No one can leave the National Park without a valid authorisation from the KMVN authorities. After a couple of cups of hot tea I presented myself at the Reception to complete the check out formalities and collect the gate pass. Visitors can leave the complex only after 6.30 am. Arshad, who had stayed overnight with one of the staff, was waiting to take me back to the Forest GH in Ramnagar. Since I had told him that I would like to leave Ramnagar by 9, he ignored the speed restriction of 20 kmph inside the Park. By 8.30 I reached the Forest GH and made the payment for the Gypsy. The stay and transport to the National Park cost me about Rs 6000, but was worth it. Travelling with a companion to these places will halve the cost as the accommodation and transport costs can be shared. Arshad is a good contact for visiting the Jim Corbett National Park. He can be contacted on 09927160387. He will complete all the bookings and paperwork prior to picking you up from the appointed place (he is a reasonably decent photographer too). However, it must be said that the best time to visit the Park is in the summer months of March to May. The Park remains closed for 5 months during the monsoon from 15th June. Once it reopens in November, the water sources are many inside the forests. Hence, the cats and the elephants remain mostly hidden from the view of the visitors. I was told that it is not possible to drive through the Park in summer without a few elephant crossings.
I started for Dehra Dun just after 9 am. The hill roads in Uttarakhand are relatively better than in most other States, particularly the North East. However, stretches such as Afzalgarh to Dhampur and Nagina to Najibabad are being worked on. I did the Dehra Dun trip leisurely to let the cold air pinch my face and also enjoy the villages en route. Short of Haridwar I stopped at a Punjabi Dhaba for Roti and Dal Makhni. The extra Makhan made the side dish doubly tasty. Haridwar was packed. Even at 1 pm pilgrims were many in the bathing ghat. I had visited Haridwar nearly 15 years ago. The traffic arrangements and places to stay have improved considerably since then. Though I considered going to Mussoorie directly I decided to do that tomorrow and drove to the Northern Railway ORH near the Dehra Dun railway station.
My first visit to Dehra Dun was on 1st September 1981 by train from Delhi. I had made some friends on the train who were also due to report to the Lal Bahadur Shastry National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie to begin our lives as Government Servants. After disembarking from the train we were taken by buses to the Academy. So the initial interface was just the walk along the platform. I decided to do just that after depositing the luggage in the ORH. I walked across to the office of the Station Superintendent on the platform and, over a cup of tea, took his testimonial of my visit to Dehra Dun. I then set out to explore the Rajpur road, where Kwalitys was a must visit during those days for the superb pastries on offer. The long walk from the railway station showed me how much the place has changed; naturally it had to in 29 years. However, I did not feel the clutter I used to feel way back then. The roads are lined on both sides with shops and traffic is well regulated despite the heavy density of vehicles. I came across the ‘hairXpresso’ salon and walked in to experience it. For Rs. 100 I got a decent haircut, which would have reduced my weight somewhat. Down the road I saw another salon with computerised hair dressing advertised and was tempted to walk in further weight shedding. What intrigued me most during the walk were ‘Simran Off Vodka’ and ‘Garba Chow Vodka’ in the rate list displayed by a wine shop. I had a huge meal in McDonalds and started back to the ORH. On the way I came to the Indra Market, a centre for bags, hosiery, wollens, leather goods, etc. I walked in to an almost carnival atmosphere. Sales were brisk in most shops. People were buying up for the colder days ahead. I bought some inners (it’s getting seriously cold) and a huge bag to keep the keep the stuff in the car organized. I will hit the sack after soaking clothes to wash tomorrow and crystallizing the plans for tomorrow.