Sunday, October 1, 2023

Wild Chronicles: A Dramatic Expedition Through Central India's Jungles

Day 1: A Chaotic Start

Our adventure kicked off with an early morning flight from Delhi to Allahabad, now known as Prayagraj. The anticipation of exploring the wild jungles of India was palpable as we headed to the airport. Terminal 3 was bustling with travelers, but we swiftly navigated through thanks to the convenience of DigiYatra. After completing the check-in process, our flight took off right on schedule. However, fate had other plans in store for us. Mid-flight, we were informed that due to an issue in Allahabad, our aircraft would be diverted to Varanasi. The initial excitement of the journey soon turned into apprehension. Our plans were in jeopardy, and Avinash's flight from Mumbai was already delayed. The uncertainty loomed as we waited onboard. The pilot and crew were as clueless as we were, torn between deciding whether to proceed to Allahabad or stay in Varanasi. Hope wavered as we remained on the tarmac, waiting for a resolution. It was a tense and anxious wait, contemplating the fate of our meticulously planned trip. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the pilot announced that the issue in Allahabad had been resolved, and we were ready to take off as soon as the air traffic controller gave the green signal. Relief washed over us, mixed with the excitement of continuing our adventure. But the clock was ticking, and our Property Manager was informed of our late arrival, now estimated to be around 1 AM. The flight eventually took off and landed in Allahabad around 6-6:30 PM, coincidentally, the same time Avinash's Mumbai flight touched down. As we collected our luggage, a wave of relief swept over us. The question of whether we'd be able to proceed with our journey loomed large. With plans to hire an Ola or Uber to continue our journey, we encountered another roadblock. The enormous flight delay had left no available rides. We persisted, continuously trying to book a ride until, finally, a weary Ola driver accepted our request and drove up to 6 kilometers to pick us up. Back home, we discovered a new challenge as my car's battery had drained during our absence. Desperation set in as we contacted numerous repairmen, but none had the necessary battery for a jump start. The chances of continuing our trip seemed to dwindle with each passing minute. However, fate had one more twist in store for us. A bus mechanic agreed to lend us his battery, and with a stroke of luck, the car roared to life. It was already 8 PM, and we faced a daunting 7-hour drive ahead. Without wasting time, we filled up my XUV 300 with diesel, grabbed a quick meal, and hit the road, maintaining a steady speed of 120 km/h. We encountered the thrilling Chuiya Ghati, renowned for its sharp turns and slopes, adding an unexpected adventure to our already dramatic day. As the map indicated a 3 AM arrival at Bandhavgarh, we pressed on without rest, eventually reaching Tala Gate by midnight. With bated breath, we slowed our vehicle to 20 km/h, hoping for a wildlife encounter, but the monsoon had driven most animals deep into the forest. We finally arrived at our accommodation around 1 AM, where we enjoyed a late meal and listened to stories by the bonfire until 3 AM. Our first day had been filled with unexpected twists, testing our resolve and determination. 

Day 2: The Wild Encounter 

As the sun's first rays bathed our surroundings in golden light, I sipped my morning tea, idly wandering around the property. It was then that a voice from a nearby village lady made my heart skip a beat. "Bhaiya udhar Tiger Baitha hai," she whispered (Brother, there's a tiger over there). The possibility of encountering the mighty Jambhol, known for a tooth loss likely due to territorial fights or other unknown reasons, left me stunned. Memories of our first encounter with him while he hunted a cow raced through my mind. This time, I had my GoPro with me, but the footage from that fateful moment had been inconclusive. The GoPro had failed to keep pace with Jambhol's speed, and we were left with nothing but a missed opportunity. Determined not to let history repeat itself, I rushed to get my camera and informed Avinash. However, by the time we reached the spot, Jambhol had vanished into the thick jungles of Bandhavgarh, leaving us with a sense of awe and longing. Our cameras remained unused, and our quest to capture Jambhol on film continued.

Unleash the Wild with GoPro 📷 Can you uncover the hidden tiger in this exhilarating footage

The excitement of the morning encounter lingered as we settled back into our property. We set up our tripods, hoping for another glimpse of the elusive tiger, but this time, we aimed to capture the serenity of the jungle and its avian inhabitants. 
Image of a Knobbed Bill Duck in the lush fields near Bandhavgarh Jungle, showcasing its unique knobbed bill and serene presence in nature.

Celebrating the Beauty of Nature: Knobbed Bill Duck in the Fields of Bandhavgarh Jungle

As night descended and we gathered by the bonfire once again, our conversations shifted to a different topic—food. Avinash brought up the idea of mushrooms found in Salwood forests and termite hills. It was a new interest that piqued my curiosity. Despite visiting Bandhavgarh several times before, we had never ventured into the world of forest mushrooms.

Closeup of a Knobbed Bill Duck's Distinctive Bill in Bandhavgarh's Serene Fields

Grace in Detail: The Knobbed Bill Duck's Exquisite Bill, a Natural Masterpiece

A pair of Warbling White-Eyes perched on a branch in Bandhavgarh, singing in unison."

Harmonious Duets in Bandhavgarh: A Pair of Warbling White-Eyes Share a Musical Moment 
Two Common Mynas with striking black and yellow plumage, sitting on a wired fence in Bandhavgarh National Park, India

Two Common Mynas Perched on a Fence in Bandhavgarh: Nature's Melodious Duets
Two Black Drongos with iridescent plumage, sitting gracefully on a wired fence in the natural beauty of Bandhavgarh.

Two Black Drongos Perched on a Wired Fence in Bandhavgarh: Moments of Tranquility
A Lesser Adjutant Stork, a species of bird, amidst the vibrant greenery of Bandhavgarh's jungle.
Lesser Adjutant Stork in the Lush Green Jungle of Bandhavgarh: A Graceful Presence 🌿

Day 3: A Mushroom Adventure 

Our curiosity got the better of us, and we decided to explore the local markets in Umaria, hoping to find puttu mushrooms and the elusive species that thrived in termite hills. Our search was fruitful, and we returned to our accommodation with a stash of mushrooms, eager to savor these newfound forest treasures. The taste of the mushrooms was nothing short of extraordinary, leaving us in awe of the culinary delights that nature had to offer. The decision to extend our stay by a day proved to be one of the best choices we made. The following morning, we discovered even more mushrooms in the ground adjacent to our property. 

A captivating view of the dense, thriving jungle in Bandhavgarh, showcasing the unspoiled splendor of the wilderness.

Unveiling the Untamed Beauty of Bandhavgarh's Jungle: Where Nature Reigns Supreme
With our newfound passion for mushrooms, we embarked on a small ride, discovering more varieties and encountering the elusive adjutant birds, though capturing them on camera proved challenging. We roamed the nearby village, immersing ourselves in the natural beauty that surrounded us. As night fell, we sat by the bonfire once again, discussing life, future plans, and dreams of retiring in a place like Bandhavgarh. The topic of astrophotography came up, and we were surprised to realize that Bandhavgarh had something else to offer—stunningly dark skies devoid of light pollution. Gazing up, we were treated to a mesmerizing view of the Milky Way, a sight we had never expected to encounter here. A spark of excitement ignited within us as we realized the potential for astrophotography. While we were novices in this field, our determination led us to experiment with different techniques. With a 200-500 mm lens initially in use, we soon learned that it was inadequate for astrophotography. 

A mesmerizing view of the Milky Way galaxy shining brightly in the night sky, complemented by the warm glow of nearby property lights.
Milky Way's Celestial Symphony: A Cosmic Tapestry Illuminated by Earthly Lights 🌌✨
A quick shift to an 18-50 mm lens at 18 mm, however, yielded magical results. We captured the Milky Way in all its splendor, making it a night to remember for two amateur photographers.

A breathtaking photograph of the Milky Way galaxy, revealing its intricate beauty against the backdrop of a moonless, pitch-black night.
The Milky Way's Enchanting Dance in the Dark: A Cosmic Spectacle Beyond Imagination 🌌✨

A solitary tree silhouetted against the breathtaking backdrop of the Milky Way galaxy, creating a stunning fusion of natural beauty and cosmic wonder.
Nature's Nighttime Embrace: The Milky Way Illuminating a Solitary Tree 🌌🌳
Day 4: Onward to Kanha

With our hearts brimming with adventure and newfound photography skills, we reluctantly bid farewell to Bandhavgarh. Our next destination was Kanha, promising a unique experience compared to the rugged charm of Bandhavgarh. The drive was nothing short of scenic perfection. We traversed through dense jungles and rolling hills, each bend in the road revealing a new facet of nature's beauty. However, as we entered Kanha, we realized that this national park had its own distinct character. Our journey through the heart of India's jungles was proving to be a rollercoaster of experiences, each day bringing new challenges and unexpected delights. Stay tuned for more tales from our wild adventure, where every moment is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

About the Author

Siddhartha Mishra is a lawyer and wildlife enthusiast based in Allahabad, India. By day, he navigates the complexities of legal matters, advocating for justice. When the sun sets, Siddhartha embarks on thrilling journeys into India's wilderness, capturing its beauty through the lens of his camera and his words. His blog bridges the gap between legal discourse and the wonders of the natural world, inviting readers to explore the harmony between the two realms. Join Siddhartha on this adventure to discover the magic of nature and the principles of justice that guide our world

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