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Kanha Diaries Part 2: Lessons from the Jungle

“He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survive.”  –
Jack London, The Call of the Wild

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Today we’ll travel back to Kanha and discover fresh new pages from my Kanha Diaries. If you have read Kanha Diaries Part 1, you will vouch for the surreal moments and the uninterrupted adventures had. You would possibly want to know more about our preceeding adventures in the wild. Come, let’s tread the forest trails together, again! 

Kanha was already proving to be more than just exciting. Our stay at the Kanha Earth Lodge had left us feeling warm and fuzzy; regaling in a relaxed home, away from home. An experience that possibly might give home stays competition, in my scheme of things. Just saying! Without much ado, I take you to Day 4.

Day 4: Accepting the Laws of the Jungle

Safari Stories

An adrenaline pumping, endorphins inducing jungle safari awaited us once again. After all Day 3 was not enough to satiate our souls and the possibilities of new adventures and new discoveries enticed us. Adventures that synched up with the Laws of the Jungle. Waking up at 4 A.M., yet again; with a spring on our feet was to be expected by now.

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Mi Familia

Our family of four cruised through the fringe forests, to arrive at the Sarahi zone; in time for another heart thumping escapade. We had not been forewarned of chance encounters that could be predictably unpredictable. We were accompanied by Samrat, Pugdundee Safari’s young, talented, naturalist bursting with beans and armed with a knowledge bank. Suraj, our jovial charioteer made the drive a pleasant experience.

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Family of Gaurs/Indian Bisons

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Jungle Giant, a Male Gaur/Indian Bison

As the forests embraced us with a warm welcome, we spotted herds of Gaurs/Indian Bisons with their distinctive “white socks”. An experience tad different from the Kanha zone, where we had just seen one, or two odd male Gaurs. The Sarahi zone offered us herds of spotted deers, a lone sambar that stared back at us, up-close and personal before scrambling out to an unheard path, herds of sambar cooling their heels, a wolf scuttling away into the grasslands; all for our sighting pleasure. But, not before we headed into the hilly terrain of Sarahi. 

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Sambar Deers

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Sambar, up-close and personal

The Sarahi zone has a unique forest cover, much different from the Kanha zone. We drove through dry deciduous forests, with dense patches of the stately Saal trees that pour copious amounts of fragrant bliss into our souls. So much so, that it made me wonder, “Why aren’t Saal aroma or essential oils available? We do have cedar wood, and pine! Or am I missing something?”

The Elusive and Hungry Cat

As we drove into the hilly terrain of Sarahi, we were told to keep our eyes and ears open. Our gaze was intense, our anticipation strong, and our ears sharp to any alarm calls.

As we drove closer we noticed a jeep had halted ahead of us, and it’s inmates looked excited. Samrat suddenly murmured, “A leopard!” Suraj brought the jeep to a gentle halt. And we sat transfixed, as the Law of the Jungle unfolded, before our eyes.

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Spot the spots
Photo Credits: Samrat Godambe

A female leopard had made a quite killing deal, by ambushing a mother langur and her baby. The DH (dear husband) and our eleven-year-old managed to get a better view of the leopard as it carried the baby langur away.

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Spot me if you can!
Photo Credits: Samrat Godambe

My twenty-year-old and I just got a quick glimpse, before she disappeared into the bamboo thicket.

Now, the quest to spot her through the binoculars began. We were excitedly taking turns to see Darwin’s theory being enacted out to us. Survival of the fittest; it truly was. These are some incredible shots taken by Samrat. Even I did not see the leopard as clearly as you see in the last picture.

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I see you, do you see me!
Photo Credits: Samrat Godambe

We initially waited for the leopard to cross-over, to the other part of the jungle; but when she didn’t after a 40-minute wait, we decided to proceed with our onward journey. As the jeep ambled forward, we saw the lifeless corpse of the mother langur, whose existence had been snuffed out in a bid to protect her child. Two lives lost, too soon. Such are the laws of the jungle. And the inhabitants abide by them to the T.

Beyond Stripes and Spots

Sarahi zone, was quite enchanting. These are some of my thoughts on the hindsight. When you allow tiger spotting to not become your prime goal on a safari, your safari becomes so much more worthwhile and meaningful. After all their are so many unique beings of the jungle that one can spot and learn about, some even for the first time. Writing this account has made me realise the worth of a jungle, that translates far beyond the wild cats.

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Indian Roller
Credits: Chinmay Deshpande

We were fortunate enough to spot a varied species of birds, like the handsome Woolly neck storks, a lone pond heron that remained in the same spot like a statue, Indian Cormorants, two spotted owlet cosying in the bark, Eurasian collared dove, Indian Roller, the stunning Scarlet Minivet and many more. Sarahi is indeed a birders paradise. And so worth exploring.

Winding Down

The breakfast stop-over energised us, and mi familia spent time bonding, teasing and engaging in some silly banter. The vanilla muffins were being missed though. (Read Kanha Diaries Part-1, to learn about Kanha Earth Lodges lip-smacking muffins)

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Bee unique

We also spotted these tall, towering trees with countless number of bee hives. It was quite a sight to behold. It reminded me of the uniqueness of the jungles and left me mulling about being unique; as an after thought – translated to “Be(e) unique!” Some of my spilled words are here at NatashaMusing.

The drive back was hot. The sun was beating down more furiously then Day 2. But our hearts brimming with gratitude for a morning well spent, in the sprawling arms of nature.

By the time we reached the lodge, our throats were parched, but our souls quenched. We were yet again delighted to be served the fresh fruit juice. I was actually looking forward to it, with deep anticipation. And was happy to chug down two glasses.

Another Afternoon in the Pool

Post lunch, and some forty winks, we spent time at the pool. Letting all the exhaustion melt away. I hadn’t felt so relaxed in a long time.

The pool had new visitors that afternoon. The Racket-tailed Drongo was missing in action, but the family of langurs more than made up for it. The official and permanent residents of the Kanha Earth lodge, as I would say. Mamma Langur arrived with her little one in tow. It was a hopeful sight. Especially after the morning encounter that had left us with a little twang of sadness. But then we mere mortals dare not question the laws of the jungle.

As we sat by the pool, savouring pakoras (vegetable fritters) and chai the mother sat by the edge of the pool, dipping her mouth into the clean water, taking contented sips. The baby langur seemed thirsty too. But he was not able to garner enough courage to do the needful, so he kept reaching out for Mamma Langurs beard, and sucking the residual remains of the water. After a while something changed. The little tyke garnered enough courage and sipped some water off the pool.

It’s incredible how mother’s give courage to their children, through their little actions.

Sundowners, and Meeting Wildlife Enthusiasts

As the evening draped the forests with a fresh new cloak, we sat in the library enjoying  a wonderful Mahua cocktail and watching a documentary that was part of the “Land of the Tiger” series, by David Attenborough. We relaxed on the comfortable sofas, as rounds of the mouth-watering appetisers tickled our taste buds.

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By now we had made some acquaintances who were as passionate about nature and wild life as us. A chat with an elderly British couple in the dining hall, revealed beautiful experiences of the Pench Tree Lodge. They were on their way to Satpura following this trip and had also spotted Chota Munna on his fours, the previous day (our Day 2). That’s when we had seen him in reclining Buddha position! (Read Kanha Diaries-2, to know more)

A young couple, who were avid birders shared about some special sightings. They animatedly narrated interesting stories about their experiences at Denwa Backwaters, in Satpura and spotting a panther at Kabini. My minds eye conjured fascinating images these charming forests, especially those in Madhya Pradesh that still remained to be explored by us. If Kanha was proving to be such an earthy, beautiful land, I could imagine the rest with their special allure.

Day 5: All Good Things Must Come to An End, But with Happily Ever After…

Our vacation was coming to an end, but there was still that one little moment that I was looking forward to with deep anticipation. Our morning cuppa, in the lovely verandah of our cottage.

Morning Cuppa

As a family, chai time is the most treasured. It’s a ritual of sorts. Be it the morning chai or evening chai. It’s a time to bring forth a new day together, or wind down with one. A time to renew our bonds, and share our deepest fears, or our closest stories. A ritual where we let time just pass by, and become one with each other and sometimes our books, and thoughts too.

For a change we woke up a little later than the last few days. Yet, on a vacation I don’t particularly like missing out on the mornings. After all each place promises a befitting morning experience with surreal sunrises. Therefore, I am usually up to savour the morning glory that has been bestowed upon me. The kids are like me to an extent, and so is the DH (he loves going for his runs and relaxing with his chai thereafter).

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We were up and about before 6 A.M. and as the first rays of the dappled sunlight streamed into our verandah; we sat there soaking in the forest morning with stupefied silences. Our conversations were muted, as the birds perched on the Mahua trees welcoming another blissful morning in the jungles. The unhindered views were finally being savoured.

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The girls pulled out the yoga mats, and practised Sarvangasana/shoulder stand. The DH and I sipped our chais, rejoicing in the precious moment. The bonhomie was infectious. Efforts were made to climb a tree too, deftly, but in an understated mode.

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The precious moments slipped away too soon, as it was time to pack and get going. The lodge staff had very kindly packed a few lemon grass plants to carry back home. These dot the premises and are believed to shoo away mosquitos. And I always thought they just tasted great in tea and a Thai lemon grass chicken, Thai curry that I rustle up with much fervour. My cuppa is incomplete without lemon grass, ginger tea, for years now.

We bought two paintings by the talented, local artist Amit Kumawat and your guess isn’t wrong, if you are thinking Leopard and Langur. The paintings could very well be mistaken for photographs. That’s how meticulously they have been created.

So Long, Farewell, Kanha!

I was a little more mindful of the sights, on our drive back. The colourful village markets dotting the periphery of Kanha, the villagers dressed in beautiful, bright attires; they were both calming and pleasing to the eyes. As was the hilly, undulating landscape with the flaming Mahuas, Semals (Silk Cotton), Arjuns, Tendus etc.

It surely was a befitting farewell. The warm and hospitable staff at Kanha Earth Lodge had also packed a sumptuous meal for our road trip.

Jabalpur airport though tiny, has a cosy old world charm.. We reached way before time, enjoying our selves to the hilt. Time was spent recapitulating memories, while sipping coffee and juice and sharing with gratitude of the four blessed days, that zipped by in the forest. Magically, in a slow, yet steady pace. 

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Good bye Kanha! Till we return another time, to catch up with the wondrous beings of the wild and create more extraordinary moments, in the lap of your luxuriant beauty.

Authored By: Natasha Sinha

Natasha Sinha

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