As my friend Proto said today “I’m Lucky to explore wildlife”. Yes “I’m Lucky” to have a wonderful bunch of friends and great family support to venture out in the wild year after year for the last 5yrs. Yes it all started in 2004 with Corbett, followed up with Gir, Sunderbans, Melghat and finally this time the dice was cast on Kanha for 2008.
Life is lived in Transformations. Yes Transformations ephemeral or eternal. I always believe spending time in the wild is a transformation – an ephemeral one A total shutdown from the materialistic urban life a climb down from coziness and comforts of modern life. Time well spent in rustic forest shut out from electricity, mobiles, phones, tv, news paper and other paraphernelia of modern living. With this transformation binge in mind we set out to explore the wild in percincts of Kanha.
The journey to Kanha was an ordeal in itself, a 250km drive from Nagpur. A back breaking drive, where highways were literally mud tracks strewn with stones, where each passing vehicle would bolster up a stand storm hitting you hard remniscent of the satellite landing in earth in Wall-E movie. But this is what is the soft underbelly of India, where we harp on making foray into the innards in Moon, at the same time we fail to make a decent road line for numerous people living in our villages. Luckily we had a great driver who manevoured the torturous tracks with much panache and pious and made the ride bearable and took us to the destination safely, inspite of the hiccups on the way.
The stay had been arranged in Tourist Hostel run by MP Tourism. It was coming at a paltry rate of 490/= per head for a night, including all food. We were given beds in a dormitory, the dorm itself comprised of a room with 8 beds. For the rate and ownership the service was just amazing, the rooms and bathrooms were spic and span, food was mouth watering yet simple. This is the only property inside the forest; rest all private resorts (read costly) were located in the peripheries of the park well outside the wild. The Hostel itself was set in a picturesques locale, overlooking it was a vast meadow and a distant small pond where birds were frequenting for quenching their thirsts. The building itself looked like an old bungloid from outside. On reaching there itself we were given strict instructions not to venture out around the building and the only path thrown open was a brief walkway to the canteen.
Late evening we checked in and freshned up. Later in the evening the moon rose and the waxing bright light from the moon bathed the milieu. It was just after the full moon day and finding the moon amidst tall sal trees bathing the forest with its white light was a mesmerizing sight. Known as we are the Shutter bugs, we lost no time in capturing the moon amidst the trees and in a jungle setting. The night sky in jungle is pristine devoid of the pollution, presented a good time to graze the stars and shooting stars and ofcourse the moon. The setting reminded the poets words
Night, full of newly created stars that leave
trails of fire streaming from their seams
as they soar in inaudible adventure
through interstellar space:
How, overshadowed by your all-embracing vastness,
I appear minute!
Yet, being one with the ever more darkening earth,
I dare to be in you.
8.30pm time for dinner, pangs of hunger had conquered us and it was excaberated by the day long starving (on way to Kanha you don’t get any food apart from samosas in Tea Stalls) after consuming just morsels of Samosas. It was time to commit the sin of Gluttony, a sin, which left the Canteen staff awed and dismayed, and what not? A 4-member team eating 40-45 chapathis and quantities of rice spiced with dals and curries that too without paying anything? Adding to the assault was demanding sweet in the end. At the end of the eating binge, the only feeling we had was probably this was the last time they were going to offer this plan of 490/= rupees with unlimited food.
As time waded by the cool breeze of the forest wasped by our faces and it was becoming colder by the hour. With nothing much left to do it was time to doze off the night and jumpstart early the next day in the expedition to venture out in the woods.