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Friday, January 11, 2013

Bandhavgarh - Tiger in The BackYard

Muchmucha is a small village located about forty five km from the Tala Gate at Bandhavgarh National Park. It is about 16 km from Barhi. Bandhavgarh lies in the Umaria District of Madhya Pradesh or Central India.  

Muchmucha lies amidst Bandhavgarh forest that is a contiguous belt of the Tiger Reserve.  On one side of the village is the oldlodge that dates back to 1935. The property established by ancestors of Mr. Avinash Pathak is in a perfect state of preservation looked well after by Mr.Pathak and & Mrs.Anjali Pathak Both are avid conservationists and oversee that same attitude dawns over the village folks that their ancestors nurtured with love and care.        

Before the legislation the members were keen hunters as well as philanthropists. They donated land and aided the poor in the area of their influence. 

Muchmucha Kothi or the Lodge is an elegant structure in same state as it was whence built. Now used as accommodation for the guest who arrive here to laze in salubrious climes go birding and enjoy wildlife safaris. The place is well equipped with all amenities that can be integrated in an eco-friendly manner. 

One can enjoy a palanquin ride as well as use it for bird watching and trek in the village forest to look for wild animals including tigers and leopards. For the less adventurous a sound massage on the machaan or the inviting hammock is the best recourse to enjoy the natural surroundings.   

The large expanse of the lodge is complimented by fantastic number of birds. The property lies amidst the true tiger country and offers an ambiance that existed in golden eras of tigers in MP.   

As the story unfolds we land at the lodge on 8th January around 6 pm. Sitting near the fire place I discuss the forests and its denizen with Chandan who is Mr. Pathak's nephew and often visits the place. Jeevan is an old trekker since the days of Mr. Pathak's grand father.   

The Roaring Tiger

In the cold evening the three of us huddle together by the bonfire waiting for the family and the guests to arrive. A cup of tea makes us feel warmer and cheerful. The roar is distinct and Jeevan's trained ears are the first to hear. "It is about 200 yards from the lodge and closing in," he whispers as we rush towards the direction of the roar. I have been to Muchmucha earlier but the evening never started like the way it did today.   

We waited with bated breath as the roar became louder and louder. The tiger was very near to the last hut and was searching for the buffalo that it killed yesterday. "The carcass has been carried away by the owners," whispers Jeevan. The thunderous roar continued  for about fifteen minutes and then there was complete silence. 

When the party arrived we narrated the exciting event and could see disappointment writ large on their continence. Nevertheless the fun filled evening warmed up with many exciting jungle lore narrated evocatively by the shikaris who serviced the family.  

The drive to the village forest yielded many deers but the tiger had vanished into the deeper confines. We went up to the river and managed to see herds of spotted deer, a huge sambar deer, barking deer and a dainty civet cat. After an exhaustive night aided by sumptuous meal and some drinks we knocked off quite late.      

The morning brought in a  greater surprise as the guard woke me up at five o'clock  The bitter cold and tiredness made things difficult nevertheless I walked up to the edge of the lodge. "It is very close," the guard said. "Much closer then yesterday I am sure," I told guard. Much to our surprise a tigress began calling as she walked towards the tiger. Obviously we could not see the pair and decided not to approach them so as not to disturb. After some time there was a brief scuffle and frightening growls and then all was over.

We stood waiting for some more roars but there was complete silence. The party awoke late and heard us again with some disappointment. It was too cold and they were all very tired hence we did not wake them up. For the day and next we heard many alarm cries around the lodge while enjoying the bonfire and delicious snacks. We had an exciting time birding as well sighting wildlife around the village forests.  

The mating tigers were much too busy and secretive to awake us again but the memory bank will teem for life time.     

We enjoyed the gracious hospitality at the lodge. The central structure with its eco-friendly flush-less baths and grand but simple rooms offered us delightful comforts and sound sleep. However a couple of rooms with attached bath are being built for the conventional tourists.      

The tigers and leopards roam around in the confines of the village hunting on cattle as well as deer who come to raid the fields in hoards.  Muchmucha is a true tiger land at Bandhavgarh. The wildlife lodge at Bandhavgarh is managed by the couple and many an esteemed personality like Mr. Sumant Moolgaonkar of Tata were regular visitors.

The diverse habitat offers excellent bird watching opportunity and many birders visit the lodge every year. Wild animal sightings are exciting, the pleasure at the lodge is enhanced by the activities that includes tribal dance and musical performances.  

Reaching Muchmucha: it is about 16 km from Barhi after Katni. One has to take a left turn from Kuan village on the road to Umaria which is 32 km from the National Park. Umaria is about fifty plus km to Kuan Village. One can also approach Muchmucha from Khitauli Range of the reserve.   
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