Posts Tagged ‘Kanha National Park’

Spotting a tiger at a wildlife sanctuary is a matter of chance. On a good day you can see one or more and on other days none. At Ranthambhore we had feasted our eyes on a tiger just 15 feet away that posed for us for over an hour. But one cannot get so lucky every time. Guides who show you around can also be good or bad. But what do you call one who falls asleep and leaves guests to fend for themselves for those five hours? That’s what happened to us at the Mukki zone at the Kanha sanctuary on April 24.

We drove around Kanha first through Mukki and tried to figure out the sights and sounds on our own. Secondly, waiting for a tiger to make an appearance can, sometimes, take up to an hour if one hears the calls. Our friend Santosh didn’t want to wait more than five minutes at any spot. He seemed more interested in rushing us through the forest! At one point we heard the growls of the tiger a few feet away initially, and after a few minutes because the deer had stopped calling the guide decided to push off, even as I requested him to wait a while.

But apart from this unpleasant episode, the fortnight (although a topsy-turvy trip because our bookings had to be rescheduled for extraneous reasons), was a refreshing change. I remember what the late editor SD Wagh used to say when he took leave -‘if I see one more newspaper I’ll vomit’! While I don’t feel so strongly I did need a break. Working thirty six months without a holiday does take its toll and I was desperately in need of one. We drove through tiger terrain in Nagzira, Pench and Kanha and were fortunate to see the cat.

The reserve at Nagzira is also looked after by the forest department but it was a lovely place. Our rooms were right in the middle of the forest and through the night one could hear either monkeys or deer warning the inmates of tigers or leopards in the vicinity.  Here too we spotted a tiger walking in front of us. This guy was a bit shy because as he heard the jeep he ran off into the jungle. This was the same animal that lunged at a jeep with a pesky woman in it.

Before coming to Nagzira we also visited Navegaon sanctuary but calling it a sanctuary is a misnomer. It is maintained by the Maharashtra Forest Department and is in a state of disrepair. The rooms are in terrible condition with latches missing on toilet doors and furniture that looks like it has seen better days. A lot of guests were couples on two-wheelers who seemed to have come from the village for a ‘quiet’ afternoon in one of the rooms. And except for hundreds of simians and some deer there wasn’t anything else to admire. The staff, however, were very helpful and courteous.


When we reached Kanha National Park on April 23, we first stayed two nights at the Muba Resort.  It’s a cool place in the buffer zone of the forest. Very hospitable and friendly staff and since we were the sole occupants it was fun! An entire group had just checked out so the staff was a little relaxed and friendly. They have TT and snooker tables, and a badminton court of sorts. And, thankfully, no TV sets in the rooms.

The tiger in Pench. Clicked by junior.

The tiger in Pench. Clicked by junior.

We entered the Park through the Mukki Gate. This was where we met our ‘sleepy joe’ guide Santosh. In four of the five allotted hours – we left an hour early in sheer disgust – the guide didn’t really do what he was being paid to do and made our driver look for any tell-tale signs of the big cats, while he nodded off frequently in the rear of the jeep! He was the first to grab his food when we stopped for refreshments and then disappeared. He insisted we look at a baby python, which he heard about from a fellow guide. Incidentally he missed the reptile even though it was lying in the open as we drove past it! My wife told him coldly that she was used to them as they were a common sight in her hometown in Bihar. But he was adamant. We were told later that other tourists had also complained about the guy but the Madhya Pradesh Tourism officials refused to act against him. I was told that he also showed up under the influence of liquor on occasion and is supposed to have joked to some that the reason he wore dark glasses was to ensure tourists did not catch him nodding off.  Except for the day at Muba, this part of the Kanha trip was a let-down. Also,  there had been a thunderstorm on the previous day and the animals had relocated to safer climes.

The deer and the fawn

The deer and the fawn

From there we moved to the expensive Bagheera Log Huts in the Kisli zone of the same Park for the next two days. I am told that by this yearend they are moving this resort out, since environmentalists feel human habitation in the core zone disturbs the animals. Till then, enjoy the sight of deer, fox and other animals loitering outside your room! Also while you sit outside your rooms enjoying the breeze, listen to the monkeys and deer warning of danger lurking in the vicinity.  Apart from that, the food and service is average and the breakfast they give tourists for the safari is rubbish. The two safaris we took were also disappointing in terms of the fact that we didn’t spot any tigers even though they were in the vicinity. We did spot quite a few interesting birds, of the feathered kind and clicked a deer feeding the fawn right in the middle of the track.

The night before (April 27) we left Kanha we calculated the distance between Kanha and Pune, as estimated it to be around 800 kms. It was a gross miscalculation. When we left Kanha at 6 am on Saturday morning we thought of stopping for the night near Aurangabad because we knew we would be there around 6 pm and we could cover the rest of the 200-odd kms to Pune the next day.  We knew we would be able to maintain just a 35-45 kmph speeds. We finally reached Aurangabad at 8.45 pm and after getting some dinner packed we debated whether we should stay the night there or move on. However, the excitement of getting back home spurred us on. Unfortunately it took us an hour to get out of Aurangabad because everyone there, it seems, had decided to get their children married on that Saturday, so all the roads were blocked! We also missed a turn and ended up again on the road to Jalna!

At around 10.45 pm we stopped at a food mall about 50 kms outside Aurangabad, to get a coffee. I was chatting with one of the staffers and he said I would reach Pune by 2 am. I think that’s when I felt wave of exhaustion come over me! I had been behind the wheel for close to 17 hours and the thought of driving another three hours, made me feel even more exhausted! My wife asked me if I could drive up to Ahmednagar, and immediately went online on her mobile and checked up about hotels there. She called Yash Palace Hotel and booked a room. There were occasions when I thought the dividers had disappeared and would brake suddenly because I thought there was a vehicle in my lane! Strangely, by the time we reached Ahmednagar at around 11.30 pm I felt better and by the time we checked-in while I was exhausted the wooziness had completely disappeared. I guess, in retrospect it was a wise decision to stop for the night. When we reached home early morning on the next day on Sunday, April 28, we had covered 3187 kms from April 14-28.

Most of the roads we drove on in both states were okay except a few. The roads in Nagpur were wide and well maintained. The city is charming and I am wondering why our city planners can’t do something about the mess that is Pune. The stretch after Nagpur up to the Madhya Pradesh border en route to Pench is a mess. Once we entered MP from Nagpur en route to Jabalpur, the road was a revelation – four-lane most of the way and superbly made. The only disturbing factor was that at various points suddenly the four-lane became two-lane because the NHAI had still not got total clearance from the environment ministry! And to make matters worse there are rumblers at these points and no indicators to warn motorists. At night, especially if it rains, it could be disastrous. So watch out.

The second terrible stretch is of 120 km from Balaghat to Baihar en route to Kanha. Attempt it only if it’s the last option. We were guided there so didn’t realise it till we were in the middle of it. There is no road, just huge craters for almost 60 kms (most of them on the ghats) on which you can only travel at speeds of 10-20 kms per hour. Anything faster and you risk serious damage to your vehicle and yourself. There are other better routes from Seoni or Mandla.

It was an interesting fortnight without any newspapers, news channels or even access to mobiles except on occasions. In Jabalpur, where we stayed with relatives of my wife I spent three days doing absolutely nothing and the folks were really quite understanding. We did go to the famous India Coffee House but besides that did nothing else. At Pench and Kanha, apart from the odd safari, the rest of the days were spent doing nothing. I should do this more often…but now back to the grind!

My wife and son have just returned from Kanha and Bandhavgarh where they spotted at least half a dozen tigers, bears and an assorted bunch of animals. They’re justifiably thrilled at what they’ve accomplished, although they don’t have too many pictures of the striped cat to show for it. Nonetheless they enjoyed their holiday, aside from one crazy experience while on their way to Kanha from Bandhavgarh, which left them shaken.

When they left for Kanha my son told his mother that the driver was ‘reeking of liquor’ but she laughed it off with the words that “he must have had a drink at night.” Thus far everything had been perfect, just as a holiday should be. A little while later, the driver stopped the car and disappeared, to return a few minutes later. They were off again only for the driver to stop some time later and disappear behind shops. This time when they returned, my son smelled liquor on the man’s breath and promptly nudged his mother.

They continued to Kanha and around 10 km later, once they had reached the outskirts of Mandla, they noticed that the driver was driving almost on the right side of the road! The man was so drunk he hadn’t even noticed. My wife tried to convince him to stop the car and let her take over the wheel, but the guy didn’t budge. When they kept telling him about it, the man moved the car a little to the middle of the road, until at one point a three-wheeler tempo ran straight into them. There was a resounding thud and parts of either vehicle were flying around.

As a crowd collected the driver of the car decided that the best way out of the mess was to take off with car and shaken passengers – which is what he did, only to be chased by the people in the tempo. The chase continued for a quite a few kms, and in the meantime, my wife started calling Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development officials to tell them about the incident. The officials were then in constant touch with every few minutes to check about their well-being, also telling them that they had dispatched another vehicle.

In the meantime, drunk driver along with car with passengers was reaching an unmanned level crossing with the tempo still in hot pursuit. As they neared the crossing, the passengers, to their horror saw a train approaching. The driver, of course, was too far gone by then to notice anything. They started screaming at him to stop, but the crazy guy, desperate to shake off the tempo on his tail, raced towards the oncoming train.

My son and wife say they don’t know how the guy managed to cross the railway line. Had they been a few seconds off they and the car would have been sitting on the railway engine! Once they had crossed and were finally rid of the chasing tempo, they spotted the replacement car a few kms later, which waved them down. Only then did things return to normal. I guess, in all this drama, the two people who remained cool for most of the time were the MP Tourism officials and my wife!

Moral of the story: When the driver disappears at short intervals during a long drive and then starts flirting with the road divider, he’s either ingesting ‘liquids’ or passing it out.