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Tim and Sam... ...will be out of the office until further notice.

Tiger, Tiger

INDIA | Thursday, 22 November 2007 | Views [1228] | Comments [1]

We are now in the north east corner of Kerala, in the little visited Wayanad National Park. Wayanad is a large area of rainforest and joins onto two similar sized parks in neighbouring states. The collective area is known as the Nilgiri biosphere and straddles the Western Ghats, a long mountain range lying parallel to the west coast of South India.

Our base for exploring is a town called Sultan Bathery. They don't get many tourists through here and we are therefore of great interest to the locals who are keen to talk, shake hands and have their pictures taken with us. Sam, it would appear, ticks all the boxes for being a fair skinned beauty and is attracting lots of attention so for now we have matching rings and are masquerading as husband and wife. No plans to consecrate the arrangement, so nobody get excited!

This morning we got up very early to head off to the Muthanga Wildlife Reserve, with the intention of catching a bus to the park gates and hiring a jeep and guide to take us on a safari. This being India things didn’t quite work out that way. Firstly we had some dud information on the whereabouts of the correct bus stop and wasted 45 minutes waiting in the wrong place. Having found the correct stop we were hit with a sudden drought of buses. Undeterred we flagged down an auto-rickshaw and buzzed off along the road. The driver was wrapped up in a quilted jacket and wooly hat. The weather, at 25C, being a little chilly for your average Indian. We arrived at the park gates and wandered over to the warden's office and discussed our options for wildlife spotting. They were firmly in favour of a 4 hour trek on foot rather than our planned jeep safari so we agreed to that and headed off into the forest. Unfortunately our Ray Mears skills had let us down and rather than dressing in the sensible khaki and olive green, Sam and I had both opted for bright, white shirts. The wardens talked amongst themselves and we established that it was either going to frighten the animals or attract them. It wasn’t quite clear which. Anyway, Sam managed to borrow a khaki jacket and I went on sticking out like a sore thumb. The first half hour was pleasant as we strolled through the forest. The guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out lots of interesting things including plants called “Touch Me Nots” that shrivel up when you brush their leaves, frogs, deer, Langur monkeys, short tailed monkeys, woodpeckers, bright blue Kingfishers, red squirrels and some very large spiders (Sam’s favourite). Having left the main track and followed a path into the undergrowth we heard a loud growl and stopped dead in our tracks. Suddenly a couple of black, wild pigs shot out of the bushes and ran off. No tiger this time. The warden told us that he had been working the park for 14 years and had only seen a tiger four times, but that the area was a little dangerous and that we should look both left and right as we proceeded. We walked another 50m into the bush when the warden froze and pointed to the path some 10m ahead, where a tiger was casually prowling away from us. The warden was visibly shaking and Sam and I were both, unsurprisingly, touching cloth. The tiger disappeared from view and we remained rooted to the spot wondering which the safest way to head was. The warden by this point was muttering “Oh my God, Oh my God, we are so lucky, Oh my God a tiger, Oh my God”. Usually you might expect a warden to carry some kind of gun, but not this one. Having decided that it was best to head in the same direction as the tiger he furnished Sam and me with some rotten branches and said “if it comes near then we will hit it with sticks”. The next half hour was a little tense to say the least! Having made it back to the main path we continued the trek a little dazed and humbled that the tiger, who clearly knew we were there, had chosen to leave us alone, a decision which was very much his to make. The final 10km of the walk were spent looking for elephants. We did not find any in the end, although Sam did stumble across a fairly impressive Cobra on the final section of the trail. All in all a very fruitful, if terrifying, morning of nature spotting. If I ever set foot in another tiger reserve I will be heavily armed.

Tags: Misadventures



Hey guys, just to let you know we follow this with a mixture of envy and envy. It all looks amazing.
Our wedding is 6th July in good ole USA. I'm guessing you're running short of hols so we also having a big summer party up at the farm in Manchester. You're invited to both of course. I'd say have fun, but you're clearly doing that. Don't rush back, you'll find it all the same!! You're missed of course. we'll read more soon

Charlie & Carrie

  charlie Feb 26, 2008 6:52 AM

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