It was our last year of college and we were desperate to go somewhere. Everyone had been to Mussoorie, Goa was too far and Nainital was too boring. That’s when someone struck on the idea of Jim Corbett National Park.
It was a short trip. We left from Delhi at 5.30 a.m. by bus. We traveled non-AC and the tickets cost around Rs 300 per head. We stopped for breakfast at around 11 am at a hotel at a small town called Ramnagar.The meal was ambrosial. We stuffed ourselves with idlis, dosas, omlettes, and toast and ended up sipping coffee. Full and happy, we headed back to the bus.
Mid-way we got unlucky. Due to an accident on the road, we were delayed. Roads in that area are narrow with barely enough room for two cars, so an accident meant colossal damage. That’s when we realized what a mistake it was to travel non-AC. After sweating and melting in the heat with innumerable games of Antakshari in the background, we reached Jim Corbett at 5.30 p.m., four hours later than planned.
We gobbled up our ‘lunch’ once we got there, as we were in a hurry to check out the place. Accommodation had been arranged at a place called Roop Resorts- a cluster of small cottages in the jungle. The place was beautiful, the rooms were lovely and the food was good. Accommodation cost is nominal at approximately Rs 700 a night for a room. We however got it much cheaper since we had booked in large numbers.
The weather was good .The days were warm. However, the nights were slightly chilly and light woollens must be carried along.
The next morning all of us woke up at 3 a.m. We left from the resort at 4 a.m. for our jungle safari. After all the excitement of the previous day, we were majorly sleep-deprived, but once we sat in the jeep we were slapped awake by the cold wind hitting our faces. The safari lasted a total of around 3 hours. It was chilly early in the morning, but became progressively hotter.
We unfortunately didn’t see a single animal. Literally, not even a deer! This marked the second major blunder of our trip. Visiting the jungle in the monsoons- dense, luscious, green and wet; it was breathtaking. But, it was also because of the denseness that we couldn’t see anything. Had a tiger been three feet away, we wouldn’t have been able to spot it due to low visibility range.
Visiting the jungle in dry months (March to September) is most suitable. During these months, the jungle does not look half as glorious – it is less green, but visibility improves drastically. There is scarcity of water and the animals come out of their cocoons to look for water which makes them easier to spot.
That afternoon we visited the Corbett Falls. We got drenched and had a blast. It was the first time, most of us had seen a proper waterfall. After that we visited the Corbett museum which was entertaining. The most interesting thing I saw there were tiger embryos. I’ve seen human babies in embryonic form in school laboratories. But seeing a tiger embryo just the same way was new. A tiny ‘plucked-chicken’ like form in a tiger-shape in yellow liquid in a bottle was fascinating.
The next morning we went for a ‘Nature Walk’ around the Kosi River. And after breakfast, we headed back for Delhi.
Being in the jungle without contact with even our parents (contrary to the ad, Airtel apparently doesn’t have network in jungles) was a new thing for me. Lying in bed at night, I would listen to crickets chirping and to other strange thrilling sounds, unlike in Delhi where I fall asleep every night listening to car horns and motorbikes racing through the night.
I had a different attachment with the jungle. As a kid, I was obsessed with “The Jungle Book” series. I grew up wanting to be Mowgli. As a four year old, I was convinced that Mowgli was a girl with his long hair. Later when I realized the bitter truth, I decided that I wanted to marry him instead of being him. My childhood fantasies consisted of swinging on vines and swimming in the clear streams of the jungle. Every Sunday I would watch the Jungle Book serial that ran on TV and dream of the life that I wanted my future to be like.
In Jim Corbett, I felt closer to those far away days- those far away dreams of mine as a little girl who wanted to be Mowgli.The vines were just the way I imagined it and the water just as clear.
What struck me most was how quiet everything was – all the time. You could hear yourself breathing all the while- walking on the slopes, while putting your feet in the streams, during the disappointing safari ride where every rustle of a leaf was crystal clear.
And the night I came back to Delhi, there was a dull ache in my head amplified in my ears with all the noise all over – cars, buses, vendors, people.
The trip was over. And I fell asleep that night listening to cars and motorbikes – the song of the jungle fading away.