“I am not scared of ghosts during day, but at night when its pitch black my mind is more creative”
This blog is dedicated to special place called Sarpduli. It is located inside Jim Corbett National Park, a few kilometres before Dhikala zone, few hundred metres off jungle road leading to Dhikala zone. In February 2018, I was not getting accommodation at Dhikala so I was put up at Sarpduli FRH (Forest Rest House).
Sarpduli is forest outpost located along rugged banks of river Ramganga and other side of river are huge mountains. FRH has 2 VIP rooms for forest officials. VIP rooms also have a kitchen and dinning area with common sit out. FRH has one small dormitory with bathroom and WC outside room. With no electric supply this place runs on solar power supply. The lighting is very dim and at night visibility is not more than few metres. There is also cabin for forest guards and house of forest workers. Just like Dhikala FRH, this place is also electrically fenced to ensure elephants and tigers don’t come too close and create havoc.
We reached Ramnagar from Delhi on chilly morning with high hopes. During my previous visit I had 5 tiger sightings in 7 safaris, so I had increased the stakes and booked 8 safaris. When we reached it was freezing cold. After freshening up at local motel at Ramnagar, we headed towards Dhikala zone. On way I decided to drop luggage at Sarpduli. I was accompanied by my better half and her girl friend. To my dismay we were booked at dormitory as VIP rooms were blocked. My better half was scared by the very thought that bathroom was outside and lighting was almost negligible. Both ladies accompanying were upset but at same time considerate. They decided to give it a shot for my sake, for my craving of wild. If it not manageable I had decided to cut my tour to only one night from three nights.
We left for day to finish our safaris. We couldn’t come back for lunch to Sarpduli nor rest, cause coming and going from Dhikala would have eaten up on our jungle time. This was one of the difficult aspect of staying at this place and annoying too. So only after finishing both safari for day and lunch at Dhikala, we returned to Sarpduli FRH at end of day. It was dismal day as we had no sighting of tiger.
As we checked in, I could clearly hear the river flowing in close vicinity. Jungle was silent. Except occasional murmuring forest workers chit chating with our driver and monkeys hoping at high ends of trees. It was creepy silence cascaded by fear of dark and unknown. As sun disappeared behind mountains, the chilled breeze had nerve wrecking effect on all of us. I could only imagine what must be going in mind of ladies accompanying me. I knew they were scared and it was my responsibility to take care of them. We ordered tea which soothed our nerves before we started freshening up after tiring day.
My role changed. From wildlife enthusiasts to security guard. While ladies used the washroom, I was to guard doors and ensure safety since it restroom were open to sky and monkeys around. Sometimes in dark even my imaginations ran wild but couldn’t talk about been scared. Once we all had freshened up we ordered food, which was heavenly. It was cooked in pahari style based on groceries provided by us. At least something has fallen in place I thought. But not for long… Three beds given to us were squeaky and made our sleep restless. We were so tired that squeaky sound hardly mattered and we dozed off like babies.
Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 hard luck continued.Everyone was sighting tigers except us. Our driver was putting his best effort to track big cat but seeing tiger is also matter of luck. The moment we would leave a spot after hours of waiting, tiger would come out from same place where my driver anticipated and the next vehicle around would see a tiger. It was strange and traumatic experience for all three of us. A curse I suppose.It seemed as if all wild spirits had decided to avoid us.
Day 2 evening we had VIP room available for us. We refused. Ladies, I guess where liking the thrill of staying in exposed environment. The thrill was at peaks when we were been accompanied by pair of jackals hanging around our room and distant alert call of barking deer. Forest guard told us their was leopard in vicinity who had made kill. Every time leopard returned to kill, resident deer would give alert calls. On day 3 we skipped lunch at Dhikala and savoured food at Sarpduli. By 3rd night we had acclimatised ourselves to place, we had started enjoying eeriness of Sarpduli.
Now we felt one with the place. The eerie silence, occasional rumbling of elephants, alert calls of deer and monkey on trees were all symbiotic. The pair of jackals was around us, my lovely ladies had no fear of them anymore.
We were one with spirit of wild. Spirit that spooked us on first day was now beginning to be friendly. I realised we didn’t see any tigers because the spirit was already with running wild with us, comforting us.
We realised it’s presence only when we were back to concrete jungle!