Uttarakhand Trip: Part I (Blore-Corbett)

Took a long vacation from Apr 15th-Apr 30th - Akshat had vacations, there was a wedding to attend in Meerut and it'd been a loong time since a proper long break.

Brief Triplog:

15th - 17th : The Sampark Kranti from Yeswantpur-Delhi via Pune takes forever.

Of course, we had all six berths to ourselves for nearly half the journey, and the kids totally loved it. Train trips are still a perfect way to start a long vacation - destress, catch up on a book, talk a lot, have numerous cups of chai, see the countryside...At Delhi our cab guy - Kulvinder Singh - met us as planned, and we had a decent looking Indica for our trip. Amazingly, all the luggage fitted into the boot despite my fears to the contrary.

Apr 17th-18th: Meerut

Cousin's wedding at Meerut. Apparently there'd been some rains up in the hills, and the plains were much cooler than one had feared. The groom was at one time from Jamshedpur, and recounting known people, places and common histories was fun with their family.

Apr 19th: Meerut - Ramnagar - Kaladhungi

Left Meerut early morning towards Mawana. Nice and cool - Kulvinder insisted the Moradabad route would have way more traffic, and someone had assured him of an equally short, quicker route via Bijnor. We hit a few back roads from Bijnor - towards Kashipur. Most roads were decent, if narrow. We made quick progress. Shubha was enthralled by the wheat being harvested/threshed all along. Vast, flat plains of wheat, sugar looked pretty indeed.

There's a US Nagar, UK!! Thats Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand :) A little into this district, we stopped for breakfast - our first Aloo Paranthas for the trip, with fresh curd and tea.

A little later the surroundings got less flat, though not quite hilly. There were also sporadic traces of woods as we got a little beyond Kashipur - and lots of things started getting called Corbett this or that. Soon a sign welcomed us to "Corbett City" and we were in Ramnagar.

Staying inside the Corbett National Park (the Dhikala FRH being the best place for this) needed arrangements to made by faxing a request etc at least a month and a half in advance, we had picked the KMVN place at Kaladhungi, about 30kms from Ramnagar, for our stay. The resorts outside the park, mostly along the road to Dhangarghi Gate are quite nice (most sell the banks of the Kosi as their USP) but quite expensive, especially in the context of a long drawn vacation across the region. Kaladhungi also offered other charms - being the winter home for Corbett. His house there has been converted into a museum dedicated to him. The village he bought there (and later gifted to the locals, who revere and adore the man even today) was named "Chhoti Haldwani".

We had been advised - over the phone - to come in a day earlier and ensure our permits/reservations for a Gypsy or bus safari inside the NP. The Visitor Centre was a very confusing place, but we soon realized that we'd have to turn up before 6am, when they open, and stand in queue to get ourselves into the "Canter" Safari list or to get a permit so we could hire a Gypsy.

Ok, here's the dope on the permit/safari deals for future time-constrained visitors:
  1. They allow some 30 vehicles on every trip - twice a day. The enrty timings for these are 6:30am and 2:30pm or so. The vehicles are allowed in the Bijrani range and "lesser" places. To travel around Dhikala in a private/hired vehcile, you need to be staying inside. The permits are cheap - though scarce - and the Gypsys cost about a 1000/- or thereabouts for a 3 hour trip.
  2. The Park organizes "Canter" rides - these are open bus-like vehicles with stepped seating and good views all around. The vehicles-on-hire guys tell you that these are noisy diesels and scare all the animals away. The Park and KMVN guys tell you that these are your best bet since if you're staying outside the park, this is the only way to get deep into the park - near Dhikala, where the reservoir and hence most animals are (esp in the drier seasons). The ride lasts a little under 6 hours, and I'd agree with the latter view after our experience. Of course, sightings are all a matter of chance - and just the experience of the deep woods and driving through the place itself are a treat.
Best time to visit Corbett is supposed to be mid Feb-mid March. Here's a link for reservations. The recommended way is to fax a request, receive a confirmation and send them a DD etc. About 2 months in advance, ideally.

So off we went to Kaladhungi, had a huge room with 2 double beds to ourselves for a mere 400/- and walked around town. Owing to some local elections, the Muesum was closed though we walked around its gardens and caught up with a little of Jim Corbett's amazingly diverse, rich life. The man did a lot in his life - from serving in the war, to being a Railway guy. But he was at his core a man who loved and loved the forests of Kumaon, spoke the language of the people, understood that of the animals, and took it upon himself to protect these.

Earlier in the afternoon we had visited the Corbett Falls about 5 kilometres from Kaladhungi. Nice pretty place with the falls

With no real restaurants around, we walked up the few metres to the end of Kaladhungi looking for tea, and an Aunty's Chai Stall near the culvert at the end of the village on the road towards Nainital became our defacto place.

We took the Canter, eventually, and had a lovely few hours inside the park.

Some Pix:

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