The national park at Kanha was humongous. With the complete dedication of time, resources and commitment, this rambling forested region will take a die-hard visitor far more than a month to even cover fifty percent of this undulating tree laden land. Every time we drove out, we could make out with our evolving knowledge in biology or botany that we were witnessing a variety of landscapes and woodland.
The roads, the trees, the meadows changed. Somewhere we found tall hillocks right of the dirt roads, covered with trees that were entirely different than what we had seen a day before in the same area.
We continued our quest for more as we ate the remaining miles that spaced us out from the forest fringes which had given way to towns and habitation.
The dirt track that meandered through the forest exposed us to dense forest areas, unlike the flat grasslands we had seen earlier.
We were mesmerized by the extent of contrasts that this forest had to offer. No matter how much we drove through the forests for hours, we never got tired. The view of two lone Gypsies driving up front slowly through a narrow corridor of the forest gave us that element of acute elation.
The insatiable expectation to see the unseen.
At places, the forest was very close to the road and a fear of a sudden appearance of a leopard perched on a tree branch kept us on the edge. We would not even have the space to turn around or drive in reverse. We would have been sitting ducks if it had pounced on us. Not long before our thoughts made us think deeper, the ever-changing land presented a couple of rock-strewn streams that ran along the road.
The Gypsy increased her engine note and the driver continuously changed to lower gears. We were traversing an incline.
The streams were fed by the groundwater and clearly were not part of any torrential river system. There were dry patches too which we crossed.
Dry to semi-humid undergrowth was reminiscent of the water that had flowed through these areas. Now bare and polished rocks of the bed could be seen staring at us.
We wanted to feel the forest, hear the sounds that reverberated every minute through the trees and echoed over the open spaces. Even with the sun in full bloom, ensconced in total security provided by a car, the presence of trained forest guides, the long bellowing or sometimes, shorter squeaks, the culmination of forest sound suddenly made us numb with fear. The fear of the wild.
Our ears warmed and there was an adrenaline rush which we could feel as our bodies shivered. We stopped the vehicle and waited a full ten minutes, appreciating the vastness and quietness of nature.
Our driver was a very considerate man and smiled at us. He kept us with our request to stop at places and let us savor the rich beauty and silence.
We kept on our pace of romancing the forest and after traveling the last four kilometres the broken wooden gate loomed ahead and the road through it took us outside the forest.
We snatched ourselves from Kanha’s enticing grasslands and headed for Pench national park. The plan was to touch and go over this specific wilderness, briefly before heading back to Nagpur. Pench is located south west of Kanha and is not as big; however, had enough wild firepower to attract any natural lovers.
I got back into the Hindustan Ambassador and felt all my own driving elements coming back after three days of being driven and gunned the engine to drive about one hundred and ninety odd kilometres to reach Pench.
Maintaining an average drive speed of eighty kilometers an hour, we took about three hours to reach Pench. By the time we reached, the sun had well past its prime and had started its westward homeward run.
We traveled about four to five kilometres in the forest as it was getting dark before we came to a spot where we met a lethal feline within an iron fortress.
My excitement was bursting at its seams, as I was able to capture a leopard, infamous for killing twenty humans and now lived its remaining life in captivity. Love of human blood changed its life.
Even today as we had seen, if someone approached the leopard at close quarters, the cat bared its yellow white teeth and showed aggression as if it was in the wild, ready to strike.
For lunch, we came back to a restaurant that had murals and paintings that depicted the famous characters of Jungle book by Rudyard Kipling.
It was here, he wrote the book after falling in love with woods around him.
We were almost on the verge of winding our brilliant forest excursion of Kanha and Pench. What we learned will remain with us forever. Forests are always to be respected. It is us who are the trespassers and not the wild animals.
By way of technical power, we reckon we become the so called demigods who take it for granted that animals can be driven to submission and handled with ruthlessness. Instead of using our inventions to drive against them, we humans can be far more effective if we use them to help them flourish.
Replete with wild memories, I started the Ambassador to cover the two hundred and fifty kilometres of winding roads, briefly touching the Pench and spearheaded south west to reach Nagpur.
Hope the readers love the wild national parks and play by their rules and not enforce their own rules.
These wild animals are majestic and supreme, should prevail for our next generations to see, feel and glow in their delight.
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