Black And Green
Black And Green11 mins 103 11 mins 103
This is a personal account of my travel adventure 5 years back, which involved estrangement, presence of mind (gone wild), lifesaving hack and corporate tactics all packed and served to me in 2 days' time.
I had always longed for a jungle trip with friends, one that had campfire beside a river or stream, on a full moon night, like the ones I have always seen in Hollywood movies - barring the horror ones. Finally, I managed to influence 5 of my friends for a trip to Dandeli Wild Life Sanctuary, Karnataka. I had on purpose planned it for 3 days, around the rainy season, September so that the river Kali is abundant with water, which basically helped in river rafting, kayaking and other water activities which we intended to do.
All of us were super thrilled, mainly because it acted as a brake to our monotonous software lifecycle besides being a tick in our bucket list. We decided to take a private vehicle from Bangalore, a Scorpio precisely, making it also a road trip.
We never knew what lay before us, although we expected some amount of unseen and unpredictable exploit; none of us knew swimming and wanted to raft; none of us were good athletes ( which would eventually be under test ) or had any camping experience before.
The drive was of approximately 9 hours covering over 450 km, we had pre-booked our tents during the forest, planning our meals, bedding, campfire plans way ahead of time, just so to not miss the booking.
Day 1 - We started the trip early in the morning so that we reach Dandeli early in the evening accounting for breaks in between. The road trip remained uneventful during the day, mostly we are trying out dhabas on the way, taking pictures wherever possible and restroom breaks. All of us were well prepared for the roads, keeping in mind, a robust stomach was a very very important parameter. So, we were cautious about what we ate and drank. The driver seemed very informative on the forest internals, where we should tread and where not. He also spoke of panthers roaming the forest and crocodiles the river and his personal encounters. We enjoyed most of it without judging any part of it.
Everything was fine until evening and some 50kms away from Dandeli, one of the male friends, Gajji, had an urgent nature calling. Since it was getting dark and although he was chivalrous mostly during the day, the ghost stories got to him and he insisted that all of us guard him while he relieves himself. So, we had to strategically find a spot by the forest road appropriate enough to keep his modesty and for us to guard him well. Finally, he hurried to one place beside the road which had a mud hump restricting the view on the other side of the hump. We stood there while he was relieving. I stood a little away from the mud hump standing in a greener patch. The other 2 friends stood at random spots around the mud hump facing the road and talking to each other. I was appreciating the view when I felt something wrap around my left feet, I was in shoes, so I assumed whatever wrapped would have wriggled up until my ankles for me to feel it. My brain processing kicks off immediately and it all happened under 1 sec - "It wriggles, and chances are it’s a snake, what if it’s not, but what else can it be. Not a python, not a boa. It’s a snake and it can’t hear, so I can shout but not move because it feels, and it can see and maybe it is looking at me right now." On and on and on. Finally, I am looking the way I was and call out to my friends -
" Sobha, Shradha snake in my left leg, come to this side please..."
And the response I get - "Take a pic, your phone has a better camera, hahaha hahaha"
I stand still, frustrated but can’t palpate, what if the snake feels it. Start re-processing and then recall, my sling bag near my waist - "What does it have, money - pass, nail cutter - too dangerous - pass, pepper spray - may be - pass"
The wriggling had stopped, and I could now feel it harden around my ankle, but I still haven't look down.
In the meanwhile, our man, Gajji, had relieved himself and had come happily to the roadside when he noticed me standstill, while the other 2 still chatting on irrelevant topics which I didn’t or rather couldn’t hear. The sky had darkened some more throwing peachish tinge. Haji called out to me passing a poor joke as usual - " What are you doing, playing statue, hehe hehe"
This time with much courage I turned my head towards all of them, shouting at the top of my voice and directing them to look at my feet and cursing a bit in between. This finally caught their attention. All of them approached me at the rate of 1mm per hour until they could finally see to what they described as something shiny-Black -long-with-split tongue thing. At this point, I felt my heart in my mouth and became mute, couldn't cry, couldn't shout, couldn't ask for help. They were equally frozen until Shraddha rushed to the driver for help. He only rushed up to me and froze. So, after some time, my brain starts defrosting and I realized I had no hopes out of those 4 who were more frightened than me. I felt estranged a lot, but I recalled something my father had told me once from "Halfway to grave" - "There is only one way to fight and that’s dirty.... absolutely kick people when they are down and maybe, you'll be the one who walks away", although in a completely different context than. I don’t know why this thought passed me and how but for some miraculous reason before I could re-think, I lifted my left foot by an inch and kicked it with all the force of my lifetime and the universe put together while shouting - Hail Mary!
I kicked, kicked again and then again and again until all 3 of my previously dumping friends stopped me. I shivered for some time while 2 of them cried (don’t know why and never asked) Finally I was told that the shiny thing had flown because of my kick and all of us are safe. We boarded the vehicle as soon as I stopped shivering and for the next half an hour no one spoke. We reached around 7 pm although it felt like midnight. The forest was pitch dark and we were guided by torch lights until our camps.
When we reached the campfire was ready, the barbeque was done, and our tents neatly did. It all made up for the long adventurous day I had.
Day 2 - We were informed the night before that the jungle trek starts early in the morning and takes 2 hours through the forest until the rafting point in the river Kali. Although there was an alternate jeep ride to make it to the rafting point skipping the trek. We particularly wanted the trek so we could get leech bites on the way which is must-have for forest treks and serves as a proof aka trophy. The trek remained thrilling yet predictable with the usual leech bites on all of us and sightseeing. We finally arrived at the banks of the Kali river for river rafting and then kayaking.
We were super thrilled since none of us knew swimming and we also knew it had crocodiles, one of which we had seen from the banks. The rafting was done by well-trained guides and we were completely drenched by the time we were back on the banks.
The next activity was kayaking and for me, it was the first time. So, we venture on a light note into the waters, practicing a bit before. Although we were informed not to pass a certain limit due to danger of the Green waters and crocodiles plus a tradition by the trainers of toppling kayaks as a winding event. So we were instructed that when the toppling happens, we need to remove the rudder and jump to the waters, so we float. I started off slowly getting used to kayak rowing and finally, all of us enjoyed the activity. We took an hour on the waters when it whistled for winding. I had completely forgotten the tradition and the instruction is given while the toppling. While I was happily rowing back, I got toppled by one of the trainers from behind. And lo I was under the green waters with the rudder stuck to me. All the other 3 on the banks of the river waiting on me. While under the boat, I couldn't gauge time, but I knew I drank water and had my eyes open to the greenery below. I didn’t suffocate as yet, and I realized all the trainers were in the water trying to find me not realizing I am stuck to the boat and haven’t gone afloat. While still down I felt a nip on my little finger of my right hand, then again, another time. This time, I moved my hand forward only to see a small lizard kind of thing biting me. I had no options now but to struggle and I lifted my hand up, not for help but to get rid of the thing biting me. Thankfully, one of the trainers figured out by the movements that I was still there and took me out. And in a Bollywood movie style, I got picked and taken until the banks, given multiple lungs pump to draw out water. I was awake and in mild shock. The rest of the 3 in greater shock mainly due to no help again from their end. My conversation with everyone mostly ended on the banks of the Kali river with a blank look. We took the jeep to the tent this time. I requested for time off after lunch, to get over whatever happened in the morning. I slept for 2 hours or so after lunch to wake up to the picturesque evening. All of us had become normal by then given the scenic view of the forest, camp and nearby flowing stream. We decided to take a brief walk after dinner around the campsite and I, for now, didn’t forget to carry my sling bag. When we moved past the campsite, it became evident we were in for something again. The darkness was so gradient, we couldn’t see our hands in front of us and there were no street lights or human habitat. We walked a few more steps and decided to return. We decided to stay in the middle of the road but while turning back, we walked towards the edge of the road and near the trees. It was obvious in pitch darkness anything shiny stands out. While we were talking, something shined amidst the trees. We ignored and moved on, again we realized there were 2 shiny marbles moving as we did. All the 4 of us froze and looked towards the thing, applying no rationale whatsoever. We then actualized the 2 marbles (aka eyes) started moving towards us, slowly but yes, and was roughly 100 meters off. Now we knew this was the adventure we didn’t want which might turn to be fatal. Shoba had an umbrella with her, I had my sling bag and the other 2 had their mobile phones. For the first, we telecommunicated amongst ourselves and realized we must work as a team. I slowly put my fingers in my sling bag and pulled out whatever came out first and by god's grace, it was the pepper spray. It approached faster and by the height of its eyes it seemed around 4 feet, all of us, at the spur of the moment, used whatever weapons we had, I sprayed the pepper spray first, Shoba opened the umbrella on its face, the other 2 threw their mobile by turning on the torchlight. All of it at once. As soon as it was done, all of us shouted at the top of our lungs and ran at lightspeed. We reached and went up straight to the guides who had also rushed out to the roads. It took us some time to recount what had happened. After listening to our experience, no one was sure as to what that was and to this I have not known. The night was sleepless for us and we mostly sat by the campfire awake, not talking much.
Day 3 and Final Day - We had our breakfast and bid farewell the next day, we were not much in our senses but comparatively normal than the day before. We took on the roads to visit a cave temple which was refreshing but nothing adventurous. We halted overnight in a normal hotel on the way back.
We laugh at it today when we speak of it considering it the most valuable memory all of us have, me particularly, but by far with no plans to reattempt it.