Bandhavgarh National Park!!
I, nah.. we were finally going to the tiger reserve!
Oh yes!! We were going far far away from the madding crowd and that constantly ringing mobile phone!
It was decided on one cool grey day, the sort of day where you don't feel like getting out of bed.. where all you want is a personal genie service and to have a day full of naps...and each nap filled with a beautiful magical dream!!
Have you experienced those days?? I have....and well it was on one such day, P and I finally decided we will goto the Bandhavgarh national park with a one and a half year old baby D in tow no less!!
I had been hankering and pleading and pouting long enough about wanting to go on a safari.. to get to click some wild animals...and relax in the lap of nature! Nope..I am not a pro. Infact I was a safari virgin but the stories (and pictures) I had seen of my friends travels had already got me dreaming and capturing tigers (Hello!! Only on the camera..Don't call the PETA,yet ) ;) So I hope you can imagine my joy when we finally got the details sorted out and set off on what seemed like my Big Jungle Adventure!! :D
Its a stone throw away from Raipur...and the drive there was nothing short of drama!! Beautiful hills on both sides on the road rolled ....and so did the clouds above us!! After a rather jerky and scary drive through the buffer zone at 3 am in the morning, all the while hoping against hope to get a glimpse of some majestic yellow eyes burning bright in the night! But nah... no such luck, yet (or so I thought).
Soon we found ourselves cosily settling into the wonderful tree house of Pugdundee Safaris.
A tranquil and quaint little shelter lined on both sides by rustic lanterns...And up up up the stairs we went to an amazingly rustic tree house!! Think wood. ..and wispy white curtains...and bright saffron hues! All of my fave combinations under one charming little rustic roof!! Four poster bed made of tree trunks, a huge chunk of tree as a centre table... a cute sitting area made of pretty saffron couches that opened onto a lovely balcony overlooking the entire forest, even the bathroom door was of wood!
The next day we immersed ourselves in the beauty of the forest...I don't think I can do justice to what I felt through my words...Let me just say what I experienced was nothing short of happy oxymorons...
I felt oh so liberated(by the surroundings)...and yet hemmed in (by myself), incredibly free of longing..yet longed and longed for more of these peaceful days ..I felt disconnected with the world, yet I had never been more connected with it before....I was a constant ball of anticipation...of contradictions...I was at peace, yet I was not... It was a sort of ferocious, quiet beauty, the sort that wouldn't let you admire it. The sort of beauty that always hurt. But I loved it nonetheless.
We loved walking to the water holes and spending time on our own,trekking here and there to capture the odd venomous asp and the gorgeous lotus buds...the fallen leaves of the Palash tree (or the Flame of forest) carpeting the forest.. the majestic Sal trees swaying in the breeze...the blue blue skies and the heavy fragrance of Mahua trees...The broken ladders..and the fallen sign posts...the odd chameleon lazily sunning itself on a picket fence and the gorgeous pool of water lilies...We showed them all to baby D ...and our tired ,greenery starved eyes desperately soaked in the verdant,pure, almost- seductive beauty of it..
And then came the afternoon of the safari...!!
Ahh.... the ride in the open jeep, the boots I wore...P's excitement matching mine, D's incredulity at her parents behavior ...even the clips she wore in her hair that day, everything is still etched fresh in my memory!!
Finally I could say.... Not a Safari Virgin anymore!! ;) ;)
The safari was nothing short of magic, my camera matched the beats of my heart..the quiet of the jungle..the various noises of it... the glare of the Langurs sitting anywhere and everywhere on the roads, literally mocking us...posing for us and sometimes even hiding from us their precious little ones...we were greeted by many a dancing peacocks..and let me tell you this, there is no sight more beautiful and "hopeful" than a peacock fanning out its deep cyan feathers as an answer to the thunders of a rolling grey sky!
Trust me, there simply isn't.
We caught sight of the rare four horned antelope..and the scary hyena...the wild dogs or dholes and the boars.... we saw Black Ibis and the Egret, the White breasted Kingfisher to the Blue bearded Bee Eater..we saw them all!! We loved seeing them all, we were thrilled at capturing them too, but the Big Cat eluded us....
It kept on eluding us for the better part of the trip..But then suddenly the whole jungle went quiet....a kind of weird queer eerie quiet...the lull before the storm kind of quiet...all the jeeps stopped. all the talking came to a screeching halt at one gesture from the guides...out came all the Night vision goggles and my ultra zoom lens....and we waited. Still and Silent. Waiting for him/her to show...to give us a sign..to please please let us capture it!!
But even after a long wait, and loads of gesticulating and zooming in through the jungle to where the guide insisted the tiger lay, I couldn't see anything except some long stripes that may or may not have been the tiger!! Disappointed we returned..but not any less happy.
For me, the trip ended on a high note..I was thrilled with the adventure..Sleeping on a tree house, seeing wild animals up close..trekking...and yes, I forgot to mention, I even held a snake!!! Yikes... It was totally gross and slimy...but hey, points for holding it please!! :D
But more than the adventure I was happy about what I found out about myself...
I didn't need the comfort of 5 star luxury...I didn't feel the need for an LBD or for killer heels..I was ok with being disconnected from the outside world..I was fine without the city's white noise...because somewhere in this trip, I found myself, again. The part that I had lost in the pace of growing up and becoming an adult... I found that innocent gullible part of me...and for once, I actually didn't miss the"always-knows-what-to-do" ,practical S!! I loved that I am simple in my heart.....that all it takes to make me happy is a dancing peacock and my fave people in the world smiling by my side..
That I didn't "need" the Big Cat, coz for me every animal I saw was a Big Cat!!
As we were on our way, this is what we heard....
"the tigress and her three cubs crossed the buffer zone , very very casually, in broad daylight just 10 mins before we passed it" ..... and all I could think is ..."Its a sign that my wild life love story isn't over yet.... that it is a sign from the jungle to call me back......