Tag Archives: elephants

Pic of the Day – The Monster

Somewhere out there in the forests of spider valley is the monster that left this stool behind. And they say that the tiger is the king of the Indian jungle. Not even kitty messes with these things.

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Pic of the Day – The Vodaphant

While in Kerala, I actually saw an elephant that was working for a living. Up until now, I have seen wild elephants, temple elephants and elephants that you can ride, but never an actual working elephant. Naturally I had to take a photo. I like the composition with the elephant being used as an old fashioned heavy hauler, combined with the endless Vodaphone ads.

The Vodaphant

The Vodaphant

OOPS!

Hiking and being asked for my socks was not the only thing we did during our Tiruvannamalai trip. My copy of Lonely Planet describes Tiruvannamalai as one of the hidden gems of Tamil Nadu. I’m inclined to agree. It is a temple town with a huge Shiva temple and a number of ahsrams in and around the city. It is also a major pilgrimage center. In fact, Daniela’s boss during our time in India is a Brahman who goes to Tiruvannamalai to meditate as often as he can.

I enjoyed the temple complex mostly because of its architecture. As I understand it, Hindu temples are supposed to be pure and peaceful inside. From my observations, they can best be described as manmade caves. When the kings of old wanted to build a fancy temple, they could not make the temple itself fancy, so you don’t see anything at all like cathedrals or mosques… with the temple building itself. But what they could go crazy with was the rest of the temple grounds and especially the gates.

The Tiruvannamalai Temple Grounds

Inside the temple grounds, there was an elephant with a big shiva tikka taking donations. You walk up to the elephant and give it a coin. It takes your coin with its trunk, drops it into a basket and then blesses you by touching your forehead with its trunk. Charlotte went through most of our loose change this way.

Along with this, I was probably single handedly responsible for any future rules at that temple banning westerners. The temple complex actually has several temples; mostly small ones and one big one. We were inside one of the small ones and the priest was giving out blessings. I leaned over to our companion, Shiva (we went to a Shiva temple with a woman named Shiva) and asked.

You don’t suppose that he would let me take a photo, do you?

Let me ask.

She conferred with the priest, then told me that it is okay. They would not allow it in the larger temple, but here is okay. The part I did not “get” was that I was supposed to wait until he was done giving blessings to the current crowd.

Uh oh...

Boy was he angry!

I hustled right out of there! So if you ever visit the place and are not allowed in. Feel free to blame me.

Perhaps the sock man was karma…

Tiger Tracks and Tuskers

We spent a long weekend in Mysore and at Bandipur National Park. Bandipur is a national park in the very south of Karnataka. It lies at the foothills of the Nilgiris Mountains (part of the Western Ghats) and is Nilgiri Biosphere. It is also one of India’s tiger reserves, with some 80 tigers roaming the park’s 900 sq km (400 sq miles) of jungle. We went on two jeep safaris, one on Sunday evening and another on Monday morning; bouncing around the jungle in the back of an open jeep looking for critters. And critters were to be found in abundance! We saw:

  • Gaur, lots of gaur. Gaurs are the world’s largest Bovines, even bigger than the American bison. As is common with bison, we took to wrongly calling them buffalo.
  • Four Ruddy Mongooses
  • Four Peacocks. How these things actually survive in the wild is beyond me.
  • Lots of Sambar, sort large deer similar to the American mule deer
  • Lots of Chital, another kind of deer with white spots all over making them look like fawns. It must be mating season for them soon because the males were all sporting big racks of antlers.
  • Several Kingfishers
  • An eagle
  • Langurs, lots of langurs. They are sort of a big, funny looking monkey. Daniela thinks they look more human than the bonnet macaques that you normally find around human habitation in South India. I disagree. Macaques look like deranged elves but langurs have heads that are just way too small.

Sammy is really into numbers at the moment, especially weights, measures and adding them up. We are constantly being asked how big things are and how much they weigh (“Daddy, how much does Bangalore weigh?”). He wanted to know how much each animal weighed. By halfway through the first safari, he was summing up the total tonnage of animals that he had seen.

The real prize came on Monday morning. We had been scheduled to go for a trek instead, but being as it is monsoon season, it rained heavily most of the night. The guides told us that the trail would be slippery and that we should go for a safari instead. I suspect that the typical guests are homebodies because poor weather never stopped us from hiking before and we came armed with gore-tex. To be honest however, we were not strongly opinionated and a safari sounded like just as much fun. It turned out to be serendipity as the real highlights came on that trip.

We saw a huge bull elephant, complete with tusks! Female Asiatic elephants don’t have tusks (unlike African ones that do) and not all males do either. Since tuskers are under poaching pressure, they are exceedingly rare. To spot a tusker in the wild was a rare and special treat.

The other treat was a fresh tiger pawprint. As it had stormed all night, finding a perfectly formed tiger pawprint (pugmark in Indian English) meant that the animal had passed by within the past couple of hours and was likely still nearby. I thought briefly of getting out of the jeep to photograph the pawprint with my hand next to it for comparison and then just as quickly thought better of it. Climbing out of the jeep with a tiger nearby is never a good idea, even if Bandipur’s tigers are not prone to attacking people. We never actually saw any tigers, or leopards for that matter. This is normal in Bandipur. Despite having a large tiger population, they are rarely seen because of the density of the forest. After having watched a herd of one ton gaurs clumsily melt into the forest within thirty for forty meters of us and then seeing a bull elephant do the same, I’m not at all surprised that a camouflaged cat would remain unseen. So how many tigers did we pass right past that we never saw?

And the most important thing to remember is that we saw 15 tons of animals!

Pic of the Day – The Barfifant

… and Daniela really does look like she’ll throw up! Actually, the elephant saved her at a crucial moment by stopping to take a dump. 😛

On the Elephant at Bandipur