A night in the wild

A night in the wild

When you have travelled a mere 70 km round for a 48-hour-break, can you claim you have been on a holiday? Rather unlikely. But what if you had so much to talk about from that break that the listener would believe you have been on a real holiday? In Bengaluru, it is possible — at  the Bannerghatta National Park.

The campsite we stayed at was right next to the jungle and zoo. I clearly remember the moment when I spotted a beautiful peacock close to the tent. It wanted to peck at people and their belongings! Apparently, it is a regular at the campsite and took to my shoes, my son’s three-fourths and my wife’s middle finger as assorted junk food.

However, it stayed away from a high-fibre cookie! Then there was our friendly neighbourhood inquisitive blackbuck. This one was admittedly adorable in spite of its two well-grown, menacing and deeply-threaded antlers.

Early morning, we were herded for a nature walk. Jogesh, our friendly guide, kept us entertained with his constant banter. Although you are expected to be silent in a jungle, Jogesh didn’t care. He thought everyone including the denizens of the jungle would enjoy his chatter. But that being said, his anecdotes were hilarious – he was a walking (read trekking) encyclopaedia.

We, for example, didn’t know that the neelgai was a horse crossed with a cow. Dry brush crackled under our feet and thorny bushes gave us scars to take back home. As we turned a tall dry bush, and we were in breathing distance to Bhadra. A bison, Bhadra, was actually 10 feet away but thanks to his size, it seemed like he was right next to us.

The size of a house, he looked like he could flatten a dozen Hummers if he sneezed. Jogesh, normally intrepid, turned into jelly and ask us all to hush down and retreat. Not surprisingly, our group agreed in a flash. The fear was so high, so no one bothered about the missed photo op!

Jogesh then pulled out some ‘filmy story from the woods’: like Raja, the teenaged bull elephant, who had gone rogue and was harassing the neighbouring cows. He would hide behind rocks, charge and scare a herd, snatch a cow from another herd, enraging the bull from that herd and land up gored in a fight. The techniques of roping in a rogue elephant and the rehabilitation, were tales straight from the Gulag. But Jogesh was quick to correct: once chastened, Raja was the happiest and most romantic of bulls around! Talk about a happy ending!

Back at the tent, there was another amusing incident. The monkeys that thronged our surroundings somehow came into our tent and decided to inhabit it. The simian curiosity enthralled our teenaged son, who decided to capture one of them. What he reported was nothing short of an ingenious simian trick — a baby monkey must have smelt our fragrant savouries stacked in a cupboard by the bathroom. He looked high and low, and furtively climbed up to the door of the cupboard. It was a delicate balancing act where he couldn’t reach for the latch without the risk of falling. So this genius monkey reached up and opened the door with his mouth, and promptly made away with a packet of chips.

The crackling campfire with leaping flames in the night was altogether welcome. We enjoyed the sumptuous food but what we didn’t bargain for, was unnerving sounds through the night. Sample this: dry twigs crackling and scratching like a thirsty vampire climbing out of the coffin; wailing winds sailing through dense foliage sounding like a banshee; herd of cheetals waltzing through the dry leaves and insomniac cicadas that party all night chirping away; all told, if we got half an hour sleep, it would go down as a memorable night.

When any of the above wake you, it takes a shake to realise that you are in a jungle, sleeping in a tent and not in the sanitised comfort of a hotel room with the purring of the AC. It’s with a grudge you admit, though, that you prefer the former to the latter. Ah, give me the jungle, anyday!

(The author is an advertising professional)

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