Thursday 3 January 2008

Dudhwa 1

Disclaimer: The photographs may be hazy and pixelated. Kindly take into account moving vehicles, long range digi zoom shots and some ham handed photography!

The fact that my 2007 posts end at 13 makes me very happy. Since last year was pretty good, and this year looks increasingly less likely to be so (already!), I will continue to rave about 2007.

Going to a forest and back is like living two separate lives, and one will always make you feel guilty of being unfaithful to the other. Which one you feel guilty about depends on the kind of person you are.In the forest, yes you find yourself and stuff like that. Primarily because all that there is out there is just you. The animals do not expect or judge or assume. Wilderness strips you off all your pretenses, intentional or otherwise.

Dudhwa National Park was going to be my wannabe hippie/ascetic venture. The place was cut off from civilization. No electricity, cell phone range, Internet or newspapers. Why not go all the way and cut off some materialistic bonds as well? So I started leaving out things while packing. Books! Music? Mascara? Earrings? Watch? Well the Rhinos aren't going to give a damn I thought defensively pushing away the tube of gloss. Only parental pressure forced me to carry a cell phone till Lucknow! Armed instead with every conceivable hook, clip and band for my camera, binocs, backpack and sleeping bag, I felt cool and prepared walking along hands free, never mind the 20kgs or more strapped to my back, front and side.

Worms wriggle, snails crawl, the Indian Railways beat them all. The train was 5 hours late making sightseeing in the city impossible, but Lucknow station looked enchanting at night.

Even though I glimpsed the city briefly, it gave an impression of cleanliness and gentle decadence. A sort of rusted, regal beauty.

Another 5 hrs of bus travel early next morning and we finally reached Dudhwa.It felt like stepping into a sanitized dome. The unfolding view pulled your head up in amazement at the tall tree trunks. A neat Sal forest of grey barks, with sunlight filtering through dark green leaves. Heavy condensed air snaked eerily in strips across the narrow path.

The chilly air maliciously explored your body, creeping through thermals, 2 layers of clothing and settling bitingly on the skin. As my breath hung in the air, I tried in vain to blow smoke rings before realizing the smoke has to be in you first. Dudhwa National Park is situated on the Indo-Nepal border in the Lakhimpur-Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh. The Mohana River flowing along the Indo-Nepal border constitutes the northern boundary of the Park whilst the Southern boundary is formed by the river Suheli. The Kishanpur Sanctuary lies in the Lakhimpur-Kheri and Shahajahanpur districts in Uttar Pradesh.