The author, Anjali Singh, is Director and CEO
Wildberries Resorts pvt Limited
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
My only question was, “if we have a rendezvous with the big cat (read tiger), what exactly do we do?”
It wasn’t taken as seriously as it was asked. My Co-hikers , all three of them major trekking enthusiasts and experienced trekkers presumably had better ability to deal with that situation and much to my disadvantage had ability to outrun me in an “abort mission” situation in case the big cat decided to claim its territory.
Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, that sprawls over 800 sq km over three districts, has surprisingly reported tiger count of nearly 48. This is a heartening figure for nature lovers but when you are on foot trekking to a lost “Chor Bawadi” in the middle of the forest, this number is definitely not comforting. Chor Bawadi is an amazing water system constructed by the Gond rulers in 7th Century to supply water to the Ginnorgarh Fort. The beautifully constructed sump that collects water from several small perennial streams is an engineering masterpiece.
So as decided by four of us, with our forest guide in lead, the mission was to reach the Bawadi and be back to get to a view point at POW camp for tea with the setting sun. In all, it was a trek of 12 km.
For a beginner like me but a thorough lover of forests and outdoors it appeared like an enjoyable and easy trek that didn’t involve much climbing and difficult terrain. Everything was going on as planned except when we were already 5 km in the forest and we started to hear deer and langur alarm calls. First they appeared to be further away but then slowly the calls got too close for comfort. And now to add to my anxiety the forest guide gave the signal to stop at once and pointed at something in the dirt.. oh no the pugmarks! So that wasn’t a false alarm, we really did have company. It was definitely not a good time to bring up my yet to be answered question again. The forest guide and my co hikers could deduce that the movement had been from the forest towards the stream along which we had been trekking for last kilometer and a half, and in all probability it had crossed the stream a few minutes before our arrival - the pugmarks were there to tell the tale. The Tiger still remains a much predictable big cat as compared to leopard, which are apparently more in numbers compared to tigers in Ratapani Sanctuary. While counting pugmarks and understanding movements in whispers and hushed voices we were quietly moving towards our mission point. And finally when it was in sight, my throat felt dry looking at that water filled ruins of Chor Bawadi. This was our pitstop to have water and lunch and replenish our energies which got largely drained by the fright of a rendezvous with the king of the jungle.
To my relief by the time we finished our lunch and started back on foot the alarm calls had started fading out. As planned we trekked another 6 km and were at the culmination point of this adventures trek just at the right time to have a hot cup of tea and the most spectacular view of setting Sun over Vidhyachal Ranges and beautiful forest of Ratapani.