I am obsessed with being on time...rather,with being ahead of time. The morning started as expected. The flight was scheduled at 6:20 and I left from my house at 3:15...well ahead of time! As I sat in the car, I felt I was missing something. What was it? I had checked my packing twice already. On my way, the feeling of missing something continued. As my eye started closing, I realized it was a cup of ghar ki chai. I am an addict. I can't function without a morning cup of chai. I kept thinking about tea and kept yawning.
I entered the airport and the word "mocha" caught my attention. Leaving everything aside, I ordered a cup of coffee. Coffee or tea is like my life saver drug. At last....my brain started functioning again!!”.
After completing the check in formalities, I wanted to check in on Facebook (what's the point of traveling if the world doesn't know!!!!). I couldn't find the location I was traveling to on Facebook. What a waste. I gave up and started listening to a conversation by two old women in their late 80s. They were playing a game. As soon as they heard the sound of a plane, they guessed if it is taking off or landing. I was just reminded - as we become old, we become a child...the innocence returns. I am slowly slowly getting there.
I was hungry at 5am and I ate. I was hungry again after boarding the flight at 6am. I ordered a sandwich! The rest of the flight to Bangalore can be summed up in one happy word - nap. By the time
I opened my eyes, we had touched down in Bangalore. The usual height of impatience was then exhibited...the plane landed and everyone jumped towards the gate. It's as if the plane was never going to take off again if you didn’t get down.
My friend had popped an airsickness pill before she started the journey. At the airport while we were waiting for the luggage, she asked "will you have penis?" She was sloshed due to the after affects of the medicine, which makes you drowsy. A few minutes later, while waiting for the cab, I realized she was offering me peanuts.
We boarded the cab from Bangalore to Kabini. You can book a cab via bookcab.com and it costs approximately Rs.6,000 one way and you pay toll tax thrice which is approx 200 rupees.. The cheaper way to reach Kabini is if you take a bus from Satellite Bus Stand just outside the airport for Mysore. From Mysore the cab would charge 2500-3000 one way. It takes about 6 hours from Bangalore to reach Kabini depending on the traffic. The drive from Bangalore to Kabini is breathtaking. Both sides of the road have green belts. To top it all, the weather is very beautiful. It's never too sunny in Bangalore and the weather is mostly pleasant at the outskirts. I was hungry again...I think I need to be dewormed!
We stopped at A2B which is on the Bangalore Mysore Road. The North Indian in me woke up in South India. We ordered raj kachori...don't try North Indian food here! The dosa at this place is yummy. It is a well-timed stopover in case your bladder is giving up en route to Kabini. The driver showed us some nice places on the way. He showed us Ramgarh where the legendary Hindi movie “Sholay” was shot. Further up was a place called Channapatna where wooden toys are made. The driver was playing music from the 90s and nostalgia struck me...I remembered all my long lost boyfriends.
Our country still uses human GPS. The driver stopped couple of times to ask the way. We reached Kabini at around 4pm. I have never stayed in the middle of a jungle before......far away from civilization. It's truly an amazing experience. We stayed at The Bison resort. The owner is wildlife photographer! The best part for an animal lover like me was to know that they have 30 cats and 2 stray dogs they take care of. We had booked a luxury tent which was by the river. The tariff per night is on their website. Just behind the river is a dense forest where lots of beautiful creatures reside. People have spotted blank Panther, leopards, elephant to name a few. The resort staff suggested that the best time to do the safari is in the evening when you see more animals. They do it twice a day. One is at 6am in the morning and the other is at 4pm. The gates for the safari shut at 6pm.
It's an amazing experience to sit near the river with a glass of wine. The ripples in the water are more intoxicating than the alcohol. The food at the resort is very interesting. They made some a banana chips for us which were finger licking. After supper, we were very tried and decided to call it at day at 10pm. We had a guest who visited us at 11pm. We could hear the majestic little creature sitting in front of our bed gobbling fun flips. I thought I am hallucinating. It was a black cat. She sneaked in from a tiny opening in our tents. Not her fault! The resort people had warned us not to have food in the tents but rules are meant to be broken. And we had also left the tent open inviting creatures to come in and visit us! We were as scared as she was to see humans this side of the
world. We managed to get her out and I believe she got so attracted by the sight of pretty humans that she returned again after one hour. We finally zipped the tent and kept the fun flips packet outside the tent for her to gobble all night! The entire night there was music from the wild. We could hear toads calling us the entire night. Wake up call was in the morning by a Rooster.
The next day…
We got up at 5:30 a.m. and the view from our tent was nothing less than heaven. We could see birds bathing and playing with each other. Nature is so perfect. Everything! The colors and shapes
and the sound of it. It's like falling in love. The air was magical. The magical massage on your face would calm you down immediately. I sat on the chair looking at the river for hours. At around 7am, we went for a village walk, lush green fields on both sides. Such a sight is very rare in the city.
The resort has a beautiful pool. It's lush pool. There are green fields surrounding the pool and there is a lake just opposite to it. We sat in the pool and had few glasses of wine. The food at the resort is a
combination of South Indian, North Indian and continental. The North Indian satisfied my taste buds and reminded me of home cooked food. The staff at the resort is very friendly. They have got around 30 cats and two dogs. They are all loved and looked after by the resort owner Shaaz Jung. You would
be greeted by Thomas (male dog) and puppy(female dog) just at the entrance of the resort.
I have never done a jungle safari before. I did one in Sariska, Rajasthan but that was as a child. The only animal we spotted that time was a Blue Bull (popularly called Nelgai in Hindi) though we did hear roars of tiger couple of times.
There are two kinds of safari you can do- a boat safari and a jeep or a bus safari. The resort suggested we do the evening safari because there is more possibility of spotting animals in the evening as they return to their hiding spots after calling it a day. We went for the safari at 4pm by the bus organized by the resort. We were around ten of us and all of us had the same childlike excitement to spot the wild in the forest. I have not seen a more pretty sight ever in my life. The air was magical. It's thick green forest and you know there are beings and activity happening in the forest every minute. The tigress had recently delivered cubs and our guide Shaaz Jung (the owner of The Bison) showed us the pug marks. We spotted a wild squirrel which was around 12 inches and was dancing between
trees. We lost sight of her as she jumped from one tree to the other and got lost in the thick forest. There are around 70 tigers in the forest. Vikrant (The Manager at The Bison) mentioned it's difficult to count leopards because they are secretive about their hide outs and movement.
Deer are visible walking in herds every half a kilometer. Almost every group has one member with antlers. They looked at us in amazement as much as their innocent look amazed us. We spotted wild boar grazing grass and lost in their own world, as if eating was the only occupation and desire they had in life. How blessed these creatures are if you compare them with us. We have so many desires and yet we are never satisfied. Our guide had asked us to maintain silence to let the animals experience the wild without getting disturbed. We stopped at quite a few places. Sitting quietly waiting for just a glimpse of the wild cats. Shaaz mentioned that whenever there is a leopard near by, the langurs start shouting. We passed by a bunch of langurs playing on the trees. Our guide was quick to notice the sudden strange noises the langurs starred making. It was a call that a wild cat is nearby. We reversed our bus and stood silently for few seconds and the next moment was the most wonderful moment of the entire trip. A beautiful wild cat (a leopard) came out growling and looking around. Everybody became a photographer that moment and started capturing the moment we all have been waiting for. She (looking at her beauty, I would like to believe she is a she!) crossed the passage and got lost in the wild again. We waited for few minutes to see if she will return. We spotted the Sambar a little ahead. No, not what you eat in South India with a Dosa! This a large deer.
The last stop was the sunset point near the lake where Shaaz took us hoping we might spot a tiger. His excitement and efforts to make us experience the wild was amazing! We stopped our bus there for a couple of minutes and viewed the animals at the other side of the lake. We spotted the bison (that’s when I realized a Bison is an animal and that’s how the resort got its name) which is a Beautiful animal
Shaaz heard the call again. I could see the excitement of people in the bus. The driver quickly took us to the other side of the river and we waited to catch the glimpse of the wild cat. Shaaz mentioned he is sure the cat is around and maybe sleeping in the nearby bushes. We started getting back to the resort since the gates of the safari shuts at 6 and it had already started raining. It was cold. If you are traveling during the monsoons, it's best to carry some warm clothes or a light jacket. By the time we reached the resort, we could feel the hunger pangs. For supper, we had pakoras and masala peanuts with a cup of hot tea. The resort had also organized a bonfire in the green field.
This experience has been totally magical for me. You are far away from civilization and the chaos of city life. Not a single stressful thought would cross your mind ever. You are just too lost in the wild. We took a nap for an hour because we were exhausted and the dinner was served at 830pm. We called it a day at ten.
Last day in the wild…
I got up to the sound of a rooster at 4am. He continued his morning alarm till he ensured I was out of bed. He was given company by his fellow roosters from other fields nearby. There was a rhythm. Kabini has something about its air. I experience a similar calmness earlier during my stay in Bhutan. You are at peace. You are relaxed. I sat looking at the river and meditated with open eyes. I was looking at the forest at the other side of the river and wondered about the morning rituals of the wild life.
The resort organizes a tribal village walk and bird watching. I decided to explore the surrounding area on a bike. Madhav, their staff, accompanied me on this wanderlust. He was riding near the forest area. It was a lovely ride! I saw two peacocks walking on the grass. A little further up we were lucky to catch a glimpse of two baby elephants bathing in a water pond. I looked at the sky which was shining with shades of grey and light blue. What a marvelous sight! On our way back to the resort, I asked Madhav to stop at one of the green fields to click pictures. This was a field of cotton. It's amazing to see such beautiful green cover when you live in a city. It's really important to take such breaks and surrender yourself to the wonders of nature. We had breakfast and took a power nap.
Life in the wild is easy. Eat sleep and repeat. When in Rome, be Roman. And that's what we did. Eat and sleep! After our slumber, we decided to go for a coracle boat ride on river Cauvery. It's a round boat with a capacity of four people. We were four and our boatman was a local from the village. He was an alien to us as much as we were aliens to him. He didn't know Hindi or English and we didn't know his local language. When we were half way to the other side of the river, we told him to take a turn and come back. He smiled and continued boating. Finally we used sign language and explained him we would like to go back to the resort. We finished lunch at 2pm. We were the first ones to arrive for breakfast, dinner or lunch. Call it being punctual or call it being hoggers.
The wild was calling. It was constantly calling me. The urge to go back to the wild again was there. I decided to go for the boat safari, which starts at 3. Vikrant dropped us at the Jungle Lodge Resort
which is a common point for boat safaris. We commenced our boat ride at around 3:45pm. It was a speed boat and we were around 12. We had two chirpy kids on Board. One was a chirpy little girl from Germany and the other was a 10 year old boy from Bangalore. Our safari this time was led by our Resort Manager Vikrant. Vikrant was an amazing host. I believe if he can host us, he can host anyone. We had a complete list of FAQ for him every hour and he patiently answered our questions and helped us most of the times.
We spotted the migratory bird, which comes all the way from Scotland called Aureloa. We noticed the bird while it was hunting a fish in the water. What a majestic bird! Imagine flying all the way from Europe. The bird is lucky. I wish I was a bird to fly to Europe free of cost! We saw dead trees in the middle of the river, which are used by birds to make nests. The water level is approximately 110 feet. It dries up during summers. So we could see remains of some trees in the river. A lot of birds have made nests. We noticed birds with open wings sitting on tree branches. Our guide told us that these birds hunt the prey like submarines. They sit on the branch to dry their feathers. Our guide took us toward the Kerala border and what was next was nothing less than amazing. Two Tuskers were
grazing the grass and didn't notice us. We stood there for 30 seconds and left them happily. The entire safari lasted 2 hours. I will never forget this experience. We were told that Kabini is number 5 in the world for wildlife safaris. It is a hidden jewel of India. The feeling of getting back to civilization was sinking in. I missed Internet on the first day and I was dreading getting back to becoming a slave of
technology the next day.
I think the forest is calling me again. Where will I head this time?