Googled out – Trust the experts in the field

•September 15, 2015 • 1 Comment

Visits to the Jungle is always full of surprises mostly pleasant ones. While the surprises are abounding, to get it to work for your satisfaction one needs tons of patience and trust. Patience as a trait isn’t easy to adopt in a place like Masai Mara since there is so much happening all over and every jeep that you bump into telling you there is something else big and better some distance away.

Trust in whom? All of us are at best sporadic visitors to the jungle with overflowing information of the terrain, from the knowledge channels on the television or general rambling of experts on facebook. There are these guys who are in the forest for their living and have seen and known the terrain and animals more intimately. I am referring to the person behind the wheels your guide and driver. Trust him and you will make documentaries yourself else you will only see all those great films and keep bitching that one can never see such stuff in the forest.

This photo story is a tribute to Mulei, our trusted partner in Mara without whom we wouldn’t have witnessed the precision with which the cheetah plans and executes its kill. Now let’s move to the action packed piece.

Little did we realize that when we first saw the Cheetah on a mound that we are going to be spending the next couple of hours with her.

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She gets off the mound and runs across and Mulei was very sure her next stop would be atop the jeep. He was right she was soon seen on the roof of a jeep, which was her vantage point for spotting her prey. I have one more thing ticked off from my “to see list” (wanting to see Cheetah on the roof of a jeep). As the Cheetah worked on her lunch the occupants of the jeep had their best group photographs of their life.

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Off she went with purpose. The most athletic creature walks right into our jeep and our expectations ran high thinking our jeep roof is the next. So we were making grand plans for our next few head to head frames with her. She disappoints and this tick mark would have to wait for another day.

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Little did we know at that point in time that from her first Jeep vantage point view she had zeroed in on her target and now she just has to wait to get it. She ambles past our jeep and waits in the shade for quite a long time.

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This wait was for more than 40 minutes and in this time quite a few vehicles decided to leave disappointed that there is no action and that the cheetah had gone to rest. This is exactly where you trust your man because as he had rightly predicted a large herd of Wildebeest comes running across. The target keeps moving and the cheetah is still un-moved and she lets a fairly large herd move across. Finally, the cheetah gets up and sprints in the direction of the tail of the herd.

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The final countdown – The fastest animal on the planet shows her skills. She goes full speed direct to the herd and the Wildebeests are frozen.

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At that great speed she does a turn and goes in for the calf which is running aimlessly unaware of the cheetah behind her.

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Its only then it strikes us that cheetah mostly hunts calfs and it had waited in the shade to exactly let the calf come in view so that she could go for it.

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The cheetah brings the calf down and catches her breath as she takes the breath away from the prey. So we get almost 90 minutes of planning the kill and exactly a few seconds of action if I exclude the sprint to the kill.

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While the cheetah is bestowed with the speed she lacks the strength of other large predators in protecting the kill for long. She has to polish off the kill as soon as possible since there are the Hyena’s and the Vultures who would scoop in on the kill quite soon.

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The cheetah is at the job of digging on to the kill in a hurry un-concerned with the jeeps around her. She knows we are not to be bothered about. So here we go contended with our sighting and the cheetah with her kill.

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As I said earlier this story wouldn’t have been possible without Mulei who at every turn in this story had positioned us right for the action. Thanks Raphael Mulei for making our day.

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Flashback

•August 18, 2015 • 1 Comment

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The first impression that we had on reaching this deserted place is of a typical Bollywood movie set. Black and white opening of a ruined town with that melodramatic music and a coarse voice-over of “how a prosperous place has been brought to dust”

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Panam city,  couple of hours drive from Dhaka referred to widely as “Lost city”, “Deserted city”, “Ghost city” has all the ingredients of the typical Bollywood flick.  It has this immediate effect on you to ask for “what happened and who did it in” and gets you to talk, research and dig deeper on “what could have been this city” had it not happened.

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Before I get to the past glory of Panam city there is lot to talk about its photographic aesthetics as we see it now.  A narrow road is all that is there in Panam city with rows of houses (sorry you can’t call them houses cause they are mansions) in depilated condition.

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The mansions have been skinned down to the bricks literally, robbed of all its flesh.  Since we do mostly wildlife the closest this could be compared to is making images of Vultures pecking on the last bit of bones left off the kill.

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Most of these mansions (52 in all) are locked. People would dare not get into these mansions if they were not locked not for some “vittalacharya” kind of reasons but the structure could cave in any time.

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The narrow road does lead to somewhere, to a school, we did see quite a few kids in their uniform walking on the road cheerfully to learn.  Will they learn the glorious past of the road they scamper by daily, maybe not.

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The homes (mansions doesn’t matter people lived there that’s all matters) on both sides of the road have nothing much to offer unless you are interested to shoot some closed doors in multiple colours.  Step behind these row of houses and the “beauty of destruction” is inviting.

Most homes down to bricks, moss covered, showing that little semblance of glory of the past.

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One of these homes which is converted to some kind of office did let us in to explore.

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Like any one of our ancestral homes it has a small door, opening into the expanse of a courtyard with rooms lined up in the sides which brought to mind when it was inhabited must have been the place where all kids of the home must have been running around with the ladies of the home keeping watch on them from the side rooms.  After going up a few steps actually it felt like a huge hike thanks to those calf muscle wrenching staircases.  Why would they need to make even staircases an exercise machine in those days.

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The occupants of these mansions have lived a royal life in a self contained township. haunted13

Music, dance floors, beautifully decorated ornamental homes.  The typical Bollywood havelis that we have seen countless number of times was what you get to see in these isolated ones now.

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Carved pillars, colourful well decorated ceilings, etched glasses with sun seeping through making the dancing floors interesting.  Galleries where the women folk would have been relegated to distanced from the men sashaying.  haunted14

With so much of Bollywood in our blood enacting the actual scene when you lay foot in any such place isn’t tough.  Go up another level into the terrace and what was on display was a neighbours home which probably looked even more grandeur than this one.

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Couple of hours of walking around in Panam city with the Flash Back stories flowing incessantly is all that you do there. Not a bad day at work I should say since one is able to piece together a story with so little strain.

With the present out of the way, I am to take you back to the actual flash back in colour of Panam city’s glorious past. Sorry I am going to disappoint you here.  Google and you have enough of that.

HORAS to Lake Toba – North Sumatra, Indonesia

•May 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment


Lake Toba - Ocean Lake

Lake Toba is a crater lake formed due to the Toba eruption about 67500 to 75500 years ago. This is a site of the supervolvanic eruption. It is described as Yellow Stone’s bigger sister. This lake is 100 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide and 505 metres at its deepest point and a surface elevation of 505 metres. It is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world.

Toba Lake from our Resort

This lake is formed in a volcanic crater. The water within these kind of volcanic lakes are often acidic, saturated with volcanic gases, and cloudy with a strong greenish colour. This being a dormant or extinct volcano tends to have fresh water and the water clarity is exceptional due to the lack of inflowing streams and sediments. The eruption here was a massive climate changing event.  According to the Toba catastrophe theory to which some anthropologists and archeologists subscribe, it had global consequences, killing most humans than alive and creating a population bottleneck in Central Eastern Africa and India that affected the genetic inheritance of all humans today.

To reach Lake Toba you have to fly to Medan and drive 5 hours to reach the lakeside town called Parapat, which is beside Lake Toba and it is a jump off point for the ferry to Tomok and the other resorts in Samosir island. The ferry ride from Parapat to Tuktuk and Tamok is pictureque. The ferry drops you at your resort since each resort has a jump off point.

A Batak in his field taking a smoke break

Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Bataks. Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups The term is used to include the Toba, Karo, Pakpak ,Simalungun, Angkola, and Mandailing found in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The Bataks are settlers who probably evolved from the Austronesian speakers who first reached Sumatra from Taiwan and Philippines through Borneo or Java about 2500 years ago. They were ritual cannibals. In Marco Polo’s memoirs of his stay on the east coast of Sumatra from April to September of 1292, he mentions an encounter with hill folk whom he refers to as “man-eaters”. He passed on descriptions which were provided to him, in which a condemned man was eaten: “They suffocate him and when he is dead they have him cooked, and gather together all the dead man’s kin, and eat him. And I assure you they do suck the very bones till not a particle of marrow remains in them…And so they eat him up stump and rump. And when they have thus eaten him they collect his bones and put them in fine chests, and carry them away, and place them in caverns among the mountains where no beast nor other creature can get at them. And you must know also that if they take prisoner a man of another country, and he cannot pay a ransom in coin, they kill him and eat him straightway.”

A Traditional Batak House

Samosir Island

Batak in his traditional costume

Samosir Island is a large volcanic island besides it is the largest island within an island and the fifth largest lake island in the world. This island offers fascinating history and panorama. The island is a centre of Batak culture, and the tourists resorts are concentrated in the small town of Tuktuk. Tuktuk is a one hour ferry ride from Parapat. The island occupies nearly half the lake and is joined to its western shore by an isthmus, at which point is the island’s principal town, Pangururan. In the east, the island rises to 5,350 ft (1,630 m), but the level of the surrounding water is 2,989 ft. The mountain Dolok Pusubukit on the isthmus joining Samosir to the mainland is believed to have been the home of the first Batak.

Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo

Rice Barn

Huta Bolon is a  small Batak village. Huta means village. It is a small square surrounded by ramparts on which tall bamboo trees grow. The society of Huta consists of three different groups. Margas is the group of the founder of the village, Boru is the group which take their wives from the Margas group and Hulahula the group of the founder’s wife. There is a row of houses situated at the lower side of the square facing a high mountain  which is believed to be the residence of the communal God. The big House – Ruma bolon is the King’s house. There is another row on the opposite side called Sapas, or rice barns. In the centre of the village, there is a Boratan – slaughter pole decorated with various kinds of leaves to represent the tree of life or banian tree. It has the restored house of the Toba Batak King, which has been turned into a museum and a row of ancient Toba Batak tombs of the the ancient Simanindo Kings with christian motifs on them. Next to the kings house is a replica of a traditional Batak village where the Bataks perform their traditional batak dance Monday till Saturday 10.30 till 11.10 and 11.45 till 12.30 and on Sundays 11.45 till 12.30.

Gondang Siboru is a dance by women who hope that during the dance a young man will come and propose to one of them. Gundang Sidoli is when the young man approaches the lady of his dreams and as a sign of his love he gives her a sum of money.

The traditional Batak music is  called  Gondang. Played by using traditional instruments during ceremonial dances on all occasions be it sad or happy.

Ambarita Village

Stone Chair in Ambarita

This is an interesting village with remains of a couple of stone chairs where the village elders held council. The elders of the village invited the rulers of the neighbouring villages to a conference when an enemy was captured to determine his fate.  This prisoner is held behind the bars under one of the houses. The guide said that if the victim deserved death then he was taken to the dining table where he is clobbered to death. This place is a short distance away from the stone chairs. There is a boulder where the victim is beheaded and chopped. His flesh is cooked with buffalo meat and served to the fellow tribals who complete the meal with a drink of the victim’s blood. On the hill above are the graves of the tribal elders. From the appearance of the monuments and graves, we guessed that the tribal elders have embraced Christianity.

Tomok village

A Stone Sacrophagus in Tomok

As a mark of respect to enter the Sidabutar tomb (Sidabutar is the ancient ruling clan in the Batak village of Tomor), they provide you with a sash to wear and then return it after the visit. Here there are a row of stone sarcophagi. When the king died he was not buried in the ground but had a sacrophagus carved in stone and placed at the centre of the village. Seven days later his descendants would plan a Hariara tree at his grave site.

Panguguran

Water of the Mount Belirang Hotspring

Panguguran is the capital of Samosir on the west coast, here the island is attached to the mainland by a small bridge. It is a small little town on the way to the Mount Belirang Hot Springs. The sulphurous gases and water of this hotspring has killed the vegetaion on the hillside leaving a white residue.

The white residue on the hill

Horas

Horas is the traditional greeting of the people, and the best-known word in their language. In addition to being a greeting, it can also be used to express ‘good health’ and ‘goodbye

Cerita Ramayana (The Plot of Ramayana)

•April 5, 2011 • 2 Comments

The  Ramayana Ballet an Hindu epic is performed against the backdrop of the Prambanan temple walls of Java’s greatest and most lavish monument.   This temple is in Yogyakarta is designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.. It situated 18 kms to the east of Yogyakarta, constructed in the 10th century. This Shiva temple soars to about 47 meters in height and has statues of Shiva, Vishnu, Nandi, Ganesha and Durga. This unforgetable spectacle of the Kecak form of dance is dramatically rendered by ornately dressed dancers, accompanied by gamelan orchestras. It is a folklore version of the Ramayana.

Introduction

Prabu Janaka, the king of Mantili Kingdom, has a very beautiful princess named Dewi Shinta.   A competition is conducted in order to decide who will be the right person to marry Dewi Shinta. The prince of Ayodhya Kingdom, Rama Wijaya at last wins the competition.
Prabu Rahwana, the ruler of Alengkadiraja Kingdom, is eager to marry Dewi Widowati. After knowing Shinta, he assumes that Dewi Shinta is the incarnation of Dewi Widowati whom he is wanting for a long time.

Dandaka Forest

Rama Wijaya, the prince of Ayodya Kingdom along with his wife Shinta accompanied by his younger brother Leksmana is adventuring until they arrive in Dandaka forest. Meeting Shinta in the place, Rahwana becomes eager to possess her. In order to realize this idea, Rahwana orders one of his followers named Marica to change himself into a golden deer called Kijang Kencana so as to attract Shinta. Being interested in the beauty of the deer, Shinta asks Rama to capture the deer for her. Rama leaves Shinta and starts hunting the deer.
After waiting for a long time, Shinta becomes nervous as Rama has not arrived yet. She asks Leksmana to look for Rama. Before leaving Shinta alone. Leksmana draws a magic circle on the ground so as to protect her from any possible danger.
As soon as Rahwana notices that Shinta has been left alone, Rahwana tries to kidnap Shinta but he falls because of the magic circle. Then he disguises as an old beggar. As soon as Shinta gets out from the magic circle to give alms to the beggar, he takes her and flies with her to Alengka Kingdom.

Running after the Deer

Rama shoots the deer with his magic arrow, but the deer transforms into giant Marica. A war breaks out between Rama and Marica. Rama shoots Marica with his arrow. Later on Leksmana arrives and requests Rama to go back to Shinta’s place.

The kidnap of Shinta

On the way to Alengka, Rahwana meets a bird named Jatayu. After noticing that Shinta is the princess of Prabu Janaka, Jatayu attacks Rahwana in order to free Shinta but he is defated by Rahwana.
After finding out that Shinta is not in her previous place, Rama and Leksmana decide to search for Shinta. Later on they meet seriously wounded Jatayu. Rama thinks it must be Jatayu who has kidnapped Shinta. Rama decided to kill him but Leksmana prevents him to do so, Jatayu explains what has happened to him and then he dies.
A moment later, a white monkey named Hanuman arrives. He is delegated by his uncle Sugriwa to look for two heroes who can kill Subali. Subali is a sacred man and has taken Dewi Tara, Sugriwa’s beloved woman by force, Rama decides to help Sugriwa.

Kiskendo Cave

When Subali, Dewi Tara and his son are chatting, Sugriwa arrives. With the help of Rama, Sugriwa attacks him. Subali is defeated by Sugriwa and he takes Dewi Tara with him again, Sugriwa decides to help Rama to look for Shinta. For this purpose, Hanuman is sent as envoy to Alengka Kingdom.

Argasoka Garden

Rahwana’s niece, Trijata is confronting Shinta in the garden. Rahwana arrives and asks Shinta’s willingness to be his wife. Shinta refuses to do so. This makes Rahwana angry and wants to kill her but Trijata prevent and said that he should be patient and Trijata promises to look after Shinta. It was when Shinta was really sad that suddenly she starts to hear a beautiful song which is sung by Hanuman, the white monkey. Hanuman tells his purpose to help her, and this duty is ordered by Rama. As soon as he explains the purpose, Hanuman starts to find out the total power of Alengka army. Then he destroys the garden. Indrajid, Rahwana’s son captures him, Kumbakarna tries to prevent this, but he is thrown out of the kingdom. Hanuman is sentenced to be burnt alive. Hanuman with fire around his body burnt Alengka palace.

Rama’s Bridge

After delegating Hanuman, Rama and his ape troops go to the sea and make a bridge for running to Alengka. When the bridge is finished, Hanuman comes and reports about the Alengka’s situation and its troops power. Receiving the report, Rama is very happy and commands Hanuman, Hanggada, Hanila and Jembawan to lead the troops to attack Alengka.

The Total War

When the giant troops of Alengka are on their guard at their country boundary, they are suddenly attacked by the ape troops. Therefore a big war occurs between them. In this war Indrajid is killed by Laksmana, Kumbakarna, the younger brother of Rahwana died as a patriotic hero. After the death of Kumbakarna Rahwana finally became the commander of the Alengka troops to face Rama. In this war, Rahwana is killed by Rama’s arrow and Hanuman drops the Mount Sumawana on Rahwana.

The Meeting of Rama and Shinta

After the death of Rahwana, Shinta accompanied by Hanuman meets Rama, Rama refused to accept her as he considers Shinta is not pure anymore. In order to prove her purity, Shinta burn herself. With the help of God of fire, Shinta is saved from the fire. Her proof makes Rama happy and finally accepts Shinta

This is a link to the video

This dance ballet is performed at

Pt. taman wisata candi
Borobudur, Prambanan Ratu Boko
Jl Raya Yogya – Solo Km. 16, Prambanan Yogyakarta
Telp. (0274)496408, 497771