In the past I have made many trips to Corbett and mostly with people who are serious in general, or serious about either photography or wildlife, or if nothing else they are pretty serious about getting the glance of the glorified kitty, the tiger. But our recent trip was somewhat different. Ishan was visiting the park for the first time and Ankit had visited the park once earlier, and we had no idea what they were serious about. Anshul and I had planned the itinerary of the the trip, although we weren’t really sure if the trip would ever take place till we we found ourselves in the car at 5 AM in the morning driving towards Kumoun hills.
After reaching Ramnagar, popularly called as Corbett city, and getting our permit after some waiting, we checked in at Gairal FRH on our first day. While Anshul and I were in hurry to leave for safari, our other two friends decided that they need to chill the beer, eat some food, take some rest and then go for a high tea and declared everything else secondary. So after doing all the primary tasks we took our seats in the gypsy and went on our first official game drive of the trip.
During the safari Anshul was heard telling the driver that we should take “Kamarpatta road” and enter the grassland near “Mota saal”, if that is possible. But as the time was already running out, we postponed this route for the next day. But next day Ankit, who had found that rear seats are too bouncy for all the food, tea and beer in his stomach, decided to take the front seat and with it the job of the navigator. He repeated our instruction to the driver, but with a twist – Kamarpatta became Karkardooma, a suburb locality in Delhi, and Mota saal became Motibagh, another posh area of south Delhi, so the driver was told to take the “Karkardooma Road” to “Motibagh” and the driver although confused maintained his status quo and continued to drive in the same direction as he was.
But neither could we take the Karkardooma road to Motibagh, nor we could reach the grassland via Mota Saal. The morning sky was already overcast, and by the time everyone of us finished eating Omelettes at Gairal the weather had started deteriorating. Please note that normally the first thing we, as bird watchers and photographers want to do early in the morning is leave the rest house and go looking for birds but for our non-birder friends the egg was more important than the fowl that came from but then who doesn’t like the taste of a good meal and smell of a cutting chai on a cloudy morning.
So after fueling ourselves to the brim, we started our morning safari but by the time our satisfied belly could burp, it started to rain, and we decided to cut short our visit to grassland and try “Ram Singh Road” for the tigers(According to Anshul, Ram Singh road is only safe for tigers and not tigresses, because Ram Singh was also the infamous rapist in one of the recent Delhi incidents). Soon rain turned in to heavy downpour and roads turned into river streams and Ram Singh road got unsafe for us too to drive down. We tried covering the whole gypsy with a tattered hood, but like I said it was tattered and we got battered by stream of gushing water. Somehow we reached Dhikala FRH and concluded our morning safari rain-soaked and worried about our cameras and lenses.
As the rain stopped we decided to visit the grassland. A lone elephant was seen grazing a few 100 meters away, which happened to be our first elephant sighting of the trip, so we all got excited and started ogling and photographing it from all distances and angles. But as we came close and after some uninterrupted shooting in ‘high-speed continuous’ mode, we heard a metallic sound “kling-kling-kling” and everyone looked at each other in disappointment except Ishan, who couldn’t figure out how the sighting of a tamed elephant is a letdown for us and what different does it make if it’s not wild.
Our second day was supposedly at Dhikala, but we had to settle for just one room as the other room we were offered was full of ants and spiders that probably found shelter from the rain and decided to spend 2 nights 3 days in Dhikala FRH. Dhikala which usually gets 24×7 power supply was running on diesel power as Elephants had broken the electric cable, and we got the message that the night would be wild, dark and wet(from our own sweat).
Although the weather was pleasant outside, the room was suffocating, humid and full of mosquitoes. But a mosquito repellent, and a few drinks of scotch followed by a heavy dinner helped us sleep, ignoring the rutting calls of the mosquitoes and buzzing of the deer, may be vice-versa.
On day 3, the elephants had left the grasslands and were no where to be found, there were no alarm calls, no rutting calls and the jungle was dead silent, except sound of crackle or munching that was usually any one of us eating. I gave Ishan my second camera so that he doesn’t get bored. He used it quite well, all photographs here are a testimony to that. Ankit, meanwhile finally made the driver understand that he wants to take the Kamarpatta road which he named correctly for the first time. We saw fresh pug marks of the tiger which gave us a faint hope that we might see a tiger but that was it, a faint hope.
In between we had stopped to smell the cannabis by the “Thandi Sadak” which Ankit used to call “Tharki Sadak” or “Nai Sarak”.
Once we reached Delhi, Anshul told me, ‘I don’t remember any of the wildlife moments from the trip other than our PJs” and I nodded in agreement. But then we all enjoyed, despite the rain and wetting of our cameras, despite the jungle being less active, and despite all the confusion between what rooms to take, what trails to follow, whether to stay in grassland or go into the saal forest, the trip was a memorable one. Well that is the magic of Corbett, esp. Dhikala.
While having our last breakfast of the trip, Anshul was telling us that Dhikala is so magical that every time he visits this place he, while shitting on a ant infested pot of Dhikala FRH, thinks that the world is going to change, that he would fall in love, will no longer have to work for money which would flow on its own, he would draw comics, make photographs and he would spend most of his time in jungle, ignoring the sweat flowing like the Ramganga river from his head to toe, ignoring that the reality is just 40 KMs away at the Dhangadi gate of Corbett National Park. He even agreed to make a Brainstuck comic on this, that his how magical the place is.