Walking the fire line
Tuesday was our last day at Silent Valley. But it was not to be a day of just good-byes. Jayan and the Range Officers had arranged another short trek for us. It was a steep ascent again, and this time along the ‘fire line’. The path we walked separated the National Park from the buffer zone (which housed the tribes). Every summer the grass would be cleared along this path to prevent forest fires from spreading into Silent Valley. Just before departing on this hike, we heard elephants and every one including the staff and the guards became alert. The Range Officer predicted the possibility of us spotting the herd on our hike and we were all quite excited.
The steep climb up the fire line was worth the effort because once we reached on top, we had a beautiful view of the buffer zone. The plan was to hike down the opposite side, but the Range Officers and I trekked back the way we came. Sadanand and the others took the other route which was very steep and dangerous. Unfortunately neither of us spotted the elephants, although the winds carried their smell and we were aware of their presence somewhere in the jungle.
Our Silent Valley trip had drawn to a close after the fire line hike. But it was the start of another relationship. We were all pleasantly surprised when the Range Officer of Sairandhri refused to accept any money for our extended stay. The hospitality of the staff is something we are all very grateful for. They also invited us to come during December – January, when it is summer and there are no leeches. Most of the staffers gave us their personal addresses and asked us to send photos. We had clicked group snaps with all the members and the warmth of these people and their dedication really touched us.
After a hearty lunch, Jayan and we left Sairandhri in his friend’s Tavera. Our destination was Palakkad, with a pit stop at Mukalli. We bought some real good honey at the Ecological Development Center (EDC) at Mukalli, and bid goodbye to Soman. We interacted with Jayan during the drive and he gave us lot of tips on how to expand our photography. He also sowed the seeds for our next adventure – Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.