Just Forests!

just-forests.jpg

Wild, mysterious, remote, lively and not just green but spotless green is how I found the jungles of Chattisgarh. Accompanied- by a young or (should I say younger?!) photographer, Bharat we began our journey from Raipur. We got onto the NH 6 for Barnawapara for what turned out to be a real wild experience.  

Stop who goes there!Once on the open highway the country turned green. There were paddy fields with intermittent patches of forest all along.  Being morning the surroundings were alive with human and animals going about their daily tasks. Egrets flew around , women in colourful attire worked the fields, Cattle on their morning strollstreams of cattle with the that characteristic tan tan of the cow bells  waded by, a couple sat up in a machhan to guard their fields against wild pigs, a goatherd wearing a conical hat ran after his mischievous animals.

We made sure Baghel, our driver,  drove slowly though we were still sometime away for Barnawapara, but so what? For us the journey was as important as the place especially if it happens to be so beautiful.  Our joyful reverie was regularly broken as centipedeesh trucks with countless wheels; carrying iron ore and other stuff to feed the factories of the state whizzing by. After about an hour’s journey we crossed the river Mahanadi at Arang. Arang and Tumgaon are two tiny roadside villages where you can stop for a stretch and some chai. 

Into the lion’s mouthThe Indian countryside is full of pleasant surprises- reflecting people’s ingenuity. About 7 kms after Tumgaon, to our right, we saw a giant gateway shaped like an open jaw of a spotted lion complete with deadly white teeth and blood red gums. A roaring way to enter a temple!  

We were constantly on look out for sign posts or mile stones to guide us but came across very few. Though we come across some sign boards which said yahan doda milta hai (Doda available here). Doda is highly intoxicating local drug. It’s a big favorite of long distance truck drivers as it helps keep them awake.  We continued our journey trusting our instincts and Bhagel’s sense of direction .

forest-road.jpgWe reached Patewa about 65 kms from Raipur and turned Barnawapara. The pot holed NH6 gave way to a bumpy ochre coloured forest road to take us to Barnawapara. The road beware! will give you enough bumps to shake every bone in your body. I had a tough time taking notes for my write up. What I encrypted was quite undecipherable, though had the inane pleasure of having invented a new script in the process! 

 We checked into forest huts and after a cat nap and quick lunch set for our jungle jaunt. We boarded an open jeep with beat guard Mr. R.K.S Thakur and forest guide Mr. Mitro as our companions. At the wheel was an over enthusiastic driver who made the already bumpy track jumpy. Our request to walk the wild path was politely turned down. We or anybody else could not do so or go unescorted due to safety issues.  

The lush green trees and wild undergrowth, the oxygen laden air, the damp soil beneath and the magnificent blue sky above made the place unbelievably fresh, clean, and green.We began our visit and like all good travelers immediately wished to see a tiger or a leopard waiting for us. Sorry folks no such luck here. Give these animals a break, we have killed most of them and those that are left are not really interested in walking past. So relax as the jungle offers lots more. 

As we drove the jungle surrounded us on all sides, it’s so thick at places it seemed we were going through an endless tunnel. The jungle was alive and pulsating. All my dormant senses suddenly awoke. I could see, smell, feel, hear and imagine differently – but not to talk – and in the process discovered a new world. Tall mud coloured termite mounds peeked out of bushes and trees housing thousands of ants that industriously recycle the forest resources. The air was around was intoxicating as the floor abounded with fragrant herbs and grasses. The aromatic and enchanting smell of Ban Tulsi or Wild Basil stood out as it spread its sweet fragrance in the entire forest.  Between the forest floor and trees, it’s so green; it’s easy to miss the tiny forest folks. Insects! Colourful insects of unimaginable size and variety. After all the world belong to them as there are more insects (spiders, butterflies, ants, beetles, cockroaches, etc)  on earth then all the animals put together.  We saw numerous spiders some more than six inches long that waited patiently in giant webs strung across the road to trap a passing prey. Fortunately we found no spider big enough to trap us. But who knows you may be the lucky one. 

 There were numerous unseen birds, hidden in thick foliage, each with a unique call, some naughty crickets perhaps sleep talking for it was past their time to do jhing jhing, blue, spotted, white, striped, brown butterflies that reached the tree tops in search of nectar, busy ants going about their daily task of stocking food in their nests.  

gaur-jee.jpgAs the day progressed our drive through the forest got more engrossing. We looked hard, peered through the thick forest hoping to catch a glimpse of some animals. Mitro our guide suddenly asked the driver to stop and pointed ahead. He had seen a Gaur. Gaur where? All our untrained eyes could see was the thick forest. We got down very quietly. Mr. Thakur and Mitro aligned our sites in the right direction. There it was an adult male. Tall, dark, broad and handsome and standing more than five feet tall with his majestic head, adorned with horns, looking straight at us. Yes this was it our first big animal sighting that too a four legged wild animal …mad frenzy for cameras Bharat readied his camera focused and clicked. Too late the gaur had moved on, not giving a clear shot. We now had the apparent satisfaction of being there, seen that.  

We crossed numerous streams and rivulets and stopped by number of watering holes or talaabs. The watering holes had interesting names like  Parsa Pani, Marer Talaab, Mohada Talaab, 178 Gudagarh Talaab, etc. The holes looked apparently deserted but were very much alive. Numerous birds called from the surrounding trees, dragonflies, in most striking colours sucked up moisture from the banks, a brightly coloured small blue kingfisher in full plumage waited to dive, crickets sang their jhing jhing song, and clans of langoors flew over the trees perhaps happy to see their cousins from the city.  

It become pitch dark by time we headed back for the forest guest house. The forest which was so colourful sometime back was now coal dark. It was eerie ghostly feeling but strangely not the least scary. We switched off the headlights and rolled down the windows of the jeep and were transported to a  fairy land. Thousands and thousands of fire flies twinkled on the trees and bushes on either side, crickets, cicadas, frogs and other creatures of the night sang in perfect rhythm with the fire flies twinkling. A nature’s symphony complete with special effects. We stopped and just listened and soaked in this unforgettable sight. 

Next morning we said our good byes to Mr. Thakur, Mitro and others and headed back. This was end of our adventure at the sanctuary, happy at the thought we saw so much and experienced the jungle which words can never describe enough. Never mind if we did not sight the big things in the process got a chance to see the lesser things which too make jungle for what it is. 

Background

Barnawapara is named after twin forest villages of Bar and Nawapara located in the sanctuary.Barnawapara is located in north eastern part of Raipur district and sanctuary covers an area of 250 sq km of which about 45 sq kms is hilly with scattered hills going up to 400 meters in altitude.  Barnawapara has tropical dry deciduous forest and the important trees being Teak, Saja, Beeja, Lendia, Salai and Bamboo.  The sanctuary is bisected by number of streams and rivulets besides numerous watering holes or taalabs. It is bounded by two tributaries of the river Mahanadi – Balamdehi in the west and Jonk in the north east.

The road network (seasonal forest track) inside the sanctuary is well maintained and connects most the places where tourists need to go. Tourists are escorted in a vehicle. Forest department provides Gypsies or a battery bus to visit the sanctuary. As in all sanctuaries tourists are not allowed in the core zone The unique thing about the sanctuary, according to forest officials whom we met, despite there being 21 villages inside the sanctuary, plenty of wild life exists and there have been no cases of poaching. This is one the best managed sanctuaries with very little issues of people wildlife conflict. Barnawapara has good prey base for its carnivores and fodder for the herbivores and enough water through out the year due to high rainfall as a result animals rarely venture out of the sanctuary in search of food and water. 

  Things to see and do

There is so much to do in a jungle and yet not do anything. A jungle offers unlimited opportunity to discover, explore or just wander stare and soak in the experience which remains with you for a lifetime. At Barnawapara be prepared to see wild animals and also be ready for disappointments. Wild life sighting, as Mr. Thakur the beat guard at Barnawapara put it, is just a matter luck, time and chance – all happening together! Watering holes in and around Barnawapara offer the best chance to spot wild animals. Main watering holes that can be visited are Parsa Pani, Barna Pani, Mohada Talaab, Marer Talaab,  178 Gudagarh Talaab,  Sun Suniya Pani, Rampur Tank, Bagmadi Talaab and Maharaji Nala. Animals like Chital, Gaur, Sambhar, Bear, Four Horned Antelope sometimes Leopards (or if you are really lucky a Tiger) and other animals besides migratory and local birds can be seen here.  Explore the area around as much as you can. Always be with or near the forest guides for your safety moreover the forest guides are quite knowledgeable and have keen eyesight to help spot animals.  

Top of the world

Dompahari watch tower (4 ½ kms from Barnawapara) High above the ground rising far above tree line; built on a hillock the tower gives an unobstructed 360 degree view of the sanctuary. Far ahead in bluish hue are rolling hills of Deopur, Mandal, and Tilsa Pathar. The sanctuary appears bowl shaped. Below is a sea of forest with not patch of bare earth to be seen. It’s full of  teak, sal, bamboo and numerous other trees and bushes with all imaginable shades of green, broken at places by patches of white with flowering teak trees. Take your time enjoy the view, feel the breeze coming from all directions, see the birds skimming the tree tops or a distant sound of an animal calling. Dompahari watch tower gives one of best all around views of the sanctuary. Over 70% of the sanctuary can be seen from here. Though nothing to write home about this is the possibly the only pace where you get a cell phone signal in the sanctuary. Just an additional incentive for the well connected. 

 Flora and Fauna

Flora: Teak, Saja, Beeja, Lendia, Salai, Palash, Bamboo, Amla, Amaltas, Bija, Khair, Haldu, Ban Tulsi, etc

Fauna:Mammals: Leopard, Gaur, Neelgai, Sambhar, Spotted Deer, Sloth Bear, Wild Dog, the little known Mouse Deer, Jungle Cat, Porcupine, Kakkar and the elusive TigerBirds: More than 150 species of birds such as Golden Oriole, Robin, Tree Pie, Egret, Teal, Heron, Racket Tailed Drongo, Barbet, Crow Pheasant, Jungle fowl, etcReptiles: Monitor lizard, snakes such as Cobra, Krait and Python 

Miscellaneous                                                                                                                                    Things to carry. Torch and enough batteries for your cameras as charging may not be possible, binoculars, mosquito repellent. Forget your cell phone for there is not even a strand of signal in the sanctuary except on tree tops. Some villages around near the sanctuary have statutes of Ravan the ten headed demon king.  Fondly called Ravan Raja the statues are placed on pedestal on an open ground and used as a prop for Ramlila. There is also a village with a similar sounding name – Rawan- just outside Barnawapara.  

 Sanctuary Fees                                                                                                                                                Entry fee: Rs. 25/head (children below three are free)Vehicles Rs 50/- for car, jeep, etc, Rs 100 for a minibus/lorry. Vehicle fee is in addition to individual entry feeGuide: Rs 60/trip (approximately two and half hours)Cameras: Still Rs 25/day/camera. Video/Digital Video Camera: Rs.250/day/camera. Cine.Rs.2000/day/camera. (For cine camera prior permission required from Chief Wildlife Warden, Raipur)Vehicle hire charges: 30kms Rs 500 fixed, thereafter Rs 16 per km 

Around the Sanctuary                                                                                                                        A number of ancient and archaeological sites exist near the sanctuary which can be visited along with Barnawapara. No public transport available, best to have your own vehicle. 

Sirpur: 32kms from Barnawapara also en route on the Raipur- Sirpur-Barbaspur-Barnawapara road. Located on the banks of Mahanadi, Sirpur has a 7th century Laxman temple.  The place also has ruins of Buddhist monasteries and Vihars built between 6th and 10th century AD and is said be bigger than Nalanda in its expanse. 

Turturia: 13km from Barnawapara. Turturia is situated in the Northen Boundary of the sanctuary besides the Balamdehi river. The place is believed to be abode of sage Valmiki and the place where Luv and Kush, the sons of Rama and Sita, were born.   

Matagarh: 2 Kms from Turturia, old temple of Goddess Durga. 

Narayanpur: 9 Kms from Turturia, 9th Century Shiv Temple. 

When to Visit

November to June (The sanctuary is closed from July1 to October 31)A stay of at least 2-3nights is recommended to have a real chance of sighting animals. Those in a hurry can also make a day trip from Raipur for a short but an interesting trip 

What to wear

Cottons in summerLight woolens in wintersSturdy walking shoes, Hats, caps, scarfs (optional)   

Where to stay

Forest village at Bar.50 beds in allDormitory Rs. 125/bed/dayDouble Rooms: Rs.300 and Rs 400/dayAll rooms offer very basic amenities but are comfortable with clean with attached bathrooms/toilets. No running hot water. Electricity can be erratic for there is only limited solar lighting.

Advance reservations must: Contact Divisional Forest Officer, Raipur, 0771 2427640 

Tourist Cottages at Mohada (under construction at time of my visit- September 2007).Well located in middle of the forest and over looking one of the talaabs. Airy rooms with big picture windows and wood paneling on walls. Tariff: Not decidedReservationsChhattisgarh tourism board, Paryatan Bhawan,
G.E. road
Raipur
– 492 006, Chattisgarh
Tel: 0771-4066 415, Fax: +0771-4066 425
Email: contactus@chhattisgarhtourism.net
Web: www.chhattisgarhtourism.net
 

Where to eat

Forest Guest House is the only option. Rs. 60/- per meal (Thali with roti, subzi, dal and chawal). Place the order in advance for all meals including tea. Carry your own food if you get hungry often 

Getting There from Delhi

Air:  Raipur. 90 minutes. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Air Deccan 

Rail:  Gondwana Express and Chattisgrah Express – DailySamta Express Tuesday and SaturdayBilaspur Rajdhani – Wednesday and ThursdayTravel time 18 to 24 hours depending upon the trainRaipur to Barnawapara 100kms (approximately) 3 to 4 hoursFrom Raipur NH6 to Patewa. Turn left at Patewa to reach Barnawapara via Raitum and Rawan. No public transport. Hire or take your own vehicle from Raipur. A sturdy vehicle with good suspension is best 

Contact addresses:Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, ChattisgarhAranya Bhawan, Medical College Road Raipur 492009Phone: 0771 2552221 

Chief Wild Life WardenAranya Bhawan, Medical College Road Raipur 492009Phone: 0771 2552223 

Divisional Forest Officer Garhi Chowk, Near Police Head QuartersRaja Talaab, Raipur Phone: 0771 2427640  

Just Forests!

Advertisements
Published in: on 4 January , 2008 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Glow in the forest

Boating jettySet amidst thickly forested and serene hills in Himachal Pradesh at a height of about 650 meters is a jewel revered for its history and beauty – Renuka Lake. Renuka is one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in India and Himachal’s biggest.  Close your eyes, walk up to edge of the lake, listen to the sounds of waves gently lapping up its shore, caressing the small , listen to the chirping birds around and feel the gentle breeze from hills around to understand what makes people revere nature’s creation such as this. Renuka is an extremely gentle and feminine in spirit and form. Perhaps that is why thousands of fish stay inside her without any fear of being killed by people.  

The place derives its name from the lake itself and is reverently called Renuka ji. There is an interesting story behind it that is shared later. According to Indian mythology, Renuka is the wife of Rishi Jamadagni and mother of Lord Parshuram. Renuka ji is an important Hindu pilgrim place in Himachal Pradesh where she is worshiped as a goddess and visit to her temple and the lake is considered as a tirth yatra Renuka lake is about three and half kilometers in circumference with main attractions besides the lake being various temples and Parshuram Tal. There are huge trees  of Peepal, Gular, Lasooda, Semal, etc around the lake that add to the charm of the place. There is also a wild life sanctuary along the circumference of the lake and Jamu peak that has a temple dedicated to Rishi Jamadagni. Renuka is a small place and does not have many people living there besides a forest colony and few villages nearby. The nearest town Dadhau is about three kilometers away. 

To see and doThe place is best covered on foot as most of the places are in close proximity. A car may only be required for Jamu Peak. 

Parshuram Tal Parshuram Tal dedicated to Lord Parshuram- the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu – was born at Renuka. The circular Tal though smaller as compared to Renuka is very beautiful with temples and ghats on its sides and forest in the background. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Parshuram performed a havan at the spot after killing the Kashtriya king Sahasravahu who had tormented his mother and father. The Tal is also symbolic of   Parshuram’s desire to spend eternity at the feet of his mother.  

Renukaji TempleThe most important temple of the place is a peach coloured twin domed structure approached through an arched gateway. Mata Dekh Rahi Hain! – (Goddess is watching you!) warns a sign besides the gateway. Inside, Renukaji’s idol is attired in a bright red dress with elaborate hairdo. She is flanked by her smaller idol on the left and on right by her husband’s Rishi Jamadagni idol. 

Parshuram TempleThe pink sand stoned coloured structure with a single conical dome typical to Hindu temples with an ornate wooden door most prominent in the entire complex. Inside, the temple is quite spartan except for a small stone idol in a wooden alcove.  Nearby, on a small hillock is another temple for Parshuram. The older of the two the temples has small arches on doorways and windows that are more reminiscent of a church than a temple. 

Dashavatar TempleThe temple is dedicated to ten (Dasha) incarnations (Avtaars) of Lord Vishnu. The three-domed structure houses 10 idols representing different avatars of Lord Vishnu.   Temple timings: Mornings, 6.00 am to 8.30pm. Pooja happens twice a day between 6.00 am to 6.30 am and 8.00 pm to 8.30 pm. Drums beats announce the pooja each time. 

Bathing Ghats Separate bathing ghats for men and women lie on periphery of Renuka Lake. A dip in the ghats is believed to be very beneficial and cleansing for the body and soul especially during the Kartik Ekadeshi.

Jamu PeakAbout 10 kms from Renuka is Jamu Peak with a small temple dedicated to Rishi Jamadagni who once meditated here. The peak gives a splendid view of the valley and feminine form of lake below that resembles a woman sleeping on her side.  The climb though on a paved road is quite stiff and will a take a day to go and come back on foot. Venture only if you have a liking for adventure and strong pair of legs. Otherwise, opt for the car that will take you only up to the hamlet of Jamu Kothi from where you anyway need to do steep uphill climb for an hour and a half to reach the top.  Enroot after half an hour climb is yet another Parshuram temple, built from wood and stone. The tiny temple has an eerie ambiance with very little light filtering in. On its wooden altar are figurines depicting Reunuka, Parshuram and his army.  Keep at least half a day even if you go by car for Jamu Peak. Start as early as possible and remember to carry food and water. Avoid the route during rains for the path can be quite treacherous and slippery and there is very little shelter on the way.  

Tales and legendsA big fair is held here every year on Kartik Ekadashi (10 ten days after diwali) that lasts for about a week until the full moon. To understand the significance of the festival it is necessary to know the history of the place.  According to Hindu mythology, Rishi Jamadagni with his wife Renuka meditated on the Jamu peak. Renuka once happened to visit her sister Maneka who was married to the most powerful king of the time Sahasravahu. Renuka, who was very well looked after by the couple, invited Sahasravahu to their hermitage to repay the hospitality. Jamadagni treated Sahasravahu very lavishly with help of celestial cow Kamdahenu that he had borrowed from the gods. Kamdhenu was bestowed with magical powers and could fulfill all wishes of her owner. Sahasravahu wanted the cow that Jamadagni refused to give. Sahasravahu then tried to take the cow forcibly which however managed to escape. This enraged Sahasravahu who then killed Jamadagni and his sons. Renuka managed to escape by hiding in reeds in the nearby water body called the Ram Kund. Parshuram who all this while was away meditating came to know of the incident. Through his divine power he restored his father and brothers to life, and rescued his mother from the Ram Kund. Ram Kund then acquired her figure and came to be known as Renuka. Later Parshuram killed Sahasravahu and all members of his clan to avenge the killing of his parents. 

Lord Parshuram went back to his meditation but agreed to return once a year to meet his mother on Kartik Ekadashi. It is believed that he still visits his mother every year on the day, which is celebrated by holding a fair at Renuka.

The main attraction of the fair is the procession where idol of Parshuram is carried in a palanquin. Local deities of surrounding villages are also brought in their respective palanquins. The deities are brought together at nearby town of Dadahu. They are then carried in a religious procession to the temple of Parshuram, where they remain until the conclusion of the fair.

People from all over Himachal Pradesh especially Sirmour visit the fair. For the local Sirmouris, the fair is as important as the Kumbh Mela. A temporary bazaar is set up and cultural performances are held to entertain the visitors.

Renuka fair is a state level fair in Himachal Pradesh in which the Chief Minister and Governor also participate.

 

Amidst the lake with Jamadagni peak towering in the backgroundWet and WildFor a wholesome experience, Renuka needs to be explored by a boat and a walk around its periphery. Paddleboats can be hired outside Hotel Renuka ji to go around the lake. Boating will give you fisheye view of  the lake and the hills around and of course don’t forget to look down as  the lake teams with fish that can be fed with atta goli(flour balls) available from an old women who sits near the jetty. A trip around the lake takes forty-five minutes.  The walk around the periphery is about 3.5 kms long and enables you to experience the lake and its environs at an easy pace. There are several resting places along the lake where you can sit enjoy the lake’s view.

 On the left side of lake amidst thick forests is a zoo that is officially a wild life sanctuary! Made primarily to attract tourists for the animals kept are not really in their natural habitat. Nevertheless, it has barking deers, Himalayan bear, leopards and even Asiatic lions. The cats have interesting names. Leopards have names like Jerry and Robert while lions and lioness have names like Appu, Saurav, Dimple, Kunti, etc. Renuka is also a classified wetland of international importance under Ramsar Convention. (Wetlands are ecosystems that support a wide variety of aquatic creatures and birds). On far end of the lake is swampy area that attracts migratory birds from India, Central Asia, Siberia, etc during winter months. Birds commonly found here are coots, moorhens, herons, kingfishers, cormorants, etc. You can also go around the lake in a car if you are not the walking kind or a tourist looking for instant gratification! 

The lake from the sanctuary

Timings9 am to 12.25 pm, 2 pm to 4.45 pm. Monday closed

Entrance fees: Car Rs. 20/-Per person: Rs 5/-

Camera: Rs 10/-

Video camera: Rs.150/-

When to go: All the year around, though summers can be quite hot. Weekends can be crowded. Watch out for rains especially in winters, as they will confine you indoors. Kartik Ekadashi (Ten days after diwali) for about a week thereafter is the time when maximum rush. Check the exact dates on Himachal Pradesh Tourism website or call their local tourist office. 

How to reachJourney Time: By road: Delhi to Renuka about eight hours via NH1 until Shahbad (about 20 kms before Ambala). Then via Narayangarh – Kalamb and Nahan. Start as early as possible to avoid the traffic snarls in Haryana and reach by noon so that you have half a day to sightsee.Driving on NH1 is relatively safe as a central verge separates oncoming traffic and highway itself is quite smooth. The other smaller highway too is quit decent with few bad patches. A well-maintained Maruti 800 will see you through! For meals, stop enroute at Murthal’s dhabas about two and a half hours away for their famous parathas.  Roadways bus will work out to be most economical and will take you directly until Nahan. Local buses and taxis are available from Nahan to Renuka which is about 40 kms. away   

AccommodationHotel RenukajiHimachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (HPTDC) hotel is located right on the banks of the lake, gives a frontal view of her waters. It offers clean air-conditioned and standard rooms with running hot and cold water. Advance booking is recommended.  

Renuka Development BoardThe Renuka Welfare Board that manages the temples and the lake offers budget accommodation in the complex.Double room without attached bath Rs. 200/- per nightDouble with attached bath Rs. 400/- per nightDouble room deluxe Rs. 500/- per nightFood available only against advance request For bookings contact:Mr. M.S. Tomar, Chief Executive Officer, Renuka Development BoardDistrict Sirmour Himachal PradeshPhone no. 01702 267181 

Hotel Devicos Plaza (3 kms for Renukaji).Located at Dadhu about 3 kms for the lake, the hotel can be an option if you do not get accommodation at HP tourism. You will need to have your transport to commute between Renuka and the hotel. Executive Room: Rs.1100/nightDeluxe: Rs1500/nightSuper Deluxe: 1800/nightSuite: 2500/nightLuxury Tax: 10%Check out time: 12 noonPhone no. 01702 267231/32/33Fax; 01702 267500Email: devicos_plaza@yahoo.com 

Where to Eat:HPTDC’s Hotel Renukaji: The only but an excellent option at Renuka. The food served is fresh and serving size adequate for two to three people. Do try the Himachali fare though at times needs an advance notice. It serves only vegetarian food (Eggitarians too beware!)  

Hotel Devicos Plaza.If carnivore instincts take over and you long for kukkad and mutton then head for Hotel Devios Plaza that has an elaborate menu. Outside a kiosk sells fast food like burgers, sandwiches and pizzas.

Published in: on 6 December , 2007 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

A Night With Man-Eaters

Its raining cats and more cats

A friend, her husband and I had gone to Mukteshwar quite some time back. My friend and her husband checked into a cottage and I checked into tented accommodation a little distance away. It was off season, Mukteshwar had very tourists and so did the camp. It was deserted except for me alone in a tent. I had for company about dozen or so empty tents with no one else around not even the camp caretaker – he had moved off to his friends at the cottage. Once the dinner was done I had to go to my tent something I was rather reluctant to do as staying all alone in a tent at a deserted camping site was not my idea of peace. I delayed the going by chatting up with the cook. Basically polite conversation in which he also told me that there were leopards around but did not come into to the camp as it was quite near the road. Good leopards! how considerate. So off I went to my abode for the night with a solar lantern for company which was just slightly less afraid than me.

 All this while, in back of my mind, the stories of Jim Corbett’s man-eaters were playing tricks. One was about the clever leopard of Rudraprayag and other of the fearsome tiger of MUKTESHWAR! who use to have his meals nearby many decades back. The two tales fused in my mind as I settled for the night in the tent. I closed all the fasteners and loops to securely close the tent but feeling rather insecure myself. Rudraprayag leopard, I remembered picked many a meal by coming inside homes and this was flimsy tent! Anyways I decided to be brave and lay down on the bed taking strength and courage from the lantern. It was past mid night and deathly quite. The time when animals are at their best and  humans worst. I could not sleep a wink for the fellows of Rudraprayag and the neighbourhood won’t let me. I waited for dawn to break which was some six hours away. A light breeze started to flow. Each swish of breeze very gently shook the tent from all sides. Beautiful it was but it scared me to death. Really. With each swish of the tent I would say “Kaun hai”? in whispered tones. What if some one had answered “hum hain tendua aur sher jaldi karo bhook lagee hai!”? Some how the night passed, the faithful lantern held out and continued to glow right through my ordeal. An ordeal which I thought was no less than what Jim Corbett went through while sitting over a kill waiting for man-eaters. The morning came-one of my happiest mornings – and I rushed out my abode and went and sat outside the cottage where my friends were peacefully asleep. All India Radio – being played by the caretaker in the kitchen – never sounded so good. All my fears had gone I was now happy and secure and no tiger or leopard dare touch me.So much so for my fear of the unknown. Though when I look back I feel if these animals had to do something to me at all then the time I rushed out of my tent and sat outside the cottage would have been just the opportunity they were looking for. Daylight offers no security. I forgot Mukteshwar’s tiger hunted by the day. 

 

Published in: on 22 October , 2007 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Hi my name is Ayush. I stay in New Delhi, India. Travelling, trekking, visiting way off places in what i like to do most and yes if I can get to share about my travels I feel really happy as I wish everybody could travel all the time…!  traveling as we know is one of most ancient and effective means of communication. Otherwise, I work  freelance with childrean and young people on developing programmes  using interactive methodologies

Published in: on 15 October , 2007 at 5:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jungle Jog in Similipal

jungle-in-the-morning.jpgjungle-in-the-morning.jpgjungle-in-the-morning.jpgI share with you a beautiful experience that I had during my recent visit to the forests of Similipal We left Baripada late afternoon for Similipal. After about fourjungle-in-the-morning.jpg hours drive we arrived at Chaukha – deep inside Similipal forest. The bright full moon was just rising as we checked into the forest guest house that had huge glass and wooden doors all around. It was beginning to get quite cold so a fire was lit outside. We had some interesting company of forest officers who had lots of stories to share about Similipal and its wild habitants both scary and amusing. Soon we had a herd of wild elephants -for company who come to feed – seven of them with a baby – thankfully some distance away separated by a wide trench. Being a full moon night we could make them out quite distinctly. They were trumpeting every now and then. We were told elephants can charge and the wide trench was no barrier for them and in the recent past they had broken into the forest guest house and taken away things to eat! “God if they happen to come again?” The thought was enough to keep Shevanti and me awake for the entire night – scared we were! We were visited by a bat who must have found us quite amusing – sitting up on a cold night when everybody else slept peacefully. Then there were sounds of the jungle – elephants, barking deer that kept us guessing besides the tap tap of a leaking faucet that really scared us. We laughed at our selves for we knew if an elephant was to charge or leopard or tiger attacked there was nothing we could do even if though we had stayed awake.                                                                                 

 Morning cme and we drove to the jungle. I had never seen forest before. It was so thick that there was hardly even a patch of bare ground. Though we did not see any wildlife, I found the forest was to very alive – perhaps spirits of the forest! We also saw two marvelous waterfalls. Falling from a great height & plunging into deep gorge with that distinct waterfall signature sound that many of us herd and loved – absolutely out of this world for me. Here are some photos which can say more than what i write.

 Waterfaaaal similipal-pictures-076.jpg

We left Similipal forest in the afternoon and had lunch at a place with a rather musical name – Gudgudia. Gudgudia has a orchidarium that nurtures various species of orchids found in Similipal We reached Chandipur, a town by sea side near Balasore, late in the evening. Now we had the effervescent Bay of Bengal for company. Its huge waves came right till the boundary walls of our guest house.

similipal-pictures-088.jpg

By the sun rise the sea had amazingly disappeared far back leaving behind a wide and a wet shallow beach. We left after breakfast to catch the train to Kolkata. Our short and a pleasant stay at Similipal and Chandipur had left us recharged for our lives in the city! 

Published in: on 14 October , 2007 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Apathy Wave

Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal in eastern part of India are a world apart – culturally and socially. It is distinct from the rest of the country as coconuts are from mangoes. It however shares a bond that is gradually making it similar with rest of the country. No its not Hindi films, railways, cricket, chowmein or masala dosa. It’s the increasing apathy of people like us towards place where we live.

The plane from Calcutta to the Andaman takes you over pristine blue green sea, dotted with corals every now and then. As plane flies into Andaman Islands the blue green turns green. Not just green but almost impenetrable rain forest green. Its so thick one wonders if there is space even for a pin prick. As one approaches Port Blair the capital of Andaman, the green gradually blurs and transforms into familiar brown and grey of mud and cement. Port Blair – one rightly expects it to be a tropical town breezy, open with smell of sea. Unfortunately honking cars, mismanaged market places, dirty lanes with garbage is what one finds. The sea around Port Blair is of beautiful green and blue shades – cobalt, turquoise, etc. It is also splattered at places with green, yellow, red, brown, pink, etc. Colours of plastic bags and garbage consciously thrown over board by people like us who do not care enough. Take the example of adjoining Ross Island. It has no permanent human population. It primarily has day time tourist population and few shops that sell tea and snacks. The island is divine. The swaying palms with sea waves crashing on the shore with sea all round can take you back into time. Run your imagination and you could be transported to era of sea farers like Vasco de Gama, Columbus and Magellan. But No! Along comes a Pepsi bottle with smiling face of Kareena Kapoor to gently remind you – wake up man this is 21st century – sea faring is dead. Chill out! The place has become a mini waste dump with packaging thrown by a caring visitor. Caring enough to travel light and not bothering to carry the burden back. Andaman and Nicobar Islands have one of the greatest diversity of corals in the world with Wondoor National Park being an important site. Corals are extremely sensitive organisms and any disturbance in their physical environment can affect them adversely. Besides being beautiful they support a large number of fish species in their midst and play a major role in preventing sea shore erosion. The scene at Wondoor National Park presented a familiar site. Beautiful environs with magnificently coloured corals carpeting the sea bed and that equally magnificent apathetic people like us. The motor boats that bring them leave a thin film of oil on the sea all ultimately permeating to the corals below. Adding to this mess is our passion for dispossession. We dispossess all plastic bottles, chips packets, aluminum foil hoping that they be absorbed by the sea and transformed into beautiful corals. Port Blair is just an example what is happening around us. The place represents one of the most diverse and beautiful places in the world. It is becoming increasingly uniform with other parts of the country in terms of apathy, chaos, gradual disappearance of indigenous styles and most importantly apathy of people like us who have little sense of belonging, ownership or connectivity. Uniformity is great – it might give resemblance of order and ease of functioning with familiar things all around but can it ever replace diversity that is so strongly rooted in a country like India. Let us care more. Please!

Published in: on 14 October , 2007 at 5:19 pm  Comments (2)