Uttarakhand: Dample (roadtrip through the real India) & Jim Corbett Tiger Safari
Monday morning we hired a car and driver and headed North west to Karan’s uncle Nippy and his wife poppy’s house in Dample . We left home at 5am and arrived at around 11 am with one stop for Oshwin to spew one stop for Chris to release some gas as he has a bad tummy and then the last stop to have some breakfast. Know one keeps in the lanes on the road, everyone is ducking and weaving all over the road trying to get ahead of the large overloaded colourful trucks, and the busted up buses, ox carts , donkeys, rickshaws, bicycles, cattle and pedestrians. Along the side of the road there is dried cow poo shaped in disks and stacked into huge pyramids to be used as fuel for fire. So may people live under tin / cloth on the side of the road. Farm houses are usually little brick boxes not much bigger that a dog house. This is real India!
When we got to Dample we when for a walk around the village with Karan. His family has loads of businesses there including Contact lens solution factory , spare parts shop and a restaurant. It was apparent that the people who lived in this village had not seen many if any white people before as they stared so openly and the kids tried to touch us and followed us around. After taking a few pics we went back to the house and had some lunch and a sleep as this work is tiring. The house has three levels and they have two girls that live there as servants. Poppy showed us a video of his trip to Jim Corbett just days before and he had seen 4 tigers, now are hopes are high to see one or two for ourselves. We had dinner at poppy’s favourite restaurant where he had called ahead to make sure that the food the evenings food was not too spicy for us!
After breakfast the next morning we drove 2hrs to the reservation office. At the reservation office Karan had to use all his contacts and all his uncles contacts along with charm and bribes to get us all into Dhikala which is the best camp as it is 50kms into the jungle and is where most sightings of tigers are seen. It’s not what you know, but who you know that’s important in this country. Despite his best efforts we had to stay at Gairai, which is not quite as deep, on the first night.
The Jim Corbett tiger reserve is in Uttarakhand and is one of Himalayan India’s last areas of wilderness. The park is 1288sq Km and was established in 1936 by the man himself Jim Corbett amongst others. Jim was a hunter who the people used to hunt man-eating tigers and leopards, most famously he killed the Champawat tiger that was responsible for 436 humans deaths.
Gairai is a little camp beside a river that sometimes elephants come to drink from in the mornings. Each camp is surrounded by electric fences to keep the animals out, as a few attacks on humans had happened. At this camp the electricity is turned off at 9.30pm to lessen the disruption to the animals. We drove to and around the campsite in an open top gypsy (jeep) was our first safari. Where we saw elephant, barking deer, spotted deer, sambar, rhesus and langur monkeys, jackal, peacocks and wild chickens.
The next day we went for another safari, which is pretty much a drive around to see what you can find. We didn’t see any tigers but we saw fresh pug marks. We went to crocodile point and saw some crocs off the cliff. Our driver/guide was really good and had such a keen eye. We moved into the second camp, Dhikala. A tiger had a kill not far from camp and was guarding and feeding there so the next day we went on an elephant to see it. He was so big, but looked so cute and fluffy because he’d been eating for a few days and was sleepy and not aggressive. It was unreal and the elephant shake when he gets closer. Everyone had seen tigers except us so far so it was so satisfying to finally see one.
On Thursday the final morning Chris, Em and Karan went on one last safari. We saw the sun rise and a herd of elephants with babies going into the trees, on the grasslands we saw big herds of deer and heaps of birds. It was so peaceful being out in the wild. The long trip back to Delhi took about 11 hours including stops for food.
Friday we got a cab to the closest metro station then went into central Delhi. We went to Connaught Place, which is like the Oxford St of Delhi for lunch, the we went to the Red Fort (Lil Qila) at Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi. The fort was commissioned by Shah Jahan. We got a guide which was really good as he explained things we’d never have known, like how he had to try and please everyone so the designs of the palace is a mixture of Persian, Muslim, Hindi and xxxx. The fort is 2km long and is made of red sandstone and has palaces, a private audience area, private apartments, mosques and pretty gardens. Afterwards we went to see Karan’s friend, Akash and we decided to go to Amritsar the next day to see the Golden Temple. Because we’d left it so late we couldn’t get A/C chair seats so we just thought we’d wing it and let Akash and Karan bride the railway men!
So on Monday we left home at 5.15am and got a cab to the station. We get about 10mins down the road and the cab runs out of fuel. There weren’t any other cabs around, so Em jumps into the driver seat and Chris and Karan push, while the cab driver runs beside the driver door yelling directions. We head up the wrong side of the highway with trucks beaming down on us, as this was the quickest way around a large around about. Everyone goes up the wrong side of the street, but it’s different when you’re pushing the car! We finally make it to a petrol station where we tell the cab driver to go to hell and we’re not paying him. So we jump into another cab who takes us all the way to the train station.
Akash bought us standing tickets then we went down to the platform and went looking for the ticket checker for the A/C chair carriages. After 20 minutes of bribing and sweet talking he finally gives in and gives us chairs in the A/C chair cart and pockets 700Rs from each of us! Not bad considering he probably earns less than that in a month!
After a breakfast of cutlet sandwiches we arrive in Ludiana at 12, where Akash needs to get a chasis number off a car for his work. No one has any idea where it is, so Chris has to save the day, by pulling the car about to find what they needed. Akash works for United Breweries so Chris says he can pay him in vodka!. Punjabi food is famous and the state produces enough food to feed the nation, one of it’s best dishes is butter chicken. So we went to a well known restaurant for a lunch of butter chicken.