Though it was my third trip to the Corbett Park , the charm and excitement has not lessened at all from my previous trips. May be because of the fact that the wildlife here possesses a hypnotic charisma and charm or may be the lust to explore wilderness will keep we human being’s driven forever. Add the fact that Corbett’s wildlife does contains an extra bit of unpredictability. You never know what you are going to see in the next 50 meters.
Our tour had a disastrous start. On 6th Feb 2010, five of us boarded on 3005 up Amritsar Mail from Howrah and it started sharp at 7.10 PM. Perfect time maintenance upto Raniganj & then we called it a day & went to our respective berths. I woke up at around 1.30 and the train was not moving, slept again & at 4.00, woke up to see the train standing. At 5.30, its still standing. I got a bit worried as we are to board Nainital Express from Lucknow which is scheduled at 8.45 PM and the train is almost 5 hours late already. Its schedule arrival at Lucknow is 3.30 PM. Finally at around 6.00 AM, news came in that Maoists had blown out the track as well as the overhead power line. We witnessed a few recovery vans going up & down, but no concrete news on when things are going to be set right. At 8.00 AM, I went up to the Station Master’s Office & they conveyed that the expected departure will be at 12.00 noon. After a few more hours turmoil, the train finally started moving at 11.05 AM with late of load of almost 11 hours.
Surely, we were about to miss Nainital Express. Thankfully, it was an e-ticket & one of my colleague came into rescue when I called him. He did the cancellation job. Manual ticketing would have cost us full loss of fares otherwise. We decided to continue with this train itself & extended our journey to Moradabad , from where Ramnagar is 87 kms. The Forest Office from where we have to obtain our permits and booking requisitions is located at Ramnagar. No Ticket collectors upto Lucknow , so we tried to purchase tickets from Lucknow to Moradabad at Lucknow station, the train was scheduled to give halt of 15 minutes at Lucknow . Myself & Nilanjan rushed to the ticket counter only to see a queue of 60 odd people at the counter, hence we returned back to the train. The time was 4.15 AM, but a queue of 60 people proves how busy Lucknow is now a days. We decided to continue with this train itself, whatsoever may be the consequences, after all, we have been forced to this situation due to no fault of ours. Finally, I dragged a TC at Bareilly , who helped us getting our tickets extended.
Though the train started from Simultala with a late of 11 hours, there was no attempts from the Railways to revoer a single minute from that. At Rampur , the late load hiked upto 16 hours. Tension was grewing up as we have to reach Ramnagar at most by 3.30 PM & it is atleast 2.5 hours journey from Moradabad & its already 11.30 at Rampur . The hick up that the train got initially at Simultala continued & again a late of another 30 minutes added to the tally. Finally, we reached Moradabad at 12.30, I ran for a Car, got one Omni Van & started for Ramnagar at 12.55, we were only having 2 hrs 30 mins. To be at the Forest Office at time. But no, there is more to come, another traffic jam of 20 more minutes. My logics were pressing me hard to give up hope & think for alternative arrangements as all our bookings at Dhikala FRH were pre done & pre paid, still I was trying to postpone the thought. But again, the Van’s engine got fire & after a few minutes failed attempt, our Driver announced to our utter dismay that it will take an hour to fix the problem.
Suddenly, I noticed turned down faces, almost all of us has given up hope of reaching the forest. As we only have 2 days booking thereat, time is a great factor. I started to look for alternative vehicle and after 30 minutes of effort, we managed another Omni Van with some extra bucks. We called up Ramnagar Office & intimated them about the situation. We reached Ramnagar Forest Office at 4.30 with main doors closed, maximum staffs gone & only two officials doing their packup. After, several requests, they allowed us to enter the park, provided we should start immediately & will have to adjust to Gairal instead of Dhikala as there is much elephant movements within the area and they cannot permit us to travel to Dhikala without Sunlight. We are left with no alternatives but to accept that. Fortunately, we managed to get a Gypsy within minutes, Akram being the Driver, he just made us flown to the Dhangiri Gate within 22 minutes, enroute, Two big Sambar Deer’s were staring at us. We were the last one to enter Dhangiri gate that day and there is not much light left. Within 10 minutes drive, a Tusker was standing tall in between the jungle road, we made a halt therein. I managed somehow to take out the Camera from my bag, but Nilanjan failed to arrange his Camcorder and the big brother departed silently. He is only having his left tooth. We maintained a distance of atleast 30 meters from the Elephant and later Akram detailed why atleast 20-25 meters distance is needed to be maintained. According to Akram, an elephant sees double after that distance as he does not have that much good vision. That means, he was at then time was viewing 2 Gypsy’s with 12 people boarded. There are many such informations related to the forest which you can only get during your visit thereat. Anyway, after the gigantic creature left for his journey, we started for Gairal Forest Rest House again and in between, saw some Spotted Deers, Sambar Deers, Hog Deers. Before entering Dhangiri, Akram was saying that only two days back, a Tiger has killed a old lady in a nearby village and Forest Officials has started searching for When we reached Gairal, its almost dark. Good Driving under the conditions given, I must say.
As we were a bit hungry, we ordered Tea and some toasts, it was raining lightly. Another 7-8 boarders were there. Gairal is an ideal place to sight Tigers. It is located just beside Ramganga with much congestion as in Dhikala which enhances the chance of Tiger sighting. The rooms are excellent, natural flora is abundant and yes, there are arrangements for solar lights during the evening. The food there is a bit costly in comparision to Dhikala, but given the fact of difficulty level, it can be adjusted with. We completed our Dinner by 8.00 and after a bit of here and there, went to bed at around 9.00. We felt heavy shower is going on at that time.
Akram has asked to wake up early as he will take us to the Crocodile point and then to Dhikala. The sooner we reach Dhikala, the more time we will get to take the safari in the afternoon. We started at 9.00, but alas, its raining again and that too, very heavily and as in hurry, Akram forgot to bring the hood of the Gypsy. So, we skipped the Crocodile Point and headed towards Dhikala directly.
The first thing we did in Dhikala is book the elephant ride for the next morning. The authorities however warned that if shower continues they may abandon the ride. However, from our previous experiences during Summer 2008, we insisted that he books our ride as during our last visit, we narrowly managed to get a ride as there are too many visitors and they have only four elephants which means only 16 heads can go for a ride everytime.
After taking lunch, we proceeded for our Jeep Safari, hiring a guide is a must in Corbett and our guide this time was Mr. Hem Singh. A bit disappointing because, he only conversed with Akram while during our last trip, our Guide detailed many aspects of the jungle. Not much luck, seen some Sambar Deer, a bunch of Chital and a few typical birds. I was looking for the Paradise Fly Catcher which I photographed last time. Can’t get a glimpse of it though. The rains came back on its full and we had to depart for FRH, this time, Akram managed a Trepol by which we atleast were able to cover ourselves.
It rained throughout the evening and when we went to take the Dinner, it appeared that the next day would be a clearer one. We went early to sleep and asked the KMVN boy to serve us Tea by 6.00 as we have to take the ride the next morning which starts at 6.45.
The next morning was quite clear, though it was very cold outside. I don’t remember the name of the elephant but her age was 55. She started her journey by crossing the Ramganga very cautiously. A bunch of Sambar, Chitals and a few Barking Deers were found in the way. I was not expecting sighting a Tiger this time as with such a havoc shower, water pockets are bound to be created in the core interiors of the forest, so why a Tiger should come out to Ramganga basin? My apprehension proved right and we have to return empty handed. Some of you may object to the word “Empty Handed”, but if anybody of you have ever seen a Tiger in the wild, then only one can know how it feels. Akram was disappointed too. According to some other locals, this boy has a charming sighting luck. He has even sighted Tigers continuously for seven days in a row.
We have to start for Ramnagar as our next destination will be Shahi Snan in Kumbh Mela. So, we started around 11.00 there. Not a very good trip, I would say, but on the other hand, the hunger to see wildlife has got enhanced by this visit. So, keep visiting Corbett.
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