Sunday, January 08, 2006

Travelogue Part 3 - Kaziranga



It feels strange on elephant back, towering over the rest of the animal kingdom. For the last 15 minutes we have waddled through blades of elephant grass that are so tall that they come all the way up to my waist, even though I am seated atop the elephant. Daylight hasn’t broken into the sanctity of the quiet night and the forest is a blur of ghostlike images, almost magical in the moonlight. The mahout (handler) of the elephant soundlessly guides the elephant to the right, but it all looks like acres and acres of elephant grass with some trees, here and there, reaching out to the sky like outstretched hands of a man buried under the swampy land trying desperately to come out. The mahout tells me that they burn the grass in springtime so that new grass can grow. Until then it is so easy to be lost here.

A solitary owl ensconced on a tree is surveying the forest. It looks at me with sharp eyes, as though to question me, “What brings you here?” Suddenly the forest is abuzz with noise. The high pitched “caw caw” of birds that I cannot see. We hear some wings fluttering. It is like a burglar alarm that just went off, and the forest is now aware of us. After a while it is silent again. The elephant waddles on into a small pond of water, unperturbed by all this. We sight a herd of wild elephants on the other side of the pond. The mahout tells me it is rare to spot a herd of wild elephants. We spot an elephant with beautiful long white tusks, and when it makes to move towards us it is a real cause for concern. Even the mahout straightens up, his face tense with concentration. But then the herd leaves to go and we move on.

It is then that the mahout points towards something moving in the bushes. We move towards it as fast as we can. The elephant expertly circles around it. The sun peeks at us from the east and the light shines through the bush and reveals two rhinos busy having breakfast. So this is the famous one-horned rhino from Kaziranga. Muscular and majestic. If it wanted to, it could ram into the elephant and knock us all down. Fearlessly the mahout moves in closer and furiously I work with the camera and gulp in as much of what I see, as I can.

The rhinos gaze back at us. The pair is not alone – there are more rhinos hidden in the bushes. The horns move up and the heads along with it. The rhinos won’t budge from their stance. The elephants hold their ground. The silent tussle continues for an eternity. It is a strange power struggle where so little is spoken but so much is said. I look on as the sun finally decides to emerge, shedding colorful light on an incredible scene, on an unforgettable day.



11 comments:

erikku said...

Very cool, Wriju.

Were you scared with the rhinos? Even though that one you took a shot of looks kind of far away, I imagine my heart would beat a little faster if a half ton animal pointed it's horn in my direction.

Wriju said...

I think sitting on the elephant mitigated the fear a bit.
I went in with a jeep later on and suddenly chanced upon a herd of rhinos. Can't tell you how fast the heart was beating!

Chloe said...

what does it feel like sitting on an elephant? this is the stuff of fairy tales Wriju. It may be a fairly common thing in your part of the world, but here it sounds so exotic, out of this world.

Loonie said...

muuhahahhaa! So connoisseur had a lovely elephant ride through the endless jungles of kaziranga!
not to forget..did you cross a river/waterbody/canal on a boat? or has the bridge been reparied yet?
I still have this query in mind: How..but can you differentiate b/w a white and a black rhino?! they all look the same!!!!
and yes..did the mahout talk to you of poaching of the rhinos?

Nabeel said...

i've been on an elephant back .. when i was very little. It was in a zoo though .. ahh .. brings back old memories.

Tell me no more of enchanted days said...

wow..strange coincidence..guess we'r sailing in the same boat..or pretending to sail..whichever way..

Wriju said...

Chloe:
The same feeling I get when I read about Athens and islands of Greece :-)
It is tough to describe a feeling - imagine describing how coffee tastes! But it is amazing when you feel the animal take measured steps and the body lurch ahead in a nice wavy motion. You do feel top of the world.

Loonie:
To me all rhinos look a shade of gray. Like us humans - no one's white or black ;-)
The previous night 2 poachers were shot dead - it was gruesome sight but its worse to see a rhino killed for it's horn.

Nabeel:
I have tried camel-back, elephant-back and horse-back!

Tell me:
Which boat would that be? The one that all us humans sail on? With crests and troughs of emotion and enchanting memories to last a lifetime.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

angel, jr. said...

i hope you plan on publishing your travel experience. This would make great reading for the part of the world that doesn't know about your blog.

Laura:) said...

Awesome! I am so jealous! I want to ride an elephant:( -(can't tell really but that is a pout and I am stomping my foot.)

Wriju said...

Angel:
Thanks! I kind of like the concept of the blog as opposed to just publishing. The feedback is so instant and genuine :-)

Laura:
Stop pouting and plan a trip to here :-D

Laura:) said...

Yes, I think I will start planning today.