Off the NH-47 in Kanjikode, nestled at the foothills of the Western Ghats is Valiyaeri. You won't find it on Google! I heard about from an old driver of mine. He related tales of elephants dropping in on the farmsteads on the fringes of the forests near there and my curiosity was piqued. I had gone there many years ago but had to park my car and walk a considerable distance to reach the southern side. The only thing I encountered that day was a cobra that went into the paddy field I was crossing, like a Bullet train!
Now many years later, my son had graduated to being Woodcrawler Jr, I had to show him this little secret. Elephants were still raiding crops but lately the electrified fences along the forest's edge had effectively ensured that their visits were infrequent. In any case, a Sunday was time for exploring so we decided to go.
This time I took another road, going further from the point where I had accessed the Southern edge. It would eventually reach the railway track but that was not my aim. About half a kilometer before the railway lines a mud track veers left into the edge of the forest. I had no fear of getting stuck on this trip because we had a bigger vehicle but I wanted to be sure I'd be able to back out. An old man told us that we could go all the way to the lake's edge and we did.
There were the regular cormorants roosting and a Brahmini kite swooping overhead.
I hissed to my son to attract his attention. Bronzebacks are fast and it wouldn't need more than a fraction of a second for it to disappear from sight. I needn't have been so worried because the snake was as curious I was. It retracted into the rock with it's chin resting on the edge.
It seemed to me that the snake had decided that it's first priority was to warm up. It had probably been lying up the night between the cracks in the rock and as the day warmed up, must have decided to come out to sunbathe. Unfortunately it's plans were being interrupted. My son had picked up another camera and was on the topside of the rock.
The next 45 minutes was a hide-n-seek game between my son, the snake and me. It would pop it's head up and my son would crane his neck to see if he could get a good shot.
The snake had withdrawn into the crevice and was trying to find another way out.
My son was sitting patiently for the snake to make it's move. The bronzeback was not intimidating enough for him. He had handled one in Bandipur a couple of years ago and knew it was harmless. He was more keen on getting a hold on it than get a picture! Disappointment was writ large on his face as the snake kept refusing to climb out.
The snake won round one but we weren't about to give up. We withdrew behind the rock. The snake had to make it's move eventually. Move, it did, but from another side.
It would raise itself up slowly to survey the surroundings.
Eventually, probably realizing that we were as tenacious as it was, the snake disappeared one final time before emerging from another side and swiftly vanishing into the dry grass beyond.