Saturday, March 28, 2015

An unplanned visit to Corbett

An unplanned visit to Corbett

A barking deer or Kakkar in Corbett
            As usual, this year too we headed to the hills for our short winter vacations.  However, unlike other years when we visited lesser known destinations, as the work regarding construction of my small apartment was in progress and I was required to deliver some goods for the said construction, we all headed for the destination and arrived at Chilyanaula, Ranikhet KMVN to spend a few nights.  After having visited the construction site and delivered the goods, we spent the day there having a picnic with food being cooked on temporary makeshift chulah and with local condiments, which added a special flavour to the simple ‘dal & chawal’ and we enjoyed a good day out.  However, we realized that we had nothing much to contribute to the construction process and would end up having a look around at the same destinations that we have visited many times in the past.  Therefore, after returning back to the Rest house in Chilyanaula, I spoke to the Manager in this regard and he checked the website and suggested that I could move over to Mohan near Corbett, but the difference in tariff would have to be paid by me, as the rooms were costlier at Mohan.  Hearing about the proximity with Corbett, I jumped at the proposition and early next morning we were headed for Mohan.
Sunrise at Chilyanaula
As we head out towards Corbett 
Beyond Bhatrauchkahn - Himalayan view point
Beyond Bhatrauchkahn - Himalayan view point - close up of Nanda Devi range with Trishul
             Mohan is a nondescript little destination situated on the Ranikhet to Corbett State Highway and it has a quaint and quite little Tourist Rest House run by KMVN.  To give you a general idea about it’s proximity with other destinations – Mohan is situated at a distance of 73 Kms. from Ranikhet and the break up of distances are as follows – Ranikhet to Bhatrauchkhan – 27 Kms. and Bhatraouchkhan to Mohan 46 Kms. – Mohan to Ramnagar – 10 Kms. Being situated hardly at a few kilometers distance from Corbett alongwith it’s jungle like ambience, is an added advantage for Mohan.  Having arrived at Mohan, I contacted the Manager seeking advice about visiting Corbett during the afternoon Safari.  I was informed that as the booking was required to done online, it was not possible to visit Corbett on arrival.  I had no idea about the same and therefore had no other option but to rake up my contacts, to at least visit Corbett during the ensuing day.  The idea worked and the contact sent a person who collected our personal details alongwith photocopy of my official Identity card and he also informed me that my entry was subject to any cancellation made.  My program was in much more jeopardy, as during the previous few days, it had been raining ‘cats & dogs’ in the region and the jungle safari had been temporarily halted, which had created additional queue.  Hoping for the best and mentally preparing for the worst, we decided not to waste the day idling and went ahead to visit the famed ‘Girija Devi temple’ nearby.
Bracket fungi on  a Banyan Tree - just as we enter Corbett
The TRH at Mohan
Panoramic view of Garijya temple
As the sun sets across the Kosi River bed
            The temple is dedicated to Girija Ardhangini and is myth-logically identified as being the daughter of the Himalayan mastiff known by the same name.   The temple is situated on a steep mound right in the middle of the Kosi river and during the lean periods the river bifurcates and creates an island around the temple, with the river flowing on either side of it.  However, during the monsoons the island also disappears at times, thereby making visit to this temple very difficult.  To ensure safe passage, the Government has now constructed a sturdy concrete bridge across the river to help the pilgrims visit the famed destination.  The temple is very small and only about 10-15 persons can be accommodated atop it at a time.  The temple has a small 4.5 feet high statute of Goddess Girija Devi accompanied by statues of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Saraswati placed alongside, as the presiding deity is also identified as Parvati of famed Lord Shiva Parvati combine.  It has gained tremendous following during recent years and consequently a small market has emerged along the bank of the river, wherein people are engaged in selling worship/Puja related articles alongwith a few sweetmeat shops sprinkled here & there.  The main pilgrimage to the temple takes place during the Basant Panchami.  We visited the temple and after offering prayers, on our way back we got down and headed onto the banks of Kosi River and enjoyed the sunset before returning back to the Rest House.
A kingfisher basking in morning sun inside Corbett
Langurs on tree tops inside Corbett
            As we were having a cup of Coffee in the cold winter evening at TRH Mohan, good news filtered in that there had been a few cancellations because of the inclement weather, however, the trip was subject to the weather conditions improving.  After we have had our dinner and were getting ready to retire for the night early, as next day we were to be picked up at 6.30 A.M for the trip scheduled from the Bijrani Gate entry, it started pouring again.  We tucked ourselves in, a wee bit dejected by the prospect of getting bad news in the morning.  Because of a hectic days schedule coupled with the quiet ambience of the place, we drifted into the land of dreams and were woken up in the morning after the loud sound of the alarm clock went off.  We quickly got dressed and as we were making some final adjustments, the intercom rang informing us of the arrival of the open safari jeep.  It was quite dark when we started and bitterly cold also as the jeep was totally open from all sides.  It took about 20-25 minutes ride to reach Bijrani Gate and after entering the premises, the operator asked for the money as well as the Identity card for making necessary entries.  By stroke of luck and a chance decision, I was inside Corbett for my first maiden journey to any Tiger Reserve.
Cheetal deer (Male) inside Corbett
A Sambhar hiding in the grass
            Corbett National Park has been mesmerizing its visitors with its diverse plethora of wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. It was established way back in 1936, when Corbett attained the distinction of being the first national park to be established in mainland Asia.  The geographical location of this National Park that stretches between the Himalayas and the terai region and the sheer number of streams, rivers and ridges that crisscross its terrain, enrich Corbett with a remarkable variety of landscapes. This vivid mosaic of habitats – wet and dry, plain and mountainous, gentle and rugged, forests and grasslands – supports numerous plant and animal species, representing Himalayan as well as the species thriving in the plains.  The most famous of them is the tiger and over the years Corbett has become synonymous with it.  Perennial rivers like the Ram Ganga and Kosi are the source of sustenance for the animals inhabiting Corbett and apart from them there are many rain fed rivulets that join these rivers during the rainy season as their tributaries. 
A Wild boar inside Corbett
Topography inside Corbett
A herd of Cheetals feeding inside Corbett
             From the main gate the open jeep takes you to the interior passing by a raging stream and I understood that the safari is to be stopped because during rains these rivulets cannot be passed by vehicles because of the torrents, as there are no bridges built across them.  The core area begins from an area deep inside, which is a fortified part with electric fences covering the periphery and the jeeps etc. assemble here and then start for the safari in batches.  There are a plethora of deer in the region of many varieties, sizes and hues and easily found roaming around foraging alongwith other kinds of mammals like Pigs, Monkeys etc.  However, the elusive tiger did not show up, although we could hear is low pitched growls from time to time  and despite sustained efforts of guide and the driver, we could not spot one and returned back a wee bit disappointed, but having had a blast otherwise, it was a trip to remember.

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