Hampi – Wild area
I'm awake really early and psyched for a project that I have to be careful with as it does have just one poor gritty crimp hold. One foot slips and in the locked position my fingers slide off leaving me with a nasty cut on the pad of my fingertip. I'm angry as I know I can't try it any more or any other climb really for a day or so anyway. What to do? I think ....... just go for a long walk, explore and burn off some energy without the possibility of anything going wrong. After the cut finger it now felt like a ‘going wrong day’ for some reason. But nothing can go wrong by going for a walk and exploring right?
The walk was brilliant, as usual I found loads of good problems and even tried to remember where some of them were in the complex hills. But I was so far away from my cave now and so hot, tired and very hungry having already finished any snacks. I was actually closer to the road down Basapur way so decided to get there instead of back to my cave then jump on a bus the few km to Senapur to get my shopping a day earlier than I'd planned. I would also go and kill a few hours of the hot time in my favourite dhaba the cheap local ‘Royal hotel’ which serves very good spicy village style food returning to my cave in the cooler time after 4 or so.
Eventually I arrived in Basapur and hang around the place until a lift comes to Sanapur but by now it’s really hot and I'm completely exhausted after walking all day. As the dhaba is across the street from the only wine shop in the whole area I decided to drink just one cold beer. After lots of spicy snacks I decide on one more beer and by now it was about 4-30 pm. That would have been exactly the right time to leave the dhaba go and get my shopping from the general store and press on the 1 and half hours it would take to walk to my cave before dark.
Tourists or climbers very rarely come to this local dhaba and today is no different but just then a local Indian friend came into the garden of the dhaba and announced that HE was going to buy ME a beer. I just couldn't believe it! It's rare that someone buys me drinks in Sanapur village as its really expensive and they all drink cheap duplicate whisky. So I couldn't refuse and started into the fresh drinks ordering some more food as well. The guy who runs the dhabba does like he always does reminding me that it was time to go and gave me a pretend worried look....“karadi will get you this time” then laughing at me and wobbling his head from side to side.
A karadi is the Indian sloth bear and nothing scares and excites the locals more than any stories or anything to do with this animal. That’s because there are so many grim facts about village people being attacked and mauled or killed by them.
After 3 of them when I finally got to the general store it was 6-30 and almost dark but I didn't think much about it as I knew that my superb and very modern headtorch was in my bag. When I finally collected all my provisions and vegetables and blasted up to the lake where I turn off the road it was the last minutes of any natural light. Then I tried my head torch but remembered a bad thing. I always charge the batteries with a small solar panel but today was the special charging day. But I had been so busy all day and then forgotten in Sanapur. Damn it! An impossibly tiny light was all that was available and I decided to leave it off for as long as possible using the last minutes of twilight to get as far as possible. Up the first very steep hill and onto the first flat plateau was okay but it became totally dark there was no moon and I put the torch on hoping for the best. It WAS just enough to see bits and pieces but I knew it was not going to last long at all so I started to go really fast along the flat section just bushes everywhere not too many boulders on that plateau. The wind was quite strong and combined with the intense crunching underfoot as I thrashed along I couldn’t hear much in the way of outside sounds.
Remember to remember
As always when I walk in the jungli areas after sunset I have one unlit juggling fire torch in my hand but for some reason this day I'd forgotten something quite important. Something to do with kerosene and the firetorch.
Then quite suddenly I heard something just ahead nearby and to the right which completely stopped me in my tracks. Something I'd NEVER heard at close range before. It was a terrible high pitched whining interspaced with a fearful growling in between a kind of wimpering barking sound but it had registered in my brain very quickly. What the hell is it? I thought at first but then suddenly I realized what it was. It’s one of the bear cubs and sounds absolutely terrified and in distress! It’s really scared and it's all my fault. Just then I heard another sound but very different and from the opposite direction but quite far over to my left. That was a sound I recognized quickly as I've had meetings before with the bigger bear usually male but this was “mummy bear” grunting and growling. Intense fear set in very quickly and I started rummaging in my pockets for the lighter. Then I realized the important thing which I had forgotten. Not the lighter for that was now in my hand but the fire torch which was absolutely bone dry! It would never light! I knew very well! I tried anyway but couldn't even get a flame from the lighter such was the wind. Click, click, click, and no flame at all. These tiny clicks of light seemed to wake up but not scare the mummy bear who came to life with a huge roar and then there was just a tremendous thrashing and crunching as she started to move. With the clicks of the lighter I was of course just showing her the way directly to me. Then the growling roars increased in intensity and volume. I knew very well what was happening as it all got louder. She was running directly towards me! Any bushes between us would soon be flat. Just then I heard the sound of a babu again but from behind me somewhere then it was also getting closer. It was another one ,she had two cubs both in different places. I was in the middle of some kind of family event. They had been spread out all over the plateau.
Normally if I stay in Senapur too long or too late my friend in the dhaba reminds me to put a bit of kerosene on my firetorch wick as it’s good for my peace of mind to walk in the jungli at night but he had drunk many glasses of beer with us so had completely forgotten. I knew it was hopeless with the torch and it was too windy anyway but the beast was serious in its intentions and would be on me in a few seconds. Fear and adrenalin completely took over my brain. With nowhere to run I took as much air as possible into my lungs. Then I shouted. It was a sound unlike any other which I've ever made before. I surprised and scared even myself. It was almost louder and more gruesome than the beast. When I'd finished all the thrashing and growling from around me was changing direction and I just stood there with my mouth open waiting for the terrible thing to happen. On other occasions I have just ‘run for it’ when I met the beast and speed climbed up the nearest boulder but on this occasion I had no boulders nearby. I was trapped where I stood. The thrashing went around me and suddenly there was a moment when I recognized that mummy and babu was being re-united. They were all still thrashing around and growling but a few seconds later those sounds were becoming less loud. They were moving away from me! Then I could breath again and the fear started to subside. I was completely shaken but SO relieved. I felt like someone had injected some terribly strong stimulant into my blood stream and I walked back to my cave from there in about half the time as it usually takes shouting and singing the whole way. I felt like I’d been ‘born again’. That night back in the cave my mind was just buzzing and I couldn't get to sleep until just 2 hours before sunrise. I’d had such a huge amount of adrenalin from the fear caused by the attack.
For those more interested in the Indian sloth bear and its lifestyle habits here is a copy of an article from INTERNATIONAL BEAR NEWS vol 15 no 4. by Naim Aktar, Wildlife institute of India.
The sloth bear is assumed to be a cute and playful animal. However it is not what it seems. It is highly unpredictable and a dangerous animal. pic from bearnews, sloth bear.
CUTE and PLAYFUL?
Villagers in Chattisgarrh area of central India are very much aware of the potential threat posed by sloth bears when venturing into the forests to collect wood or other products, to graze their cattle or simply to walk to another village. To avoid sloth bear encounters and protect themselves from attack locals will move in groups, carry an axe, bamboo stick, or torch and talk or sing loudly. In spite of all this many human-sloth bear encounters still occur resulting in injury and/or death of humans. In many cases sloth bears are also killed in retaliation.
In one particularly terrible tragedy which occurred in the Chuabhara forest near the town of Marwahi five people, including two women were killed in a single day by a female bear. One pleasant morning in January, Ms.Susheela Bai was passing through the Chuabhara forest on the way to the village of Khurpa when she was suddenly attacked by an adult female bear. She was unable to fight off the attack and was killed. Shortly after her death, Mr. Ram Jiawan and Mr.Nan Sahay were passing through the forest when they were each attacked and killed by the same bear in separate incidents. In a two hour period three people had been killed while others in the village were unaware of the events taking place in the forest. Later that morning, Mr. Lamchand was grazing his cattle in the same forest, and, as he crossed the spot of the previous attacks, the bear attacked. Fortunately he was able to fight off the attack. Hearing Mr.Lamchands screams Ms Shiyam Kunwar also travelling through the forest moved towards the screams to investigate. The bear had already badly injured Mr.Lamchand, and, when she arrived at the site of the attack, the bear turned and attacked her, killing her instantly. Villagers finally hearing the screams, rushed to the site. Upon their arrival on the scene, the bear moved off, and the villagers were able to rescue Mr.Lamchand. He was rushed to a hospital in the village of Marwahi but due to the severity of his injuries was moved to a better equipped hospital in Bilaspur. Information of the bear attack had by then reached the forest department, and the local majistrate with some forest guards arrived the next day to deal with the bear. They despatched the bear before it could attack and kill again. It was very sad to see this animal killed, especially in its natural forest habitat. Although many debate who was at fault, the bear or humans, we must not forget that it is humans who have encroached on the forests. Sadly Mr.Lamchand's injuries were too severe, and he died while in hospital.
In another incident, cattle were grazing in the forests adjacent to the village of Barbasan. At approximately 11am a man named Rampal was watching over his cattle when one of his buffalo was suddenly attacked by a female bear. The bear knocked the buffalo over by hitting the body of the buffalo with its forelimbs and head. Once on the ground the bear ripped flesh from the body of the buffalo. Seeing the bear attacking his buffalo Mr.Rampal began to shout loudly. The bear continued its attack and Rampal rushed to the village for help. Once Rampal and the villagers returned they found the bear had killed and eaten a portion of the buffalo. They tried to drive the bear away but without success, so they notified the forest department. Forest department officials arrived but when they attempted to drive the bear off they were chased and nearly attacked themselves. They avoided injury by hiding behind their motorcycles. Police from the town of Gaurela were called but the bear had retreated into the cover of the forest before they reached the site. Due to its aggressive behavior the villagers were on high alert. Elders of the village and forest department officials planned to push the bear further into the forest in an attempt to avoid further problems. When villagers, police and Forest department officials entered the forest to chase the bear off, they discovered a dead adult female bear. Those on the scene deduced that the bear may have died as a result of consuming buffalo meat and the stress of human presence.
These incidents suggest that female sloth bears have very aggressive temperaments and get excited easily when disturbed. Bears moving into human areas in search of food is a very common phenomena, and people often chase them off to protect their crops. When a bear has been pursued by humans, even once, a sloth bear will retaliate in future encounters with often fatal consequences. This is a very serious issue as far as conservation of the sloth bear is concerned. The institute has recommended that the State Forest Department institute programs to educate villagers on bear biology, movement, food and behaviour. It is also necessary to restore degraded forest habitat by, for example planting fruit trees for the bears. Unfortunately the forest department has yet to take necessary actions to launch community education or habitat restoration programs. Subsequently, there is an urgent need to take concrete actions for the conservation of sloth bears in the unprotected forest areas of India. Otherwise it will be too late to act.
CUTE and PLAYFUL?
Check out the claws for digging termites nests
Man after bear attack