|30th November 2008, 20:16||#46|
@Lumina:Yes of course. I will post a separate travelogue or may be two. I dont want to hijack this thread.
@Anirban:The road beyond Mongpong is a fantastic flat straight stretch until you take the sharp left turn. Beyond that, its a bit risky as there are hamlets of tea estate labours and it is common to encounter a stray hen or goat. Another fantastic stretch is the Chalsa-Lataguri stretch with the sweeping turns, but its more fun to drive slow on this road to enjoy the forests on either side. If you take an early morning drive on this road, you are bound to see peacocks and deers along the road and anything bigger, if you are lucky.
There is a non-descript kali mandir on this stretch between Gorumara entrance and Lataguri, below a culvert and is a very common place to find elephants, who come there to have the coconuts offered to the goddess
@Sudipto da: I have stayed at Mongpong twice and did not face any shooting party. May be I was a bit lucky both time. However, that place does make for a great 1 night stay. Its magical to sit on the terrace as the sun sets over the Teesta valley and hear the occasional Assam bound trains pass through the dense forest below. It looks very nice at night as well to see the train lights wizzing past the forest. That part of the track is frequented by elephants and trains constantly blow their horn and the horn keeps reverbating across the Teesta valley.
Last edited by Saurabh M : 30th November 2008 at 20:30.
|30th November 2008, 20:24||#47|
Senior - BHPian
It wasn't providence that compelled me to shoot from that angle. I had taken that shot with the intention of taking the suspension travel (or the gap in the wheel arch) left after the massive sag at the rear owing to the weight the car was transporting.
The motivation for taking that is a little bit historical, that, we do not have much evidences of the exploits of our beloved Fiat 1100d. It has made countless feats in its almost 40 year lifetime,, but no one, even I am to blame, had thought of keeping a photographic record. For example, it had transported, for no reason though, 9 people, including 4 kids (me being one) to the Bump infested Digha for a weekend. I still do not know, why it was done apart from the fact that it was massive fun, given that amongst the passengers all of the grown men had their own cars! (One of them being an Amby). Even speaking of something, you may have heard about was the picnic we held on the winter of our 2nd or 3rd year I dont recall. The 1100d transported 9 people. It remains on the minds, but not in photographs. This thought was at the back of my mind always, hence decided to take a snap of whatever the ride went through. The artistic angle of that shot, I never thought of while taking it.
Day 6 - Thursday 20th November
Our "Pettol gari" turned up at 6:30 sharp and we were on our way amongst the dew drops of the cold Dooars morning. The 17km drive to Lataguri involved sights of some peahens, a peacock:-
Some pics borrowed from my Fathers cam.
very soon we were at the forest dept office for Lataguri Range.
The silent Omni then picked up the forest guard and it seemed our driver was a better forest man. He stopped at an elephant corridor and we were lucky to spot them.
A baby one and a large one.
Shot completely handheld at full 12x zoom under lowlight (there is a reason I am mentioning this)
We went ahead and went to the core area which was eerie during the day time itself. The charm of visiting a forest is to look and feel it, rather than try spot some wild animals, which you may or maynot be able to spot and one need not be dejected if he fails to see any animals. The sounds in the forest is a feeling in itself.
Savouring the forest experience but in absolute human silence. A hornbill was making itself felt.
We went to the nearby Kolakhawa watchtower,
offerring an amazing view of the landscape. But no Animals to be seen apart from signs of some devastation being done at night by the elephants.
cntd..It stretches like a bubblegum doesn't it!! We still dont have what we are most curious about!!
Last edited by 1100D : 30th November 2008 at 20:42.
|30th November 2008, 21:03||#48|
Senior - BHPian
We soon hit the NH31 again to go to a watch tower and to our surprise, this thing stood in our way, in the middle of the national highway.
We wanted to see the likes of it in the forest, whilst he came to the highway looking for us. However being a lone elephant, this is a dangerous encounter. Our vehicle was stopped a little far from it. So was a Bus on the other side. Both vehicles static. In the forest its the wild animals that have the right of way.
The elephant had a long look at our vehicle. As the driver was explaining the signs of an elephant that is getting ready to attack. This one just showed us. Although it takes a little time to start the process after it gives a sign, our driver was getting ready to hit the reverse gear. But then, the reverse gear won't engage!!
Pics again borrowed from father
The Elephant started moving forward with a little urgency, our driver struggling with the gear lever. Till this point my father was asking him not to venture close, to which he had asked us to dismiss all our fears. Such Non-chalance could not be seen now as he was struggling with the lever.
He slotted the lever into first, rolled the car a little forward. We had little time to loose and in that little time itself, we are not even maintaining our position or going away from it, but rather going towards our danger source. Then stopped the car, and engaged reverse and it slot in. One wonders, what if? (It refused to slot in even this time).
My father sternly asked him to turn the vehicle around rather than foolishly try to outrun the behemoth in reverse. The driver turned the vehicle perpendicular to the road, so that he could sway the steering on the other side and run away using the forward gears.
But then the dampner was that the Elephant wasn't as determined as I would have been, had I been him. The Animal suddenly stopped, looked a little confused, looked left and right, then fixed its gaze upon something in the forest, and then went about trying to chase it. I was feeling dejected, "hello Jumbo, make up your mind, its not sporting enough to abandon your game in the middle of it, you have ruined my travelogue, will not play with you next time, boohoo"
We were lucky that this happened on the highway, had this been in the forest our van would have been meat, without the option to run away. It was also one of the reasons of not taking our own vehicle inside the forest, something our family had been bitten with in the prehistoric times.
This experience will stay with us forever. Even the very next day while we were in the Gorumora forest, the prospect of a loner attacking us, did not leave us.
But at this point let me just bring out something that I have always done with consistency in the forest after spotting an animal. Mess up photographs. Back in 2006 I was able to spot through the viewfinder of my Handycam brilliant sight of a few elephants sandbathing at Kaziranga. Infact it was me who first spotted the sight. However everybody else was taking photographs and I was just watching through the viewfinder, till I received a huge bang at the back of my head "dumbo, who is going to record it?". I generally have very safe hands, but having seen a leopard, the camera just dropped onto the ground, that was years back. So naturally, I did not have the previlege of shooting from the front seat. Even from the backseat, I had a secure support for my arms to take steady shots, but could not manage. It happens all the time. I can shoot handheld at low-light conditions no matter. But somehow, I can't picture wild animals. But this time it was accentuated by the forward-backward Omni.
One of the blurry shots from my cam with the behemoth in action.
Father was busy shooting the video, although that had the disturbance of the racket that was going on inside the car to engage its reverse gear.
We returned to our Forest resthouse. After lazing around a bit, we decided to head towards a place called "Suntalay Khola" It has some beautiful WBFDC Cottages. Its a picturesque location with the road leading to it, passing through Samsing and the nearby tea gardens.
On the way to Samsing
Foot bridge that I did not use to cross the "khola" at Suntalay Khola.
The evening was spent again lazing around. But overall reflecting on a day we will live for years to come. I had heard stories from my Granddad about the exploits of him and his brothers and had he lived just a few months longer, I would have been able to give one back to him. Or was he playing his tricks from up there, who knows.
For the next day our requisition was for a "Pettol Gari with back gear"
But my favourite photograph of the day!! (For obvious reasons after the Tusker debacle!!)
Last edited by 1100D : 30th November 2008 at 21:06.
|30th November 2008, 22:04||#49|
Join Date: Sep 2008
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We were told by some of my father's acquaintances, who stay at Mainaguri, that they encounter elephant herd crossing quite regularly on the Lataguri-Chalsa road, mostly in winter.
Keep this coming. loving it.
|30th November 2008, 22:20||#50|
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The last pic is pretty scary. I would have felt very helpless with my child inside the vehicle. The elephant was almost ready to charge. Probably it had even started it. This is the only wild animal that can kill you even if you are inside a locked car. Did your driver by any chance blow the horn or rev the engine while the animal was looking at you?
|1st December 2008, 18:12||#52|
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|1st December 2008, 20:17||#53|
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Nice exciting thread.
The elephant experience was nice. I would not be scared of an elephant. And the Omni driver was scared to half death.
The nature pictures are nice.
|1st December 2008, 20:18||#54|
Senior - BHPian
But then there are a few things one needs to keep in mind while going into the forest, though I have said this earlier, certain things that have percolated down from the earlier generations, you need to maintain stealth. Which should be supported by your vehicle choice as well. Petrol vehicles are absolutely recommended, that too, you need to keep the revs low, movement slow (preferably low rpm highest gear cruising).
One of the reasons why the Raja's of yesteryear prefered the Rolls Royce as their shikaar gaari is silence and refinement.
However even on an audibly silent car there might be frequencies generated that are out of the human hearing range, but might be picked up by the wildlife. There is no way to take care of that other than just ensure that the owner has taken care of his vehicle and kept it in best state of tune. Something thats very difficult to ascertain for rented cars.
But to say a certain fact, I dont know why, but dogs get irritated once I start the Ikon, although its quite silent to me.
Hurricane (petrol) engined jeeps, even old petrol Amby's are a good jungle vehicles. The 1100d's passionate exhaust note, being a strict no-no there.
Yes the Elephant had begun its charge.
The driver did not do any of that, we were all being silent, probably would have maintained it with dignity had the elephant actually attacked it. After all there is some glory in going out by such a magnificient beast, rather than various unnecessary ways we see nowadays on TV.
However, if I recall, once or twice, the driver tried to engage the reverse gear by force, and there was a gnashing sound from the gearbox.
Let me share another little jungle myth that had been told to me by my grand-dad, dont know if it has any credence. The Forest belongs to the animals. They have a certain hierarchical beleifs while in it. It is absolutely their domain.
When an Elephant or Bison is looking at your vehicle, it identifies with it as a potential challenger to its glory. The glory is unchallenged if the potential challenger actually steps backwards. However, if the challenger maintains position or moves forward, they see it as a threat. An attack becomes imminent.
Even in this case when the Jumbo was giving us a hard look, it was observing if the boxy animal was moving back. It was'nt. (As we were struggling hitting the reverse gear).
Now instead of moving backward the van actually moved forward, a definite sign to him that we are challenging him, his tempo stepped up.
Now when the reverse gear finally engaged and our car was retreating, his glory was reestablished. He did not have any more interest in our van, as we were not giving him a challenge anymore. His job was done. So he lost interest.
Like I said, it might be a complete coincidence that the sequence of events matched up with the myth told by Dadu (Granddad). Infact, my father too recalled this myth and was the first toask the driver to hit the reverse gear and retreat a bit.
Serious parts aside, after all this was over, there was a sixer from my Mom. She said she worships Ganesh a lot, hence Ganeshji gives her appearances and hence Ganeshji would have never attacked her family. We were like . (Please note that I am being forced to use a smiley in this case which I generally dont use at all)
Last edited by 1100D : 1st December 2008 at 20:24.
|1st December 2008, 20:57||#55|
Anirban: thats the correct strategy when you encounter a large wildlife like an elephant or a bison. Its best to stay put and if possible, retreat gradually. From the pics, it seems that the elephant would not have charged at you. He was moving forward to scare you away. An attacking elephant has a whole different body language altogether. This one would not have attacked you.
We were once encountered with a lone tusker at dusk while on our way out of the Gorumara forest. Remember, there is no space to turn around your car. We were in a Sumo and the car in front of us was an Omni and the tusker was standing right in front of it. The driver of the Omni was inexperienced and he used the dipper/highbeam alternately to scare away the elephant. The elephant got angry, gave out a loud grunt, started breaking off tree branches and charged a few steps forward. Seeing this, the Omni started to reverse and unfortunately it had a reverse music fitted. As soon as the music went off, the elephant got even more angry and again charged. The omni driver lost control and fell into a ditch on the side of the road. The elephant stopped there. It could have easily played around with the Omni but did not. Now, we were face to face with the angry tusker. We stayed put, the gear engaged in reverse and revving low, the lights on low beam. This continued for about 15 minutes and the elephant kept observing us. Finally it decided to give way and moved into the forest, but before going, dropped an assortment of large tree branches and left them on the road, blocking our way
It took another 15 minutes to clear them up, which means you have to get out of the car and do that, knowing fully well that the tusker was nearby, watching you. We also helped the Omni come out of the ditch. It was a very intimidating experience.
|The following BHPian Thanks Saurabh M for this useful post:|
|1st December 2008, 22:40||#56|
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Ganpati bappa moriya
I think Anirban you are right. It felt challenged by the forward movement of the vehicle and changed its mind when the vehicle started retreating.
Saurav your experience is unique I guess. You should write a travelogue on Dooars as well.
Anyway, all's well that ends well.
|2nd December 2008, 00:16||#57|
Senior - BHPian
quoting his potential quote
"I see's a boxy animal that looks like this
staring at me looking eye to eye, infact it had two additional eyes, which the I did not note what they were looking at. I have not seen this species of it in a longtime, as it read WB20B something, clearly not from these parts.
I give it a long hard look, giving it adequate warning, this is my area, do you agree. Instead, the thing gnash's at me.
I fold my trunk, a few days back I saw Ganguly bat the last time, so I decided to pay him my tribute with a backlift (trunklift) similar to his. Did I mention that I am a left trunker just for the records. But guess what, the thing gnash's at me back. Such Audacity?
I decide to give it a small charge. What the insect tries to charge at me back. Hmm the matter was serious.
I accelerated my pace, but too much acceleration would probably alter the spinning of the earth, creating a huge natural imbalance, so I just kept it at the optimum. It worked. The Animal started retreating, I could not see its tail, but it sure must have been between its legs.
The Challenge would have been interesting, I am still looking for my "takkar ka aadmi". But then, alls well that ends well"
Anyway coming back to my version of this story
Day 7 - Friday 21th November
Another day of waking up at 5:30am. Soon we were at Gorumora National Park in another Omni. However we spotted this Ferrari right beside our car, picture borrowed from father, arguments continued later as to why I was just watching it with my camera not even looking at it.
Gorumora gives assurance of animal sighting at two of its watchtowers. However we saw nothing apart from an amazing morning scenery of a mix of Pink and green and blue.
a wild boar in peace as Obelix is nowhere near
Thats the beauty of visiting a forest, even if you dont spot anything you still feel great. It is advisable for new visitors in the forest to go there
without any expectation of animal spotting, which is a wrong mindset to visit a forest in the first place.
View from the second watchtower near the forst bunglow at Gorumora.
A few Bisons in the distance
The actual eye visual of the same
Some Elephants being trained
As it turned out, we did not see much from the place they say, animal sighting is guaranteed. As we were on our way back, the Omni had to be stopped in a hurry, a he was measuring us.
Looks like, this Bison was the leader of his pack, being very large. (although the smaller grown up ones were as tall as or taller than the Omni) having been assured that we were not in his way, he moved forward and so did countless others in his pack.
Okay its pointless, there were too many of them, this one's last from me
Thats how forest plays its game with you. We also saw a Sambhar make a brief appearance and go into hiding, so did a barking deer.
The Majestic National bird of India
Just outside the forest gate
pesticides being sprayed on tea leaves in the tea gardens just outside the forest
Coming back to the rest house, our packed bags boarded our car once more, and soon we were on our way to Siliguri, from where we will go to Mirik.
Saurabh M you are not allowed to make any comment to this.
|2nd December 2008, 00:41||#58|
Senior - BHPian
Taking the same Tenzing Norgay statue laden Darjeeling More, we drove to Sukna then took a left turn driving through the Sukna Military Camp. From GariaDhura (10 kms from Sukna) we took the left arm of the fork for Mirik, another 29kms.
Driving from Calcutta, we get the first Darjeeling More at Matigara after Bagdogra. The Matigara road, goes directly to Gariadhura from where one road goes to Mirik and another to Kurseong (meeting Hill cart road to Darjeeling) via Pankhabari.
The road to Mirik has Pankhabari road kind of a slope and many blind twists and turns and for the first few kms after Dudhia (5 kms from Gariadhura) very limited width and offcourse a bad surface. To add to it, the Savari's that come down the road do not honk on the turns, so you always have to anticipate someone coming from the otherside. Very soon we were being tailed by one such savari and I allowed it to pass and then kept at its tail following his track, through the pothole lined road.
Reaching Mirik, the first thing we did was to drive to the Thurbo Tea Estate. Which gives an amazing view as well as a Tea Factory tour, which for some reason we did not get to see as that was closed for visitors.
Coming back to Mirik, we head to the Bokar Ngedhon Choekhor Ling Monastery. Shooting photographs inside the Monastery is allowed. We still snapped after confirming from a monk. They were having their ritual at the time. The sound was awesome. The bass of the drum and the low frequency trumpet was fantastic. It will put the best of sound systems to shame.
view of the Sumendu Lake (Mirik Lake) from the Monastery
At Mirik the recommended place to stay is the DGHC Facilities which overlooks the Mirik town. But in our case, I had made a prior visit to the DGHC office in Calcutta where they informed us that the Mirik facilities would be closed at the time. We put up at Hotel Mehlung due to it having a separate enclosed parking space manned by a watchman.
A map of Mirik with the legend drawn on the wall of Mehlung
The Sumendu lake (Mirik lake)
The Bokar Ngedhon Choekhor Ling Monastery as seen from the lake
A random ruin seen from the footbridge across the lake
Our food responsibilities were handed to a nearby Hotel Jagjit, a Punjabi owned place and the food being real good. We also later learnt that Hotel Jagjit is a preferred choice for various tour operators and vehicles transiting through Mirik. They Open at 630 am in the morning and are ready with usual breakfast orders by then.
A humerous sight seen at Mirik to end this post
|2nd December 2008, 02:21||#59|
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We were not able to visit the monastery due to shortage of time. Did you go to the helipad in Mirik? A few local students told us that Mirik was much more beautiful earlier i.e before the beautification drive started and destroyed large number of trees in front of the lake.
|2nd December 2008, 02:22||#60|
OK, I will leave the "rhino" alone. But, how close were you from the Bisons? These are one dangerous animal and are known to attack without being provoked.
As a matter of fact, I came to know from the forest officials at Gorumara that Gorumara and Chapramari and the adjoining forests are now teeming with Bisons and they have become a real menace to the adjoining villages. In fact, the forest officials are now considering to re-introduce tigers in the core areas of Gorumara and towards the Bhutan hills, to bring some balance in the food chain.
I could not help laughing out loud but later came to know that he was correct in his statement. We need some Sharmili leopards in the forest, so that we can come back and tell these stories.
Last edited by Saurabh M : 2nd December 2008 at 02:23.
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