Into the wild
Copy and pasted from the digital diary of a reluctant traveler who went for a weekend trip to the Jim Corbett National Park and Nainital in Uttrakhand
We used to have a funny riddle when we were kids — a sort of question which we know its answer by heart but we would keep asking others: How would you go to a kingdom that lies beyond a field of thorns, a hospital, a pit of shit (exactly!) and a lake? It’s not about the amusing question and the even more risible answer anymore.
A couple of Mondays ago, we came back not from a riddle competition, but with plenty of feel-good feelings and a worthwhile experience after passing through such an ordeal of visiting a kingdom.
On the Friday night, waiting for a train to the Jim Corbett National Park was like we were being made not to walk, but run on the field of thorns after a hard day’s work at the office. The train got delayed for more than two hours. Imagine waiting for something without knowing how long we would wait — and add to that, the hangover from the couple of whisky pegs that I had taken before leaving my room. The world it seemed was making fun of my sanity. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, believe me. I was not mentally prepared for the tour too.
|Row, row, row your boat|
The train did arrive around 1 am and we got on quite triumphantly. But the happiness was cut short after an argument with a hotheaded ticket examiner, who bit more annoyingly than the mosquitoes that swarmed and chased us at the crowded and noisy railway platform. The issue: We had booked our tickets online but they were invalid as these were not confirmed before departure — we didn't know about it — and the money, it is credited back to the account. But the examiner was simply shouting we had to disembark while we presumed, at least, we should be allowed to travel, with or without the seats, as we had paid for the tickets and our names were in the waiting list. The ticket examiner’s madness was indeed a blessing. We boarded the right train but we were in the wrong bogey! That is, the train got separate bogeys that connect with another train from Moradabad, which is around two hours’ ride from Delhi, and further leads to Ramnagar, where the national park is located.
So in the beginning, all these things provided a perfect push for the field-of-thorns-and-a-pit-of-shit kind of kickoff to our trip. However, it was a different ballgame after reaching our destination, er… the animal kingdom; and the mood was of living life a kingly style. A 100 percent relaxation and a new world of experience. It is worth jotting down every minute of our journey (though I will do away the trifles for the sake of getting rid of wooden expression from this prosy diary).
We met a decent examiner in the new bogey and paid him 1,100 bucks, almost the amount we would have shelled out for the tickets for the six of us, though we got only two odd seats. Somehow we managed it with some cramps and muscle pain but it was forgotten, in fact, all the impressions of the previous night’s trying moments were mercifully executed by the first light of the morning. That was also when we reached Ramnagar. We immediately boarded a cab, headed to a fine resort set amidst the jungle, booked our rooms, had some breakfast and took a short nap to refresh ourselves. All of these activities happened so fast that when I woke up around mid noon, it seemed we had arrived there a day before.
|The monkey business|
We hit the road as soon as we finished our lunch. We found the happy rides, to the jungle and to Nainital the following day, were the major show-stopper of the tour. We have also found new meanings in jungle safari or wildlife tour. It was one perspective of nature we had never have encountered before. All we feel about natural beauty was our only earlier experience. Yet, a couple of hours inside the wilderness, driving down the dusty tracks, the dried streams, the smell, the sight, everything was special in their own ways. The hopping naughty monkeys, peacocks, mongooses, the colourful birds and the deers with antlers: some of us started preparing a menu out of them! In midst we found large footprints which our guide told us were of elephants and we found them, into the wild, along a river bank.
One of the things that hit me hard during the ride was the question raised by the 18th-century philosopher, George Berkeley. Especially from around some of those areas, so eerie place, the wild yet quiet jungle, arose the riddle: If a tree falls out there and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Those were some places where watching horror movies even during daytime would mean an entirely new thing. Anyway, I have met some theists using this philosophical premise that ‘to be is to be perceived’ to prove there is a god, without offering me the explanation on the origin of god. For me, some gods were born shortly after the evolution of humanity.
Now people are taking pity in us that we didn't get to see the famous tigers of Jim Corbett, but except a little bit of extra adrenaline rush, we did not miss much. I must admit we were excited when we saw the tigers’ paw marks on the narrow and winding, sandy paths. We thought we might have the elephant experience but no issues, we moved on and took a break at the government rest house, set deep inside the jungle. It reminded me of the film, the “Lost World” from its dangerous-looking electric fence. It was kind of staying so close to the wild, yet far away from harm’s way. Only the monkeys could get into the area. Again, we had a wonderful ride back to the resort. From the rest house, we drove back straight, and it took around three hours. The joy of riding in the open Gypsy did injustice to the hours it took us back to the safe confines of our accommodation. We wanted more but it was not feasible.
|Welcome to the jungle|
It was already dark and we went to the dhaba, which we had made our dining place, for a glass of tea. Corbett Dhaba was the name, and Ramesh — the cook, waiter and owner, all in one, and we had became quite familiar with this guy’s good culinary skills though he took ages to prepare the dishes as he got a single-stove cylinder. After the tea, we asked him to prepare our dinner and that we will be coming back in a couple of hours around 9:30. Subsequently we went in, got fresh and had one of the best drinking parties in the open. The resort was special in one count apart from being comfortable and affordable, in the sense that each cottage has a small courtyard. See, back here in Delhi, we have to make space for ourselves in congested and suffocating rooms, especially in summers and indulging in whiskeys and beers, trying to refresh ourselves on weekends. But it was quite a feel: a cool, serene ambience, the regular snacks, McDowell, Magic Moments, sitting on the landscaped courtyard, whiling away the time — we wanted nothing but the night.
|21st century = Green living!|
The next day was for Nainital. We had made the plan to visit the place only after reaching Ramnagar, and indeed all is grist that comes to the mill. Like mentioned earlier, we had another ride to the valley passing through a mountain, enjoying the breathtaking view as well as the ride itself. I had one special view: never had I seen a vast valley of forest from a winding mountain road. The Ramnagar vale, which also comprise the Corbett park was spread across the horizon and offered a glorious view of the wild and immense landscape. And further down the road, the gorges were captivating as usual. I thought the beauty of the mountain made me chill but I found the temperature had dropped as we were ascending the mountain. Nainital was on the other side of the tall wall.
|Khurpatal, on the way to Nainital|
It was as if we had saved the fun for the journey up and down. The place was too crowded, and the fervour was already stolen by the mountain roads. We roamed around a bit, had our lunch, took a boat ride and it was time to went back to Ramnagar. As a companion to the hilly landscapes that me pined for home, the unfriendly drizzle made my stream of consciousness too hard to resist the homesick blues. Between naps and the sight of the familiar terrain, we reached Ramnagar at 8 in the evening, when it was two hours prior to the train departure. We killed our time at the station.
Then it was like I was thrown back to the pit of shit while on the train after drinking too much. I puked a lake’s amount. It was even harder when we had to set down at Delhi around 4 on the Monday morning. My head weighed 110kg. But it was quite well as the day progressed, as I shook off the fatigue with a nap. Reflecting on these things is much more relieving than finding a solution to one of the hardest riddles. But then we know we are just a part of the bigger puzzle that we called the universe. Finding that answer will be the end. Otherwise I’m back to the normal life again.
|Resort to rest|