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|16th January 2009, 16:54||#1|
Senior - BHPian
Of Spots, Stars & Stripes - our Corbett Holiday
A little background - with my daughter's Pre-boards starting in early Jan, we needed a very short break just to get away from the monotony of the NCR & "just chill"; a true holiday without having to do much work to get there & back so to speak. Corbett was a place that we'd thought of many times in the past but it just hadn't materialized. So, "Why not Corbett?" we thought.
We knew that given the time of year, it would be infested with creatures of the two legged kind and hence sightings of the "stripes" would be rare but - what the heck! We could always go back sometime in April for a "real" Corbett experience (including a Dhikala stay which was more or less out of the question during the Christmas-New Year period).
With that settled, I did some extensive research on the various Resorts. Given the fact that this was during the New Year's, ALL & sundry were busy making money at our expense - ridiculous prices that could have gotten us a holiday in the Far East, LOL! All in the name of New Year surcharge & bonfires & "unlimited" what have you etc etc. Finally zeroed in on "Tiger Camp" after speaking to DKG (thanks mate, I owe you one) who had stayed there & who gave it a 5 star rating from the point of view of reliability, comfort, food & the person running the show (all these are sooo important wouldn't you say, when you're travelling with the family). It was also the second lowest in terms of prices (trust me, I'd checked out almost ALL of them) - checked with an Office colleague who goes to Corbett very frequently & he shot down the one that had quoted the lowest saying that we'd run into service issues there. So that was vetoed immediately & "Tiger Camp" it was.
Got in touch with the person running it - was a thorough gentleman & gave us sound advice right through. The final plan was - Reach on 30th Dec afternoon & return on 2nd Jan evening. That would give us 4 days & 3 nights of "just chilling". As we got closer to the date, the excitement built up. Frantic last minute consultations with a few close associates on this forum & a few friends who use NH24 regularly about the route & timings and we were finally ready to go!
Corbett, here we come........
29th December, 2008
The NCR was totally fogged out - we couldn't see even 3 feet from our apartment balcony in Gurgaon. LOL. What's tomorrow going to be like?
Rest of the day & evening
Hitanshu (Phamilyman) felt that we should follow the simple policy of leaving once the fog cleared. But I was adamant that I wanted to reach the resort by late afternoon max. So an early morning start was a must. Thought of checking with an acquaintance who lived in Ghaziabad about how bad it had been at the Excise check post (I didn't want to get bogged down at that point in zero visibility) that morning. He gave some valuable feedback which I kept in mind for the next day.
Out on the balcony again - clear sky with a lot of stars but the fog was beginning to descend; no way would we be able to escape it. And on that note - hit the sack, with the alarm set for 5 am. Zzzzzzzzz
(to be continued....)
|16th January 2009, 20:23||#2|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: London & Rohtak
Thanked: 15 Times
LOL,you have also started with a teaser.
nice start,waiting for the remaining parts and pics.
same thing happened with me,though trying few times my corbett trip could never be materialized,so would love to read more.
Last edited by simply_sunny001 : 16th January 2009 at 20:24.
|16th January 2009, 22:14||#5|
Senior - BHPian
Guys, sorry about the "tease", you gotta bear with me. My Home PC is playing up, can't resize the pics. So, its going to be a long wait - till Monday morning when I'm back in Office.
Sorry guys , hope it will be worth the wait!!
|17th January 2009, 11:36||#8|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2006
Thanked: 8,319 Times
Story has taken off quite well. Curious to know if any stripes were spotted.
Btw, wasn't Dec 29th the worse fog day in Delhi? I think it even came in headlines, was there then, oh boy!, it was crazy to see so much fog. Can't wait to see pictures of your trip.
|19th January 2009, 10:41||#9|
Senior - BHPian
30th December, 2008
The alarm went off, stirred, shook off the blanket, put on a few layers & gingerly peered out of the glass door leading to the bedroom balcony expecting the worst! Wow, thick fog alright but hang on - can see the street lights below!! So - bad, but not so bad.
Time to get a move on everybody, wakey, wakey!!
So, what's the target time then?
Lets try 7am
5.30 am onwards
Sms from Phamilyman (thanks for taking the trouble of waking up in that weather) - Sleep on saar. No point trundling in this weather!
That kinda strengthened my resolve about the 7am departure & after a lot of hectic activity - shower, change, last minute packing, we moved down to the stilt parking to get the Beast to the portico so that we could throw in the stuff & get on our way. A two-minute warm up idle, start up Google Maps on my Treo 750 & then, at 7.09 by the Blaupunkt clock, we were on our way! A call from a close friend asking us what we had decided, the expression in his voice saying it all - Lunatics, why don't you get back in bed!!
Had decided on the following route to NH24: MG Road-Aurobindo Marg-ORR-Modi Mill flyover-Mathura Road-Jasola Vihar-Kalindi Kunj-Electronic City-NH24. Fog was very bad & visibility very low till Andheria More, then it improved quite a bit, but decreased again after we crossed Kalindi Kunj. Despite all this, we made reasonably good progress & clocked 41 kms in the first hour, with steady driving & no risks taken whatsoever.
Traffic was light, thank God & we made good progress in the next hour as well, covered 52 kms & shortly thereafter we crossed the toll gate at Babugarh, Hapur. Google Maps on the Treo was giving us a pretty good idea of where we were on the NH24. I was quite tense about Garhmukteswar & the massive traffic pileups that area was famous for but our luck held out & we crossed the Brajghat bridge in a little under three hours. It was so foggy that we couldn't see the river below, could barely make out the railings through the swirl. At 10.30 am, we arrived at Giani's in Gajraula for the mandatory rest room & tea break. Visibility was better. Couldn't resist calling up Hitanshu to give him the good news that we were out of the woods, so to speak!! At this point, some pics just to give some idea about the weather & visibility -
Somewhere between Hapur & Garhmukteswar at around 9.30 am
At Gajraula, at 10.30 am
After a leisurely break where we sipped some Hot Tea/Coffee (what a life saver on that cold, nippy morning) and munched on some tasty home-made sandwiches (which we'd carried in case we were stuck in Jams enroute Gajraula), we started off on our final leg at 11.56 am. We were all in good spirits because, according to our calculations, the worst roads & jams were over & once we crossed the Moradabad byepass, the Resort would be just a couple of hours away. Called up our Host before leaving Gajraula & he told me that Kashipur may be another bottleneck.
From Gajraula onwards, it was a relatively fog free drive. I was extra careful about finding the correct turn off for the Moradabad bypass (had been cautioned by Tanveer) so made two or three calls to Ishan (in the middle of his busy day, sorry Ishan & thanks a ton for your crystal clear directions) to make sure we were on track. We crossed that in good time & then a couple of toll booths later, we arrived at the turn-off to Jim Corbett from NH24 an hour after we left Gajraula. Distance covered - 65 kms.
In the next one hour, we covered a further 57 kms, reached Kashipur & were STUCK for 25 minutes or so in a frustrating jam. Would have been stuck for longer hadn't I been able to manuever the Beast through empty spaces in the left lane with the Stebel Nautilus blaring & keeping the buses & lorries away. Once past Kashipur, it was a breeze & we crossed Ramnagar town at 1.50 pm, crossed the Amadanda gate of Corbett National Park & reached our resort (8 kms from Ramnagar town) at 2.02 pm, having covered 305 kms from our home -
We were greeted with warm smiles all around, hot cups of tea, the mandatory "tika" was applied on our foreheads & we were escorted to our rooms through the lovely grounds. As we looked around our surroundings, another smiling employee arrived with a couple of Tiger Camp Coffee mugs that our Host had sent across as Gifts for the kids. Nice welcome!
Tiger Camp is a very nice property, almost on the banks of the Kosi consisting of (IIRC) 4 normal cottages, 13 deluxe cottages & 4 Superior rooms (located in a two storey bungalow). We had initially wanted a Deluxe cottage but our Host convinced us (and very rightly so as we later found out) to go for a Superior Room because they were larger (carpet area) than the Cottages and since there were four of us, we would need the space. The room was HUGE & we had enough space inspite of two extra beds being put in. The loo was nice & we had a huge verandah in front. I had requested a first floor room and they had willingly complied
The view from the verandah was very nice & we looked out on the large lawn & the hills in the distance - very peaceful place
After a quick round of freshening up, we went across to the Gol Ghar for lunch - a well laid out buffet. Then walked across to meet our ever-smiling Host with whom I'd exchanged many an e-mail & telephone conversation. He’s a really great guy, a thorough gentleman & one of India's very well known Naturalists from that area. The idea was to find something "interesting" to do before the sun went down & the bottles came out
Our Host told his flunkies to have someone accompany us to the Sitabani Reserve Forest for which we didn't need a permit & we could drive in our own vehicle. So we set off in The Beast & soon reached the entrance to Sitabani after crossing the River. It was really nice driving through the Forest at a leisurely pace, watching out for any signs of wild life. We drove deep into the forest, till the gates of the FRH at the place called Bhanderpani. Stopped at a few places when we spotted birds or deer or when we wanted to click a few pics. Here they are -
Hmm, time to make one's own road, huh?
A white-breasted kingfisher. My son was really excited about the feathered KF variety & he was also busy clicking away with the other P&S camera that he was carrying. Unfortunately, with only 3x optical zoom, that didn't come out too well for him
A random click of what we were passing through
The sun was on its way down & was peeping through the trees. So we got down & clicked a few of The Beast at sunset
The long & winding road......down which we had come
and the Forest around us
And now to move on to the next post because of the 20 picture limit
|19th January 2009, 11:40||#10|
Senior - BHPian
Day One - continued
Further up the road, we saw the setting sun casting some wonderful reflections on the River Kosi way down below
I love it when the sky turns this color, could spend hours watching
Sometimes, you'd take a bend & see a pleasant surprise scurrying across
Oh & did I mention that you had idiots moving around these parts with music blaring from their vehicles & generally scaring the birds & deer away? Sheeesh - when will these jokers ever learn
In the meantime, we'd already climbed a fair bit from our starting point - you can see how far below the river is
So we coasted along in low revs keeping our eyes & ears open. Our guide (he was one of Tiger Camp's in-house drivers who was off-duty that afternoon) took us to the spot where he'd sighted two leopards at 6.30 pm the previous day. But no luck! The Barking Deer were at it though, barking away to glory. So we'd stop everytime we heard them & hope to get lucky but that didn't happen.
We saw Sambar but no cats
and we kept on crawling with everyone looking out for something "more interesting"
Definitely need A/T tubeless tyres to get into this one, wouldn't even dream of it with the current Bridgestone tubed H/Ts
Well, it was dark when we reached the gates of the Sitabani Foest Rest House so we decided to turn back. We'd left the resort almost two & a half hours ago. Kept my lights off as far as possible but then had to switch the fogs on because the road was broken in places & twisty & we were going downhill. Subsequently we decided that we were probably not going to see anything else. So, cameras were put back in the bag & we coasted along. And then suddenly, there was this pack of deer that were crossing - a variety of ages & sizes, there were six or seven of them. Stopped & frantically opened the camera bag, hoping that the head beam would make them stop. Alas, no such luck, the last couple of them dashed across by the time I pressed the shutter. To top it all, camera was in AV mode at F11 so the shutter remained opened a full second to give this picture of a stretch limo
And then we carried on our way back to the resort. It had been a nice but slightly tiring afternoon & we'd covered 52 kms on our Sitabani expedition!! Stopped by our Host's Office for a cup of coffee, it was past 6.30 pm. After a short visit to our room, we walked across to the Gol Ghar lawns where they had huge bonfires going along with counters serving tandoori & other snacks & juices & soft drinks (part of the package for all days of our stay). There was also a film on wild life that was being screened and we met the person who would be accompanying us on the half day Safari the next morning. He was a Naturalist from the UK & has been living in Corbett for the past year or so. Nice guy, an Ornithologist.
In a while, we went back to the room; it was getting very chilly so out came the Old Monk & Smirnoff. A few life-saving pegs later, we decided that it was time to go back & sample the elaborate dinner buffet that was to be laid out around the bonfire. As it turned out, the food & desserts were excellent & we finally made our way back to our room well nourished & ready for a good night's sleep.
The next day would be an early start as well but despite their token protests, the kids were looking forward to their first ever Jungle Safari. And though we knew that the chance of a tiger spotting was extremely low, nonetheless, it was the overall experience that we knew we would savor. So, lights out & off to sleep after checking out the clear sky & the countless stars......Zzzzzzzzz
End of Day One
To be continued......
|19th January 2009, 12:08||#11|
Join Date: Oct 2008
excellent write up and great pics.eagerly waiting for the next part,wake up and start punching the keys.
|19th January 2009, 14:36||#13|
Senior - BHPian
31st December 2008
5.15 am - Time to rise & shine since we were to leave the Resort with Keith Waters (accompanying Ornithologist) at 6.15 am for a half day Safari in the Bijrani Zone (entry from Amadanda gate, which was 4 kms or so from the resort).
It was bloody cold & took a while for everyone to surface & put on the various layers & get ready. A hot cup of tea with adrak in the Gol Ghar & we were feeling a little more human. Keith was ready along with the Gypsy driver (Dewan, he was apparently reputed to be very lucky as far as tiger sightings are concerned - they didn't tell us that till the Safari was over!). The guide was to be picked up at Amadanda gate so off we went down the road at abut 6.30 am.
It was BLOODY FREEZING. Despite the blankets that they had provided, despite the three or four layers that we were wearing & despite the headgear. FREEZING!!!!
After a drive which seemed never-ending, we arrived at Amadanda gate completely numb & anaesthetized. I have never been an advocate of early morning drinking but I could have done with a few shots of the amber stuff at that moment! We were pleasantly surprised to find that we didn't have a big queue at the gate (guess most people came much later thanks to the cold). It was dark & cold & my hands were numb
Our guide arrived & introduced himself (he knew Keith from earlier) & then we were off. It was quite foggy so taking pictures on the move was not going to be possible really. We crossed over a few water bodies & arrived at a view point. No warning calls & not much visible across the river either
After hanging around for a while, the driver decided to proceed to the main entry to Bijrani which was still some distance away. Arrived there & were given the option of using the restrooms but none one really needed to so we decided to move on. Here's one of the Bijrani entry point
Permit etc validated & then we moved on. We then spent a fair bit of time criss-crossing the river (including a couple of serious water crossings taken flat out in 4H by the driver, good fun). The guide & driver were very good & took great pains to stop & point out deers & various birds in the far distance. Keith was a good ornitho & would tell us the names of the species (have forgotten most of the names btw ) after looking at them through his binoculars. They pointed out a lot of pug marks throughout the Safari, some fresh, some ancient. But no sign of the stripes! As expected, we saw a lot of the creatures of the spotted & horned variety
The landscape around us
and an Eagle perched on top of the tree (really need something like a 100-400 with image stabilization for bird pics!)
Vultures (some rare variety mentioned by Keith) up on the tree-tops (sorry about the second pic being hazy, mucked up the point of focus)
Now, while all this was going on, there were a few barking deer somewhere inside the forest who were really letting loose a symphony of warning calls. So Dewan took us through some rough terrain & pulled up in the vicinity of the calls & cut the engine. And we waited. No luck. Carried on through a variety of landscape - tall grass, burnt grass, dense forests on the side etc. Midway through, we decided to take a break on the river bed. It was around 8.30 am & we'd been at it for almost two hours! Time flies! Even at that hour, though the sun was up, it was quite cold & the driver served us piping hot tea from his Thermos - what a relief, we were feeling changa again!
And I've reached the 20 pictures limit so over to the next post........
|19th January 2009, 15:09||#14|
Senior - BHPian
Day Two - continued
We were savoring the tea as it slowly burned its way down our throats when Dewan suddenly asked us to get back on the Gypsy quickly - we were not supposed to be walking about at that point & he had sighted an official vehicle in the distance. So we jumped back on & were on our way again. We traversed quite a while through these kind of trails
before he took us a little off the beaten track in the hope that we'd get to spot something. Boy, that was rough territory & we were majorly bumped around, I was extra cautious about the 450D even as I was hanging on for dear life! He pointed out a few really fresh pug marks near the river but, again, nothing around. After a while, he decided to turn back & just follow the trails back to the Bijrani gate. So we were all very excited about all the Deer & Birds that we had seen so far & were all very relaxed & bouncing along. I was asking Keith where we could go the next morning (our Host had suggested a drive up Ranikhet road to a very nice view point) & he was telling me all the options. The next few moments were a blur - 20 seconds max!
Dewan: Woh dekho!!!
Wife, Daughter (together): There!!
Son: Where?? whaaaat, wohhh!!!
Keith: Oh my God!!!!
It was on our left, A TIGER, a male specimen (as we were told later) in a really VIVID shade of orange, jumping from right to left, into the bushes. It was an amazing, unforgettable & awesome sight seeing him stretched to his maximum length midway through his leap! We were transfixed. In less than 10 seconds, he was gone! And the Rebel kept hanging around my neck. As did the other P&S and the Video in their respective users hands.
Sorry guys!! But we were too busy gawking, please excuse us
[Our first tiger sighting in its natural habitat so I guess we were way too excited & soaking in the experience. Had I tried taking the pic, not sure if I'd have succeeded given the speed with which he disappeared - in the process, would have not seen it properly myself. So, apologies & I promise you a picture in April (when we intend going back)]
Now, Dewan, after those 15-20 seconds was not a man to take it lying down. Next thing we knew, he put the Gypsy in reverse & gunned the accelerator - we were going flat out in reverse & then, in one smooth movement, he slowed, flipped the wheel hard full left lock & went up a steep incline, trampling bushes & all else in his wake! I was pretty sure that these were our final moments on Earth & surely the Gypsy was going to topple but we survived. Then he cut the engine & pointed to a clump of bushes from below which the tiger's feet & tail were visible. My daughter & son saw this but me & wife missed out because the tiger moved off thereafter.
Lesson learnt : Do not assume that you will see the tiger lazily strolling across the road or river bed, it may not happen; also, male tigers apparently are way more fidgety compared to the females so they do not dawdle or laze around like the tigresses when vehicles are in the vicinity.
We moved on, drove for a kilometer or so in the direction where the guide & Dewan thought he'd gone. Observed the movements & expressions of the Deers but it seemed like he had vanished. So, we decided to head back, quite satiated with our first Corbett Safari experience. Keith was also very happy since this was his first Tiger sighting at Bijrani Zone. He'd seen at Dhikala before but not at Bijrani. On the way back, saw a few Cranes of some exotic variety (I really need to start writing down the names when someone mentions them LOL ) & a lot more deer including the ones who had been barking their throats off!
A lot more Gypsies were visible now & they were kicking up a lot of dust. We headed towards the Bijrani gate, had some fun going through another water crossing flat out & we were almost there. Oh & yes, how could I forget these guys watching the world go by.....
At the Bijrani gate, the Guide asked us if we wanted to convert to a full day Safari & we (obviously) said "No". No point getting too greedy in one day, what! So, we dropped the Guide off at Amadanda & drove back to the Resort for breakfast. The news spread the minute we reached & quite a few of the staff came to greet us with big smiles on their faces
Congratulations ji, aap to bade lucky ho sir!
We were asked to write on the big White board at Reception about our tiger sighting which we sheepishly did. This is where we heard about Dewan being very lucky as far as sightings go & we thanked our fate for having him as our driver! We met up with our Host briefly & then off we went for breakfast - we were famished!
Post breakfast, there was really no agenda for the rest of the day. My daughter wanted to catch up on her revision sitting on the nice & peaceful verandah & we were also content to laze around and re-live the Bijrani experience. The lunch buffet was laid out in the adjoining sister resort called TARANGI - accommodation there was more expensive since the Cottages overlooked the river directly (unlike Tiger Camp where the river was a few hundred metres away) & they had huge grounds etc etc. We decided to walk across (they had an interconnecting pathway) since we were hardly getting any exercise so to speak. Had a leisurely lunch & came back to Tiger Camp.
More lazing around & then my son hauled me up & off we went to the river bank at Tiger Camp
where he had some fun Power-pebbling (or whatever else you may want to call it LOL)
It was nice standing there & watching the river gurgling over the stones
and to see local dexterity in carting logs across
As the sun wound its way down, we headed back to our room
The evening festivities (New Year's Eve) consisting of a Bonfire, Local Folk Dances, DJ nite, Gala Dinner and (most Important in those sub-zero conditions) Unlimited IMFL were to be also held on the lawns of TARANGI from early evening onwards. It was all set to be a chilly evening so we layered up & decided to take a Gypsy (even though it was just next door) at around 7.45 or so. Keith accompanied us & we made ourselves comfortable next to a fire
And for the next four and a half hours or so, we got down to the serious business of clinking our glasses, irrigating our throats, munching on the wide & never ending array of Tandoori snacks & generally getting ready to usher in the New Yearcheers:
They had some nice Kumaoni songs & dances, the DJ music was not one bit to our liking but it didn't really matter - being open air, it wasn't really deafening if you know what I mean. Just had to click this one - the Two Sentinels I call them, the tree & the ever-attentive waiter!
So, the evening moved on & we enjoyed sitting out in the open by the fires, listening (during the breaks in the music) to the sound of the river rustling through the night & the sound of the liquid going down our throats. Ahhhh, what would life be without Bacardi, Teachers & McDowell's Celebration!!!
We then fortified ourselves from the lavish buffet spread, waited for the clock to turn to twelve, wished everyone around us & made our way back to our resort. It was Dewan who dropped us back but this time around, there were no Tigers to see. Stood on the verandah for a short while to look up at the stars, the lawn in front of the bungalow was nicely lit up as well
And thus the curtain came down on the last day of 2008, a red-letter day in our lives, having spotted a tiger in its natural habitat!
A very different way to bring in the New Year compared to our usual get-togethers, what say?
Not bad at all - maybe we should do it again sometime!
And on that note, it was time to switch the lights off.
Thank God its not another 5 o clock scenario as far as getting up is concerned. Zzzzzzzzzz...
End of Day Two
To be continued...........
Last edited by suman : 19th January 2009 at 15:11.
|19th January 2009, 15:14||#15|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2008
Thanked: 968 Times
Glad you made the trip. Those pictures make me want to visit Corbett again. Its a hauntingly beautiful reserve.
Nice to see pictures of good ol Keith. Waiting to read the full story....
Wow a tiger sighting! Can relate to that excitement. What a way to usher in the New Year.
Last edited by DKG : 19th January 2009 at 15:23.
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