Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rajaji National Park –Kaudiyala – Devprayag

12th April 2008: Rajaji National Park

It was 12th of April 2008; we (Me, my wife and my sister-in-law) started from Vasundhara Enclave, Delhi for Rajaji National Park, Chilla at around 4:00 AM. The Road to take is NH58 which will cross Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, and Haridwar. Actually once you reach Haridwar you need to take a turn for Chilla. It took us around 5:30 hours to reach the GMVN Guest house, Chilla at Rajaji National Park. So we were there by round 9:30 AM.
If you are going to Rajaji the best place to stay is the GMVN guest house at Chilla. They have Gujjar Huts or Normal Rooms (A/C also available). We stayed in one of the huts. There are 6 of them. The area is great, there is a Hydro-electric plant nearby with is also a dam. The river Ganga also suppose to flowing pass the guest house but it has dried up, (this means chances of wildlife visiting the area is less). The Hut was pretty nice. I would surely recommend it. But don’t expect the world.
You can book rooms of GMVN guest house through net. Web site: www.gmvnl.com
Once we checked in we asked about the safari. We were told we have missed the morning safari so we can only go in the evening safari. So we took a leisurely drive by the dam. It was also the road that leads to Rishikesh. We took a dirt road going pass our guest house to survey the area. It was a pretty beautiful sight. Pristine environment and water flowing by. This refreshes your body and mind.
About Rajaji National Park: Three sanctuaries in the Uttaranchal, Shivaliks - Rajaji, Motichur and Chila were amalgamated into a large protected area and named Rajaji National Park in the year 1983 after the famous freedom fighter Late Sri C. Rajgopalachari; popularly known as "Rajaji".
After taking our lunch and some rest we got ready for our safari around 4:00 PM. Bad news is that as one of the safari elephants had died so elephant safari is discontinued for the time being currently at Rajaji National Park. So we took the jeep safari. Jeep safari costs Rs.700 per jeep, around 6 persons can be accommodated. You have to pay a vehicle charge of Rs.100 for jeep, Rs.100 for guide and Rs.40 per head. So our total cost was Rs.920. (A little information here; if you have a jeep type vehicle you can use that for your safari and you will only need a guide and entry fees. You have to pay Rs.100 for your vehicle anyway if you are using the road from Haridwar to Chilla.)
We anticipation we entered the park and in a minutes’ time we saw a man on foot running towards the jeep, he said there were elephants there and surely there was a herd of elephants there going about its natural duties; EATING . After observing them for about 5-10 minutes we entered the forest and we able to spot the usual suspects the peacocks, the spotted deers, the sambar deers. We also spotted a few wild fowls. It was strange to hear a cock crowing in the forest. We were unlucky not to spot any barking deer or a marlet or other animals. What is worth mentioning is unlike other National Parks that I have visited; in Rajaji they don’t confine the safari within a stipulated area. You are given a tour of the whole park. It takes around 3 hours to go around the park without much stoppage. Once a river (Ganga) used to flow through the forest; but now its all dry and the safari passes through the dry river bed and you can have a 360 degree view of the park. It’s a spectacular sight.
After the safari we decided to go to the Ghat at Har-ki-Pairi so we can catch the evening Arati which is a great affair. Sadly we missed it as we were late. We just strolled around in the ghat and saw people taking a dip in the Ganges. Then we headed back to our car as we were advised to reach the Guest House before 8:30 PM. Me and my driving, I backed up and car tyre got stuck on a tree that was cut. We had to get some local help to get it out. After this we got further delayed due to traffic. It was around 8:45 when we enter the stretch for Chilla. 2 policemen asked us to be careful and said that we were taking a risk. It was then I remembered I read that elephants are seen at night on that road. I am not sure if I wanted to see them or not. I guess I didn’t want to encounter them but deep inside I was thrilled about the prospect.
We crossed the line and entered the 8 km stretch. There is a saying in Bengali “Jekane Baagher bhoi, sekhanei sonday hoi” which means where there is a possibility of encountering the tiger, dusk sets there. I hoped our car does not give up on us on that stretch. Firstly we saw a hare running confused seeing the light. The next five kilometers were uneventful. Around this time I noticed that there was a creature which looked like a tiger but was smaller. I had spots instead of stripes and seeing the light entered the bushes by the road. It was a leopard. My wife and sister-in-law actually saw it a few moments earlier. So they had a better view. I even though about taking a turn and point the headlight to on the bushes but decided against it; as it was satisfying enough to see such an elusive creature. We were thrilled and excited, and were looking even more intently. The rest of the journey to the GMVN guest house was uneventful. We ordered our dinner near out hut and spent nearly an hour discussing our luck. We were thrilled. 

13th April 2008: Kaudiyala & Devprayag

In the morning we again took the dirt road beside our guest house and enjoyed a little more by the river. Then, after breakfast we headed out for our next destination Kaudiyala at around 8:00 AM. We took the same road for the one we took for our leisure drive but only this time it was for a purpose. It was a pleasant drive by the channel and we reach Rishikesh in an hour’s time. We filled our car with gas (or petrol as we say in India) before we headed for the mountainous roads. This was my first mountain driving so I was pretty excited but also cautious. We took the liberty to stop at different points for photographic opportunity. On the way we saw an Italian Contingent with Ferraris. It was my first Ferrari sighting, was mightily impressed I must add. Due to landslides some of the stretch of roads were not in the best of shape so we had to go pretty slowly.
At around 11:00 AM we reached the Kaudiyala GMVN Guest House. It was situated in a fantastic place. There was a rapids just below the Guest House with a beach just about 200 meters away. On the opposite there was a camp for waiting for people who wanted to enjoy the thrill of nature. With mountains on all sides it was a spectacular view. We were told that for the day rafting was booked to the full so we can’t go today. So after checking in and lunch we decided to head for Devprayag, It was around 33 km away. The road was in fine shape on this stretch, and after an hour’s drive we reached out destination the meeting point of Bhagirathi and Alakananda rivers to form the mighty Ganges. This is one of the holiest of Hindu places. It’s a great site as the light green waters of Bhagirathi and the brownish green waters of Alakananda meet to form a mixture for the Ganges. My wife and sister-in-law went down near the river edge to have a feel of the flow of the mighty Bhagirathi. After spending around an hour and a half there we went at the point where the rivers meet known as “Sangam”. My wife collected Ganga water from that point for herself. We also enjoyed area and dipped your feet and hands in the icy waters for thrill and experience. After around half an hour we headed back to Kaudiyala. Reaching there we went to spend some time in the white sand beach near the guest house. Having had our fill we rested, had dinner and were very tired for anything else. We fell asleep.

14th April 2008
We were up early, got ready and were all excited for our Rafting adventure. After breakfast we checked out. We paid for Rafting. GMVN charges Rs.400 per person for tourist for one stretch. Let me assure you they have the best of guides.
We proceeded to Marine Drive which was our starting point. Its about 12 km from Kaudiyala. We gave the keys of our car to the GMVN driver who for a small fee agreed to drive the car to our ending point. That taken care of we got ready for our Rafting experience. We were fitted with life jackets, helmets and were given paddles. One of my biggest mistake was not to take the camera along as I thought that it will get wet. But it turned out that they have a waterproof bag with them in each raft for keeping of the valuables.
After the instructions our journey began. There were 7 of us on the raft, 3 of us and another family from Bombay. In the first 30-40 meters we put in use our training and after that to our surprise we were all asked to jump off the boat or will be pushed out. I jumped out and it was GREAT. We floated with the raft holding on to the life line. I tried to move away and was around 15-20 feet from the raft. I was thrown a line and came back to the raft. This was quite an experience but the best was yet to come. We then encountered our first rapids. We also got off the raft on the rapids itself. WOW. This took our fear away from the water and rapids completely and we started to enjoy the experience. We encounter more challenging rapids on our way to Shivpuri. Time to time we also got off and dipped ourselves in the Ganges. On reaching Shivpuri were preparing to get off. Our co-rafters prodded us to go upto Rishikesh though we were more than willing we were concerned about our car. We requested the GMVN driver if he can drive it up to the new ending point. Once that was settled we jumped in and headed for our next stretch. It was a thrilling experience. Some of the rapids we encountered were 3 blind mice, golf course, black money, club house, terminator, double trouble. One of them I presume the golf course was a scale 4 rapid. The 2nd most dangerous rapid in the Ganges. At a point we floated along with the raft for about 2 kilometers. At the end we were exhausted but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We waved goodbye to our co rafters and guide and headed for our drive back home to Delhi, all thrilled and lots of memories in this short trip.
Please note Rs.400 is for one stretch of rafting.
You can see the full album of our tour here.


At end of December 2007 we (me & my wife) decided to take a trip to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. It is about 175 kms from Delhi. We started early around 4:30 AM. This was my first highway driving so I was cautious at first but was pleasantly surprised by the standard of roads. Initially going at 100km/hr; I then speeded up to around 120-130km/hr.
The journey was enjoyable, my wife was my navigator. After driving for around 4 hours we reached Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. My cursed forgetfulness nature, I mistakenly left the car key in the car itself. So we got about to get help to open the door. People were very helpful and one of them got the car opened with another car key.
After all unwanted false start we entered the Sanctuary. The charges were Rs.75 per person, if I remember correctly. The transport within the sanctuary was cycle rickshaws. Our guide was the rickshaw driver himself.
The main attractions other than the different birds, local and migratory in the sanctuary are the Sambar Deer, the spotted deer and the python.
Our guide took us to an area where the pythons are generally seen but no luck. The pythons seemed to be having fun elsewhere. So we restarted again and began to enjoy the various birds that the Sanctuary had to offer.
We spotted a Blue Kingfisher as it was trying do, what else, but fish. Then we were pointed out a few Sambars in the fields. There was also a wild bore. We also spotted some migratory geese and herons. Surprising we found a lot of cows & buffalos. We were told that those belonged to the local villagers who break the boundary walls and get their cattle into the sanctuary for feeding. This gets the sanctuary wild life into unnecessary competition for food (grazing grass) with the cattle. We came to know that there were far more birds that used to populated the sanctuary at this time of the year earlier but due to climatic changes and interference from the villagers in the sanctuary their numbers have dwindled. The steps taken by the authorities were clearly not having the desired results. Nonetheless the numbers are still staggering.
As we moved along we saw a few turtles. Further down we spotted a Male Sambar deer with well grown antlers. I would say in the absence of any big predator these fellows would be the King of sanctuary. He was a handsome fellow.
There were quite a few lanes leading off from the main road in the Sanctuary. We got off and took a walk in one of these small lanes that went deep into the sanctuary (these were narrow not exactly fit for the rickshaws). Here we came across a fox (maybe it was jackal), I presume it was a young one. It was walking on the pathway itself. As we approached it, it lay down and just observed us. I clicked a few pictures, it got a little conscious initially, after that it just put its head down and ignored us. We also left it alone and walked further where we found a few more Sambars. both male & female.
We continued with our journey deep into the sanctuary and saw a few more residents namely a Kite (it was photographed by a lot foreigners with huge lens). We came across an owl. The poor chap was trying to get some sleep but was not having much luck with the commotion going on down under, we decided not to add to it and moved on. Here we saw a robin; it was of the Bangladeshi variety. It was pretty active and also a looker.

We were looking intently for a python, so we were taken deep into the sanctuary, were we walked in the woods but still the master predator of Bharatpur remained elusive. But the walk and the thrill alone was worth it. After walking for around one hour we trekked back to our rickshaw. We asked our guide to head back as we were also feeling hungry by now. As we were about to come out the oldest and the most experienced guide in the sanctuary told that he has spotted a python hiding (actually hibernating) behind the sanctuary office. We hurriedly went there and yes it was there all coiled up and comfortable, taking a nice nap. It was worth the wait. It was a beautiful creature.
After paying our guide his fees, Rs.450, we headed out for food, and reached Mathura after an hours’ drive. We tried our luck at the Mathura Pizza Hut but unfortunately we landed up in one of those rare all Vegetarian Pizza Hut. We decided to give it a miss and took another eatery that was serving non vegetarian stuff as well. After having our full we headed out for Delhi and after around 3 hours of driving reached our home, with a great day of enjoyment.

My full album is available here
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