Anirudh revs up the Dicor’s engine one last time to get the huge stone that’s stuck beneath the chassis. The tire only slips further into the loose gravel and refuses to budge from the stone incine that we’ d created. 13:30hrs. Scorching 45 degrees outside.No sleep, no breakfast; Five hours of non-stop walk in the highly de-forested wildlife sanctuary, a dried up river bed on the right and two highly dehydrated people from the team yet to make their way to the car. Anirudh swings the car’s door open, hurls himself to the drivers seat, switches on the AC and escapes into oblivion. I follow suit.
April 30th ’09
We’re to leave Gachibowly by 16:30hrs. 17:30hrs and Guru is yet to receive his 1942 Ford Jeep by which we were to head to Nirmal forests for a three days quarantine in a wildlife sanctuary. The five of us [ Guru, Ani, Ramraj, Venu and I] finally get to leave Gachibowli at 20:00hrs after a series of delays. Snailing through the city’s traffic we finally touch the outskirts by about 21:00hrs exiting through Shamirpet. A splendid ride for about an hour and a half and we break for dinner at Gangaram. Thanks to the military canvas water sacs slung on either side of the jeep, we have some real good chilled water. Soon we push towards Karimnagar via Siddipet. A lorry driver guides us through the Karimnagar town and from the outskirts asks us to drive straight towards Lakshettipet. Nirmal is supposed to be about 30kms from here. Thanks to a rick plying at those early hours we’re re-directed to the right path and at about 03:30hrs we finally reach the Jannaram Police checkpost.Asif from HYTICOS shows us the dormitory where we were supposed to camp. Remaining folks who’d left by bus to Hyd were yet to reach Jannaram.We crash at about 04:00hrs.
May 01st ’09
06:00hrs we’re woken up and asked to leave. I’m asked to join three others – Anirudh, Sandeep and Amit who’d reached Jannaram at about 01:00am. We’re to scout for pugmarks and collect tiger scat in the Pemble region of the Kawal wildlife sanctuary. Rajyam- a local villager was to be the tracker for the next few hours. Directions are pretty simple – follow the tracker, grab decent scat samples and pugmarks and get back to the base point by 10:00hrs.
The Pimble region is about an hours drive from Jannaram. A quick round of tea and we push off to Rajyam’s village. Sandeep hands over rice, dal and vegetables for them to cook lunch for us. We finally leave for the estimation exercise by 07:30hrs. Rajyam directs us through a few villages and finally to a point where the vehicle couldn’t move any further. We start the exercise and soon spot pug marks and scat samples. A hike of about an hour or so and we have a decent number of scat samples. Quite a few pugmarks are identified to be from leopards, tigers and bears but no detailed analysis could be done as most of them were on loose soil and the impressions were not distinct enough to make PoP moulds. Rajyam finally states there’s a high probability of finding animals near a river bed which is supposedly just a km away. We’re all excited and start moving in that direction as led by Rajyam. A few minutes into the walk, we see the first ever wild animal since the start of the exercise- a wild boar. It makes a quick noise to the right and runs in an undestined direction towards our rear. This pumps up our adrenaline a bit and we move ahead hoping to have the sighting of another wild animal. A few more sctas and a bit further we see a couple of Sambhars strolling lesuirly.
It’s almost 10:00am now and still Rajyam’s ‘one km far’ river bed is not to be seen. The sun is slowly burning more and more of Hydrogen and the effect is very well seen at this non descript location in the Kawal wildlife sanctuary. Finally after about half an hour of walk Rajyam is elated having reached the waterbed. No animals out here but the very satisfaction of having reached here brings in some respite. Then out of the blue it suddenly strikes me, how unmindful we’ve been in trampling our way to the riverbed and in our quest we’ve mercilessly forgotten that this is a goddamn wildlife sanctuary – the courtyard of carnivorous animals. Probably I was just getting a bit more aware of my surroundings. Wandering in a wild life sanctuatry is so exhilrating! You know there’s nothing much that can be done in case a wild animal wants to make a sweet meal out of you but at the same time there’s this urge to explore and be in the vicinity of just another species of nature’s creation!
10:30hrs. Sandeep declares he’s not going to walk a bit further because of his ligament problem. By the banks, we notice a bullock cart. Rajyam enquires the villager if he would fancy riding us back to the spot where the car was parked. An outright No comes as the answer. At this juncture, Rajyam states if one of us could get back with him, he could guide us to get the vehicle to a spot pretty close to the river bed. Anirudh and I decide to take it on and follow Rajyam. Sandeep and Amit rest in the shade. The hike back gets more gruelling with the heat taking its toll. We’re left with no water.Two hours and we still do not seem to reach the spot. Anirudh seems to be in a precarious situation and is in no position to move ahead. Finally sense prevails and we ask him to rest in a spot which looked safe. Rajyam and I rush to the car and thankfully this happens to be only about a 10mins quick walk from that place. We pull out a waterbottle and two apples and rush back to the spot where we’d left Anirudh. He thankfully is very much alert and the water and apples revives him a bit.Boy. Those were the juiciest apples I’ve ever had till date! With some motivation the three of us fnally reach the car at around 13:00hrs. These folks had thankfully about 10lts of water in the car. We gulp down liters and finally start driving our way to the river bed to pick up the other two. Rajyam states it would take us easily about twenty minutes to reach the spot. We’re a bit worried about them as its almost been close to three hours that we’ve left them and they themselves are left with no water. The only consolidation was that they were in the shade and had some watersource nearby to bank on if it really comes to it.
After a tough ride through narrow paths , we reach a spot where we get to see the river to our right. We’re just a few yards away from the spot where the other two were left when we realise the vehicle could not move ahead because of the terrain. I walk down to the riverbed with a bottle of cold water but am compelled to get back as they’re not to be seen there. As I get back I see the vehicle in a real bad state. Anirudh had asked Rajyam to guide him down the path hoping to bypass the big stone that was in the middle but due to some miscommunication the stone got under the chassis and was literally pivoting it. Despite several attempts to inch it out, the Dicor refuses to budge. Anirudh revs up the Dicor’s engine one last time to get the huge stone that’s stuck beneath the chassis. The tire only slips further into the loose gravel and refuses to budge from the stone incine that we’ d created. 13:30hrs. Scorching 45 degrees outside.No sleep, no breakfast; Five hours of non-stop walk in the highly de-forested wildlife sanctuary, a dried up river bed on the right and two highly dehydrated people from the team yet to make their way to the car. Anirudh swings the car’s door open, hurls himself to the drivers seat, switches on the AC and drifts into oblivion. I follow suit. We request Rajyam to fetch the other two to the car.
After about half an hour, the three of them return. The look on their faces said it all! Later we get to know some grateful guy had created a fresh water spring on the river bed for them and that is what kept them going till this moment. They relax for sometime and finally at about 14:00hrs we decide to give the vehicle another shot again. With some more trials the stone beneath the chassis is finally removed. The happiness is pretty shortlived as the vehicle soon gets caught up in the loose gravel. The vehicle refused to budge and was only sinking more deep in the soil. All attempts to harden the ground by placing rocks and stones in the gaps only led to the Dicor getting badly damaged from the bottom. For close to two hours in the scathing sun we try our best in getting the vehicle out. Turn by turn finally at around 16:30hrs the vehicle budges out. Avoiding any more delay we outrightly move out of this place all covered in dust and dirt.
We drop Rajyam in his village and decide to head to Nirmal. 17:45hrs we reach Nirmal. I decide to call it a day and head to Hyderabad while the remaining three head to a hotel to clean up and crash. I board an inter district local bus at about 18:00hrs. With a drunkard for company and five hours of ‘rocking’ travel I finally reach Hyderabad at about 23:30hrs.
The wild boar, the sambhars, trails of pugmarks, scat samples, the agonising hike in the blistering heat, miserably stuck Dicor, the drunkard in the local bus and the five hour long ride …was it all worth it? Hell, it was! Been quite some time that I’ve experienced such a LONG day. I’ve literally lived every second of it! And boy, I’m still rich with two more days to spend on other things!
- Distance from Hyderabad: About 270kms [~50kms from Mancherial Railway station ]. Take a left at Lakshettipett and drive straight down to Jannaram.
- Wikimapia link
- HYTICOS has been successful in blocking civilian movement from 00:00 hrs to 06:00hrs on the road connecting Jannaram and Nirmal that passes through the WLS.
Tiger estimation using Pugmarks:
The Pugmark methodology for estimating tigers may not really be scientific but still looks to be pretty convincing on paper. Here’s an interesting link to understand how this thing works. As far as my understanding goes, tiger estimation in this region is done using pugmarks alone. But looking at the way it was being practised at KWS I fail to understand how close to the actual figures our estimates would be No heed was being paid to check if the impression was of the hind leg or the front leg. Wouldn’t photographs alone do? Why would you want to trace out the pugmark on a glass surface and then on to the sheet? Agreed this method has been in use for a long time now. But I strongly believe with use of technology a much better concrete exercise can be pulled out.