Hit the road, the Ford way
One foot on the accelerator and the beast roared and lunged forward. It took sometime to understand the power of the Ford. This was my first drive in a SUV and the excitement had built up. It just flew over the bad patches and suddenly we were up in the winding hills leading us to Jim Corbett. The air changed, became cooler. The crisp fragrance of sal trees made us stop for a cup of tea at a roadside stall. The mountain air had begun to make us feel at peace.
Meeting the Chuneres
Leaving our car and luggage at the resort, we packed in an open Gypsy to meet the small families of Chunere tribe. Every winter, they come from the upper regions of Himalayas to the lower regions to make wooden containers to store ghee, curd, milk. We watched their ingenious way of making them in the river, the wheel cut the wood using the water flow. The ancient ways are being lost, they lamented, as not many wanted to live this life. The sale of the containers got them a bare minimum amount to survive the winters. Even as we talked, the sun began its downward journey and it was time for the world to go to rest. Peacocks meowed and hid amongst the dense trees, running from the human machines.
Jungle book live
The next day began early, as our guide waited in an open Gypsy to take us to the national park. We wore mute colour clothes so as to not scare the animals away. Suddenly in the middle of the conversation, the Gypsy came to a silent halt. A herd of deer was crossing the road. We waited as the wary herd hurried to the banks of the river. No construction is allowed near the riverbank; dead wood can be sold but no one is allowed to cut trees, informed our driver and guide. He had sighted the tiger many times. The tiger stays near the water as it likes to keep cool, he added.
On the way up, we sighted langoors scampering through the branches. And just before the entrance, we had to register our names and the car. Then we were officially in the jungle. Gnarled, knotted, angry trees marked our route. They had been living their since eons and we were disturbing the silence. We hoped to see a snake slithering by, but no such luck.
A bark came to our ears — the barking deer, our driver said. But it didn’t show us its face. As we neared the riverbed, lapwings kept hopping by, busy with their tasks and not interested in us. A grey-headed eagle circled above with its mate. The children were somewhere close by, according to our guide and the parents were keeping track. Little green bee-eaters had been following us for long now. Suddenly we were going over the river pebbles to the other side. Crocodiles live here was the refraining phrase.
And then the car stopped. Tiger pugmarks and deer hair, the magnificent one had crossed this area. But we didn’t meet him.
A breakfast picnic and we were back on the rough track, way out of the jungle. Along the way, we saw colourful butterflies, blue magpies, yellow-throated woodpeckers and more langoors. We stopped a little distance away, watching a pair of yellow martens scamper up and down a trunk. And then we were on the road to the resort.
Next time you must do the elephant safari and you will see the tiger, our guide consoled. Don’t know about that, but we watched a jackal saunter across the road and a wild boar eye us with hostility before we began the drive back to Delhi in our powerful black beast.
Getting there, stay
Delhi is accessible from all countries. A drive is the best way to reach Jim Corbett National Park. There are many resorts and hotels to stay in. Good food is available. Gypsies and elephants are available for safaris. Best time to go is between October to March.