Friday, December 11, 2009

Splendid Wildlife Experience - Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

On the way...
We readily agreed when Chandan, one of the friends invited us to Dudhwa Tiger Reserve Forest. Another friend Agni and his parents also got excited at the idea. 5 of us from Delhi started our advanture trip. We decided to drive down. We took NH 24 and crossed Ghaziabad, Hapur, Muradabad, Bareilly, Shahjahanpur, Sitapur, Lakhimpur and Palia.

Met Chandan and 2 of his colleagues at Lakhimpur. The group of 8, comprising of members as young as 20 and as old as 60, was all game for adventure.

After Palia, we found ourselves at the entrance of an unusual bridge. This was a bridge which was also shared by trains. Yeah! you read it correctly. You drive over the track and if there is an oncoming train, well you wait and give the way. I didn’t see any other bridge on the side and it seemed like the only way to go to Dudhwa Tiger Reserve over times.

Where we stayed...
 The accommodation was arranged at Forest rest house Dudhwa located within the core forest area. Its location, beautiful huts, cosy bedding and warm staff made it a good place to stay.

Day 1 was spent getting to know the place and the people - Spoke with guides; Browsed through the brochures, pictures and other information material available; Met members from Wildlife Trust of India and Roamed around in the nearby forest area.

Successful rehabilitation of Rhinos, Fire line maintenance, Swamp Deers thriving here and Hispid Hares sighted recently are some other interesting pieces of information we gathered. 

Flora and fauna at its best...
The tall Saal trees giving shelter to thousands of birds... even the sunlight is shy to fall on virgin land. I was mesmerized by the sight, sound and scent of fresh morning.

We headed towards Sonaripur at 7 in the morning for the Elephant safari with guide Baddal. We reached a bit early. Elephants were getting ready to take us on a ride. 4 - 5 people per elephant and 4 elephants in all.

 Up and down... here goes the Elegant Elephant wondering in the midows on narrow paths and at times no path at all.

The most common sight was Spotted Deers playing around in their natural surrounding. Felt like you are in a fantasy land.

"Look there" Baddal whispered. It was a mother Rhino with her son. What a sight it was! First they were facing us, as soon as they noticed us they turned their back towards us thinking even we can not see them.

Spent some more time wondering around experiencing wildlife.
After basking a bit in the Sun and having Lunch we headed again towards the jungle at around 3PM. This time we were on our own vehicle with guide Chandar. It was 3PM and yet inside the dense jungle it was almost dark. Sun light was trickling in through the leaves at some places.
We sighted good variety of Birds including Kingfisher, White breasted Bulbul and many more from "Machaan" while the guide kept telling us stories of the place, one of many was about Dr S D Singh being attacked by Tiger and a road and a watch tower named after his name.
And suddenly he asked us to stop the car...!!!
The King of the jungle Royal Bengal Tiger with it's majestic beauty and unparalleled grace was lying down on the path at about 50 yards in front of us! My body became numb, breathing accelerated and heart started pounding. We kept observing Him quietly from distance. We enjoyed the sight for more than 20 min and then moved little ahead on the track to have a closer look. And then He moved... I could feel that trance of fear in the air. The King got up, moved and started scratching the tree trunks. He was marking His territory I guess. Another 15 min and He crossed the path and moved to the other side. It was the time for us to leave Him alone. 
Back in the Rest house when we narrated our experience and shared the videos and pics, people couldn't believe. It is the first time they have heard that someone has actually sighted and observed a Tiger for that long. Lucky we!!!

Every second a drama is unfolded unknown and undisclosed to the other…a little sound of dry leaves and you will be shivered to see a full grown python slipping away to the muddy water... a look beyond will freeze your blood by the sight of a full grown alligator resting motionless on the bank of river!

Way back...
We were told to go via Pilibhit, a small village, to avoid the traffic at Shahjahanpur. Enjoyed the drive back with lots of leg pulling, singing and eating.

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Monday, November 23, 2009


 We started our walk at around 9.30AM on a sunny Sunday morning accompanied by experienced Mr Gupta. Was not sure what to expect. I was told that the forest is full of wide variety of flora and fauna.

Till now there was clear path we were following with woodland around and some people here and there out for morning walk. 

Back to history - Bhooli Bhatyari ka Mahal
Our first destination was Bhooli Bhatyari ka mahal. There are lots of stories attached to this place.

It was the biggest hunting lodge built by Firoz Shah Tughluq (1351-88), third Sultan of the Tughluq dynasty. Built in AD 1354, it lies on the ridge opposite to Karol Bagh's Link Road. The mahal is a rectangular enclosure entered by two gateways on its north-eastern corner. The southern and eastern walls are provided with bastions. 

A sad story in the lap of nature
Mr Gupta was leading us to some place that he didn't disclose. We reached a place that looked like an unused old building from outside. After going in we discovered its a large open air theatre "Rabindra Rangshala".
Conceived and created by Mr Nehru in early 1960s it has a seating capacity of 8000-10000 spectators. It has the 100 x 68 ft. stage that could be modified in three different dimensions proportionate to the needs of the performance. The make-up rooms, green- rooms, costume rooms, rehearsal rooms and workshop for performances flank the stage on both.
But all this is past. Its deserted now. All we could see now was a care taker Chaturvedi ji, some wild Jackals and lots of pigeons. It is in a deplorable condition. Such a huge construction now in ruins. It has hardly witnessed 1 or 2 events since its inception.

The Ridge invaded
We proceeded further to the main attraction of the day. Here a peacock scans the clouds from its vantage point on a tree while an owl hunts for game amongst the thick, thorny shrubs; The ground is golden and the earth wet. "Delhi Ridge" plays host to many such magical moments.
It's a northern extension of ancient Aravalli Range some 1500 million years old (compared to just 50 million for the Himalaya). The Delhi ridge is said to be the green lungs for the city. Its divided into four parts... The part we visited is the central ridge that stretches from south of Sadar Bazaar to Dhaula Kuan. It extends over 864 hectares. Others include Old Delhi (Northern Ridge), Mehrauli (South central Ridge) and Tughlaqabad (Southern Ridge). The area inhibits an astonishing variety of wildlife, including 120 species of plants, 100 species of birds, 25 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and an innumerable species of arthropods.
We were lucky enough to get glimpse of good variety of birds and butterflies; The reptiles were hibernating; And rest of the species... some mammals, amphibians and arthropods were keenly watching us from somewhere but not giving us the chance to spot them.
At first we could hear faint sounds of the city life but after going further deep, the silence of the place made us forget that we are in the heart of a city. All we could hear was chirping of birds and peacocks screaming at times and that's it. The sight of golden ground covered with shrubs was amazing. Sounds, scent and sight of that place made it magical. Its was that magic only that made us walk more than 15 kilomters at a stretch. Another motivation was Mr Gupta. He is 60+ walking ahead of us, lost in nature. Twice I called him out to stop for a while to rest but he seemed to be so lost that he missed it both the times. So I too decided to get lost in the divine nature.

And back to the city
The sounds of city life made us realize that we are hitting the boundry. We made our exit at a place where some young boys were cutting grass for their cattle. Their curious eyes were asking us what were we doing deep inside there... a place that was perhaps the end of the world for them.
And there we saw crowds, buildings... honking, noises... polybags, stinking garbage... cars, traffic... oops we were back to the city.

 P.S. - Would love to get lovely comments from lovely people reading this :)
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Okhla Bird Sanctuary

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and the plan was to go to Okhla bird sanctuary. The time we decided was 5 am in the morning. All but one were game for it. Nabonita, the lazy one in the lot, wanted to start little late, but we had the majority, so started at 5am. Four of us me, Ani, Dipanjan and Nabonita had made this plan a night before while having coffee on the terrace. Alarms were set and batteries for cameras - A Nikon D 60 and a canon (not sure of the model) put on charging. All ready in jeans n tees n sneakers with cameras ready to shot birds, butterflies, insects and/ or whatever interesting we find on the way or on the spot.
Before reaching, we had some apprehensions about the place as never heard much about it, but all gone after reaching. It was a beautiful, peaceful place where only chirping of birds could be heard.
Sad part was the construction for Mayawati's park going on one side of it. I wonder how can we disturb a place like this for something so stupid.

Some facts about the place:

It is just behind the Kalindi Kunj on Delhi side and just across the main road between NOIDA and Mayur Vihar to the south of Noida Toll Bridge.
Over Three hundred species of birds can be spotted here. The spot is good for birding throughout the year, though best season is during September-March for Winter Migratory Birds.

Had a great time. Our heart fully satisfied but tummy empty. So thought of bothering a Journalist friend of Ani on the way, who might have slept at around 2am because of her odd shift timings. She has shifted recently to this flat of hers and we are going for the first time to her with 2 more guests whom she does not know at all.
Anyways, she greeted us with her beautiful smile inspite of us waking her up from sound sleep at around 7am on a Sunday morning. We were served nice breakfast – tea and poha (a different version though from what I knew till now) and it was really really tasty. Dont know if it was the taste or our grumbling tummies ;)
Thanks Pratigya for a warm welcome and a tasty breakfast!

And that's how we started our Sunday. The rest of the day was spent uploading pics on orkut and fb.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Kanatal... naaa... Masrana

Its been 6 months we haven't traveled. OMG!!!

Getting ready...
Getting a Friday off. It has to be a trip somewhere. Just a few phone calls to check on the people interested. So we have Agni, Manas, Anirban and me traveling to Kanatal. Have checked this location on the net and found it interesting. A few pictures of the place and the route map is all that we have. As always our house was the meeting point on Thursday night. I quickly prepared dinner after coming back from the office. And then started packing and waiting for all to come. Everyone reached at around 10pm. We had dinner that was laid down an hour ago. Agni offered to wash utensils... and I happily agreed :).

We slept early, at around 12pm ;), just because we had to start early in the morning. Anirban had all the plans to make us wake the whole night. He had brought 3 movies to watch that night.

The alarm was set for 4AM. And as usual we did not delay at all. We all were up by 4.15am and started off at 5. I love to travel in mornings... fresh air, rising sun... and passing through villages you can see people starting their day... Cleaning their houses and shops, doing prayers, some taking bath at the roadside hand pumps. A good view!

On the way...
I started feeling hungry but there were no shops offering breakfast that early. The only option was to have tea with biscuits that I refused. Wanted to have nice garmagaram dhaba wala breakfast. So we kept going on and on till we found a dhaba offering aaloo pyaj ke paranthe with lot of butter on it :). Over the breakfast we had a round of discussion on whether we really wanna go to Kanatal that no one of us has ever visited or heard about or do we change our destination. And the decision is - let it be - we will go towards Kanatal and stop on the way if we find any interesting place.

The journey was good except for a few traffic jams. Highway in such a bad shape... possible only in UP. Reached Dehradoon at around 2PM. Had nice dhaba lunch, got fresh and started again. Till here Anirban was driving. I donno why guys can never trust ladies driving. I was not allowed to drive even a single stretch :(. Now the driving is taken over by Agni, a trusted one to drive on hilly roads. He only drove us to Renukaji last August in bad weather with lots of land slides on the way.

We took the road towards Dhanaulti as was given in the road map. The view of snow covered peaks was amazing!

 After going a little further, we saw a hut on top of one of the hills. And there was a beautiful drive way to that with flowers planted on both sides. We couldn't resist stopping there and checking it out. To our delight it was an inn and we could actually stay there :). Now the question was if we can afford it. Anirban and Agni went to talk to the owners of the place. They came back with the information that it has just been started by a couple who are settled here from some 4 yrs now. And since they have just started and we are their first customers we can get good discount. After some calculations and analysing other options with costs it seemed to be the best option. They were offering to stay there in Rs5000 for 2 nights and 3 days with home cooked meals. Not a bad deal at all...considering it will be shared amongst 4 people. :)

Had a cup of hot tea with the host couple. They had so much to talk about. We had discussion on village people, their resistance to change for good, about jungles being cut, bad civic sense of Indians... laid back attitude of government officials.. How they decided to retire early from their corporate jobs and settle in this remote place, from where they got the idea of starting an Inn... and much more. Never have covered so many topics in such a less time.

Retired early after nice dinner to wake up early in the morning for an exciting day. Got good idea of the places around from the couple. After getting their reviews of the places around, dropped the idea to visit Kanatal or Dhanaulti and planned to visit a nearby village. A nice drive with forests and a river on the way :). Had a peaceful day - woods, water, villagers, cows, local food... different experience altogether.

Next morning we were all game to go for a morning walk to the woods nearby. Complete silence interrupted by chirping of birds, sounds of insects, and hustle of dry leaves at times and of course our foot steps.
The best I liked were the trees full of red flowers.

Then was the time to say good bye to the wonderful place... but with a promise to ourselves of coming here again. Enjoyed the way back. The nice couple told us about an alternate way to Delhi that has nature's beauty, is shorter and has less traffic. It was the way along a water canal. One side it was canal and the other side villages and fields.

We also visited Sahasra dhara on the way back. It is believed that taking bath in this water body rid you of all skin diseases. I had a good unintentional bath there. I was trying to cross through the water leading the whole group...walking confidently on rocks, that I failed to notice were slippery too. Would have hit my head hard on a big rock had I been an inch here and there. I was luckily enough to have enjoyed that dip without hurting myself. And even my mobile survived that dip ;)

An amazing trip it was!!!

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