Since I plan to start from the latest trip, I’ll write about Dandeli.
April 9th-12th, 2010.
So, I was walking down the main block of Christ university and I happened to see this board which had the words – nature conservation, trekking, all meals included, Dandeli and Rs. 2600.
I signed up for this, not knowing what to expect and there we were, 21 people, in the railway station on the 9th.
This was exactly how one of the best trips I’ve done so far began. I mean, it was something that supported what I believed, that you know you’re travelling and you don’t know what to expect as an end result. As I was saying, we reached that Dandeli station after no night’s rest, whatsoever. This was a sign to come.
We reached the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Resort in the same named Reserve, situated along the River Kali, which flows into the Arabian Sea. It is a good 10-12 hour drive from Bangalore and about the same by train. The closest airport is Panaji, Goa, about 2-3 hours from the Reserve. It is 100 kms. from the nearest coastal town of Karwar. Speaking of which Gokarna is not very far either.Coming back to the Resort, it is owned by the Forest Department so you will need to contact the department for permission to stay here. The main animals that are spotted most frequently are birds like Hornbills, Shikaras, Kingfishers, among others. There are very high chances of spotting leopards in summer as they exist in plenty. Tigers are spotted too, but only the lucky ones do. [A tiger was spotted behind one of the tents just three days before we arrived 😦 ]
We were not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but it was a good distance away from ‘human settlements’ (I won’t say civilisation) . It was pretty hot when we reached there and we were going to be allotted our tents only after lunch, which was a good 3-4 hours away. Since there was so much time, we were given about an hour to just freshen up and head for a late breakfast. After breakfast we were guided into a hall where we were given some caps and a T-shirt for the trip.
Just when we thought that the rest of the day would be free and to ourselves to explore the place, the organising committee dropped the bomb. “We’re going for a small trek, just about 3 kms”. Of course it sounded awesome, but not when most of us hadn’t even got our bit of sleep in the train the previous night. So we followed their instructions and left for the trek, panting and puffing, already! The trek was actually not bad, except the timing (11 am in mid-summer at 38ºC). We set out and it was strenuous because it was more of climbing up and down, well laid out concrete staircases. (Wait a sec! This was not my idea of trekking in a jungle) We finished the ‘trek’ in about 2 hours where we visited Sintheri Rocks and then headed for the river where all of us just jumped in. Some of us had to be pulled out of the river, by force (it was that refreshing!). Since I was adamant enough not to carry extra clothes, a couple of them joined me in settling on top of the jeep and we headed for our allotted tents.
Excited as we all were, the tents turned out to be perfect. Brilliant ones, with three of us in a single tent although in ours we managed with four. Somehow we settled in and went off to sleep for a while after the sumptuous lunch. We freshened up again for some more presentations about tigers and other animals that could be found in the vicinity in the evening. Most of us switched off early to compensate for the previous night. Also, for what was coming the next day. The 6 km. trek.
We were supposed to get up at 0530 and get ready to collect our breakfast by 0600. We were slated to leave at 0630 but by the time everyone got out of their tents, filled our water bottles (most of us carried two or more) and left, it was almost 0700. So we left in our jeeps, feeling the cool breeze in the morning. It was good as we started out early, we couldn’t feel the heat of the sun, even if it was up by about 9, completely blazing. The jeeps dropped us off at a certain point and we walked from there. We walked and walked and walked. We walked more and more. Then we finally came to a pit stop after climbing down for a while on some stairs. It was a nice place with a small cave inside which contained stalactites and stalagmites and also a naturally made statue of the ‘linga’. After touring the caves, we climbed down little more and finally reached the river where we were going to swim again. We ate the breakfast that was provided to us by the river and then jumped in. I did get a few pictures in the river. After what felt like heaven (about an hour and a half) we readied ourselves to continue the journey, now upwards. We climbed and climbed for about a km. or two and then we finally reached the plain stretch land. We walked another 300 mts. to find the jeeps waiting for us. We jumped in and most of us passed out for about an hour until we reached the Resort.
In the evening, an environmentalist Mr. Bhatt came to visit us. We had a little chat with him and then we were informed that they had scheduled a night walk, yes a walk in the jungle at night. It would be pitch dark and we would walk, one behind another, not knowing what would be lying in front of us. When the time arrived, we equipped ourselves with torches only to learn that the leader alone was allowed to use the torch, not the 20 of us walking behind. We were given instructions to remain as quiet as possible as it would increase the chances of catching a wild animal. So we walked for about 10 minutes and then we heard something running. When the person flashed the torch, we saw nothing. It was supposedly just a small animal, according to Mr. Bhatt and the locals. After the futile search, we were made to sit down in our paths in three rows. We sat there for another 15 mins. observing the sounds of crickets, other insects and a few birds. We spent just half an hour but it has to be one of the best experiences of my life.
Just when we thought that our trip was coming to end, we were informed that we would be going for another trek, the following morning. But we were allowed the wake up a little later than the previous day, at 0700. We eventually would leave only at 0845 after a few games conducted for us. This was going to be the toughest trek of the tour. Now the path that we were walking in, inspired me as it was the ‘real’ trekking type; hard, slippery and narrow. We walked across dry rivers, even ones that were tributaries of River Kali. We trekked for almost 2 hours, some girls already crying out of fear. Then we reached the point that struck us all by surprise, making it worse for more women. A hill next to the waterfall!! We were going to trek on the mountain, without any support or safety measures. We helped each other and I managed to get a small scratch on my camera lens as it accidentally hit something while climbing. (Carrying a camera around your neck and climbing, not a good idea at all!). It was a mind-blowing experience no doubt, but tested our stamina. Being a sportsperson, I did not feel the pinch, except on the first day (because of lack on sleep and tiredness of the train journey!). I got some brilliant shots though, of the camouflaged lizard and the pink dragonfly. After what seemed like ages, all of reached the top of the waterfall and then to the plain stretch of land. This was about 6-8 km trek. Although the trek consisted of a lot of other things, the mountain-climbing experience had to one of the most memorable ones.
We got back to the hostel and I was actually ready for more. We had lunch and we were instructed to pack our bags as we were leaving that evening. We packed and assembled to discuss about the entire trip, how all of us enjoyed and what we all learned from the trip. (I learned to bond with nature and I’d definitely do more to give back to them, in whatever way I can). Certificates were distributed and then they took us to the Crocodile Park. It wasn’t any big park, but just a small area where you could just see crocs swimming freely but the water was polluted from the paper factory waste. There were lots of them, we would have easily seen 20 of them and the man who feeds them regularly said that during October-November one can easily spot upto 200 crocs in the area. I did get some nice shots of them swimming.
Satisfied as we were, we headed back to the Resort for an early dinner (at 1830!!). I ate light and we were off to the station. This time no one dared to be up the entire night and most of us passed out until morning. It was one of the best nature conservation camps that I had attended, not that I have attended many, but I know it wouldn’t be of this quality.
This trip is strongly recommended. The best time to go has to be before May and after the rains. Winter is great but it would be cold so stack up some warm clothes. But in case you plan to do that trip, please carry cargo pants and do not trek in jeans or in shorts. 3/4 pants should be okay as long as your socks can cover the rest of your leg.
P.S: All the pictures from the previous article were taken in Dandeli.