Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Traveling to Kanha National Park

Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh (MP) in India 

Invariably the discussion points to the road and about the roads in general. "Corruption" my friend says. "Yeah nothing new about it.He continues. "The khuds (ditches) jerk our innards as we proceed at turtle's pace. My friend who owns a resort at Kanha turns and twists the beleaguered steering of his expensive car.  I can see the grimace on his countenance as he desperately avoids injury to his precious vehicle. His face and belly muscles twitch and twist around vigorously. 

"You are lucky that there is no swelling or cramping of your muscles" I speak pathetically. "I have been driving on these roads since ages" he says and does not bother to offer further explanation.    

The road from Jabalpur to Kanha goes through one of the most scenic highways. The teak forests besides the road loom large and create a picturesque landscape. Once home to tigers and leopards they are devoid of life now.  With few good patches the ride continuous to be bumpy and at time becomes dangerous on steep climbs.

After a drive of more than two hours we reach Mandla Town which is about 96 km from Jabalpur. Like majority of townships in India this one too is populated with maddening crowd and embedded in chaos and confusion. The sounds and smells are the same as that of any other sleepy habitation. This town is the HQ of Kanha National Park and houses the Chief Conservator or Field Director of the park. Mandla is a district of MP, and the township has many Government  administrative offices.   

We do not stop here, rather we cross over the bridge over the Narmada River and halt for a cup of tea. This part of river yields the finest of the fresh water fish not available anywhere near Jabalpur. A short drive from Maharajpur the road bifurcates. On the right it is the Raipur Highway and on the left the it is the way to Nainpur. We turn left and negotiate the narrow gauge railway crossing. This one is unmanned and dangerous.

As we proceed towards Bahmni Banjar, a small township, the greenery gives way to human habitations, small hamlets, green fields, ubiquitous petrol pumps, tyre wallahs, small retail shops and dhabas (roadside eateries). Chai wallahs and Paan Shop abound.  For the resorts in Kanha this is the supply point for grocery, sweets and eatables. From here onwards, for a considerable distance there is no township with modern facilities. I buy some medicines here and we proceed.

Large stretches of empty land greets us as we turn further left toward the Indri Village. After Indri we cross over many fields and overgrown villages but what we like best to see are the quaint little hamlets of the tribal. Cows cross over the road at will making it difficult to maneuver the ditches. Soon human habitations give way to small patches of forest, the reminder of extensive ecosystem this tiger reserve was in the earlier times. The forests classified as Kanha buffer are dotted with small tribal hamlets, and some larger places which are  markets for the remote populations. The landscape once again becomes picturesque but the road remains dotted with pot holes.       

In the seventies this road was almost deserted and we could start looking for wild animals. But this is no more, we hardly see any life in the forests. Anyway it feels good to drive through the verdant greenery. We cross two river systems before we reach Mocha. These are the Ghanghar Nalla and the Banjar River. The Banjar Valley along with Halon valley received early protection during the British Rule in India. 

Mocha Village is the epicenter of resorts in this National Park. A large number of luxury hotel accommodation in Kanha are established here. The accommodations here are big with as many as twenty five rooms. Mocha has a bustling market with availability of daily needs, grocery and consumer durables. 

We turn left some distance before Mocha and proceed towards the Patpara Village. This is the road to Baihar Township, and from here on one can proceed to Raipur Capital of  State of Chhattisgarh.  After crossing over the tortured inundated patch of Banjar River once again we reach the Patpara Village where my friend's boutique resort is situated.               

The three hours drive on a good road take more than four and half hours and lot of torture. Thanks to "Corruption!"   

For us this has become a  routine. For reaching the magical wilderness and tiger heaven we will bear all.

Kanha Fact File

Kanha is about 165 km from Jabalpur. Jabalpur Airport is connected with New Delhi & Mumbai. Jabalpur is well connected with major towns by rail. 

Wildlife: Tiger, Leopard, Wild Dog, Bison, Sloth Bear, Sambar Deer, Swamp Deer, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Sloth Bear, Four Horned Deer, Mouse Deer,  Wolf, Jackal, Fox, Hare, Civet, Jungle Cat and more. The Tiger Reserve has more than two hundred and fifty bird species.