Sunday, February 5, 2012

The day the elephant charged at us !

It was a 4 day trip to God's Own Country - Munnar in Kerala. It was the second day in our trip that we decided to go for a night safari. A safari jeep with no doors, and no guns for safety :) We started at around 10pm, and a couple of jeeps had left before us. The first jeep had informed our driver that a notorious single male elephant, commonly known as 'padayappa' by the locals was spotted on the way and so we should watch out. The night safari covered a distance of around 70-80 km one way and comes to around 150 - 160 km in total. We started from Munnar and travelled through Chinnar wildlife sanctuary, and towards Udumalaipet. The whole route is around hills going up and down, where we reach the jungle and elephant crossing point after an hour and a half. As we were going, our driver kept us busy by sharing his experiences about night safaris and the famous 'padayappa'. This particular guy he said has killed around 20 people and damaged numerous vehicles during the day at echo point, another tourist spot in Munnar. This gave us the chills !!

After about 20-30 mins, we spotted a vehicle at a distance in front of us about half a km, waiting there at the spot. Our driver guessed that the guy in front of us may have spotted an elephant and he's waiting for it to pass. Our guy was right. As we neared the other jeep, they signaled with their torches telling us to back off in case we need to take reverse. It was a left turn sloping uphill and both our jeeps were at the start of the turn. There was a huge rock to the left of us at the corner and the elephant was on the other side hiding behind the rock, eating something from the small building nearby, only its head partially visible. After a few mins, the guy in front of us made his way through. It was our turn next.

We made our way forward slightly to get a better view of the elephant. His head and eyes were visible and our driver told us to shine the torch on his eyes so that he will get distracted and move away. As we hit the torch on his eyes, he turned and moved on to the road and that was when we got a full view of the guy. Man, he was a huge tusker. There was another vehicle on the other side of the turning and we saw a silhoutte of the mighty beast in the darkness

This shot is all I could get in such low light.

After that, the guy turned and went towards the other side. Our driver alerted us that he is gonna take us through, and not to make any sounds and to hold on tight. He switched to 1st gear, and roared the engine. As we were making our way half way during the turn, and padayappa turned towards us. That was one moment I will not forget the rest of my life. We saw this huge powerful beast charging towards us, dust flying under his feet, ears fanned out. As our jeep picked up speed, we were out of sight. The guys at the back of our jeep said the elephant pierced his tusks into the sand and threw up dust and dirt in anger. Whew ! that was close :)

As we moved on, we had a tea break in one of the villages and went deeper into the jungle where we spotted a couple of deer, peacock, rabbit, and more elephants.

Took a U-turn at the end and made our way back to Munnar at 4:00 in the morning.

Went to the regular tourist spots on the metupatty dam road, took this from top station viewpoint

A panaroma of metupatty dam

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