The Monarch of BR Hills
Sometimes things don’t work out as planned and all you can do is just wait for everything to fall in place. From the last week of December, 2016 I had made plans to visit BR Hills. I had heard from friends and over the Internet that the ride to BR hills was beautiful and cannot be missed. But then every week the plan got postponed until 14th January 2017. Again as in my previous trip to Savandurga, we were a group of 4 ( my wife Pooja, and our friends Arun and Vidya).
From Bangalore through Kanakapura, Kollegal route we set forth to the K. Gudi Wilderness camp situated inside BRT Tiger reserve. Enjoying the scenic country side beauty of Karnataka. I must say it was difficult to keep your eyes on the road. There was so much to look around and see.
But the most interesting part of the ride was the final 11km just before K. Gudi wilderness camp through the BRT Tiger reserve. The jungle was silent and calm except for the leaves rustling in the wind and the occasional chirping of a few birds. There was a Blue chested Kingfisher that was trying to race with us, but I just slowed down to enjoy its beauty. Then lay ahead of us 11km of sheer pleasure, roads winding up the hill and through the jungle. I do not have words to describe what I saw or experienced in that 11 Kms. And probably the only sound to be heard was my enfield thumping as it was climbing the hill. Usually from my past experiences in such trips the jungle roads will be littered with bonnet macaques and spotted deer, but this time there was no one.
Around noon time we reached K. Gudi wilderness camp. My friends were already there had checked in and were out with their cameras. So we hurried into our rooms not wanting to miss anything. The welcome party at the camp was organized by an Asian Paradise Flycatcher. This was followed by another show by a couple of Blue-throated bee eaters. We took a stroll around their property and by then lunch was ready. At 4pm we all had geared up and were ready for the jungle safari. From our previous safari experiences expectations were low and we took it causally. Our guide was Mr. Narayan and besides the 4 of us there were 2 more people on the Jeep (Dr. Prem and his son). After the first half an hour of the trip I felt that Mr. Narayan had some kind of super power with which he could spot almost anything at any distance. All the way along we saw drongos, white breasted king fishers, Tickell’s blue fly catcher and so on. There were some barking deers too. This continued for almost 2 and half hours and I guess Mr. Narayan was not yet in a mood to give up and took us on the main road in the opposite direction of the camp. It was getting dark and the cold jungle breeze was getting colder with each passing moment. And suddenly there it was, on the road side a magnificent beast with orange and white fur, with black strokes like the strokes made by an artist using a paint brush. I was in a trance for a moment trying to figure out what had just happened. There was so much excitement in that jeep and I was still not able to get hold of the moment. Having missed a golden opportunity in the past at Wayanad, this was like a second chance for me. I decided not even to touch the camera. This was the moment and I had to be in it. I was not going to let anything distract me from it.
Seems like luck was on our side, the tiger just decided to sit down relax and it gave us a grand pose. My friend started frantically clicking, even Dr. Prem was busy with his camera. Since all I had was my mobile phone, I thought I will enjoy the view. It never took its eyes off us but at the same time he was not scared or anxious. It seems that he knew that he was in control and that we were at his mercy. After all this was his jungle, his kingdom and we were the outsiders. And finally when he got bored by our gimmicks, just stood up and started walking towards our side. I could feel the tension in the jeep as it started walking, it gave us one final look. By then a couple of cars had lined up behind us, that grand creature just disappeared into the bushes.
Mr. Narayan drove like crazy back to the camp. We were received like heroes and everyone had gathered around to look at the photos.
That night we all went to sleep with a sense of accomplishment that none of us have ever felt in life. Maybe this was by far the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.