N is for Nebulous Adventure of the Night
15 April, 2017, Bah, Chambal, District Agra, Uttar Pradesh
This was possibly the most adventurous Easter weekend I’ve ever had.
We just returned this evening and I look back incredulously and marvel at the arm loads of memories I have carried back, of my rendezvous with the different creatures of the wild. That too in a matter two days! Something I’ve never witnessed in my entire life.
These beautiful beasts of the wild included over 50 species of birds, the deadly Crocs, the timid, vegetarian Gharials, the gorgeous Back Bucks made famous by our Indian actor Salman Khan (when he was penalised for hunting one a few years back), “I’ll-stare-you-back-in-the-eye”- Nilgais, the coy Gangetic Dolphin, the strong and silent Tortoises and the intriguing Asian Palm civet.
To be able to do justice to my experience and you my readers, this two-day escapade will have to be written as two or three separate pieces. So let me first start by telling you about our pulsating, in some ways nebulous little night adventure, when we undertook a night walk within the premises of the Chambal Safari Lodge where we were staying. The lodge has this cover of a small forested area with some very ancient tress like Mahua, Neem, Moringa, Peepal, Banyans etc. There’s a small man-made pond as well. And we were just visitors sharing precious space with Nilgais, peacocks and peahens, wild hares, wild cats, civets and innumerable species of birds, including my favourite owls and fruits bats (remember my rendezvous with these nocturnal mammals? You could read the story here – B is for Boisterous Fruit Bats )
We undertook this adventure as the sun went off to accomplish it’s task in another part of the world, and the sky had put on it’s black cloak. It was 7 PM, and any guesses who we were out looking for? Well, this furry creäture called Asian Palm Civet (Beeju in Hindi) or the Toddy cat. The Civet is a small, mottled grey and black cat. It has a long tail. They are both terrestrial and arboreal, showing nocturnal activity patterns. Asian palm Civet are omnivores feeding on fruits, berries, and small mammals and insects. They also feed on palm flower sap, which when fermented becomes toddy, a sweet liquor. Thus the name the toddy cat.
We made our way stealthily through the forest path, trying our best to even avoid the crunching sounds as we trampled the dry leaves under our feet. Our guide Bacchu Singh was quiet a knowledgable man with a very, very observant eye. As he positioned the flash-light towards the tree where one of the Civet family lived, we waited with bated breath, hoping to spot this elusive cat. We stood there patiently, for almost 10 minutes but the little mammal eluded us. Before we undertook this adventure we had given the 8-year-old strict instructions not to speak, ask questions and stay as silent as possible and she had willing yielded. Bacchu Singh gestured us to follow him and we walked towards these little cottages that had a huge old tree. We could see the multiple fruit bats chilling upside down, and in some kind of deep trance. Bacchu Singh kept flashing the torch over the trees and suddenly he whispered, “There it is!” A long cat-like creäture with a snout like that of a mongoose could be seen surreptitiously climbing the branches of the tree. As it saw us, it quickly yet deftly jumped off and made it’s way towards the fencing and before my phone camera could catch a shot, it had disappeared into the darkness.
But that was not the end of the adventure We walked towards the other end of the clearing and as the flashlight went up the tree we saw not one, but two Civets, staring back at us with their marble like eyes, and then suddenly disappear behind the branches. The 8-year-old is a keen observer and as we scanned our eyes to look for the elusive cats she suddenly clutched my hand partly in excitement and partly in fear of the darkness and pointed to the movement on another branch. Yes, there was it was making it’s way behind trying to camouflage amongst the leaves. And yet again she spotted the other under the tree. The one under the tree made its way swiftly into the thicket and was gone.
As we headed towards the dining hall, a hare crossed our path and then yet another civet made it’s way to the backyard of the dining hall. We could hear the owl hooting at a distance as if to say thank you for visiting us. The Lapwing (a bird) wailed in a bid to scare some predator. The DH and I clinked our glasses of gin and tonic. The 8-year-old giggled complacently and dug into the fish cutlets made from the fresh catch of the pond.
“Patience and perseverance and a keen, observant eye can take us a long way indeed,” my take on this nebulous night adventure.
Note to my Readers and Self: I had taken a few pictures but miserably failed to capture the Toddy cat through my iphone6, as our guide’s flash light played spoil sport. Also a lesson to carry my SLR the next time, since I’m planning to get into serious travel blogging.
My theme for this year’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge is Travel Epiphanies that are my very own tales of adventure and revelation. I will be writing 26 posts throughout the month of April. You can read my theme here.