Kyari Syat Camp, Jim Corbett National Park
Camping near the Jim Corbett National Park, going on a night trek inside the famous jungle (which had inspired so many authors to write tales of different maneaters) , doing some adventure bit like a day long moderate trek , climbing trees – I guess this all sounded so much fun to us just by the mere mention of it.
On 29th Dec 2015, four of us bundled into a Toyota SUV and started off to welcome the New Year in the jungles of Jim Corbett National Park. Our destination was a campsite set up by Wildrift Adventures in the village of Syat that borders the National Park. This place was a feeble network zone and it had been quite a task connecting with the camp people for directions when we were about to reach the place and it was already getting dark.
It was a chilly December night and a roaring bonfire and a hot dinner sprung us back to life. Furthermore, the mention of a leopard frequenting the camp outskirts added to the excitement that we had begun to feel! There was jungle all around us and lanterns eerily lit up the narrow pathways in between the tall grass and bushes in the campsite.
We began the last day of the year by doing some physical activities that the camp offered. Later in the day, a crowd comprising local villagers visited the campsite to participate in the New Year celebrations. The 4 of us escaped the evening hullabaloo by going on a short trek to a nearby village.
Trek to the Sunset Point
What added to the beautiful sunset was the sight of peacocks flying off short cliffs and into the shallow valley. We walked through tomato fields and higher up we stopped near a marigold field where the residents of the house on top graciously offered us tea. The trek back was a tad difficult as we came back through the forest area. There were steep inclines and descents and the growing darkness added to the thrill of walking through the forest famous for its tigers!
Some cooking style we learned during our Camping
The festivities were in full swing at the camp with music and dance performances. Our fabulous cook Tiwariji started preparing his special ‘Mud Roast Chicken’. He wrapped the marinated chicken in leaves and covered the leaves with wet mud. Then he buried the chicken underneath the bonfire that was being built. A couple of hours later it was done and taken out from the ash. The piping hot chicken looked so sinfully tempting that Tiwariji had to carve and cut it at the bonfire and distribute it right then and there!
Second day Trek
The next morning two of us went on a trek with a guide and took a packed lunch from the camp kitchen. The initial 3 hours was a steep uphill climbing which took all the energy that we had preserved for the day. But we did get to capture some perfect landscapes, ridges, and beautiful birds on the way. The next 3 hours were a decent downhill trek which was pretty much easier.
There was a cute house (and surprisingly only one house) at the top of the Hill where we took some rest and has home made Chai (Tea). It was refreshing enough as it was a bit different green tea which i had never tasted before.
We were back at the camp at 5pm and were just in time for tea and cookies. There was a small group left at the camp by now. We all sat around the bonfire as an avid reader of Jim Corbett books entertained us with stories about maneaters and the camp staff added to those tales of the past.
Hunt for the Leopard – Night Adventure
We had been planning to on a night trek and got to know that one of the kitchen boys had come across the leopard while bringing groceries from the village. He had been on his bike and after this encounter had refused to go back to the village. The guides suggested that maybe we should start for the trek as we might be able to spot the leopard if we were lucky.
Just as this discussion was going on, we heard a lot of commotion and sounds that seemed to be coming from a lone house on a hill slope around ¾ km above the camp site. We heard a lot of dogs barking frantically and this was followed by the whining and painful cries of an animal! It seemed as if one of the dogs was hurt or dying and was crying out in pain. As suddenly as it had started, the commotion ceased and there was silence again.
Our guide decided to change the track and move towards the path near the house above. With pounding hearts, we followed the guide and half expected the leopard to come charging at us from around the bend ahead! We had been warned neither to talk nor to switch on our lights till instructed otherwise.
By the time we reached the path near the house, all was quiet and we did not see any leopard or dog.The guide continued up ahead into the forest and soon we were off the track and into the dense shrubbery.
For quite some time we had to crawl on our knees and move at snail’s pace as there was very dense lantana above us. The thorny weed tore at our clothes and scraped our skin. Finally we were able to get up and found ourselves on a very narrow path with the hill on one side and a dark ravine on the other side.
We treaded carefully in a single file and at one place we crossed a rock that had splashes of blood that were a few days old. There were fallen leaves with dried blood on them as this was probably the sight of an old kill.
At one point, the guide made us sit down in silence and gradually our hearing became attuned to the sounds of the forest. We were able to make out the outlines of the hills against the faint skies and dim stars. We felt one with nature for those few minutes and marveled at how we were an insignificant speck in the vastness of the forest!
We reached the campsite at around dinner time. Those of us who had been cowering in fear a little while back were the first ones to try to make leopard calls now! It is funny what the safety of a campfire can do to lift the human spirit.
NEW YEAR BEGINS!
The next morning, we had our last hearty breakfast and bade the wonderful camp staff goodbye as we started for Delhi. We had welcomed the New Year in the jungle and were ready to face it in the city now.
I believe that each of our travel should be more about the journey and the unexpected moments that happens along the travel that makes it more interesting. It should always be fun filled like never before and makes us learn something new.
NEXT SUGGESTED READING: HOLY LAND ISRAEL