“Oh, come on! Let’s get going now.” I could hear SM’s voice above the patter of raindrops still falling on the thatched roof and the buzz of insects fluttering near my ear.
I finished securing my leech socks and tying my shoe laces tight. Gripping my flashlight, I ran out to where my friends waited for me. Together, we stared at the black of the forest that stood like a wall in front of us, sighed, and walked into it.
We were on our way to explore the rainforest of Agumbe (in the Western Ghats of India) at night.
A rainforest is like a magician’s well-kept secret. At night, its black garb gives nothing away. There’s merely an amalgam of noises. Only when I flashed my light as I walked by did I see spiders weaving frantically, toads snoozing in the middle of jungle paths, frogs inflating their vocal sacs in attempts to woo plausible mates, moths taking off leaves, and tiny fishes, crabs and eels scampering about.
It had rained heavily that evening. The forest was awake with all its creatures in perfect harmony, except for our shoes on wet forest floor. SM walked in front confidently. I followed his steps closely.
We passed by a pond and navigated our way in darkness through thick undergrowth and fallen branches till we reached a cleft. A wobbly, makeshift crossing of a log was our only way forward.
“If I lose my balance and fall, that would be the worst thing to happen,” I murmured. AK and PA egged me from behind. My heart chattered against my chest as I took tiny, frightful steps. At last, I was on the other side.
I hopped and jogged to catch up with SM. I was paying close attention to the creatures on my path. I turned to my left to illuminate the shrub next to me. I thought I had seen a bush frog, when a massive body shrieked out and hit me so hard that I almost fell.
Without a clue and forgetting where I was, I just ran (perhaps the fastest ever in my life). When I stopped, I was on the other side of the log bridge, holding onto AK for support. SM was pale and was asking me why I ran.
“You cried out and bumped against me! You were running and so I had to too.” I whispered clasping my pounding chest.
But what did happen? We still knew not. By this time, SM had also managed to recover from his nervous, blind run in the forest.
“That Malabar Pit Viper almost stung me!”, he exclaimed.
Truth was, we were all lighting up only the ground with our torches, and none of us happened to care about the branches that hung quite low and brushed against our heads as we passed.
SM had come across a very low hanging branch. As he was about to duck and pass, he pointed his torch up, and that’s when he caught a three-feet long green Malabar Pit Viper coiled up on the branch. It swung its head violently, aimed at SM. It seems he froze, and then screamed and ran like a madman, coming straight at me.
Fifteen minutes of contemplation, and we headed back to find our Viper, being more watchful than ever. The men said they had to be sure the snake was safe. And it was. It had climbed down from the branch on the other side and was now resting on a shrub, perhaps waiting for a real prey this time.
Lying in my tent that night, I understood the gravity of what could have happened. We had trodden jungle paths at night. And yes, we had been careless.
I realised that being in a forest is like driving on a highway. We have to be extremely cautious. We may anticipate what might happen, but most often, how we react in a scenario determines the outcome. We had failed to be careful.
The Viper could have stung SM or any one of us. That would have been disastrous. We had also panicked and had run blindly. We could have trampled and harmed a creature; twisted an ankle or worse; tumbled off the log and fallen into the crevice in the middle of the night.
I couldn’t control the situation, and that night, I couldn’t control my thoughts either. As dawn descended on the rainforest, I was sure I would come back to Agumbe. The incident from previous night couldn’t keep me away from nature and its beings. But I had learnt a lesson, an important one, and I will carry it for as long as my rendezvous with the forests continue.
About the Entry
A reluctant city dweller, I find happiness in the midst of nature. Perpetually bitten by the travel bug, I thrive on exploring every facet of nature and wildlife and developing new love stories in and with the wild. A strong advocate of, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” (John Muir), I have done many treks, nature walks, and marathons, and I also enjoy capturing them in their native spirit with my lens. Based on my experiences in the concrete jungle and the actual jungle, I have taken upon myself to make the world a better place by retaining what’s left of it.
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- Why should someone visit your site? The motivation of my life lies in exploring what is unknown to me—high mountains, rivers and lakes and their myriad shades of blue, forests and grasslands, and countless creatures. I find purpose in sharing my learning and experiences. I believe that there is no dearth in the availability of information, but heartfelt experiences when shared can have a more long-lasting impact. I wish to do that. Through my writing, I want to share my love for the unknown and unveil knowledge of the natural wealth that encompasses us and yet we are unaware of.
- Entry Title | When in a (rain)forest…
- Entry Number | 84
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