Not everyday does one get a chance of getting chased by a wild elephant. So, when this hair-raising experience happened to us in the Nagarhole forests of Karnataka, we had our hearts in our mouths, and my eyes were glued to the rearview mirror fearing the mighty beast might bang our vehicle from the back!
But before getting into the finer details of the story, let me take you to South Coorg, or Kodagu as it is known, where it all started, with an adrenaline pumping white water rafting experience in the Barapole river.
The upper Barapole river that drains the Brahmagiri range of hills in the Kerala-Karnataka border, gets its lion’s share of water during the Southwest monsoon. During this season, towns are flooded, bridges are broken and normal life goes to coma. So, when we decided to raft in Barapole in the middle of July, we were highly apprehensive if we would make it, thanks to the incessant rains which had cut of a large chunk of the Kodagu district from the rest of the world [Click]. However we were assured that this was the season, and rafting would happen at any cost.
So, five of us made it to Kutta, a small town in South Coorg, in my friend’s Fiat Palio Stile on a Saturday morning to conquer the sneering river of the south. The route taken was Bangalore – Srirangapatna – Hunsur – Nagarhole – Kutta – Iruppu. (Route Map) The drive through the Nagarhole sanctuary was scenic, where we saw dozens and dozens of grazing spotted deer, till our eyes were tired. We reached Kutta in less than 5 hours, and called up our homestay host, Mr.Timmaiah, who gave us directions to reach the homestay from Iruppu.
Travel Advice: If you head to Coorg for a river rafting experience, the best thing to do would be book a homestay. There are a plenty of homestays aroung the Kutta-Iruppu area, which give stay and food as a package. Call up the homestay, who can fix you a rafting trip in the Barapole, and there would be no hassles. We had a great experience at Irpu Homestay, with a friendly host, lovely mountain views, cozy rooms and home cooked food – all in a budget.
In no time we reached the homestay where we were greeted by our friendly host, Mr.Timmaiah. The homestay was seated amidst the green setting of the Brahmagiri ranges, and we could see white cotton clouds traveling innocently across the green background. We were surrounded by coffee plantations, and the sound of the gushing waters of Iruppu falls could be heard even from a kilometre away.
Soon after a hearty meal comprising of vegetable biriyani, aloo curry and chicken masala, we were on our way to the rafting site. The rafting takes place at a place called T.Shettigeri, which was around 15 kms from where we stayed, and a guide accompanied us all the way to here.
We were greeted by Kamal, who was our raft guide. After paying the organizers, and after signing some documents, we were given life-jackets, helmets and an oar. Kamal briefed us about the commands and safety measures. The whole thing was quite professional and he made sure everyone got it right. After 10 mins, we were in our raft, and out into the roaring river waters.
The gushing sound of the river water made us more excited and we looked forward eagerly what the river had for us in store. The initial few minutes was a practice session. Kamal gave us orders, and we followed it religiously. Forward, Backwards, and a lot more. We got a good hand at the commands soon, and set out on our raft. After a few metres of rowing, we were at our first rapid – the Morning coffee. It was a simple rapid, and the effort was miniscule though it flowed quite ferociously. Soon we were through it. Kamal kept giving us commands so that we cross each rapid at the right place and with the right momentum.
We came to a part of the river where the water was not too fast. Kamal said, if we wanted we could jump into the water. Oh my god! I was just thinking if I should jump, and the time I could decide, the rest of them were already in water! Now, I had no option. Slowly, I too got into the river. And wow! It was exciting to be for the first time in neck-deep water, with no land under my feet. Of course, I believed in those life-jackets. We stayed afloat for a couple of minutes, when Kamal ordered us back into the raft. All of my friends got in, and pulled me up into the raft. It was an experiene.
The next two rapids were a bit more challenging. We had to meticulously follow Kamal’s commands, and also balance our weight in the raft. The rapids were called The Grasshopper and The Wicked Witch. We were enjoying the ride thoroughly. Those in the front went in and out of water in each rapid. Soon, we were approaching our last and the most challenging of the rapids – The Milk Churner.
Kamal stopped before the rapid and instructed us. We were asked to sit tight, and follow his commands. This could be dangerous, unless we did it from the right direction. He told us where to swim to in case we were thrown off the raft. In a moment we were in the Milk Churner. The raft bounced up twice, angled to the right and pushed and pulled us as much as it could. We were all soaked in waves completely, and when we knew what was happening, we were out of the rapid. Phew! We heaved a sigh of relief, and thundered a loud hurray, for having done this adrenaline pumping adventure. We had a hell of a great time, and I was already thinking when I would do it again.
That night, we had a hearty meal, talking over the experiences of the day, and hit the sack soon after.
The next day, we made a trip to the Iruppu falls, which was bursting with water. The mild and gentle falls I had seen in my previous visits was gone, and here was a monster. We had a nice fun taking bath in the waterfalls. We were back for lunch by 1 pm. Had a sumptuous meal, and started our return journey. We passed through Kutta, and after entering our vehicle details and signing the register, we entered the dark forests of Nagarhole for the second time in our trip.
The journey was mostly uneventful, with lazy looking spotted deers smiling and waving at us every 100 metres. We noticed that every group had a male and 3-4 females. We also saw a couple of barking deers, a sambar and a jungle fowl marching happily with its chicks. We were soon tired of spotting deers, and were traveling gradually at a slow pace in the Nagarhole forests, when the incident happened.
I was at the wheel, and my friend beside me. I was just looking at the road, as I was fed up of deers. All others in the car were fast asleep. My friend suddenly started repeating frantically, Elephant, elephant!! I just alerted myself, and looked ahead carefully. The road was empty. But, by the side of the road, there was a large clearing, and a huge elephant with large tusks stood there agitated. It’s tail was raised as if it was furious, and was angrily pulling down a branch of the nearby tree. I have never seen an elephant in the wild, and all I have seen are elephants in the temples meekly accepting coins from the devotees, and showering them with blessings 🙂
I slowed down the car and moved gradually towards the elephant to get a good glimpse of it. We were almost there, and the elephant was beside us on the road, facing the car on the side. Suddenly, the elephant got highly agitated for some reason. It shook its ears wildly, and gave a deafening trumpet. We were already scared. Someone nudged me to drive ahead fast, and I slowly moved ahead. Now, the elephant was just behind the car. I looked into the rear view mirror, and the elephant was moving towards the car.
A heart-in-the-mouth moment, and I stepped on the accelerator. The car slowly gained momentum. My eyes were fixed on the mirror, and I could see the huge beast running fast towards us with it head bobbing, and dust kicking out in all directions. We were clearly terrified.
I drove away as far as I could. The tusker charged for another 100 metres. Soon I saw a jeep coming in the opposite direction. I just could not think what the jeep guy was going to do. If the elephat had continued the charge, it would come straight and bang on the jeep. I didn’t want to think about anything, and kept driving. The moment the beast saw the jeep, he saw a threat fast approaching, and changed its direction. The elephant moved away from the road, and steered clear into the forest.
We stopped the car a kilometre ahead and thought what an escape it was! Had we been behind the elephant, with the elephant attacking us from the front, we would have had the day of our lives. Just as we had crossed the elephant, we were safe. But, the incident left a huge impact in our hearts. What more could we ask for? A drive through the jungle where we were chased by an enormous tusker. Phew!
We made it to Bangalore in another 4 hours, with loads to tell our family and friends.
More information on Rafting in Kodagu:
- Irpu Homestay – Mr.Timmaiah, Ph: 08274-244233, or +91 94486 47932
- I read about Irpu Homestay in Rohan’s blog.
- The place is 15kms before Wayanad. Good driving directions here.
- Information on Coorg Rafting at Getoffurass.
- Neelesh’s blog on rafting in Barapole.
- A nice writeup on a Coorg rafting trip organized by BMC.
- Photos from this trip on My Flickr