Ruthpadel.com EXTRACTS FROM TIGERS IN RED WEATHER
Abbreviations and Place Names
Prologue: The TeenagerPart One: Out of the West
India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan - Bengal Tigers
- Jungle of The Jungle Book
- How Do You Count Animals You Can’t See?
- Lady of the Lake
- Crocodiles and Man-Eaters
- The Lord of Mud and Tide
- Heart of the Jungle, Shadow of Tibet
- Inner Journey, Hidden Treasure
- The Road to Tiger's Nest
Russia, Korea, China – Amur (Siberian) and South China Tigers
- Clawmarks and Pawmarks at the Antler Velvet Farm
- Attention! Tigers Crossing
- Don't You Understand? This is Amba!
- Tiger Rag, Tiger Bone
- Dreaming of Tigers
South-east Asia, Indonesia – Indo-Chinese, Malayan, Sumatran; and the Extinct Tigers, Javan, Balinese and (out of place) the Caspian
- Valentine Night in the Golden Triangle
- If You Kill a Tiger, You can Buy a Motorbike
- Defenders of the Wild
- The Burning
- Never Say You are Not Afraid
- The Tiger Shaman
- Wallace’s Line
Tigers Today and Tomorrow
- The No and the Yes
- The Battle of Flowering Bamboo
- To a Good Path Through the Forest
The light was lavender and silver-green and the canopy closed in. Protecting or menacing, you could feel it as either.
Every step was dodgy: this Sumatran volcano forest was so steep and so tricksy you needed handholds all the time.
A trail came in from the right. Debbie brushed aside the dead leaves. "Yes!" she said. "There, Ruth."
A tiger footprint. Very light - the soil was so dry - but pointing our way. Ten minutes later there was another, much fresher. They had walked up to join our ridge-trail.
"You should never not respect a tiger," whispered Debbie. "As the old guy we met, the grass-gatherer, said, you should never not be afraid. But they are OK animals normally. It's the other things to be afraid of, at least in daylight. The landslide, the inadvertent pit-viper.
"And if we hear a growl?" I asked.
"If it's loud, the tiger's probably far away. The softer the growl the nearer, the more dangerous. Worst I ever heard, I was going up a muddy track ahead of a jeep, to see if it was Ok to drive. A stream crossed the track. I sloshed through it and heard the jeep revving like crazy behind me I was just going to yell to him, to tell him he;d blow a gasket, when I saw very small pawmarks, filling with water at the edge of the stream I'd just walked through. That noise was no jeep! And it was on my side of the stream."
"You were between the mother and... "
"Er – yes. The cub had followed the stream across the path just after I followed the path across the stream. I walked back across very quickly towards the jeep. I kept going past the noise, not looking back. Told the driver we couldn’t go that way." She paused. "That was really loud growling. And very near."
Our whispers were soft as breath. Debbie motioned me off the trail. We sat down, screened from it, in the bushes, and listened. The forest was still, with a live, full stillness, a packed concert hall before the conductor comes. A hushed sea of branches where gods lived and tigers walked.
Heart of the world. If there was meaning to the universe, a non-manmade meaning, this was it.
A little brown tree-shrew jumped to a branch, ran down like coffee-grounds pouring and leaped away. A group of pig-tailed macaque monkeys, who had been rustling overhead, calling and grumbling, moved away and fell silent.
From behind the trees came a light cough. A twig snapped. On the trail we could not see, there was a presence. The jungle was differently still, as if holding its breath. Something was there, listening to us breathe, watching us listen.
It lasted about ten minutes and then we felt it fade. Debbie looked at me and smiled slowly as if waking rom a dream.
"What was it?" I breathed.
"Some large mammal," she said quietly, getting up. "You feel the forest go still. When there's a large mammal around, usually a predator, there's a feeling. Even when you can't see it, and you usually can't, you find out later it was there. Could have been a golden cat. Or a sun bear - they like dense forest. But the pig-tails were definitely not happy bunnies and they wouldn’t have worried about a bear. People here say, that when a tiger wants to tell you it's there, it snaps a twig."
She picked one up and snapped it. The sound we heard in the silence.
"Could well have been a tiger going along our path, stopping to check us out. Probably was."
We left our hiding–place and came out on the trail.
"Can't go further up. Be dark before we got back. Not a good idea, coming down in the dark. We’ll turn back."
I started down but Debbie stopped me and pointed down. In the soft earth, right over the imprint of my own Tunisian trainer, was laid like a love-token a very large, fresh, deep pugmark.
We had been at a tiger's mercy. A "polite" tiger, as they say there. A tiger observing adat, "forest safety," hers and ours. She had seen us, smelt us, known us and gone her way, leaving us to go ours.