Friday, 6 June 2008

Day 3 at Corbett: R and R

Got up late (well, comparatively: 7.45ish). Ate the refreshing breakfast that the Hideaway provides. I had a terrible headache that made me a not-so-tolerable person , what with my cribbing and muttering and irritated-face-keeping! And then came sleep (after food) at which point my aunt and uncle left for Kolkotta, and I didn’t give them much of a farewell (owing to my cribbing: sometimes I find myself unbearable! I wonder how others tolerate me!) It felt as though the brain of mine was banging itself against my skull!
Thus, sleep ensued. At 12.00 I was up again. A lovely bath did nothing to make my headache go away. Lunched around 1.00. Got back to the room, read a little, got troubled by my cousin, and got ready to go out at 4.30ish.We were going to the Kosi River, where the hotel had ‘activities’ like rappelling, ‘mountain’ climbing, slithering and river crossing. We attempted river crossing first, where they leave you suspended from a rope which slopes down. This doesn’t give you much to do except hang on, and so it was simple. Next came rappelling. This requires a little effort from the individual. The right hand holds the rope in front and the left below the back and he body weight is solely on the lower back. Legs straight and wide apart, you let go and keep letting yourself down. Bhavna (my cousin) was scared initially, but did it nevertheless. I wasn’t all too scared. Dad didn’t do it. Ma was fine! Then came ‘mountain’ climbing, where we had to climb a rocky wall, which, sad to say, I couldn’t accomplish owing to the unfortunate event of being deplorably fat (added to which I hogged the lovely desserts in the Hideaway)! Bhavna did it though.
Finally came the slithering where you are let off from a bridge and when you reach the bottom (just above the water), they let you fall, and you get absolutely drenched. This was scary because there was nothing to hold on to, but once it was over, it felt good. Again, pa didn’t try it, ma tried once, but Bhavna went twice.
And there we stood on the drier parts of the river Kosi, three of us wet to the skin, one carrying the video camera, the camera, purse, shoes and what-not. We walked along that dry river until we reached water, which we decided to cross. More than three-fourths across the water, ma got scared by the force of flow. Thus we retreated gracefully, letting the water be, and we walked the path to the main road, had ‘chai’ in a road-side shop, got to the room, bathed and left for dinner.
Happy meal (once I should probably talk about the Hideaway food sometime, but it would take too much time), and while the others watched IPL, I managed to finish (as it so happened, the not-so-good) Jackie Collins. Sleep again…
A day of rest and relaxation- not much accomplished, not much travel. Not much to look forward to; peace, quiet and sleep.
I sign off.

Day 2 at Corbett: Lookout

Awake and ready by four ante meridiem (a.m.). Drove to the forest rangers’ office to get a permit for the safari (hoping to get the morning one). Appa stood in a queue that was never-ending and not too queue-like. In the end, we got the afternoon, 2.45, slot. And thus the morning wait paid off (even though it tested our… my… patience quite a bit).
Got back, rested, breakfasted and bathed and left to the Kaladungi falls, which we had wanted to see the previous day. We finally entered the area and had ‘geera’ or cucumber with pepper and waded through the water. Even though it was small, it was amazingly beautiful and cheerful.
Got back, slept again, lunched and prepared for the safari. All eyes out, we watched out for the mighty tiger. We had a good guide (Shubham). We stood up on the jeep’s seat desperately hoping we’d spot the striped predator of the jungle.
We saw:
v Loads of spotted deer hanging about in groups, running away at the sound of the engine,
v Saambar that was black in colour and generally stood far away, thus not requiring to run away at the sound of the engine,
v Black-faced Langoor that lept from tree to tree,
v A serpent-eater (eagle) that was perched between the greenery,
v A vulture on a leafless tree,
v A yellow-necked monter that looked like a mongoose but skipped from branch to branch,
v Peacocks (with their rejoicing bird-calls),
v And finally elephants.
(No tigers I’m afraid.)
We had a good sight of the elephants. In fact, our jeep spotted them first from afar and our driver took us really close to the herd. There were five elephants in all: three adult she-elephants, a young male and young female elephant. For those who do not know, elephants generally live in herds and the leader is usually a female. The male elephants do not necessarily stay with the herd (as was the case this time).
The other jeeps started following us. And there was a chaotic noise as people ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and then elephants turned to leave us (after all we were treading on their territory). This time our guide, with his great sense of perception overtook the herd and tried to catch a closer (than before) view of the elephants. We would have gotten really close if it hadn’t been for the other vehicles blocking our way thus hindering us from reaching faster.
Apparently three to four jeeps spotted the tiger! That was quite a blow. But, hey! What do you expect? This was a safari!
And thus we trundled back to our lair, a little dejected, of course. But on the trundling back, we were stopped by a humungous, confused, chaotic traffic jam (you couldn’t know where it started and where it ended). We waited for almost an hour and nothing seemed to be moving, so we decided to walk a little while and get the hotel car to come for us since the jeep was stuck in traffic. But as we got out and started walking, the jam cleared out. Finally we reached home (the hotel that is). I was absolutely exhausted and hence a nap ensued. Then dinner and back to sleep.
Alas! The tiger lay well hidden!
Signing off…

Monday, 2 June 2008

Day 1 at Corbett: Expectations

Reached the famous national park yesterday. Nothing more eventful than a blissful sleep with the promise of seeing snow in the morning. Bhaunkhal, the spot at which we might catch a glimpse of the snowy ranges of the middle and upper Himalayas! And ambitiously we rose at four to race the sun to the locale. Alas, woe begone, we missed not only that rise of the mighty golden orb but also the mist fogged the snow-topped ranges. And thus, I did not (as I was promised) get my first glimpse of snow.
And so it came about that we got off the car into the early morn and decided (ambitious still) to climb a hill in the cold Shiwalik air up to a 'mandir'. "Jai shri Ram" indeed. We could not walk beyond thirty paces! Downhill was worse. Bhavan Singh roared with laughter as he watched us struggle, puffing and panting our hearts out, grabbing every tree and rock in sight praying (okay, not me but my parents) that we do not fall.
Nice man Bhavan Singh. Spoke of his dreams to visit Tamil Nadu and see the Marina, giving us 'garam chai', requesting us to stop by the woods on a lonely morning to sit and share a few square meals with him. But then we had miles to go before we slept. How true that turned out to be!
Breaking the fast in Corbett Hideaway (the hotel), we refreshed and off we were to the National Park's museum, having missed the sun and snow. The museum was grand. Well, not technically, but ideally. It was simple, small and gorgeous, with models of living tigers speaking of their lives, deaths and their majestic royalty. With cubs, preserved embryos even, foetuses also, stored in ethyl (um.... whatever). A tiger fought an elephant the whole night, dying in the process. Even great leaders die a fatal death- at least she died fighting!
The various National Parks around India, pictures and so on decorated the walls- that summed up the museum that guarded the entrance to the museum that guarded the entrance to the National Park. We bought t-shirts promoting the tiger ("Save me" and all). This was followed by a lot of conversation and reminiscences of Zambia.
Then we go back to the hotel. That followed by a 20 minute swim, the buffet feast at the Hideaway (for lunch), a little slumber for the parents (book reading time till four) and on the move again; this time to Kaladungi falls and museum.
Long ride looking for a fuel station that had diesel, since supply was short, and finally up to the falls which sadly closed at 5.00 (us reaching there at 6.30). So also the museum which apparently contains Jim Corbett's belongings. And thus we stopped at Punian restaurant (near the falls) for chai/coffee, saw tamed geese and decided to get back.
Just our luck: as the clock-hand passes eight, our lovely game of antakshari was interrupted by a harsh realisation- flat tyre; no spare!! The two men of the family (dad and uncle) sent the driver on a mission to get a good spare, and the ladies in a share auto type auto (where you stand behind with the wind in your face) to Ramnagar (the nearest town).
Ma, chitti (aunt), Bhavna and I reached safe and chose to call the resort for a vehicle to take us from Ramnagar to the resort. Big mistake! Apparently they charge innocent strangers to the area a meagre amount of Rs 650/- only (excluding taxes). Aunt’s tantrum… a reduction if costs to Rs 350/- only and finally reaching our destination (the temporary home).
Noodles for dinner, and hopefully a lovely sleep before a better day where, hopefully, the Honourable majesties shall grace us with their presence. Awaiting the tiger…
I sign off.

looking for an angel

Shut in a plane, looking for an angel.
The morning skies of blue and white
With a psychadelic effect on the mind.
Empty art books getting filled with multi-coloured ink.
The thoughts into the depths of slumber sink.
Bright pens summoning the Muse
From a blankness that erases everything.
Genesis of meaningless tunes of tranquility.
The ecstasy when the nib touches the coarse whiteness
is freedom; like a puff of a cloud
Rising from nothingness
And falling into the seas of imagination-
An angel descends.

(On the plane from kolkotta to delhi, when i was looking out at the clouds and feeling all poetic. Well, from up high it was gorgeous... Written on the 25th of may 2008.)