Prologue : What happens when Republic day (or for that matter any national holiday) falls on a Tuesday? Erm, in our case, we take the Monday off, and set of for another mini holiday! This time around, Pench was the chosen destination. For a variety of reasons ofcourse, like we hadn’t been to this place before, and we had heard good reviews of it, and ofcourse, the most important reason that this apparently was the only exit out of the city that the Dude hadn’t taken on any of our drives. I find travel very exciting, it brings out a side of me which you would otherwise never see. That of a happy early riser. This works very well with The Dude, who has an in-built alarm clock, which rings before the first rays of the sun hit the earth everyday, irrespective of when he goes to sleep. And he roams around bright and chirpy and wide eyed, when the rest of the world is still lost in the virtual world of dreams. And this makes him choose absolutely ungodly hours to start on his drives. And I don’t mean ungodly by my standards alone. Really, 2 AM, you take the call.
Getting started :Anyway, this time we were a bit more lenient with ourselves. So we start at 5:50 AM, and hit the highway at 6:20. And The Dude says ‘ Man, we finally took the last exit!’. And I think, and say ‘ You kept the Resort booking receipt right?’ And then there was this Honda City driving precariously close to the divider, the driver looking frantically for a gap to take a U-turn. Yes, we went back. Not a good start at all for an otherwise well planned trip.
The drive : But luckily for us, things were smooth for a long time after that, and we were at Nagpur by 3, much ahead of our expected time. The idea was to stay put at Nagpur for the night, and then head to Pench the next morning. Anyhow, Nagpur for some reason had it’s peak traffic hour at 3 PM on a Saturday. And all the people who we asked about hotels, though helpful, suffered from what we called ‘ the 3 kms syndrome’. A typical conversation would be ; ‘Bhaiyya yahaan x hotel kahaan hai?’ (x being a random hotel found on google), and the reply would be ‘3 Kms aage/right left/peeche’. But no amount of 3 km driving found us a single hotel, and before we knew we were out of the city.
The bad :To cut the bad story short, we ended up staying at the dingiest hotel in the world at this place called Ramtek. I don’t want to get into details, but let’s just say I refused to even wash my hands in the loo there. The only good thing about the place was this super friendly Dalmatian named Lucy. Totally aww inducing. The Dude clicked a pic of the place (‘ we can look at it later and say, ‘Man we stayed here?”‘), and in the pic the place looks so bright and cheery, and totally misleading!
The good : Next morning, we reached our resort, MPTDC’s Kipling’s court (Pench is where Jungle book is based people, hence the name, and a lot of pictures of Mowgli, and Bagheera, and Sher Khan everywhere!).Lovely place. Very serene, amidst dense forests, and super-comfortable. Totally recommended to anyone who plans a visit to Pench. So the highlight of the place is the safaris ofcourse, but even if all you want is an idyllic holiday, it’s a good choice. People are friendly and helpful and smiling, and the food was great. We booked an early morning safari for the next day, and whiled away our time walking around the outer areas of the jungle and clicking random pictures
The awesome : The next morning, we woke up bright and shiny at 5 and set out on the safari in the Gypsy we had booked. (Note to self : Early mornings are frigging cold, and one jacket is not enough.) One word for it. Awesome. I have done and early morning safari once before. The nip in the air, the break of dawn, the silence of the forests, I had loved it then, I loved it now. Spotting the deer, jackals, peacocks, monkeys all in their natural habitat is an amazing experience. But this time we did what safari’s are officially meant for. Yes! We spotted tigers! Ok-ok, before I get ahead, the tiger was actually spotted by mahouts who are on the look out each morning on their elephants, and then they take you for a ride in the forest on these elephants and you can see the tigers what, like , a couple of feet away? And we did! I could see just 2, but apparently there were 4. And it was wonderful except that I was kinda worried that my legs were hanging too low (our elephant was the shortest too, talk about luck!) and the tiger could attack if it wanted. What? They jump almost 12 feet up it seems. Thankfully they didn’t , and we returned a happy twosome from the safari!
The awesome (part deux) : And so, we decided to go again, this time for the evening safari. And yes people, we were lucky again! Picture this. Almost bare land, where we stopped because we heard a couple of distress calls. That stopped, and all we see are trees, and grass, and two deer happily grazing. Complete silence. And then, out of no where, the deers sprint! And behind them, a tiger! Whoa! Though at the moment I stood on top of the seat of the gypsy to catch a better look, a moment later, all I was worried about was what if it ran our way? Seriously scary! Plus every time I would quote one of the sign boards on the way which said ‘ Tigers don’t attack for fun, or until provoked’, the guide would reply fervently saying ‘ Nahi Madam, kar sakte hain attack, bilkul kar sakte hain’. Thanks Dude, so comforting. Hmph. Anyway, a couple of more ‘look there it is’, ‘ now it’s stopped’, ‘now it’s walking’ and a few shots in our camera, it was time to leave, and frankly, I was slightly relieved. Here’s one of the more complete pics from the vehicle. Awesome huh?
Some gyan : There are apparently 33 tigers in the forest as of now. And the area being huge, spotting a tiger is not that frequent. I guess we were lucky that way. However, the census methodology used the last time is pretty much outdated, and this time around they have had cameras fixed all over the jungle to do a better count. The tigers we saw, were apparently 16 months old and cubs of the same tigress. There are 40 leopards too, and till last year they were frequently spotted in a certain area, which now they have left because a tigress moved there, and leopards are scared of tigers. Duh. Oh, and also, Langoors and spotted deer at BFFs.This is actually true, we spotted the two species together everywhere, and even saw langoors drop fresh green leaves from trees for the deers to eat! Very cute.
The end: That was enough excitement frankly, and we were super-exhausted by night. Almost 9 hours of sleep and then started back at 6 in the morning. The journey was comfortable, and silent because the vacation was getting over and we hated it. I know you know.
Epilogue : I’m at work, vacation’s over, and I don’t know when the next one is. Need I say more?