual cues Reading this makes me yearn to be on the road again !..A small anecdote : During our safaris on the lookout for big cats - each of our guides went on to stress the fact that we should be there during the summers , apparently all the cats just line up at the waterholes awaiting the Gypsies. Possibly you might have heard just the opposite during your "hunt".
You are right Ramnath! Believe me when I saw travelogues from fellow travellers i.e. Samba or DriveTrain I felt that tiger sighting can be taken for granted. But really its not so. Lets hope that we get to visit these parks yet again for these animals have a grace and would like to capture that on the camera,

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Originally Posted by ramnath_77 View Post
Nice and detailed writeup sayakc. Glad you could spot the big cat in Panna.
One thing i have learnt in many years of visiting these famous parks is never to get disappointed if there are no cat sightings. Law of averages will surely play out at some point.
Thank you Atreya, glad that you liked it! We had originally planned to visit Pench - Kanha - Bandhavgarh. But it was late Feb and Pench, bordering Maharastra was experiencing the start of the second wave. Good that we dropped it and selected Panna for the natural beauty increases manifold due to the emerald green forests and the Ken river that cuts through it.

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Originally Posted by turboNath View Post
This is indeed another beautiful travelogue from the 'tiger heartland' of India! Although I am yet to visit Panna, thanks to your superb narration, I can finally experience a piece of the magnificent forest. Encounters with the big cat are moments that we cherish forever and I am happy to read that you got 'the' sighting that takes a jungle safari to a whole new level ! The landscape shots are terrific and the sunset picture looks like it belongs with the frames of 'The Lion King' movie. Thanks for sharing sayakc !
Supratim-da, many thanks for the nice words you shared! On the other hand side, whereas the travelling opportunities are quite less now, but if you do venture out of the city, then do share the trip report. I love the flow of your pen. Even now, sometimes I revisit your Darjeeling travelogue - it was simply awesome.

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Originally Posted by Safedriver76 View Post
Sayak, firstly I would like to apologise to you for reading your travelogue late. Finally took out time on a Sunday and sat down with a cup of tea to relish your write up and what a travelogue it has been. Simply stand mesmerised by your writing which seems like poetry punctuated with breath-taking pictures of the great Indian wilderness....
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