Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nights in Nagarahole - Part 2: Lessons for a City Dweller

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!

Lunch over, the next issue was getting into the jungle. It was already 3.00 PM and someone was supposed to have arranged a jeep safari for us. There was a jeep parked next to the rest house but it seemed ill prepared for the task. A fact that was confirmed without delay!

 Now, if we had the misfortune of this vehicle stalling in the middle of a trip we couldn't recruit the help of some friendly elephants could we? After all the rules say we aren't supposed to get off the vehicle during a safari! In any case nobody seemed to know what the plans were and the there was no way to call anyone. Between us we had four cell phones. Three with Vodafone connections and my dual sim phone with an Aircel and BSNL connections. NONE of them had network access. How wonderful?!

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.
  1. Can you live without access to the internet or your cell phone network?
  2. Can you survive on a spartan diet of rice, chapattis, lentils, veggies and some watery curry?
  3. Can you spend a night without electricity and the familiar soothing sound of traffic while you toss in your bed?
  4. Can you sleep with the roar of a tiger or the alarm call of a frightened deer outside your window?
  5. Do you enjoy the company of swarm of creepy crawlies where you stand, sit or sleep?
If the answer to all the above questions are NO, go read another blog somewhere else, because what follows after this is not for people used to creature comforts of the city.


Laxmeesha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laxmeesha said...

Nice write up. Feeling miserable that my Nagarhole visit is atleast 3 weeks away :(

Rajesh Radhakrishnan said...

Thanks Laxmeesha. There is still a lot to tell. So much activity in less than 48 hours. I've planned to return in July or August, bang in the middle of the monsoon. Such a healthy jungle despite all the deliberate attempts to burn down

Sriharsha Kundalgurki said...

First of all I would like to know the purpose of your trip to Nagarhole? If it is to use phone, drinking and chicken, this can be achieved in your city as well. I am just being straight forward here. You need to look into the nature and be with her to decompress from your usual routine. I have been visiting Nagarhole from past 8 years and its a very beautiful place. My humble request to anyone is not to make other visitors miserable prior their visit.

Rajesh Radhakrishnan said...

Dear Sriharsha, I read your comment with some amusement & annoyance too. You obviously haven't read the entire series on Nagarahole and also my other posts. Otherwise you wouldn't have made this totally irresponsible comment. I will reply point by point.
1. I happen to be a person concerned with wildlife and nature conservation so I take my short holidays only to wilderness spots in India. I NEVER take a trip to a city for my holiday.
2. I see your comprehension of English needs a little improvement. Otherwise you would have not thought that I can't survive without a cell phone. I mentioned that there was no network connection in case anyone dependent on their phone wanted to stay in Kalahalla FRH. We, as a family, switch off our mobiles when we are holidaying in the jungle.
3. None of us smoke, and we never carry alcohol to the jungle. If you thought beverages meant alcohol I can see how narrow minded you are!
4. What I eat is my business. If you prefer being a vegan go ahead but that does not mean others can't eat non veg when they want.

This particular post was meant to ensure that city slickers who come to smoke, drink and have a party don't plan a trip to Nagarahole.

Let me assure you my family and I are very concerned about the environment and wildlife not only in Nagarahole but also in other parts of India. If you read my blog from the beginning to the end you will know that.