Saturday, March 15, 2014

The End!!!

Overall this was a great trip but our travel agent, Compass India botched up way too many things and I wouldn't recommend going with them any more

Taking them out of the equation, this was a must see trip and of course the Kolkata visit at the end of the trip spending time with family and friends friends is always the icing on the cake.

The two wildlife sanctuaries were very different in all respects but both a must see. Tadoba is just beginning to gain popularity and the mammals are not shy or skittish yet, I am glad we went there before that happens.

Corbett is well established and due to various factors including terrain foliage, not to mention poaching the tigers are extremely hard to see. We were very fortunate to see a tiger and a perfect hunt sequence there. The area is beautiful with its varied landscape and warm and friendly people and well worth the trip.

A couple of observation about Compass India:

We first started with them in 2008, it was small family owned company and well managed, now it has grown quite big and the owner rarely gets involved the clients. They are also doing a lot of cost cutting resulting in lesser hotels, buying airline tickets last minute, not paying the resort owners in time etc. Yet we paid in full 30 days before departure date as requested.

We are looking at other agents for our next trip.

Observations about the flight from Chicago to New Delhi and return:

This is a non-stop flight on Air India around 14-16 hours. It is very taxing on ones's body, my knees and neck bothered me for well over a week both times. I suppose it is very convenient if you are traveling with small children to not have to wait at transit lounges but I personally would much rather have a break at around mid

Until Next Time

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Kolkata Time

Friday February 14:
We got ready and came upstairs around 8:00 am, we were shortly treated to toast with butter and jam, eggs over easy and great latte.

Typically coffee means latte here unless we specifically ask for black coffee with milk separately.

After discussing Sunday's get together with the caterers, went shopping in the morning followed by lunch at Zaranj, and visit Sudip's aunt (Bashi Pishi) in the afternoon.

Dinner courtesy of SIL

Saturday February 15:
Visiting relatives.
Started to rain at night and continued through the night until Sunday mid morning.

Sunday February 16
There is get together of about 25, at the house. All of which of course are my relatives. We had a great time although this caterer's cooking wasn't as good as the last one's was. 

Monday February 17 &
Tuesday February 18
More relative visiting, more eating and great conversations.

Wednesday February 19:
Had lunch a friend's house and visited for a while. Fantastic fish tikia and malpoa.

Stopped at Sudip's cousin house house for late tea and more delicious food.

Finally arrived home and was compelled to skip dinner.

Thursday February 20:
Today is Baruipur day. Baruipur takes about a couple of hours one way but well worth the trip. This place belongs to my uncle's family, a dentist who gave up his successful practice to become a gentleman farmer. He had a huge property and a beautiful bungalow that we looked forward to as a peaceful respite from the hustle bustle of Kolkata. Every time I come here I re live my great childhood memories.

We spend a wonderful day there, as usual ate a lot and also got to visit my youngest uncle who was recovering from a broken femur.

My cousin lives here with his family and all of them, including my newly married niece's husband are such a pleasure to spend time with

Friday February 21:
My niece brought radhaballavi with spicy potatoes. This is a type of fried flat bread stuffed with spicy lentils, one of my childhood faves.

Today's plans are to have lunch of shorse ilish (Hilsha fish in mustard sauce) with my cousin and his wife from across the street. My SIL, cooked the dish and was excellent. We chatted until about 4:00 PM and then left to do some last minute shopping and visiting one last relative. This was a person who played a key role in hubby getting into engineering school after he came back from Glasgow. I am glad we made contact, he (Bhaduda) was really happy to see us.

Back home, in time for another scrumptious home cooked meal.

Saturday February 22:
I did as much packing as possible before going upstairs for breakfast.

Tried to catchup with my blog after breakfast, In between gabbing and official discussions.

Had lunch of luchi and mangsa (goat meat), a tradition before leaving for the US. It appears that today is much warmer, maybe finally Kolkata will be out of lower than average temps and longer than average winter.

The plans are to leave at 3:45 local time. We left on time, there was very little traffic and we got there a bit too early. Luggage check in, immigration and security was smooth.

The flight left on time AB 321, seats 9A, 9B. Arrived at New Delhi on time. We had to go through security again but it was swift and efficient.

The flight to Chicago leaves at 2:00 AM not too bad an wait.

We boarded the plane Boeing 777 ER seats 18J and K, on time but waited at the gate for 2 hours, waiting for one of the connecting flights to arrive. I was fast asleep and have a vague recollection of taking off.

This flight keeps getting longer the more we take it. It is a very tiring flight and causes a number on the body.

We did get served three full meals, dinner, breakfast, and lunch during the flight, and finally arrived at O'Hare 7:30 am, just an hour late. Waited a long time for the luggage but breezed through customs and Immigrations and was able to catch the 8:20 am Wisconsin Coach Lines bus. 

Sanjit was waiting to pick us up at the Racine stop, shortly there after we were home. The weather was still cold and dreary but it was good to be home.

All in all it was great trip, time to start planning for our next one.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Corvette - Delhi - Kolkata

Left the resort at 7:30 am after a eggs and toast breakfast in our room. They also packed us a lunch including Kathi paratha amongst a couple of other items.

We were given a certificate verifying our tiger sighting.

This Riverview resort is an excellent place, the staff is extremely pleasant and ever helpful, highly recommended if visiting Corbett.

The return trip took us exactly 6 hours including picking up Gaurav from in front of India Gate.

He accompanied us to the airport, handed us our boarding passes, showing that we had prepaid for 5 kg of extra luggage. The standard allowed is 15 kg per ticket.

We were on Indigo flight # 6E 203. We went through luggage check in and security and soon boarded our flight, which was Airbus 320, seats 4E 4F.

The flight was basically smooth and landed slightly ahead of schedule around 7:30 PM. We landed at terminal 1, there was no sign of my brother. I finally called him and it turned out he was standing in front of terminal 3, why does this not surprise me!!!

We arrived at my ancestral home without any incident and was welcomed by my sister in law with her warm hospitality and scrumptious cooking.

We are staying in the second floor of the house, my brother's family lives on the third floor.

After catching up on a few things and discussing breakfast arrangements, we retired for the night.

Location:Fern Road, Kolkata

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Corvette National Park

We are going to the Dhela gate this morning, which is the farthest away from our resort, and needed to get an early start and be prepared for the chilly drive. The resort brought toast and coffee to our room.

Harish came with Gypsy all enclosed and the resort provided us with shawls and hot water bottles. The drive was long but turned out to be quite cozy and much more comfortable than last night's drive back 

The resort packed sandwiches, boiled eggs, fruit, and juice to take with us.

We picked up our assigned forest guide Dindayal from the entrance and proceeded into the forest. The forest here is neither as lush or as beautiful as the Birjani sector.

Pretty soon we heard alarm calls from langurs and sambar, we sat quietly and a herd of chittal came running out in a panic. Soon we heard the low throated growl that is so typical of a male tiger. We heard the growling a couple more times and a very large male tiger jumped out of the bushes from the side about 100 meters ahead of us, paused for a fraction of a second in the middle of the road and jumped into the shrubbery on the other side of the road. A picture perfect Nat Geo setup, and a once in a life time experience.

The area where we spotted the tiger is the Jhirna Zone.

As we left the area we saw a oriental pied greater hornbill, a beautiful bird and a sight to see.

One of the other highlights was a herd of elephants with calves which came up to the road and cautioned us to stay away.

We started on our way back to the resort shortly after, our guide was all excited and went in to announce our tiger sighting. Apparently even though there are a lot of tigers in Corbett, they are rather hard to see.

We were given a royal welcome with the resort staff asking us all kinds of questions. They wanted to see pictures, fortunately hubby was able to quickly find the shots that he took.

Shortly after, our names were on the board as having sighted a tiger.

We freshened up and made our way to the restaurant for lunch.

The lunch was excellent as yesterday, their made to order lachhi paratha is definitely one of the best I have had.

The afternoon safari was with Dindayal as forest guide as well and was at the Bijrani sector as yesterday. The highlight of the trip was a group of 3 (one male and 2 female) Kalij Pheasants.

Back to the resort for freshening up with coffee and cookies, relaxing, and going in for another great dinner.

Had another good night's rest.

Location:Riverview Resort

Monday, February 10, 2014

Delhi - Corbett

Left the Frazer hotel after breakfast around 7:45 AM. The breakfast wasn't nearly as good as the one in Shangrila, in quantity or quality The staff was cold and entirely un co operative

Gaurav came to make sure that everything was okay. Our driver was Ajit, the same person who received us at the airport last night.

The drive was smooth but crowded urban roads for the first half of the trip, it then changed into scenic view but the roads were in need of repair. After we crossed the border and entered Uttarkhand ( a state created in the recent past), from UP, the roads really deteriorated and driving was slow. We started worrying about if we will be in time for the afternoon safari.

We reached the Riverview Resort around 12:45 PM, and was informed that we were in plenty of time for a quick lunch followed by the safari.

The resort faces the Kosi river and the view from the restaurant was beautiful, but unfortunately none of the cottages or rooms were river facing. The number of resorts at Corbett is mind boggling, ours was half way up the hill and in a good location.

The lunch was excellent and I have to admit even better tasting than the meals at Svasara.

After lunch we met up with Harish, who was our driver and guide for all our 5 safaris.

We picked up forest guide Kehm, who turned out to be a smart aleck with very little knowledge of the forest. This was pretty disappointing since all our forest guides so far have been good to excellent.

We entered through the Amnanda gate, this is one of 4 gates to Corbett, this takes us into the Bijrani area of the reserve. This is a beautiful forest with Garjia river running through it. We crossed this river a few times in our Gypsy. The drive was beautiful but the forest appears to be devoid of animals and birds.

All of a sudden another gypsy came speeding by and told our driver that there was an injured male elephant coming in this direction and might charge. Apparently it was a teenage elephant who thought he could take on the ruling male and was mad when he got beaten up.

We decided to get off the main road and let the elephant go past, it so happened that the elephant decided to turn into the side road behind us and started to make threatening gestures. The driver took off faster than a Formula One driver, and we hid in a nook and watched the elephant walk past, taking his frustration out on anything he found in his path.

We left in time, it was about a half an hour drive and was quite chilly with the evening in an open gypsy

We were offered tea/coffee and that was delivered to our room, free of charge. We were in room no 221, it was quite large complete with a sitting/dinning room and a large verandah.

We freshened up and made it down to the river, a picturesque and tranquil scenery and eventually went in to the restaurant.

The food was buffet style and excellent. The quality of food and the variety is superb and the desserts fabulous.

Retired for the night and slept well.

Location:Riverview Resort

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tadoba - Nagpur - Delhi

This is our last game drive here, we followed the same routine and entered the forest at 6:30 AM.

There were pug marks of both a male and a female tiger near the village but no sightings.

The forest seems have less wildlife visible this morning. It being a Sunday there were many more vehicular traffic

We ate our breakfast while waiting by a waterhole and then proceeded on to a new part. We had alarm call from a deer loud and close by, stopped by the roadside and waited for a bit. The calls stopped after sometime.

We proceeded on and stopped at another location, no alarm calls there.

We then proceeded on towards the exit and saw some birds on the way but nothing new.

We did see some birds that hubby was pleased about like the Green bee eater and the Asian brown back fly catcher.

Learnt an interesting bit of history - the local Gond king about 400 years back, was notorious for losing his way around the jungle, so he built a series of pillars that he could follow to lead him out of the jungle.

The pillars still stand intact today and are often used for informative posters and such.

Arrived back at the resort a bit early, which was good since we needed to get cleaned up, finish packing, have lunch and be ready to leave for Nagpur for our flight to Delhi.

We said our byes to the group and proceeded on our way.

It is hard to leave this place, everything was perfect and we really enjoyed our stay here. Nandita, Ranjit, and Chirag were a perfect team and the the staff extremely helpful. We will be happy to recommend this resort to anyone interested in wildlife.

The drive to the airport took about 3 hours. We were all checked in and went through security in about half an hour.

The flight arrived on time, 10:00 PM. Gaurav came to pick us up and take us to hotel Frazer where we will be spending the night.

We found out from Ajit, the driver who will be taking us to Corbett that the drive is 6 hours, much further than we thought. Hence yet another early morning start.

Location:Fraser Hotel - New Delhi

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tadoba Andhari

We were a bit late arriving for coffee and had to take mine in a disposable cup which I drank while waiting for the gate to open.

We entered right on schedule with Sanjay as our forest guide, yet another knowledgeable and pleasant person. It is not as cool this morning but still rather pleasant.

Our first sighting today was a group of wild boars, followed by deer, sambar, peacocks, and variety of water birds.

Then appeared a changeable hawk eagle.

At one point we thought we saw a tiger walk along the roadside but it turned out be a wild boar.

We saw fresh pug marks of both a male and female tiger. We looked for the female but no luck and the speculation was that male was going to the waterhole, so headed there and waited together with the others, about 15 or so vehicles.

In about an hour the male emerged on the other side of the waterhole and started to walk regally towards the water. We heard it roar but pretty soon it sat down in the water and we couldn't see it any more.

This was Leopard face, the male tiger we saw on the first day but couldn't get a picture due to the huge number of cars in my way. I did manage to get a video clip
of it this time.

We waited around but he had no intention of reappearing so we reluctantly headed back to resort.

After lunch we left for the afternoon safari and our field guide was Shyam rao, the same person from yesterday.

When it was almost time for us to leave we got word that the tigress P2 was sleeping on the roaf at the fire break. We quickly hurried there and sure enough there she was sleeping smack in the center of the road without caring about all the vehicles stopped to get a glimpse of her.

She soon woke off yawned a couple if times and sauntered off into the thicket on the side. I was fortunate enough to capture most of it on video from three cars behind.

All four evenings we were at the exit gate around sunset.

Dinner was Moglai style, and quite good.

The video was the documentary that was shown the first evening, this was great since it gave us an opportunity to take our time and watch it in its entirety.

Location:Svasara Lodge.