Experiencing the Wild Without a Plan
“Why would you want to spend an entire night on a tree, with the possibility of a leopard or two climbing in unexpectedly?” Masood had asked, without looking up from his computer screen, immediately after my suggestion to book a tree house in one of India’s forests. “It’s highly unsafe,” he continued. “We simply can not take the risk.”
Less than a month later, with absolutely no plans whatsoever, we found ourselves riding a jeep into Tamil Nadu’s forests. Back home, I had browsed a lot of websites that rented out tree houses, but they were fully-booked, ridiculously expensive, or silly looking (they have built a house next to a tree, not on it). Plus Masood was reluctant. His response was, “Let’s see.” So off we went – to see for ourselves.
So with our driver, Abbas, a really nice guy whom we met at the Mettupalayam train station (our stop after we left Chennai), we bid Ooty goodbye and headed down for the forest. He expertly maneuvered the dangerous and challenging 36 hairpin bends that led us all the way down, while I busied myself with Nikon. And on several occasions, he was kind enough to park the vehicle on the side of the road so I could take photographs. I’ve posted some of them here.
As we drove down the mountains of Nilgiris, although the scenery surrounding us remained the same, I felt the air getting warmer. I wished there was a way I could bring the cool, fresh breeze of Ooty down with me. It was a long three or four-hour drive. At one point, the constant motion of the vehicle and the lazy afternoon sun with its accompanying warm breeze and quiet roads made me drowsy with sleep.
I felt silly taking the cows’ pictures. But I was a tourist and hence, have the right to do touristy things, like photograph cows. A middle-aged man and a young boy – his son, perhaps – were walking these cows back home after a morning of grazing grass. The cows knew their way home, walking ahead with that confidence that only cows (and sometimes, sheep) have. A couple of young ones strayed, but a few authoritative barks from the family’s dog brought them back on track.
So the ride continued into the woods. And while Masood worried about our safety (specially during the night), my main concern was the bathroom. I read in a couple of blogs that they have open type bathrooms, where monkeys jump in to join you in your shower! I’ve also read another post where the writer had to carry a rechargeable lamp and walk towards the bathroom at night, which was located a few feet from the tree house that he had rented (no neighbors nearby), and heard some wild animal howling!
So yeah, I was worried about the bathroom.