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The previous day’s drive from Pune to Chandrapur had not been easy, to say the least. We had driven about 850 kilometres on two-lane state highways with sections that were nothing short of craters.This is just by way of giving an inkling of what our Toyota Fortuner had been through.
We had made a mistake when we chose the route to Chandrapur via Nanded and Nirmal instead of via Aurangabad. The roads after Nanded were in tatters at most places, at times they were non-existent. The Fortuner proved its mettle through the tough terrain, though, and we fetched up at Chandrapur by 11.30 in the night.
The car’s air-conditioner had kept us comfortable throughout the day, so what lay outside was completely unexpected. A temperature in excess of 40 degrees Celsius at 11.30 pm was certainly not something we had bargained for as we came out of the Fortuner! The next day was going to be even worse, what with us roaming about in an open Maruti Gypsy with the mercury soaring above 45 degrees Celsius. That, however, would be no deterrent, for we were in Chandrapur for a sight of the big cat in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.
The tiger’s masterful attitude and majestic stance had a magnetic pull for us. Now the urge to spot it in its natural habitat was too strong to resist. The shutter bug in me was already craving for the pictures that I could flaunt once back home. However, as subsequent developments proved it, getting them wasn’t as easy as I had thought!
The tiger reserve is spread over 625 square kilometres of land, making it the largest in Maharashtra. However, there are just about 45 tigers in that vast expanse, which works out to onetiger per 14 sq km. That made it all the more difficult to actually get to see one of them. There are three ranges in Tadoba-Andhari where tiger spotting is frequent and we decided to cover the maximum that we could over the period of two days at our disposal.
The first day was dedicated to the Mohorli and Kolsa ranges. The authorities allow not more than 27 vehicles to venture in for safari trips in both the ranges. So, we booked one Gypsy the night before and had it parked in a queue at the entrance, so that we got an assured entry. It’s quite funny, nay, ridiculous, that  you need to park your vehicle in a queue on the eve to ensure your entry the next morning.
Mohorli started offering us glimpses of the wildlife of Tadoba as soon as we entered the range. A sloth bear crossed our path and went deep into the jungle. Hold on. Did I say that the sloth bear crossed ‘our’ path? Well, sorry for that, because actually we were in its territory. Not just in the bear’s, but in that of hundreds of its fauna brethren. The chirps and twitters our ears heard kept our eyes flitting from tree to tree for a glimpse of those birds. As we proceeded towards the interior of the Mohorli range, we had frequent sightings of animals like the sambhar, bison and monkeys. We scoured every waterhole where the possibility of the big cats coming to quench theirthirst was high, but with no success. The morning went past with the sighting of just pugmarks.

 

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