50th World Environment Day and Saluting the Roads to Heaven
For the last fifty years, on 5th June the world celebrates "Environment Day", which is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. On this day, politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, industrialists, and other leaders and so on, all speak about the need for conservation and protection of our environment. And the next day, they are back to plundering and exploiting the gifts of "Mother Nature" and harming our environment.
This is the Road to Heaven.
Fortunately for some of us nature and wildlife lovers, every day is an "Environment Day", and almost each day I wish I was out in the wilds experiencing and enjoying our countries amazingly diverse and rich, natural wealth and beauty.
Driving on forest roads as daybreaks is an enriching experience.
Quite often, when I am out driving in the woods, I stop to photograph the forest dirt roads making their way through a glorious green canopy of trees. At times companions, and even other onlookers have asked, what I was photographing and why?
A forest road changes its look with every season.
The fact is that we mainly go into our forests to see some wildlife, birds, or reptiles and flora, not found in our cities or urbanized towns. While I adore seeing them too, I also enjoy just being in our forests and viewing the soothing greenery. Breathing the fresh and crisp air, inhaling the vast variety of natural fragrances and hearing the sound of rustling leaves, is all so rewarding and rejuvenating. And of course driving on the forest roads is always so delightful.
Driving in the bush is so fulfilling.
And that's why I call the dirt tracks that take us into our forests, "Roads to Heaven". Photographing such scenic and serene, "Roads to Heaven" gives me immense happiness and on this "World Environment day", I thought I should share some of these images and magical moments with you.
These are tracks of joy, born out of passion for the wilderness.
Of course while driving on these "Roads to Heaven" one has to be totally respectful of the environment and all the other creatures that may reside in this wilderness. Remember they have the right of way, as they are the residents and you are the visitor. So one must drive slowly and carefully, and ensure that no harm comes to any of the fauna, or flora. Please also make sure you don't litter or cause harm to the natural beauty or environment.
On these beautiful "Roads to Heaven", if lucky, you will also sight some wildlife.
Believe me if you show respect to the jungle and its denizens, you will be rewarded with some amazing sightings. While driving on the "Roads to Heaven", I have sighted everything from a tiger and leopard, to elephant and rhino. I have even had the usually bad tempered gaur or Indian bison, casually cross ahead of my vehicle on several occasions.
Gaur's can be quite bad tempered. But I have had some really big fellas peacefully cross in front of my vehicle.
While in the forest, its best to tread softly and listen to the sounds of the jungle, which change continuously with the passage of the day. As a matter of fact, the jungle itself is perpetually transforming. There are animals and insects that are only active at night, and in the light of the day, everything looks and feels different. The forest also undergoes a makeover or metamorphosis with each season.
At times the woods are so dense and thick, that you need to use headlights even in the day.
In the rains the sound of flowing or dripping water is all over and the soils release a million pleasing scents. The entire jungle turns green and all its residents continuously call out in joy about the magical rejuvenation that the rains bring around.
No prettier sight than being "Lost in Greenery".
At times you also get some unexpected company coming along to enjoy the drive.
Yes, it's a springing to life of everything and a time to celebrate. As the monsoon progresses, the vegetation gets thicker and the herbivores have loads of delicious food to eat. As for the carnivores, they feast of their plump prey. Everyone is happy.
Driving on a rarely used inviting jungle road.
Then comes autumn and the trees begin to shed their leaves. Suddenly you can see more and visibility improves substantially. Now the sound of falling leaves and breaking twigs, fills the air and it's another of nature's sonorous concerts.
When you have a view like this from behind the wheel, you know you are on a "Road to Heaven'.
And then when you sight a sloth bear looking straight at you, you know you have arrived in a "Wild Haven".
In the summer everything slows down and the jungle takes on a much more relaxed pace of life. Now everything revolves around water and vegetation, and the value of shade and breeze and fruit bearing trees, is cherished like never before. And I have experienced all this thanks to the fact that I am continuously drawn by the "Roads to Heaven" to answer the call of the wild.
Have you ever driven on a bed of leaves? The sound of leaves crunching and crackling under the tyres can be exhilarating.
This pair of golden jackals ensured I came to a complete halt and paid my respects to them, before they permitted me to proceed on this "Road to Heaven".
So come the rain or the heat, I strongly suggest you get behind the wheel and head to your nearest "Road to Heaven". You might just discover or lose yourself.
Forest roads, take me home, to the jungle where I belong.
Mother Nature and wilderness mama, take me home, forest roads.
The mantra of John Denver's most famous song is, "Country roads, take me home to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads". My mantra is, "Forest roads, take me home, to the jungle where I belong, Mother Nature and wilderness mama, take me home, forest roads".
Sometimes even paved paths can be "Roads to Heaven".
All Photos Courtesy Bob Rupani