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
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:
- 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.
- 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.