Kunderipallam Dam: A Hurried Visit

Place: Kunderipallam Dam, 20 Kms from Sathyamangalam, Erode District, Tamil Nadu.

Day & Time: Saturday, 21 April 2012; 6.00 p.m. – 7.15 p.m.

People: My Wife Jayalakshmi, my son ArulEzhilan, and I.

Kunderi pallam has been an enchanting place, both to my wife and me, for long. With no outings for the past several months, she’d been asking me for an escape somewhere. The scorching Sun proved as a put-off for any thought of going out of home before sunset, but today I decided to pay a quick visit to Kunderipallam dam and the idea was received with enthusiasm. Little did I know then that, what I thought would be a bird watching trip, with a remote idea of glimpses at wildlife due to summer water shortage in adjoining forests, turned out be a really exciting experience !!!

Kunderi pallam or Gunderi pallam dam is built across wild streams at the confluence of Kadambur hill and an adjacent hill, which themselves are the last bit of cascading mountains that offer an exotic view for anyone. It is a small dam, supporting agriculture in roughly about 3000 acres of agriculture – mostly by increasing the ground water level, rather than direct canal irrigation. Steep hills with dense jungle takes off in both the right and left (East and West) sides of the dam – where wild varieties of flora and fauna are seen. The animals that can be spotted include Spotted Deer (Axis axis), Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Indian Gaur (Bos gaurus), Indian Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus), Monkeys (bonnet macaque – Macaca radiata), and some times even Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca). Apart from these animals (most of which are spotted only in summers when water inside jungles become scarce) the place is mostly known for its bird population – with egrets, storks, lapwings, and ducks included in the often spotted list.

Kunderipallam Dam View

A view of the western ghats adjoining Kunderi pallam dam ( downloaded from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/968723)

The dam can be reached from Sathyamangalam by travelling in the Anthiyur road up to Vaniputthur (approx 14 kms), and taking a left turn from there and travelling another 6 kms via Kongarpalayam. The road is fairly good, but for the last kilometer. No permission is needed to visit the dam, but any adventures beyond that shall be viewed seriously if spotted.

We started around 5.30 p.m. – pretty late to travel there, and the failing light in mind,  I maintained a good speed in my motorcycle through the crowded village roads to reach there by 6.00 p.m. As we entered the dam, an old man coming out informed us there were 2 elephants engrossed in water games ! I had to pat on my own shoulders for not giving in to my temptation to carry my heavy SLR camera and accessories, and instead deciding to carry my trusted Olympus 8-16 X 40 binoculars. I wish I had carried both, but with my three old son around, for his naughtiness and with all necessary food and water to be carried for him, I can afford to carry either the camera, or the binoculars. It turned out to be good decision at the end.

Then unfolded the drama… slowly in ones and twos in the beginning, and a big herd of 14 arrived at the scene from the Eastern side of the dam – taking the number to 28. This having been the largest number I have seen being together, I was really excited. While scanning through the banks of the water for any other creature worth watching (my ultimate wish was to spot a carnivore), we saw spotted deer enjoying themselves in a lush green patch of a place which appeared to be a dry rivulet. Some guys watching the animals from the road on the dam dared enter the forest and proceeded up to the place where deer were grazing, which fled on the sight of these fellows. Later they told us that they did not venture further as they saw many pugmarks of several carnivores on the banks of the rivulet. Meanwhile on the centre part of the dam, directly opposite to the dam wall there were a couple of Indian Guars, which seemed undecided on whether to proceed further to the edge of waters. Their indecision, I believe, was contributed mostly due to the presence of large number of pachyderms. A few spotted deer were also crowded there, with the same dilemma. The indecision didn’t prevail long. They, both guars and deer, retreated into the thickets as there emerged another herd of 6 elephants from the western side of the dam – the hill on which Malli Amman Durgham, a tribal hamlet is situated. This herd also slowly inched towards the ones which were already in the water. There were 34 elephants now !!! Largest number I have ever seen together in the wild !!! Incredible… I was thrilled.

Slowly night was creeping, and the light failing, the animals became blur and a little later only the silhouettes were visible. Then we saw four people inching towards the place in a small rowing boat. We thought it would be the fishermen out for the Sunday catch, (which was proved wrong later, as we saw a car parked on the gates of the dam after every one had left and nobody in it). I was here, I did that I will never dare do in the forests that too in the presence of pachyderms – with my experience of practice to bark like a kakar (Barking deer) – I barked. First there a reply with a small ‘grunt like’ trumpet, but when I did that loudly and continuously again thunder struck – there was loud roar, bark, trumpet, rumble – every kind of sound that elephants can make that rained on us for over a full minute, which seemed to last forever. We had goose bumps immediately and were terrified, especially my wife. Meanwhile, the people who went in the boat had moved closer, and perhaps the elephants had seen them, which would have been the reason for the continuing of the rumble. The people in the boat froze, and moved no further. I thought I had played spoil sport. Normally I believe in NOT DISTURBING THE WILD IN ANY WAY, but now I had did this ‘cause of some excitement that gripped me. After all these excitements, the elephants were still not willing to leave the water and stayed there.

By now every thing was pitch dark to the naked eyes, and even silhouettes were difficult  to see with the binoculars. We waited for a few minutes more, listening to the sounds of the nature. And as the night had crept, making it no longer safe for us to stay there anymore, we retreated unwillingly but with hearts full.

On the whole, it was an exciting and a memorable trip that will linger in our minds for a long time.

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Posted in Day Trips, Erode, Tamil Nadu | Tagged | 2 Comments

பணம் காய்க்கும் குளங்கள்.

காட்டம்பட்டி: ஆற்று மணலை கொள்ளையடித்து விழுங்கிய பணமுதலைகள், அரசு மற்றும் நீதிமன்றங்களின் பல்வேறு கெடுபிடிகளால் தற்போது குளங்களை குறிவைத்திருப்பது பலரும் அறிந்ததே. தற்போது அன்னூர் ஒன்றியம் காட்டம்பட்டி குளம் இவர்களுக்கு இலக்காகியுள்ளது.

கோவை மாவட்டத்தில் மழைநீர் சேகரித்து குடிநீர் பற்றாக்குறையை தீர்க்கவும், சுற்றுச்சூழல் காக்கவும் பல்வேறு அமைப்புகளின் முயற்சியால் சென்ற ஆண்டு பெரியகுளங்களை தூர்வாரி செப்பனிட பொதுமக்களிடம் விழிப்புணர்வு ஏற்பட்டது. இதையும் ஒரு வாய்ப்பாக பயன்படுத்தி, பொது சேவை என்ற பெயரில் சில சுரண்டல் திமிங்கலங்கள் குளத்து மண்ணை விற்று காசாக்க முயன்றதும், அச்செய்தி ஊடகங்கள் மூலம் வெளியில் தெரிந்து பரபரப்பு ஏற்பட்டதும் ஊர் அறிந்த உண்மை..

தற்போது இந்த பெரிய சுரண்டல்களை முன்மாதிரியாக கொண்டு இதுபோன்ற பல முயற்சிகள் நடைபெற துவங்கியுள்ளது. அதன் ஒரு பகுதியாக அன்னூர் அருகில் உள்ள கட்டம்பட்டி கிராமத்திலும் குளத்தை கொள்ளையடிக்கும் பணி  நடைபெறுகிறது.

இந்த ஊரில் அமைந்துள்ள குளம் அரசு ஆவணங்களின் படி காட்டம்பட்டி பஞ்சாயாத்துக்குட்பட்டு 87 ஏக்கரும், குன்னத்தூர் பஞ்சாயத்துக்குட்பட்டு 40 ஏக்கரும் ஆக மொத்தம் சுமார் 127 ஏக்கர் பரப்பளவில் அமைந்துள்ளது. இங்குள்ள முதியோரிடம் பேசியதில் இந்த குளம் பல வருடங்களுக்கு முன்பு 60 வல்லம் (240 ஏக்கர்) இருந்ததாகவும் பிறகு ஆக்கிரமிப்பில் 127 ஏக்கராக சுருங்கியதாகவும் தெரிகிறது. தமிழக பொதுப்பணித்துறையின் நிர்வாகத்தில் உள்ள இதிலும் சுமார் மூன்றில் ஒரு பகுதியை தவிர மற்ற பகுதிகள் சீமை கருவேலமரங்கள் வளர்ந்து புதர்கள் மண்டியுள்ளது.

tank, panorama, kattampatti, struggle, conservation, flora, fauna, wetland

இப்பகுதி மக்களின் நீர் ஆதாரமாகவும், விவசாய கிணறுகளின் ஊற்றாகவும், கால்நடைகளின் மேய்ச்சல் நிலமாகவும் இருந்த இக்குளத்தில் நெடுங்காலமாக தூர்வாரப்படாமல், கடந்த 25 வருடங்களாக வண்டல் மண் எடுக்க இப்பகுதி விவசாயிகளுக்கு அனுமதி மறுக்கப்பட்டு வந்தது. பல ஆண்டுகளாக தங்கள் கோரிக்கைகள் புறக்கணிக்கப்பட்ட நிலையில் இங்குள்ள விவசாயிகள் அதிக விலைகொடுத்து வெளியூர்களிலிருந்து வண்டல் மண் வாங்க வேண்டிய கட்டாயத்திற்கு ஆளாயினர்.

இந்நிலையில் சென்ற வாரம் திடீரென இக்குளத்திற்குள் குடிசை ஒன்று அமைக்கப்பட்டு ராட்சத இயந்திரங்களை கொண்டு மண் வாரும் பணி ஆரம்பிக்கப்பட்டு நாள் ஒன்றுக்கு சுமார் 400 டிப்பர் அளவிற்கு மண் எடுக்கப்பட்டது. அதிர்ந்து போன உள்ளூர் மக்கள் விசாரித்ததில் இது பொதுப்பணித்துறையின் மூலம் டெண்டர் விடப்பட்டு சுமார் ஒரு மீட்டர் ஆழம் மட்டும் மண் எடுக்க அனுமதி வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளதாகவும், ‘அவினாசி அத்திக்கடவு’ திட்டத்திற்காக இக்குளம் ஆழப்படுத்தப்படுவதாகவும் தெரிவிக்கப்பட்டது. இதற்காக புதுக்கோட்டை மாவட்டத்தை சேர்ந்த ஆளுங்கட்சி ஆதரவாளரான ஒருவருக்கு ஒப்பந்தம் வழங்கப்பட்டுள்ளதாகவும், ஒப்பந்ததாரர் ஒரு டிப்பர் லோடு மண்ணிற்கு ரூபாய் 300 மட்டும் பொதுப்பணித்துறைக்கு செலுத்துவதாகவும் தெரிவிக்கப்பட்டது.

Kattampatti Tank - Hut

மேலும் தூர்வாரி குளத்தின் கரைகளை பலப்படுத்தவேண்டிய மண்ணில் ஒரு துளிகூட அந்த பணிக்காக பயன்படுத்தப்படவில்லை. அவை அனைத்தும் ஒரு லோடு சுமார் ரூபாய் 2500 வீதம் வெளிச்சந்தையில் விற்பதாகவும் கூறப்படுகிறது.

 Kattampatti Tank - Dug Part

 நெடுங்காலமாக உள்ளூர் மக்கள் விவசாய பணிக்கு மண் வழங்க மறுத்து வந்த நிலையில் வெளியூர் ஒப்பந்ததாரருக்கு அனுமதி வழங்கியதில் அதிருப்தி அடைந்த காட்டம்பட்டி, குன்னத்தூர், குப்பேபாளையம், பிள்ளையப்பம்பாளையம், மசக்கவுண்டன்செட்டிபாளையம் ஆகிய கிராமங்களில் உள்ள மக்கள், வணிக நோக்கத்தில் மண் எடுக்க அனுமதிப்பதை தடுக்க ‘குளம் குட்டைகள் பாதுகாப்பு  இயக்கம்’ என்ற அமைப்பை ஏற்படுத்தி போராடிவருகிறார்கள்.

இவர்கள் குளத்தில் மண் எடுப்பதை தடுக்க முனைந்ததை அறிந்து ஒப்பந்ததாரரின் ஆதரவாளர்கள் சிலர், இந்த ஒப்பந்தத்தை அமைச்சர் ஒருவரின் உறவினர்களே இந்த அனுமதியை பெற்றுள்ளதாகவும், இதற்காக உள்ளூர் முக்கியஸ்தர்கள் சிலருக்கும் ‘கமிஷன்’ தொகை வழங்கப்படுவதாகவும், எனவே இதை தடுத்தால் மோசமான பின்விளைவுகள் ஏற்படும் என்றும் மிரட்டியுள்ளனர்.

Heavy Vehicles 02

மூன்று நாட்கள் மட்டுமே மண் எடுக்கப்பட்டுள்ள நிலையிலேயே இக்குளத்தில் விதிகளை மீறி மண் அள்ளப்படுவது பட்டவர்த்தனமாக தெரிகிறது. ஒரு மீட்டர் மட்டுமே மண் அள்ளவேண்டும் என்ற விதியை மீறி ராட்சத இயந்திரங்களை கொண்டு இரண்டு மீட்டருக்கும் மேல் பல இடங்களில் மண் எடுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. மேலும் வண்டல் மட்டுமின்றி பாறைகள் தெரியும் அளவு உள்ள அனைத்து மண்ணும் எடுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

‘குளம் குட்டை பாதுகாப்பு அமைப்பினரின்’ கூற்றுப்படி ஒரு வருடத்தில் சுமார் 2 லட்சம் டிப்பர் லோடு அளவிற்கு மண் சுரண்டப்படும் என்று தெரிகிறது.

Flouted Rules of Excavation

இதற்கிடையில் 09 ஜூலை 2014 வியாழக்கிழமை அன்று குன்னத்தூர் கிராமத்தில் மாவட்ட ஆட்சியர் மனு பெரும் நிகழ்ச்சியில் குளத்தில் மண் எடுப்பதை தடுக்கும்படி கோரிக்கை மனுகோவை மாவட்ட ஆட்சியர் அர்ச்சனா பட்நாயக் அவர்களிடம் அளிக்கப்பட்டது.

Collector Receiving Petitions

இதையும் முன்கூட்டியே தெரிந்துகொண்ட ஒப்பந்ததாரர் காவல்துறை மூலம் மிரட்டல் விடுத்ததும்நடந்தேறியது. குளம் குட்டைகள் பாதுகாப்பு அமைப்பை முன்னின்று நடத்துபவர்களின் இல்லத்திற்கு முந்தைய இரவு சென்ற போலீசார் அவர்களை விசாரணைக்காக எஸ்.பி. அழைத்ததாக கூறியுள்ளனர். அதற்கு குழுவினர் தாங்கள் மாவட்ட ஆட்சியரிடம் மனு கொடுத்த பின்பே எஸ்.பியை சந்திக்க இயலும் என்று கூறியதும் திரும்பிச்சென்ற போலீசார் பின்பு தொலைபேசியின் மூலம் அவர்கள் வரத்தேவையில்லை என கூறியதாகவும் அந்த அமைப்பை சேர்ந்தவர்கள் தெரிவித்தனர்.

Protest Bill

மாவட்ட ஆட்சியரிடம் மனுக்கொடுக்க வந்திருந்த குளம் குட்டைகள் பாதுகாப்பு இயக்கத்தை சேர்ந்தவர்களிடம் பேசிய போது காட்டம்பட்டி குளம் சுற்றுவட்டாரத்தில் உள்ள கிராமங்கள் அனைத்திற்கும் ஜீவாதாரம் ஆகும். இதனை சேதப்படுதுவதால் விபிரீத விளைவுகள் ஏற்படும் என்று கீழ்க்கண்ட விளைவுகளை பற்றி கூறினர்.

  1. இந்த குளத்தில் பாறைகள் தெரியும் அளவு மண் அள்ளினால் குளத்தின் நீர்பிடிப்பு தன்மை பாதிக்கப்படும்.
  2. இக்குளத்தில் உள்ள மண் அனைத்தும் அள்ளப்பட்டு பாறைகள் தெரிவதால் நீரை உறிஞ்சி நிலத்தடி நீரூற்றுக்கு அனுப்பும் தன்மையை குளம் இழந்துவிடும். இதனால் ஏற்கனவே 1500 அடிக்கும் கீழே சென்றுவிட்ட இந்த பகுதியின் நிலத்தடி நீர்மட்டம் மேலும் பாதிக்கப்பட்டு இப்பகுதியே பாலைவனமாகிவிடும்.
  3. இங்குள்ள குளத்து மண் முற்றிலும் சுரண்டப்படுவதால் செடிகளும் மரங்களும் அழிக்கப்பட்டு கால்நடை வளர்ப்பும் பாதிக்கப்படும்.
  4. இயற்கை சூழல் பாதிக்கபடுவதால் இந்த குளத்தில் வாழ்ந்துவரும் பறவையினங்கள் அழிந்து சூழல்சமன்பாடும் பாதிக்கப்படும் என்றும் கூறினர்.

அரசு / பொதுப்பணித்துறையின் நோக்கம் குளத்தை தூர்வாருவதாகவோ, குளத்தின் ஆழத்தை அதிகப்படுத்துவதாகவோ இருந்தால் உள்ளூர் விவசாயிகளே வண்டல் மண்ணை எடுப்பதற்கு அனுமதிக்கலாமே…! அதற்கு விவசாயிகளும் தயாராகவே உள்ளனர்.

குளத்தின் நன்மை கருதி செயல்கள் செய்வதானால் முதலாவதாக செய்ய வேண்டியது கடந்த 30 ஆண்டுகளாக நிரம்பாத இந்த குளத்தின் நீர்வரத்து வழிகளை தூர்வாரி மழை நீர் குளத்தை அடைய வழி செய்வதே ஆகும்.

ஆனால் அதற்கான எந்த முயற்சிகளையும் எடுக்காமல், அரசின் செல்வாக்கு பெற்ற சிலரின் பணத்தாசைக்காக குளத்து மண் எனும்  இயற்கை வளத்தை பலி கொடுக்க அரசு முனைந்துவிட்டதையே இது காட்டுகிறது என்பதே ‘குளம் குட்டை பாதுகாப்பு அமைப்பினரின்’ வாதம்.

பிறகு கேள்விப்பட்ட செய்தியோ மேலும் பேரதிர்ச்சி அடைய வைப்பதாக உள்ளது. இந்த ‘குளம் சுரண்டும் திட்டம்’ தமிழகம் முழுவதும் விரிவுபடுத்தபடுகிறதாம்.

நீண்ட கால திட்டம் என்ற வழக்கே இப்பொழுது இல்லாமல், குறுகிய கால லாபம் மட்டுமே கொள்கையாக கொண்டு பல்லாயிரம் ஆண்டுகள் பயன் தரும் இயற்கை வளங்கள் என்னும் பொன் வாத்துக்களை வயிறு கிழித்து குருதி குடிக்கும் நிகழ்வுகளை நமது தலைமுறை நாள்தோறும் தவறாமல் கண்டுவருகிறது.

கண்முன்னே நாம் காணும் இந்த கொள்ளையை தடுக்க நமக்கு இப்பொழுது தேவை பலநூறு பேர்கள் மட்டும் சேர்ந்து போராடும் சிறு போராட்டமல்ல… சுதந்திர தாகத்துடன் போரிட்ட, இரண்டு தலைமுறைகளுக்கு முன் இருந்த நம் நாட்டவரின் உத்வேகத்துடன் கூடிய, மாநிலம் தழுவிய ஒரு மாபெரும் இயக்கம்.

நிலக்கரி, இயற்கை வாயு, கெயில் குழாய், குளங்கள் பாதுகாப்பு, வனங்கள் ஆக்கிரமிப்பு என்ற அடுத்தடுத்த சுரண்டல்களை தடுக்க தனித்தனியே சிறு எதிர்ப்புகள் என்றில்லாமல், தமிழகத்தில் உள்ள அனைவருக்குமான சுற்றுச்சூழல் மற்றும் இயற்கை வளங்கள் பாதுகாப்பு குறித்த ஒரு விழிப்புணர்வு தேவை.

இந்த அராஜகங்களை எதிர்த்து போராட வேண்டும் என்று நம் அனைவருக்குள்ளும் ஒரு உறுதி வேண்டும்.

****

நமது வருங்காலத்தை நினைத்தால் சுமார் 30 ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன் ஐ.நா. சபையில் உரையாற்றிய சிறுமி சுசுகி செவெர்ன் கூறியது நினைவிற்கு வருகிறது:

 

எனக்கு முந்தைய தலைமுறையினரே ! பெற்றோர்களே !

நாங்கள் அழும் போதும், கலங்கும் போதும்…

கவலைபடாதே அனைத்தும் நன்றாகிவிடும் என்றீர்களே !

 

நீங்கள் உண்மையை தான் கூறுகிறீர்களா ?

உங்கள் மகள் கேட்கிறேன்…

எங்களுக்கு வாழ்வதற்கு நன்றான உலகத்தை,

நீங்கள் வாழ்ந்ததை விட சிறப்பான உலகத்தை,

நீங்கள் எங்களுக்கு விட்டுசெல்வீர்களா ? அது உங்களால் முடியுமா ?

 

காட்டம்பட்டி குளமும் நானும்:

பறிபோகும் இந்த சொர்க்கத்தை பார்க்கும் போதெல்லாம் பல வருடங்களாக பறவைகளை தேடி இந்த குளத்தை சுற்றி வந்ததும், முப்பதுக்கும் மேற்பட்ட பறவையினங்களை இங்கு நான் கண்டதும், அவைகளின் கீச்சு குரல்களில் லயித்து பல மணித்துளிகளை, நாட்களை, ஆண்டுகளை கழித்ததும், மனதில் ஆறாத ரணத்தை ஏற்படுத்துகிறது….!

இங்கு சுற்றிலும் உள்ள பாழடைந்த கிணறுகளையும், வற்றிப்போன ஆழ்குழாய் கிணறுகளையும், வாடி நிற்கும் பயிர்களையும், வறட்சி தாக்கிய நிலங்களையும்  பார்க்கும்போதெல்லாம், கபடமின்றி பழகும் இந்த மக்களை சுரண்ட கிளம்பியுள்ள பணத்தாசை பிடித்தாட்டும் சுயநல சக்திகளை தோற்கடிக்கும் உத்வேகம் பிறக்கிறது…!

நூற்றாண்டு காலமாய் பாடுபட்ட மக்களின் வாழ்வாதாரத்தை பாதிக்கும் முடிவுகளை எப்படித்தான் இந்த அரசு எடுக்கிறதோ !

எங்கோ உள்ள அதிகாரிகளை குறை சொல்லும் முன் இங்கேயே வாழ்ந்து இங்குள்ள நிலைகளை நன்கறிந்தும், நம்பி வாக்களித்த மக்களை காசுக்காக வஞ்சிக்கும் உள்ளூர் ‘தலைவர்’களை நினைத்தால் இதயத்தில் குருதி தான் வடிகிறது.

இவைகளை வேரறுக்க ஒரு வெறியும் பிறக்கிறது…

இவன்

செயக்குமார் கி.

16 ஜூலை 2014

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RANTHAMBORE: My First Wildlife Experience

 –by Prabhushankar Balasubramaniam  

One winter night, in 2010, I landed at the T3 terminus of Delhi airport.

It was extremely cold; I needed a couple of pullover to keep myself warm and comfortable. Having missed out on few opportunities before, I really wanted to make this trip count.

My flight was delayed by 4 hours from Pune; it was almost 2 a.m. when I reached my friend’s place at Dwarka, New Delhi. Soon after that I searched online for different tour operators at Rishikesh, Corbett, Manali and few other destinations as well. Nothing seems working in the late night! It’s been a long tiring day, so to hit the bed…

Next morning woke up to the alarms ringing in my mind…. “Where to go ? What to do ?”

Early in the morning my mind said “What about Ranthambore ?”

Immediately I contacted Junglelore, Mumbai and thanks to them within the next 2 hours our bookings were done. Only thing which was hovering around was “How to reach Ranthambore ?” Easiest way was to travel by train but you must be a very luck chap in India to get a train ticket for the same night. We knew it is going to be a Marathon night to reach Ranthambore; we decided to take a bus from Delhi-Jaipur and it was 2am again!! But, this time in Jaipur ! Managed our train tickets in the middle of the night from Jaipur-Sawai Madapur (Ranthambore). Now, we were rest assured to reach Ranthambore in the next couple of hours.

Finally in Ranthambore. It was early morning 5.30 a.m. We were literally freezing while on an open Gypsy while going to the resort. People who had been to Rajasthan during peak winter will know the weather far better; Checked into the hotel and during winter mornings safari starts little late around 7am, so that gave us enough time to refresh ourselves and head for our first experience in the wild.

Ranthambore National Park has got five zones and adjoining Sawaimansingh park has zones 6, 7 & 8. Sawaimansingh and Qualiji remains open for the tourist throughout the year but Ranthambore zones are closed during monsoon (July to September). Ranthambore got its importance not only because of tigers but also from the fort. Ranthambore fort is considered one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan built 1000 years ago. There is also a Ganeshji’s Mandir, thousands of pilgrims visit it every year. Don’t be surprised if a tiger comes to see you in the fort.

Now, we were heading towards Zone 3 which has the world-famous Rajbah Lake. This was previously a hunting ground for the Royal Maharajas of Jaipur. Our morning safari was with Raeez Bhai, one of the most passionate and knowledgeable drivers in Ranthambore. Even before we entered the jungle Raeez bhai’s information on forest and birds made things very interesting.

We were close to Padam Lake in Zone 3, when a Sambar deer gave an alarm call sensing a predator. But soon the alarm calls disappeared and no signs of the big cats yet. As usual Raeez Bhai was doing his best to show us the tiger. More than couple of hours into the safari, we were returning to Rajbah after a brief visit to Mandook area without any luck. Though, we didn’t see a tiger his stories and knowledge on the jungle made us more than happy.

Just before Rajbah there were vehicles queuing up. Alarm calls again, though this time it was a continuous call. We were in all hopes that a tiger sighting is for sure. Suddenly the shutterbugs were on full force and yes it was the beautiful Stara (T- 17), one of the most dominant tigers in the park. She was walking from quite a distance and slowly came towards us. She happens to be the Queen of Rajbah Lake. This particular territory is considered one of the best tiger habitats in the world. Because the lake has water throughout the year and prey base is also extremely good.

It’s always special to see your first tiger in the wild that too at Rajbah. T-17 took over this territory from her mother the world-famous tigress Machili (T-16). Not long ago Machili, popularly known as “Lady of the lakes” was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award. She is one of the most photographed tigers in the world and has given 9 tigers to Ranthambore. T-17 was one the three cubs from the last litter of Machili.

Evening safari was even more special, when we saw Tigress(T-19) sister of T-17 chasing a wild boar in the Zone II near Nalgati area. Though a tiger takes several attempts before making a successful kill, we all wished she could get him. It was unfortunate for the tiger but fortunate for the piglet that she wasn’t able to cling on to him. One should be lucky to see a tiger in the wild but to see a live kill you must be extremely lucky. This particular incident turned me from a regular tourist to a wildlife enthusiast.

Then on, I have visited Ranthambore and various other National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries across India on several occasions. Each time I have seen something different and interesting but more importantly I got to learn a lot about the jungle and wildlife from the experts of those areas.

A piece of advice to people who plan their vacations in any wildlife or jungle related places, is not to disturb the jungle by any means. Never litter and tease or feed wild animals. This might create unnecessary trouble for you and also for the wildlife.

 One happy news before I end, the Tigresses I saw during my first visit to the park have given birth to cubs. T19 gave birth to 3 cubs last year and T17 was sighted with 3 cubs this year on the penultimate day before the closure of the park due to monsoons. I was fortunate to see the cubs of T19 last month and hoping to see T17’s cubs post monsoon.

Hope to see you with more experiences soon…

Prabhu

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Gunderipallam Revisit

Jai…
 

Inspired by my luck of sighting 34 elephants at Gunderipallam dam the previous week, and to provide an opportunity of my colleague Mr. Chandramohan – who will be leaving Sathyamangalam shortly, we the staff of the department of English, BIT came out with a sudden plan to visit Gunderipallam dam last evening, 26 April 2012.

Little did I know that it will become one of the memorable evenings, with an encounter with a tusker.

We, 9 in all, started of at 5.20 p.m. in 4 bikes and a scooty pep. We reached the dam at around 5.50 p.m., after getting some snacks and water bottle at Naal Road. When we reached the dam we didn’t expect to see any wild animals as there was pretty good showers for the past two days, unlike the dry spell of 2 months which brought 34 elephants to the water body last week. The view of the dam, with a cloudy sky proved to be exotic and all were mesmerized by the sprawling water with a background of cascading mountain ranges.

My expectations were happily false, and we were excited to spot an Indian Gaur drinking water at the other end of the dam. Senthil Kumar and I tried getting to the nearer end over the dam to take a few snaps. As we moved forward, we saw the gaur has started retreating and we took some snaps. Same mistake again – I didn’t bring my SLR this time too, and had relied on Senthil sir’s point-and-shoot Canon which had 12x optical zoom. The zoom was pretty good, but at that zoom there was a lot of shake and we had no tripod to keep it steady. The shutter lag added to my woes and the images turned out really blurred.  Somehow, I shot a couple of snaps, cursing myself even more for repeating the mistake.

Gaur Retreat

Senthil and I planned to get down on the other end of the dam, and walk in the forest up to the place where we saw the gaur. I was interested in exploring the area as I had heard from some people that there were pugmarks of leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, and even tigers (!?!). Though I new the stories of tiger are not true, I was inquisitive to identify the variety of fauna that this pristine jungle had. As we went there we saw few excited people, and one of them with a camera bag. We found that they were reporters from the Tamil press ‘Dinathanthi’ which translates to Daily Telegraph. The cause of their excitement was sighting an elephant on the hills. They eagerly shared their knowledge of the location of the elephant, and we could see a lone tusker, slowly proceeding downhill towards the dam. We called others who came and had a good look at the elephant.

The Lone Tusker

Senthil and I decided to get to the other shore of the spillway of the dam, and chose different routes. Both of us reached the other shore at the same time, and tried going a little far in to the forest in the direction where we saw the tusker. With the animal not in sight, and very little sound with the tusker in vicinity, I realised that the animal had sensed human beings nearby and hence has become alert. There can be no quieter creature than an alert elephant. You can pass through the legs of the otherwise noisy (the noise created by breaking branches, twigs, huge steps, and constant flap of its ears) animal without noticing it  when it is on alert.  With my intuition seeing the animal somewhere near, I became cautious and even signaled Senthil Kumar not to venture deep. He ignored, and went little further. He was well within my eyesight, and I took a special interest in any sound or movement nearby. There was none. I noticed Senthil Kumar was also on alert. We was looking all around, and I could sense that he hasn’t noticed anything around.

And it happened..!!

He turned around and hurried in my direction, in fact crossed me and started running a little. I thought he might have caught a sight of the elephant, and so he was coming back. As he crossed me, he blurted out – “sir, we have no time to stay back we should run”. Without even a glimpse at the animal, I understood its proximity by the sounds of breaking of the twigs. The elephant was too close for comfort, and it was on move. I didn’t know in which direction it is moving, but if it is in our direction, we’re done.. Quickly I turned around, and retraced my steps in a slight jog after Senthil Kumar.  To my horror, on the end of my sight I saw a figure moving towards me. I turned around to see another Senthil (not Senthil Kumar who was with me all the while) rushing towards us, and by the area I had judged before venturing into the forest, I realised he is exactly on the way in which the beast was moving in to. I shouted at him with the loudest possible voice that can cause no harm in agitating the jumbo and turning it towards us, cautioning him to move fast and come towards us.

He ran, ran with fear, fear that gripped him like a thunder out of the sky… From the way he ran, I thought he had seen the elephant and that it is after him. So we’ll be in trouble too… But I didn’t see anything following him and was a bit relaxed. Later he confessed that he ran so fast because he had heard the elephant breaking branches of a tree just a few feet away, and he didn’t even dared to look in that direction. With the intention of taking a good photo of the tusker when it emerges out of the bushes, I did another mistake. A mistake that would’ve definitely caused us something if the jumbo had moved in our direction. We had taken the path that I took to reach the other shore, and only I knew how to reach the place correctly. We had to climb down some 20 feet of sloppy path to reach the dam. I should have guided them that way before taking any other decision. In a hurry, I didn’t do that and ran over the spillway of the dam instead. The area was a neatly laid out concrete & rock floor for the water to flow smoothly out of dam when in excess, which had developed lots of moss and hence slippery. It was a good 200 feet in length, and I knew there were remote any heavy bodied pachyderm to cross this stretch to exhibit its vengeance on insignificant unfortunate homo sapiens.  So I was (the only one) confident there. But if the animal turns at us, we’re caught. To move down we had to jump about 20 feet to another concrete floor below, and if we wanted to move upwards we had to scale a stone wall about 15 feet high and nothing to hold. So both were improbable, and hence should be attempted only on a calamity.

But the point of concern here was not the elephant, but the second Senthil who had arrived. He was scared to the bone, legs trembling, and almost crying. He couldn’t keep himself quiet, and was insisting on jumping down the concrete even before sensing any danger. I had a tough time cooling him down, the later part of which I was not particularly polite. I had to use my force of words to keep him from doing anything untoward, because I was sure that jumping from such a height would definitely call for an ambulance service. I made him sit behind a small bush that had managed to penetrate its roots in the hard rock and concrete, which calmed him down a bit. Meanwhile, my friends just over our heads 20 feet  above were offering us quite a bit of advice about how we can make to their place. I knew they were of little use because if it had to be a safe way out, without hurting ourselves, it has to be walking to the direction where the elephant was. We waited for a few minutes. I wanted to be sure where the elephant was before making any move.

As the light was failing rapidly, it would become even more difficult for us to grope in dark inside the forest and get to our side. So risk has to be taken. Slowly I walked to the edge of the concrete floor where there was a 20-feet drop and started moving forward cautiously  and stooping to the ground – ready to jump down if the elephant charged. Nothing of that sort happened and half way through, I felt even more confident and walked forward upright. Just as I was at the end of the concrete floor, I froze. I saw the elephant hurrying the other way. It had been there watching us, motionless, without any clue of its presence. As it hurried down, I waited for a few seconds and called out to both the Senthils and crossed the water outlet to go back to where our friends were waiting.

Just I reached the place, I saw the elephant breaking out of the bush below and coming out in the open to go to the water. All of us watched with awe at his size, the majestic look, and the poise with which he carried himself. He slowly proceeded towards water, and we couldn’t take any photos as the light has almost failed. The press people used flashes to get a good picture, but that only made the elephant go further away to a hiding of a high pile of mud. We saw ripples of the water beyond the hiding, which confirmed he had got into the water there. We stayed there for a few minutes, our hearts filled. Cracking jokes on our adventure, which could have easily become a grave misadventure, we returned home around 7.45 p.m. – to share all our experiences with you…

Map picture

Posted in Day Trips, Erode, Tamil Nadu, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Athikadavu & Pilloor – Nature’s Abode

– Jai…

Place: Athikadavu (50 Kms) & Pilloor (65 kms) from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.

Route: Coimbatore–Karamadai–Velliangadu–Athikadavu–Mulli–Pilloor

Date: 05 April 2012

Participants:

  1. Vivekanandh
  2. Mohan Kumar
  3. Karthi
  4. Jai (myself)

Mode of transport: Motorcycle (Bajaj Pulsar 150cc – 2 nos.)

Image

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Pilloor is a known drinking water source for Coimbatore for its dam across river Bhavani, and Athikadavu is a small hamlet 17 kms before Pilloor. The place is a Nature’s Abode and a Birder’s Paradise.

The approach up to Velliangadu is good. From Velliangadu the road is not maintained properly as it is under the control of Electricity Board. One needs to take prior permission from the forest department to travel beyond Velliangadu, and in our case, Mr. Ganesh of OSAI – a Coimbatore based Environmental NGO helped us in getting permission.

We started around 8 a.m. in two bikes. As the day was hot, the travel was neither pleasant nor unpleasant till Velliangadu. From there the forest area started and the things were comparatively cool and pleasant. Though it was not the same lush green blanket as it is during the cooler days, the flora and fauna were abundant.

We reached Athikadavu at 9.30 after a slow drive and thought of having a tea in the small forest shop there. My original plan was to explore this area as it was a place where the rare Hornbill (Malabar Pied Hornbill – iruvaatchi in Tamil) is spotted often. Fortunately a local tribal came forward to guide us through a short walk along the river bed. We alighted there and jumped at the first opportunity to explore nature. To help us rid of our burden, we left the food packs in the tea shop.

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The trek was beautiful along the thick green forest canopy along the river Bhavani. A variety of birds were there around and I was fascinated by a Racket Tailed Drongo that darted from our side to the opposite bank. Quite large varieties of tall trees almost succeeded in preventing the sun having access to the earth below. We had walked over half a kilometre when we heard a Barking Deer. A shy creature, and always on alert, it had moved out our way even before we had gone anywhere near. A short distance forward, the guide suddenly pointed out a tree on the opposite bank of the river, and asked us watch it. I was at the rear end, and couldn’t see anything. Just then something flew and I was able to get only the glimpse of the tail – Hornbill!

Mohan and Karthi on the front were fortunate enough to have a good look at it. It was a male and flew away as we approached. We also saw the nest of the hornbill in a hole in a big tree, into which the female had withdrawn. I cursed myself for losing the opportunity which presented itself, and the one which looked forward a lot.

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As we slowly inched forward, Vivekanandh suddenly turned to me and asked what the difference between a dog and a jackal was! I was puzzled,and asked him what made him ask that. He said he saw few animals on the opposite bank that looked like dogs but with fluffy tails. They had moved into bushes and I was inquisitive, therefore waited. Slowly one after another four of them came revealed themselves – I was aghast – Red Dogs (Dholes or Indian Wild Dogs)… They are ferocious, merciless, and hunt in packs. We were talking loudly on the other bank, few meters from them, but they never seemed to be bothered. A little later Vivekanandh caught a sight of a Barking Deer (Kelaiyaadu or Kaattu aadu in Tamil, and Kakkar in Hindi). None of the others had a chance to see it.

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Now that it was around 11.30 a.m., two hours since we started and we have reached Sirukinaru – a tribal hamlet, we thought we’ll end the trek there. Tired and sweating the river Bhavani which was a little deep and slow there proved to be wonderful place for our water acrobatics. We spent a little over 1 hour there and enjoyed the most. By the time we came out of water, we were very tired and hungry. We wished we had carried the lunch along. On the way back I saw a barking deer which had a good look at me for a few seconds and vanished in a fraction of a second. That was the longest time I had ever watched it in the wild.

We met around 30 people, mostly students, walking towards the same place and accompanied by Osai volunteers, on our way back. Some of them were fortunate to see the Hornbill and we rushed back to see whether it was still there. Alas, there was no clue about it. We waited for it for some time, but in vain. Meanwhile we sighted many birds including sunbirds, drongos, varieties of kingfishers, golden backed woodpecker and many unidentified species.

We had our lunch at 1.30 on the banks of the river and ENSURED THAT WE DID NOT POLLUTE the fertile land with our plastic bags – packed everything to be disposed safely at our hometowns. After a brief rest and photo session at the Athikadavu bridge – built in 1957 by Neelakantan Company, Chennai – the guide took leave of us (and managed to get Rs. 150/- from us without much of a fuss – for a trip worth it). We started for Pilloor at around 2.30 and reached Mulli check post after a few minutes. There the guard was reluctant to let in. I had to persuade him a lot, in spite of the permission we had obtained earlier, and had to assure him that we will not DEMAND entry (!!!) into the Pilloor Dam area – which is a restricted zone. From there we proceeded up to Baralikaadu Parisal Thurai (boat jetty), where boating facility used to be available. Now that water level had receded drastically (we even saw two girls, less then 10 years old, cross the dam without water reaching even their knees), the boating had been suspended. We played in the swings in big trees for some time and never had the mood to leave the place. As we knew that visiting Pilloor dam entrance was of no use, we decided to return straight from Baralikaadu saving a couple of kilometres of further ride.

The return was uneventful, and we reached home around 5.30 pm. On the whole, it was a memorable trip which would have been even more fantastic had we gone there after a couple of rains.

Posted in Coimbatore, Day Trips, Tamil Nadu | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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