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Elephant challenge


Pankaj and I decided that it would be a good idea to come back to our rest house in Gairal straight after lunch. We’d experienced as much excitement as we could have ever hoped for, the night before. Today we were back by half past three and after relaxing for around ten minutes, made our way down to the rocky bank of the Ramganga river. Our intention was to just relax and soak in all the freshness and tranquility nature could offer us. We sat around quietly observing the birds and deer on the opposite side, occasionally taking a couple of sips of the crystal clear water of the river to sooth our parched throats on this warm summer afternoon. We must have been sitting there for around an hour when the first of our good friends from the night before made his appearance . Fortunately he was at a safer distance this time of around a 100 yards.

As his huge form glided across the shallow river and small rocks, we observed a few more elephants appear from the same direction but a little further away. The first one by then had already crossed the river and was now directly opposite us. He was moving on down river towards the grasslands beyond the mound to the left. As he trundled along the other bunch had reached closer to the point where he had crossed over. It was a huge bunch. Enough of them to make it almost impossible for us to count how many. We later totaled them to be forty seven. As they crossed over too, two of the youngsters in a playful mood ran across, one chasing the other. The one if front let out a loud trumpeting sound in excitement as his chaser got closer. There was an immediate reaction from the lone tusker ahead, who by now had almost reached the mound. He obviously had not noticed the following bunch till then. He now swung around to face herd. He was still a good two hundred yards from them. He put his trunk up in the air to pick up the herd’s scent probably. He then slowly started making his way back towards them.

The two youngsters still played on. They’d given up the game of catch me if you can and were now trying out their strength against each other. They stood face against face with their hind legs braced. Push - push - push. We thought none of them had noticed the approach of the huge lone bull elephant, now only 50 yards away. We were obviously wrong because from close to the rear of the group came this bellowing sound followed by a lot of dust being raised. Once the dust cleared a bit, we could see the herd had it’s own bull who was obviously their leader. He stood facing the approaching outsider with his ears spread out and trunk pointed in the oncomer’s direction. He looked in a really bad mood and very menacing. The first elephant slowed down his approach. Then stopped and hesitated a bit before resuming his approach. This seemed to be last straw for the leader as he trumpeted with all his might. This was followed by a sound that was something like a huge diesel generator about to explode, amplified ten times over. This was enough to scare even his own herd, most of whom also joined in the yelling. They all seemed to know what was going to follow because they all quickly cleared the area between the two huge tuskers.

Encouraged by the effect of his bellow on his own herd and on the oncoming challenger, who had now stopped in his tracks, he raised his tail up in the air like a little antennae and literally sprinted off towards the threat. The challenger obviously lost his nerve, for he swung around and took to his heels in the direction he had come from. Somehow these amazing giants with nothing but destruction on their minds looked almost comical. Both running with their tails straight up in the air, actually looking rather strange moving at such high speeds. We were expecting to witness a fight of mammoth proportions but unfortunately the speed of the leading elephant took them over the mound before the pursuer could catch up. All we saw was a lot of dust going up in the air with a lot of yelling and bellowing. Strangely though, the rest of the herd seemed totally calm and unaffected now, looking more busy eating the abundant grass and drinking the same water as us.

After around five minutes the leader appeared once again over the mound. You could actually tell from his gait that he had been victorious over his challenger. He strutted his way back to the herd and drank some water along with them. He then made his way back towards the rear and found himself a deep pool of water in which he seemed to mellow in his moment of victory. He stayed there for almost half an hour, immersed totally out of sight at times. We were just wondering what had become of the other bull when he appeared once again but far down river this time. He was close to the path where cars in the park crossed over the river bed to go in the direction of Dhikala. This was the area we had been surrounded by this very herd the previous night. He stood there, clearly sulking and very angry. After sometime, while we were looking in the direction of the herd, he disappeared from the spot and that was the last we saw of him for the evening. I said "saw" of him, not heard of him.

Once the loser of the duel had moved out of sight from where we were sitting, he had doubled around along the car path leading up to the other side of the rest house. Unfortunately, next to the loghuts where we were staying, were parked two cars. One that belonged to us and the other to a group occupying the other log huts. We had planned to park the cars within the main rest house compound before dark that evening. As our angry elephant was making his way past the loghuts, unnoticed by anyone but the other groups maid, his attention was drawn by these vehicles by the side of his path. He obviously found it a good way to vent his anger on something. So taking a good grip at the rear of the other group’s car, lifted the rear wheel clear off mother earth to height of around three to four feet. I think his plans were to dump this car onto our’s and then probably play soccer with car sandwich. Anyway, to the rescue of our cars came the heroine of the trip.

The other group’s maid, a local villager woman. On seeing her employer’s car being used as a toy, she came rushing out and tried to drive the beast away by shooing it away as they did cattle back in her village. Luckily there was a pit between her and the elephant, who anyway seemed to have let out enough of his pent up anger. He let down the car with a thud, still the right side up. Taking one last look at this odd woman making strange sounds and jumping up and down in the same spot, he slowly moved away, Sniffing at his own tattered and bleeding ear. We at this moment were watching a third group of elephants approaching from further upriver. It was a herd even larger than the earlier one. We wondered what was going to happen now when the two herds came face to face. Fortunately or unfortunately, this herd numbering way over sixty, took a different route and disappeared over a hill on the opposite bank to the right. It was now beginning to get a little dark and we decided to make our way back to our room. As we crossed the area between the main resthouse and our loghut, we were startled by a startled wild boar who grunted his disapproval and scurried off into the undergrowth. We got back to our loghut, which was more a cement hut actually, washed up a bit before sitting down in the balcony with some snacks and cool drinks.

Source: wordly-wise

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