Our jeep just passed a sheer with shrubs bordering the way, a surprise shower greeted us out of nowhere and before we could rumple, we reached Chenchu children playing with a Sambar deer under a big tree. It was last week of April and our camping amid dense forest of Amrabad Tiger Reserve had just started.
“The Behrapur forest base camp was hundred step away from a Chenchu hamlet of fifteen huts, it lay next to an old temple ruin bordering a white lotus filled lake, Here time cavorted still, the worries departed and we felt belittle under the creation of vast expanse of skies and of course the incredible jungle that has wilderness of all sizes, hues and clamor.”
Although we went for volunteering for the annual wildlife estimations, we were late as the process was almost nearing the end, we had notable interactions with field staff in Behrapur, and couple of them had walked since morning till early evening, concluding their two day estimation work elsewhere in another remote location. One looked tired and couldn’t speak much, as I kept pondering he could have walked in evening instead the noon. The prospect of facing Bears in evening was more terrifying than the walk in sun one of them said.
To each his own but for me to comprehend a forest in its pristine prime is always a charm.
Those valleys, hills and gorges hold beauty of immense value, the breeze just gusting at will and spilled the lakes tranquil, the deer visit the lake in petty to large herds, and all along an occasional hawk cuckoo’s call brrrrn fvvvvvvr… brrnfvvvvvvvr.. kept coming not just in the day but even pierced the moonlit nights.
We cooked all our meals, maggie, tea, we also went trails all mornings and evenings. Some also found time to swim in the lake next to the temple ruins. Our lake was frequented by a herd of fifty spotted deer our first dawn, one laborer lady carrying out the kuccha road work saw Tiger at the lake couple of days prior to our visit, she then ran back to the camp in panic.
The raptors including a solo Black eagle kept flying across all day long, as we sat near our base camp which lay under the ficus tree. Green imperial pigeons swelled in bushes and hogs kept exploring the forest floor. A Fish eagle also visited and other raptors including buzzards were always at sky.
We explored the forest with Chenchu trackers, the forest just went on and on with deep gorges and ravines that finally slit the land, and in those deep valleys at distance lay the huge streams that fill the mighty Krishna River. The camp’s dog kept catching up our stroll in spite of valiant efforts by Chittia to drive it back.
To write about such trips can be endless with no words that can do justice.
On the final day I spent some time with Chenchu men near their hamlet, they had interesting views, woes and ideas. Unravelling the Chenchu life amid the influence of wilderness holds answers for prospect of these forests and Tigers.
(We volunteered this year at Eturnagram and Amrabad Tiger Reserve. I should thank the Chenchu trackers Chittia and Bala without them we couldn’t have explored as much. It is not just easy to plan such trips along its trainings, permissions, logistics and participation. I take a moment to thank all volunteers, supporters (Special mention of Kareem), forest department for all the help)
Impressive number of deer and a Tiger’s roar; Birds always busy with their daily chores.
Lines and Photos by Asif Siddiqui