Trip Information

Corbett Elephant
Corbett Elephant (9)
Trip Date:1976-02
# Photos:1 [View]
Countries visited:India
Viewed: 4185
With two friends I had set out in the morning from Dhikala campground on foot along meandering animal trails through the brush and elephant grass meadows that cover the valley between two ridges of the Koomayun range.

The valley is cut by the Ram Ganga river, and in dry winter its ten parallel streams flow along the valley, the first nine are narrow drainages that one can jump or wade across, but the last one roars mightily.

We came across tortoises, langur monkeys, surprised two herds of antelopes that a moment later bounded over the bush to leave after-images of dark eyes and flying flanks, too fast to even raise the camera to my eye.

Being poor undergrads on a shoe-string budget, we could afford only bread and pickles for lunch, which we ingeniously fortified with little fish, tens of them, that we caught with a towel (the light Indian kind) in one of the streams and roasted on a little fire that we lit on the sand (very, very carefully though illegally)…the good smoky flavor and the tang of pickles on bread.

We crossed the sand embankment of the final stream, and suddenly we saw a large fish eating crocodile (a Ghadial) on the other side of the river. To get a better angle, I half crawled behind a large boulder to get closer to the water and finally stood up to take the shot…a huge splash merely 10 ft before me …a crocodile that seemed to be at least 15 ft long was lying right behind the boulder. Well, no shot; the other one had retired too!

Time to return. We lost our way in a region covered with ten feet tall elephant grass, and wafted in the unmistakable smell of tiger and we saw a circle of vultures in the sky. Panicked, we made a big noise and ran in the opposite direction. To our relief, soon we picked up an old jungle road on the map. Sun sets early in the mountains in winter but darkness comes slowly.

We sat down by the side of a dry riverbed through which the road led. Suddenly we heard the sound of breaking branches---elephants to our left on the hillside. Being the only one with a camera (borrowed from my professor, no telephoto), I thought I should cross the riverbed to get a better view. But then I heard the noise from a bit further up, so I walked a bit more, then I felt something move behind me, and out came this elephant on the road and began to move towards me; I took this shot and immediately heard a faint noise to my immediate right, not even 20 feet away. I ran forward to the next bend on the road. Out came a gigantic tasker, which raised its trunk and started making a deep bubbling noise. I turned and ran for at least a mile, then sat down to wait for my friends to catch up.

When they did find me they kicked my behind sore. They thought I was trampled to death, for they’d seen the entire herd of some 30 elephants, with several calves, come out of the jungle few at a time but regroup down the riverbed. And I had the camera, not they!!