Sunday, March 18, 2007

Shaadi in Jim Corbett!

Anu and Divya – after lot of convincing (not each other but their parents:)) finally decided to tie the knot on 7 March 07. Anurag had informed all of us well ahead in time so that we could plan and attend his wedding.

After lot of meetings at Naturals and mail exchanges, we all decided to attend the reception at Lucknow. It was after 3 and half years, all of us were going to meet and be together after leaving college. Yes, all in the SPARK group!!!

Myself and Namu booked the flight tickets. But before that, we were all in that traveling so long just to attend this wedding was not enough. We wanted more. Initially Jeetu was also interested in leaving 2 days earlier and seeing places around Lucknow, but he ditched all of us at eleventh hour (due to few kande pohe sessions at his home place near Lucknow). So, we were only 5 of us (Myself, Manish, Namu, Damu and Anup). So we planned to reach Delhi and from there all travel by train!

Nikale the Japan, Pahunch gaye Cheen waali situation aa gayi!

All courtesy to Air Sahara!!! We had booked tickets with them and 3 days before the scheduled departure, they call us and inform that the flight was delayed by 4 hours. According to our plan, we were to land Delhi Airport, take a rick and reach the Nizamuddin Railway station in those 4 hours to catch the Doon express.

What now??????? Manish started searching for alternate place. We had other option to cancel the trip or to hire a taxi to reach Doon. We cancelled our train tickets (Any Air Sahara person reading – plz pay fine for rescheduling our flight). Meanwhile we got the option of Dudhwa National Park which is very near to Lucknow. While searching for information on Dudhwa, we came to Jim Corbett National Park and yo! We got our ideal destination. What fun it would be to be in the jungle!! We called others and all agreed to this one! Namu called her uncle in Delhi and asked him to book a taxi for us to Corbett. He warned us that roads in UP are in a bad condition and that its not safe to travel by road in UP. More important NOT TO TRAVEL AT NIGHT BY ROAD:(. Another road block.. where to stay at night in Delhi. We left that to Namu’s uncle and Ashu.

We reached the airport by 10pm. By that time, the flight had got late by 1.5 hr more. So we had to depart by 11.30pm. We had some snacks outside the airport. Then went inside and checked-in.

We met another college friend Nitin A. there. He was also flying to Delhi for business reasons. Had a good chat with him. Sometime things just happen. I met him first time after college. It was good seeing him after so many years – he is the same. Not much has changed since then. He narrated an interesting incident which happened with him few days back. And then I narrated one:) which Mayuri had told me.

After long discussions, finally there was plane boarding call. To our surprise and horror, we got the last seats in the aircraft (infront of the toilet:(). We asked them to change our seats and luckily there were seats vacant in the front. God!

We landed to Delhi by 1.30 am. Namu’s uncle had been calling us since morning and kept track of when we would reach Delhi and had been forcing us to stay at their place. We were very impressed by his hospitality. We called him from the airport, and as instructed, took a prepaid taxi to his place. Reached his home, had short chat with him and we were sleeping at 3 am. Got up at 5 am and Bhabhi prepared breakfast for us – had it quickly. The taxi had arrived by 5.30 and we were on our journey to Corbett by 6 am.
Corbett is approx 270 km from Delhi and only 140 km from Lucknow. Our destination was Lucknow with a 2 days halt at Corbett.

We were all thrilled – the Innova was great. Very spacious and comfortable. I went to sleep and so did Namu, Anup and Manish. Damu was sitting in front seat with the driver. We got up by 7.30 am and it was a very sweet morning. Had never seen morning so beautiful - lush green farms on both sides of the road and less traffic.

We had another round of breakfast at a restaurant in Moradabad highway. Parathas with butter and dahi, yummy:). We looked around and saw that many bollywood stars were frequent visitors – Esha Deol, Ajay Devgan, Sunny Deol, Rajpal Yadav.. their pictures with the restaurant owner were put on the walls.

After a long 45 min halt we again started towards Ramnagar. At Ramnagar, we enquired about the bookings for safari to Corbett and staying inside Corbett Park. We had read on internet that you can get to stay inside the forest. But you have to book the cottage well in advance – like 20 days before your visit. We were lucky! One, we had come on a week day and second, that was one of the pricy cottage. So we got the Geral old bungalow in Dhikala on the spot:). For complete information on Corbett National Park, click here.

We hired a gypsy for 1.5 days. Had lunch at a restaurant and had some Maggi too – at a Nescafe outlet similar to one in IITB. And then we headed towards our cottage to dump our luggage. The bungalow was 21 kms deep in forest and from Ramnagar, it was 31 kms. The drive from Ramnagar to Dhikala gate at Corbett was breathtaking. Tall green trees, fresh air, no sign of pollution and clean roads. It was beautiful – so much that we could not capture those moments in our camera. The gypsy was open and we five were exhilarated in the weather and surroundings – lovely time, great time, memorable moments, calm, peaceful, fresh – it was like our lungs so happy, heart pumping right, stomach full, eyes cool. I can’t describe those moments – fantastic, thrilling.

There is a checkpost at Dhikala gate where we have to show our reservation slip. We have to pay some amount for a sack for dumping plastic bags in it. The security guards informed us not to throw plastic inside. There is a forest shop as well to buy some T-shirts, wooden artifacts, some natural cosmetics and things alike.

The forest at Corbett is rich with flora and fauna. Its feels like one should visit the place atleast once every year. Don’t go to any temples, pilgrims, hill stations. Come to Corbett. We visited at the right time – it was neither too cold nor too hot – just the right weather.

We reached Geral at 3.45pm. We were again glad to see the old bungalow. It was also more than our expectations. Although, we had paid a hefty charge (Rs. 4100 for a day- food extra), we hadn’t expected it to be that way. It was amidst the forest. The river was flowing infront. The cottages were protected by electric wiring (similar to shown in Jurassic Park). There was a canteen inside where we could have food.

Quickly, we started to explore the forest on the jeep safari. The first animal we saw was a barking deer. Dhikala is very dense – to spot the animals is a little difficult – you have to be patient. Even if you don’t spot the animals, the forest is so beautiful that its worth to visit it. There are katcha roads inside and there is a small jharna/river part every 100 meters. Clear water – you feel like jumping into it. But, rule is a rule – don’t get down from your gypsy. There are few points where you can get down. One such is the crocodile point – we reached the point. Got down from the gypsy (The Corbett condition: at your own risk!) Spotted a crocodile beneath the mountain at the river bank.
There were many more in the river – not that clear. Lot of fishes too.

After clicking few pictures, we proceeded further – spotted spotted deer, Sambhar, Barasingha, lot of monkeys, forest pigs. We all had more expectations – a TIGER, LEOPARD, a herd of elephants, bear. We thought we had one more day to go.

We were back to Geral by 6 pm. When we reached, I saw few deers outside our bungalow, a peacock at the other side of river. By now, we were all hungry. We ordered Maggi and chai. Till then, we looked around the rest house, river. We had our snacks outside the bungalow in the lawn. We had 2.5 hours more of electricity. Yes, there are lights only from 6pm to 9.30pm. Then, we sat and chatted outside in the dark – gazing at the clear sky sometimes, sometimes trying to guess who is it at the fence.

Had our dinner (buffet) in the canteen. There were lot more tourists there. Food was good. You get Bisleri inside and I was impressed at the management – we were staying inside a dense forest, had electricity for sometime, had food in a canteen, used Bisleri all the while.

We had a little chat post dinner – more comprised of who will sleep where. Since we were 5 of us and it was dark night with no lights. You know how difficult it is for girls to sleep at such places. So, I and Namu (Damu too) kept discussing for another 40 minutes or so – Lets sleep here – no there. Anup who was pretending to be asleep – kept listening but didn’t utter a word! Otherwise Damu would not have slept on the sofa!

We got up early the next day by 5am. We heard some steps outside. We thought that ust be some caretaker there. When we came out, we came to know, a herd of elephants had just crossed our cottageL - WE MISSED THAT MOMENTL.

Nevermind, we headed towards the grasslands to get a glimse of the tiger. When we reached there – lot of call was happening – the peacock yelling, the birds making some signals – our driver told us that this signals the presence of tiger nearby! There were two more gypsies waiting for the rare glimse. We could see few Sambhars grazing in the grasslands. There was pin drop silence. All were eager – all trying to find where the tiger was. Suddenly Manish sneezed. What can be more embarrassing!

Not wasting any time waiting for the tiger, we clicked few pictures there. We didn’t get to see anything there. Then we went ahead. Saw more deer (by now we were not that excited to see them – they were more like goats to usJ). Saw more monkeys. Now our thirst was for a tiger.. a leopard… elephants

We saw some trees pulled down… Our driver told us some elephants must have done that. Moving ahead, we saw elephants – three of them, having their breakfast. The female and kid were busy having food. The male one looked at us and not happy to see us there. Before it could attack us, we left him at his peace. Our driver had informed us about the notorious elephants annoying a gypsy few days back! So we were cautious:).

Then came the Dhikala rest house where we had our breakfast. It was a good canteen. This was situated deeper in the forest. Then we headed deeper in the forest – saw different birds, fishes, lots and lots of deers. We reached a valley point – another beautiful spot – very calm and serene.

On our way back towards the Dhikala gate, all of us very sad not to have seen a tiger, Anup spotted a jackal. He got so happy at the sight that his enthusiasm was infectious. This is true that – When you are in a jungle, you can expect anything anytime. So we were still positive.

From around 300 meters, we saw some animal walking towards us. Lo!!!!!!!! It was a LEOPARD. When he saw us, it took a jumping position, but realizing later, it started running left inside the bushes. We stopped at the place just infront of the bushes where we could see him. Wow, we were LUCKY!!!!! Sighting a LEOPARD is rarer than sighting a TIGER. The Leopard ran away since Anup made lot of noise for getting to distinguish the LEOPARD from the bushes! (How can you spot a LEOPARD in the bushes wearing goggles:):):)! Anup was trying to do thatJ! But he was successful when I pointed him to remove his goggs and see) (Spot the leopard yourself in the adjacent picture!)

Can we be luckier!!!!!!!!!! Yes we were – next we saw another elephant – not just any other elephant – it was an elephant with tusk!!! Watch yourself! Namu was very happy since she loves elephants.

We reached the Dhikala gate, gave the No Dues certificate (which you get from the rest house) and headed towards Ramnagar. At Ramnagar, we decide to visit the forest from Bijrani gate.

Two of us went to the govt centre to take tickets and guide. And others went to order our lunch.

Had lunch and then started with Bijrani. Reached the Bijrani rest house. Came to know that the elephant safari was full and so could not get a chance to take elephant safari.

We asked the guide – Namu literally bugged the guide by asking too many questionsJ. We were mostly in sleeping state – and little unexcited. (REASON: TIGER!) The guide pointed us to a peacock – with its feather completely open - dancing to woo the female peacock. We saw the pair. It was great watching. It flew our sleep. We again were pumped with excitement to see more animals. Bijrani is a little less dense than Dhikala and so it was easier to spot animals. Then, at one spot we got down from the gypsy and climed a machan. A day before, a tiger was spotted in the grass infront of the machan. We decided to give it a shot. We saw few deers from there.. No luck this time too!

At one place, one vehicle was waiting. Asked them and came to know that a tiger was there in the bushes. We also waited there – This time we were lucky. The tiger came out from the bushes. He had a tub bath (in a small tub made of stones – see picture). Nicely relaxed in the water. Then he came out, wiped himself by rubbing against a tree. He made an eye contact with us and then started walking towards us – What a view! Indeed, he was not afraid of us – walking like a king, the owner towards the strangers in the forest.
He was walking gracefully – the cat walk! Marking his territory, stopping at every tree on the road – just a jump away from us. We were thrilled and at the same time horrified of what thinking of his next step. The tiger walked away on the other side of the road. It was a great view – more than 15 minutes infront of a tiger open in his forest.

Then there was no looking aside – sab animals to ho gaye!!!! And I was like BEAR is left… We will come next time for it – chorused all! We reached the Bijrani rest house. Saw an elephant coming. Now Namu wanted to have a ride. We asked the chalak – he agreed. Three rounds for Rs.100. All of us sat on the 50yr old Rani and enjoyed. What can be more fulfilling! A royal ride after a bumpy ride in a gypsy:)!

Now we sat in our Innova in Ramnagar and hurried towards Moradabad to catch the train to Lucknow. Anurag might be waiting!!! Boarded the train (again late by an hour) and we reached Lucknow (in time) by 5.15 am. We called Anurag and he came to pick us up on the station. After reaching his house, we had chat with his parents, bhaiya, bhabhi and Divya (his better half). Myself and Namu were more interested in shopping. Guys were interested in sight-seeing. Other friends had arrived a day earlier.

We left for HazratGunj and bought some lucknowi tops. Then to Chowk where the lucknowi dresses are made – more than 3 hours we were shopping – got dozens of dress materials. Meanwhile, all other guys had joined us. So now we were 13 of us. Had lunch at Nirula’s. Then to Imambada(Bada). Here are the pics.

After sight-seeing, we rushed to Anu’s house. After all, we had come for his marriageJ. Got ready quickly. He had arranged for a DJ. And Aunty had told us in the morning - You have to dance. We didn’t want to lose this chance – it was after 3.5 years (Rose Day remember!). Reached the reception venue. The DJ had already started. But the dance floor was empty! We waited for few minutes – hmmm may be 10-15 minutes – and then we were on the dance floor rocking on the dance numbers.
Anurag and Divya, Anu’s school friends, parents, relatives all followed.

At 11.30, we headed towards the dinner – this time nobody took a dinner plate. We all had dinner from each other’s hand (No, not gently - but snatching from each other’s hands!) It was nostalgic – college days are gone, but we were the same!

At night, all the guys had a great time with mosquitoes. Nobody could sleep except Anup and Damu.

The next again we woke up early to catch the train. All of us were in half sleep (what can you expect after hectic funny filling days). As soon as the train departed, we were all asleep – expect Manish:) (watchman to take care of our luggage). Then.. an entire day in train with long lost friends – a great time in all, lot of games played, lot of chatting done, lot of calculations in the end (kisne kitna diya:)) and the journey was over in Pune – From Corbett to shadi to Pune… It was memorable journey!!!

(Throughout the journey, we never thought of our routine lives:). And thanks for reading this throughout. Hope you had fun reading it!)