1.30 PM on 25th May, 2012, I climbed the gentle slope on top of which sat the Kallahalla forest rest house. It was nothing like the picture on the Forest department's website. That would put anyone off immediately and that website is in urgent need of up-gradation!
Mahadeva, the caretaker-cum-cook appeared from his quarters behind the FRH and gave me a salaam. Obviously, he'd been told to expect guests. "Everything is ready Sir", he said. Then, looking around perplexed,he enquired, "Only two of your, Sir?". He had been told to expect five persons and only two were to be seen. Lunch was ready and Mahadeva was worried it would all go wasted.
"Don't worry", I assured him. "I'm a little early and coming from another direction. Your main guests are coming from Mysore and will be here shorly". He looked relieved when I told him to set the table for five.
After putting our stuff into one of the bedrooms my son and I went around exploring the place. The Kallahalla guest house is situated on a slope on the outer curve of the Nagarhole - Hunsur road. Off to the left there is a large pond where a python had been spotted sun bathing not long ago. We went to see if it was there but apparently it was an off day for the reptile.
Hunger ensured that we were not very enthusiastic about exploring too much so we came back and waited. My sister and family finally arrived and after a late lunch we were feeling much better. Mahadeva's average cooking was tasting better than best on growling stomachs. We were a trifle disappointed that there was no chicken as promised. Mahadeva said he hadn't been instructed and in any case it had to be procured from either Kutta or Hunsur.
We did spy a chicken wandering around but it apparently belonged to a forest guard staying in the vicinity. How unfair!
After getting the grocery list from Mahadeva we piled into the car and drove off to the Nagarahole reception center. The gentlemen at the counter obviously weren't expecting any VIPs so we got ourselves into one of the buses that was taking visitors on a one hour safari.
It was a miserable one hour with a group of excited people. A langur would throw them into a frenzy and an elephant sighting was greeted with loud roars that would scare the poor pachyderm off.
At the end of a very long hour we got off the bus to be greeted by the RFO. Obviously, he knew and asked us why we hadn't called him or informed the reception of our arrival. When we told him politely, in case he wasn't aware, that cell phones did not work here and his staff obviously were ignorant about our identity, he smiled sheepishly and refunded the money my bro-in-law had paid for the safari. It seemed that communication in Nagarahole needed some urgent improvement.
We had an hour and a half before the check post closed so we drove off to Kutta to stock up. The children were certified carnivores, not to mention my bro-in-law. He hopped off at the chicken stall and my sister went searching for veggies. I went looking for other stuff like butter and beverages.
If you are a city dweller used to the trappings of civilization take a moment to answer these questions.
- Can you live without access to the internet or your cell phone network?
- Can you survive on a spartan diet of rice, chapattis, lentils, veggies and some watery curry?
- Can you spend a night without electricity and the familiar soothing sound of traffic while you toss in your bed?
- Can you sleep with the roar of a tiger or the alarm call of a frightened deer outside your window?
- Do you enjoy the company of swarm of creepy crawlies where you stand, sit or sleep?