Jurek Grebosz - a jungle story

...I realized, that I simply try to avoid talking about India and Nepal.

Usually some of my friends meet me and ask: "How was in India?" I know that I can not answer this question just like that. It was not a 2 week excursion, - it was a 2 months journey, so it is not possible to give just a simple answer. Why? Perhaps the reason is - that India is not just one country. It is a kind of federation of many countries. Many languages, many landscapes, many colours of a skin, many religions.But generally I had impression that it was a journey to the beginning of XXth century. I was in a jungle, I was on the desert - having a camel safari around Jaisalmer (it is an ancient city on the desert). I saw many palaces of maharajas in Rajastan. Their splendor and treasures. I saw slums where the poorest people live. I was watching the sunrise on the boat on the Ganga river in Varanasi while hundrets of pilgrims came to have a bath in the holly river. I saw huge and majestic Himalaya, and I was lying nude on the hot and sunny palm beaches of Goa. Wild beaches full of coco nuts. (Goa is in South India). How can I describe all this? I think that the proper answer is that I shouldn't try to describe everything. Let's choose the jungle.

To spot a big animal in a jungle - this is something, what everybody dreams about. It can be dangerous, of course, but you go to the jungle to experience something exciting.

One can't go alone in the jungle. You must hire a guide. Together with 4 other French people from my lodge, we hired two quides. The guides are the people, who care about safety, and who know places, where you can see something interesting. Of course you are never safe in a jungle. If you meet a rhino who attacks you, you can try to escape by climbing the tree. But if you meet a tiger - it is pointless, tigers can climb trees much better than you.

The advanture started just before the sunrise. First we walked to the river. We had to cross it because a real jungle was on the other side of the river. The river was broad, so we crossed it with boats. Men with the boats were waiting for us, and for the other people going to jungle. The crossing itself - it was not a nice experience. The boat was very narrow, and my French colleagues (one man and 3 women) didn't think to make it stabile. I was afraid that in case of sinking - my camera would be destroyed. Lucky we crossed the river without bad adventures.

It was a sunrise, and we were on the edge of the jungle. On the sand, we could see the a lot of traces. Rhino's and tiger's.

We started walking. On our right side we could see distant Himalaya in the red light. There were no clouds at all. The Annapurna range was the most impressive. Funny thing - the snow in Himalaya and the jungle...

First hours we spent on looking for any animals. We were lucky to see some dears, some monkeys. It was exciting to cross the bush trying not to make the noice - and to look for the animals hidden somewhere.

It was soon after the monsoon, so the grass was extremaly high (3-4 meters). So even if we were not in the forest - we could not see animals just like that - on the medows or glades. Sometimes we climbed the trees to check if anything is in the grass - just to see if the grass is moving (waveing). Sometimes we walk through the grass. It had many "corridors" like tunnels - made by the animals.

We spent some hours visiting places, where could possibly be any rhino.

Soon I realized that my French colleages were not a good companion for me. There were too noisy, and they were constantly complaining that they were tired. For example we spent one hour just sitting on a fallen tree and talking. For me it was a waste of time. I dreamed about something exciting.

We continued walking through the jungle along the stream. Finally we came to the road, and and we saw some men repairing the bridge over the stream. We crossed the stream, and at once we turned to the wild jungle. We tried to reach the place where the crocodiles used to lay on the sand. Unfortunately there were no corocodiles now. It was a noon, so we stopped there to eat our lunch. Everybody had something to eat. We, Europeans - we had our european food. I had also a tibetan bread - very dense and sweet. Our guides had rise and vegetables. When they unpacked the rise (it was in the paper) - I saw that the rise was yellow. So it was cooked with curry. They eat it using hands.

Our lunch was long. During this lunch break I tried to talk to one of our guides. I told him, that some of us want to go to the village, but me and one French girl - we would like to do something interesting. I suggested that we split into 2 groups. He talk to his friend in their language and finally they announced the idea to everybody. Everybody liked the idea. So one French girl, me and one guide - we made a group. The others were also happy to do nothing.

We said good-bye to the "lazy group" and our guide lead us through the very high grass. He asked to be quiet, so we walked silently. Finally we came to a small pond. It was full of mud. In the mud we could see the fresh traces of rhinos and tigers. The big grass was on the one side of the pond. On the other side there were high trees and some bushes. We decided to climb the tree and to wait untill some animal come to the pond. We knew, that it could take the time, but we were determined to wait.

Carying our cameras - we climbed the tree.

The girl found a good branch, where from she could make a perfect photos. I was a bit higher, also ready to film. Our guide was clever like a monkey, so he found a good place on the tree - and we begun our waiting. We were sitting in a complete silence. We even didn't know where from we could expect the animals. We waited and waited, and waited... After one hour of waiting, our guide climbed carefully to the highest branches of this tree. He did not notice anything interesting. He called me to come to him, but I was afraid that the small branches, where he was - were not strong enough to carry two people. He asured me that this kind of tree had very strong branches. The other tree - which we could see nearby - is not so strong. Convinced - I started climbing. When I reach the top of the tree - I was amazed by the view. We were above the jungle and above the grass. In a distance there was a river which made a big circle and float here. We could not see any ground. Just trees, bush and the high grass. I decided to wait in this place on the top of the tree. It was much more interesting.

    -Look there - said the guide.

I didn't see anything. Suddenly I heard the distant noise. Just like breaking the high grass. I saw also the place where it happened. It was far away from us. Only once - and the silence again.
    -Do you think it can be a rhino? - I asked.

    -I am sure.

I was not convinced, but in 2 minutes the same thing happened. We saw only the grass.

Even if it was a rhino - it was hidden in the grass.

When it happened again and again - I was convinced. It was surely the rhino. The problem was, that the rhino is usually walking just like a cow on a medow. Few steps and stop. You never know in which direction it goes next. We hoped that it comes to our tree, to our pond, but who knows...

I called the girl. Let she see this at least. She climbed slowly to the top of the tree. Her cameras were much more uncomfortable than mine. Finally we were all three on the top. She admired the view. We pointed her the place in the bushes, where we spoted the rhino. It moved - unfortunately not to our direction, but to the left.

    - Look there! - said the guide.
We saw the body of the rhino. Black or gray heavy animal. The skin was similar to this how I imagine the jurrasic animals. The rhino was waking through the grass.

We lost the hope that it will come to our pond, but at least we could say that we saw 'something'!

We tried to photograph that - but it was only something what was important for us. Nobody who looks such pictures - wouln't be impressed. Suddnelly we realized that the rhino had changed its direction. It was walking to us! Of course it was only few steps per 2 minutes, but we could see it better.

When it was closer I noticed the ears. I was so happy. The ears of the rhino are very characteristic. But even more characteristic is its horn. We wanted to see it. Unfortunately the grass was high, and the rhino didn't keep its head high.

The girl decided to descend the tree - to the lower branches, where she hoped to have the best pictures. It was not easy do go down, so it took some time. Then our guide did the same. When he was already down, the rhino was quite close to us.

I was the last one. I tried to make as quite as possible, because rhino was just near us. I was already down, when I heard the noise. It was the rhino running away. The girl looked at me, and I realized that she blames me for frightening the rhino. I felt innocent, but perhaps she was right.

The rhino went away, so the girl decided to go down to the ground. I tried to climb once more few branches higher... and suddenly I realized that 20 meters away - the rhino is standing and watching us. How was it possible? There were 2 rhinos! One run away, but the other was standing in the grass.

I tried to tell this message to the girl - but she climbed already the other tree next to ours. She probably have noticed the animal - because she was pointing her camera to the right direction. She was making pictures.

Unfortunately I coudn't make good pictures. The place where from I could see the rhino - was too high. A bit lower - I couldn't see it - because of the dense branches of my tree. So I decided to go down to the ground and run to the other tree. It was 10 meters to run, so I could make it even if the rhino see me and tries to attack.

Very quitely I jumped down. When I stood on the ground I watched carefuly. In this place I was invisible to the rhino. I looked around - it seemed to be save. I decided to run. It was only 10 meters to run, so soon I catched the branches of the next tree, and started to climb. Suddenly I heard a noise - it was a rhino running away.

    "-Was it me again?" - I thought - "they will blame me again". I looked at the quide who was already on this tree, somewhere higher.

    - I saw a tiger - he said.

    - Where?

    - On the oposite side of the tree. The rhino smeled it and that was why it escaped. It was also the reason why the first rhino escaped few minutes ago.

I was happy that it was not me who frightened the animals, but the feeling that the tiger is around was very exciting.

There was no rhinos anymore, but at least we have seen something. A asked myself a question if the tiger story was true. Perhaps the quide invented it just to impress us? After spending some time on the tree we jumped down. The guide looked around and found a big branch lying around. He took it in his hand just like a sword.

    - Should I also find such a stick? - I asked.

    - Yes. - he answered shortly. We started walking slowly. First the guide, then the girl, on the end - me.

We crossed the bushes. 50 m away he stoped.
    - Look - he said pointing the ground.

    - What is it?

    - It is a shit of a tiger.

    - How do you know that?

    - Look, do you see a pieces of bones inside? When the tiger eats the animal, it hapens that he eats also some pieces of bones, which he can not digest. You can see it here.

When we returned to the village - it was just a sunset. Once more we crossed the river with the long boats. In our cottage I told the story to my mother.

For tomorow I convinced her to hire an elephant and to go to the jungle. It is very safe, but still you can meet some animals.

Next day we did it. It took some time to go to the jungle. The elephant was slow, but finally we came to the place where we could see 4 rhinos lying in the muddy water. They were afraid of our elephant, so they stood up and watched us. I could film them from the distance 4-8 meters. Our elephant walk between them - so we could see them well. But on the other hand it was not so exciting as yesterday. The nice thing was to see how inteligent animal was our elephant. I do not respect the wisdom of a horse. The dog is much more inteligent. But this elephant was just as the dog. It even had a sence of humor. During our way home the mahout ("elephant driver") walked and he asked me to sit on the elephant's neck. It was very uncomfortable, but soon I got used to this. The elephant was curious to know who is sitting on his neck now, so with his long nose - he tried to smell me. We crossed small rivers three times, and on the end - I was so clever in riding, that I didn't have to use my hands anymore. I could film using my two hands, while our elephant was walking. Unfortunately when we returned to our village, it was already dark, so the people didn't see how clever was the white 'sahib' Jurek.

Do you know what was my best succes during my Indian journey? The fact, that I was not a tourist. I was a traveler.

© 2004 Jerzy Gr´┐Żosz                         Projekt strony wykona Rafa (Scelt) Tomal