DRIVE TO CORBETT: Camp Corbett, Kaladhungi. The “worst journey ever” was how Julia described it! Through large industrial areas processing sugar cane with numerous lorries and frequent minor accidents. We stopped for breakfast at restaurant with a green garden and nursery owned by a famous Indian film producer. Breakfast was fresh grape and orange juice ,vegetable pakora( best ever) and vegetable cutlet. The famous film producer couldn’t stop talking but we left eventually. Arrived Camp Corbett at 2pm, a lovely camp with individual huts in the garden, simple but spotlessly clean. We received a great welcome from naturalist Mr Ghosh. At lunch we met Chris who had been coming for 12 years and Mrs Annan, who owned Camp Corbett. Mr Ghosh took us on a three hour walk in the jungle, Julia, on the constant lookout for a tiger, was thrilled to see a pile of tiger dung in the middle of the path, alas no tiger. Mr Ghosh was constantly talking about the bird and wild life , advising us to stand our ground by a tree if a tiger appeared. It would see us long before we would see him or her. If a wild elephant appeared to run for our lives. He then told us the story of the wildlife photographer who had disappeared in the bush. When his camera was recovered the last photograph was of a tiger’s jaw filling the lens.
The area around here is very lush and appears much more prosperous. There is little litter and local people seem better dressed, with brick houses not mud huts. It seems much better cared for. Birds seen -Nitejar, Peacock, Blue kingfisher, green heron, eagle, magpie, parakeets. racket-tailed drongo, monkeys, tiger dung, a red breasted something , a group of birds likened to babbling women., bulbulls.
Up at 5:15, leaving at 5:30 to drive to Corbett National Park. We were sat in the back of the an ancient open jeep for the whole journey and it was freezing! We drove round the park, spotting three sets of fresh tiger pug marks, a female. Then tiger dung with hair and bone remnants. Lots of deer, Spotted , Samba, vultures, kingfishers, hornbills, storks black and white necked, langur monkeys. We darted here and there looking for tigers to no avail. An elephant ride for two hours through thick forest, brought us much closer to the wild life. How quietly these majestic animals move, almost silent whereas we thrash about making a cacophony of sound in our efforts to move through the jungle. We drove back at the end of a great day to freeze once more in the back of the jeep!
A short walk to the river and island with Chris, where we saw very fresh wild elephant tracks and dung then back for breakfast. We set off to Trek to Powalgarah Rest Camp-a walk of 15 miles through thick forest, endlessly up and down and over streams. Julia was exhausted at the end arriving 5:30pm. The Rest house was very basic but had electricity and cold running water, amazingly. The roast pork cooked on an open fire was delicious and the boys produced a endless supply freshly cooked chipattis from the tandoor. I think we had 20 each. Mr Ghosh sat and chatted all evening telling us of his life and India. The Rest Houses were scattered throughout the region to provide accommodation for travelling officials, tax collectors and the like.
We were awake at 5:30 and supplied with hot water and tea, after breakfast we left at 8:50 for Sitabani. A great two and half hour walk through a much wetter jungle, with clear babbling streams, flowers and foliage. Crossing the river was , socks and shoes off , paddle across in freezing melt water from the Himalayas, dry off, socks and shoes back on until the next crossing, As well as Mr Ghosh we were accompanied by a local guide to whom Mr Ghosh chatted in the local dialect. The walk was punctuated with frequent stops to spot birds and listen to the songs. We arrived at 11:30 am . The Blue rest house was set on a hillside over looking a valley and stream. An idyllic situation with lovely view toward Himalayan foothills. Lunch cooked by the boys consisted of egg curry, dhal and chipattis. The food was cooked fresh and always wonderful . In the afternoon a steep climb up the peak behind rest house and then back a long way round over many streams to arrive back at rest house to find another official had come to stay. Supper was soup, minced lamb curry with peas , dhal, pepper curry, potatoes and chipattis. Mr Ghosh sat and chatted with us occasionally going to speak to the boys. Well not boys but young men who did all the work, cooking and setting up camp, arriving by jeep having taken the long way round while we walked through the jungle.
After breakfast we dove back to Camp Corbett through neat villages and countryside where there was always someone at work in the fields or walking along the road barefoot. Children smiled and waved often dressed in their blue school uniforms. After some tea, a shower and chatting to Mrs Annan we set off in the car to Nainital. An incredible journey up with fantastic views . They were digging up the side of the road to lay Fibre Optics, bypassing the old technology of a copper cabling, for broadband. The journey up was punctuated with tight hairpins corners and sheer drops. I think it was distance of about 30km, climbing from around 300m to 2000m above sea level. Jim Corbett, the naturalist after whom the Corbett reserve is named, lived in Kaladhungi. He served on the town council in Nainital and would walk the whole distance for the weekly meeting in the morning returning home on foot at night. We were dropped above Nainital and then walked 14 km to Pangot , a hill station. We stayed in a superb large tent with proper beds, electricity, ensuite bathroom with flush loo ,shower and basin. In the evening we strolled with Mr Ghosh through the village, little litter, neat and tidy and well cared for. A new house was being built for Mrs Annan’s daughter. Supper and chatted to Mrs Annan’s daughter in law. The night was cold and crisp being so high but snuggling under a mountain of blankets we slept well.
Mr Ghosh not too well and didn’t eat breakfast but he was as bright and breezy as ever. We visited a forest house and viewpoint to see the Himalayas and Trishul . Then walked to a waterfall but no water, where we visited an old temple and brought back some himalayan pine cones. Returning to camp to pack we dropped off Nen Singh and Mr Ghosh before arriving at Claridges Nainital retreat. The hotel has a raffish charm but the room smells of moth balls and the monkeys abound. Nainital has a different architecture, with houses clinging to the hillside roofed in tin. We bought some sweets for Mr Ghosh and the staff back home. After some sightseeing we drove to two other lakes.The whole area looked fertile and more prosperous, after tea in a cafe, we ate a chinese meal at the hotel.
Robs birthday, to celebrate we walked up to Cheena peak for the view. It is the highest peak around Nainital at 2615m. Sadly very cloudy and no view that day save down over Nainital. There are 50-60 schools in Nainital, with children coming from all over india. We walk back down through the little alleys ways between the houses, engaging in conversations about cricket. All the children were mad about it and knew more names of the English team than we did. Nainital had a large central flat pitch for cricket and a broad thoroughfare. People strolled up and down, it dawned on us that we were the odd ones out. Yet there was an English bookshop where we bought a Jim Corbett book.
We drove back to Camp Corbett to arrive in time for beer with Mr Ghosh, Chris and Mr Annan. He and his wife established this Camp settling here after working round the world. He was originally from Pakistan while Mrs Anna was Indian. Interesting lives and now the family was running Pangot as well. Mrs Annan arrived back from Delhi have been shopping for the day! It is a drive of some eight hours each way yet it was a normal event in their lives. Mr Ghosh gave Rob a Tiger Pug brass ash tray as a birthday present.
Mr Ghosh’s knowledge of the birds especially was encyclopaedic yet he modestly said he was just learning. He has made our whole trip a wonderful experience.
Categorised in: Trip Reports
This post was written by Vanghat Admin