Sunday 24th October
We say goodbye to Bandhavgarh and set out for Kanha.
We travel 150kms through a noticeably poor rural landscape. Even though it’s Sunday everyone is out in the fields, and not a tractor in sight. Fields are ploughed by oxen pulling wooden ploughs. Rice is harvested by hand and then carried back to the village either in ox carts or with a sheaf tied to either end of a wooden pole carried over the shoulder by a woman or man. Rice is separated from the plant by spreading the sheaves of rice on a large hard mud circle with a wooden pole protruding from the centre. 3 or 4 oxen are then harnessed next to each other and to the central pole. They then walk slowly in a circle crushing the rice sheaves under their hooves and separating the rice. It’s like an Indian version of a Thomas Hardy novel; fascinating but somewhat depressing in what is now one of the world’s richest nations.
Our journey to Kanha takes much longer than I had expected because I hadn’t realised our hotel is on the opposite side of the huge national park from Bandhavgarh, which means we have to traverse 30 kms of rough park roads and tracks. Then when we arrive at Mukki gate, only 4 km from our hotel, we discover that the Forestry Department has closed the road and we are led by men from our hotel on a 30 minute detour through tribal villages on rutted mud roads, with the villagers all staring at this strange spectacle.
Our hotel, Chitvan, is a peaceful oasis run on environmental and organic principles, with a small farm attached, providing many of their vegetable requirements.
After a quick lunch we venture into Kanha National Park for our safari. Kanha is much bigger than Bandhavgarh and at this time of year the undergrowth is much denser. This combines to make animal sightings less frequent. However, we still to see the elusive jungle cat for a few seconds. We also spot Basinga Swamp Deer, which can only be found in Kanha which is home to the remaining world population of 350. Another new species we spot today are Guar, huge wild cattle, with males weighing up to 1 tonne.
Our first sighting of a male Sambar also occurs on this safari and sightings of Chital and langurs complete the list of mammals seen.
We complete the day with a gourmet Indian meal in the hotel restaurant.