SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: In the jungles of Kakanakote, the shrill trumpeting of the elephant mingles with the deep, guttural rumble of the tiger’s roar.
The ‘dhoink’, ‘dhoink’ of the alarmed sambhar with his panic-stricken foot-stomping; the furtiveness of the spotted deer as he desperately scurries for cover; the sloppy amble of the sloth bear who seems to be consumed by his own thoughts.
Kakanakote is all about the aloofness of existence—the high spiritedness of being willing to be cut off from man-made civilization and losing yourself to the naked beauty of no-holds-barred wilderness.
To show the pluck and gumption to traverse tracks, mostly untrodden and unheard, somewhere in the foggy, misty, gruelling and unrelenting depths of the backwoods of the world.
And the names of the places inside the jungle: quaint, amusing and sometimes weird.
Kudresatta Halla: A place where an anti-poaching camp is situated. So named after a horse ridden by a British forest officer suddenly collapsed and died at the spot, many decades ago, presumably after a heart attack.
Nayi Halla: One of the most fascinating places to spot wildlife. On the Bandipur side of the Kabini. Hundreds of elephants roam the area in summer. And the tiger walks proud! Not to forget the packs of wild dogs and other assorted denizens of the jungle.
Masaale Betta: Where the famed last scene of the super hit film, Gandhada Gudi, starring Raj Kumar and Vishnuvardhan was shot in the early 1970s.
Sunkada Katte: A calm forest bungalow built by the British in 1905 that still exists. It is to the back of this bungalow that the small stream that lends its name to the entire jungle, Nagarahole, meanders quietly.
Kymara, where one of the remotest forest bungalows in the area exist. To spend a night there is the earthly equivalent of being in the main hall of vaikunta. Divinely mesmerizing!
Karadi Halla, where the world famous howdah elephant Drona met a tragic end, electrocuted by a high-tension wire.
Udboor Koodu (Udboor Junction), where I recently saw one of the rarest sights in all my life, three leopards on a single tree! Time: 5.23! Post-meridiem.
Balle, where an elephant camp exists.
Hanape Thodu, where an ancient tree revered by the Soligas stands tall. Bisilwadi Kere: A huge lake in the Sunkada Katte area where animals congregate to drink.
Kottige Thittu, where you will surely find crocodiles when you don’t find elephants.
Baraballe: A rocky escarpment known for bears.
Mastigudi, where most of Gandhada Gudi was shot. And in the ancient past, the spot where the thrilling Khedda operations were conducted under the aegis of the Mysore Maharaja.
Gundre: On the Karnataka-Kerala border deep inside the jungle, to reach which you’ll need a four-wheel drive jeep and a driver with well heeled guts!
Dodda Byrana Kuppe: Very much on the Karnataka side but completely inundated with a profusion of Malayalee ‘entrepreneurs’. The good, the bad and the ugly!
Just take off to Kakanakote.
Take off to hear the incessant chattering of grey langurs high up in the trees. The grunt of the wild boar from inside the pink flowered lantana. The rasping sounds of the gaur feeding on the lush green grass. The plaintive ‘meeeeoooow’ of the splendidly plumed peacock.
Take off to hear the flitting of the racket-tailed drongo amidst the branches. The lonely vigil of the sentinel of the skies, the crested serpent eagle. The frantic twittering of the orange tinted bulbul. And the siren like wail of the weirdly named brain fever bird from deep inside the woods.
Take off to come back refreshed, recharged, rejuvenated and rejoiced.
I do. Like I’ve been doing for 21 years on the trot!