Dudhwa – Touch and Go

Not many people would plan a trip to a place called ‘Lakhimpur’ which is more popularly known as ‘Lakhimpur Khiri’ so when an opportunity came, I started scouting for information on what can be done there besides the main business, the one for which you get paid to visit such a place. Well, it was not hard to discover that Lakhimpur is the town connection to U.P.’s only National Park, called ‘Dudhwa Tiger Reserve’. The rest was routine, getting maps, asking people for a decent hotel, requesting a friend to get us a booking at a forest rest house and so on.

I know by now I am sounding very very drab, as someone who only gets to travel for business and fill this website of the accidental sojourns he is able to do. Whether it was ‘Getting Lost in Sambhar’ or ‘By the Lanes of Aminabad’, infact some of the alert and regular readers would have probably guessed it since I wrote a road review about a week back. While the bets are being won on this, let me take you to the journey which we undertook in the last week of May.

We started early morning from Ghaziabad and drove till Lakhimpur. You take NH 24 and cross Hapur, Moradabad, Rampur, Bareily and ShahjehaNpur (its spoken with full N and not the nasal N, also read the names again, its like a crash course for NH24, click here to read a review, so much of distraction) and take a left from Maigal Ganj. From there you are on country-roads (take me home kinds) which are hard to miss, not that its a great country side to look at but at 10 KMPH with not many vehicles around you have enough time to make a coffee. Here’s one of pics of our pit stops in the country side, getting some fresh water-splash for Pihu. You wash your face with some fresh ground water and you are charged again, a great sanity keeper activity when you are searching for tar for many miles (so many that you’re just a little short of a tar-mirage). So after surviving the no-road stretch of about 25 KMs, we reached the town, the great Lakhimpur.

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve
On the way to Lakhimpur

Lakhimpur is a very small town, a part of District Lakhimpur Khiri in the Tarai region (foot hills), which happens to be the largest district in UP. The name Lakhimpur is believed to be originated from the word “Lakshmi”, the goddess of prosperity. I also read somewhere that it has come from ‘Lakshman’, the youth bro of Lord Rama. Anyway, lets move on. It is about 440 km from Delhi (towards South-east, 125 km short of Indo-Nepal border) and is connected from Lucknow and Barreilly. No airport, the railway line is also meter-gauge, hence to go from Delhi, one has to change one (from Lucknow) and two (from Barreily) trains to move from broad gauge. Roads are drivable, except for some stretches. Lakhimpur & Khiri are the twin towns in the area. Khiri is predominantly inhabited by the Sikhs, uprooted from the 1984 riots in Punjab (possibly that’s how Lakshmi and Lakshman become Lakhmi or Lakhman). There would be an equal population of Hindus and Sikhs in Lakhimpur as well. (to an extent that some of the communication – signages etc. – were in gurmukhi, the punjabi script!) Major occupation is own-business – mostly related to agriculture (sugarcane) and trading (from Nepal).

“Heeralal Dharmshala” is the centre of town in terms of activity. There is also an active market lane which women frequent. For entertainment, there are a couple of cinemas, 2 main temples (frog temple and Shiv Temple). “Shivam Restaurant” is probably the city’s only decent eating joint and is jam-packed on most evenings.

Not that many of you would really care to know about this town but since I have been through it, I thought I would do a brain-dump. We stayed at ” K K Hotel” (I hope I am remembering this right) which was actually more of a banquet hall with some rooms. The tariff is Rs 800 for a/c room. There is no restaurant but you can tell the boy and he would get it from the market. Pretty fair so far. We reached there by 4 in the afternoon, ate some food from Shivam restaurant, rested, went to market, did our work and then crashed.

Dudhwa was for Day 2 so hang on. Some early part of Day 2 was also spent doing the business and then we moved towards the tiger reserve. Its about 90 KM from Lakhimpur and the nearest small town is Palia. The roads are pretty ok, or good; and it took us about 2 hours to reach there. While I was driving down, I could now actually see the real countryside. Unlike the small-town mayhem of congestion, small shops, litter and grabage, this drive was actually about vast green fields, mango orchards, tractors, colorfully dressed woman, wheat-husk stacks, belled cows, bamboo plantations and almost everything which you would associated a good drive with. Since its a terai region, the weather felt moderate even in May.

After Palia, the last meter gauge rail head, we found ourselves at the entrance of a bridge. While we have been to many bridges which are narrow and there are folks on either side to regulate the traffic, we haven’t came across a one like this before. This was a bridge which was also shared by trains. Yeah. I mean what you just read. You drive over the track and if there is an oncoming train, well you wait and give the way. I didn’t see any other bridge on the side and it seemed like the only way to go to DTR over times. This is the bonus pic of this post.

Train and Road Bridge

So after about two hours, we found ourselves at the entrance of DTR. The drive from the entrance to the forest-rest-house area goes through lush green forest. Since it had rained very heavily the previous night, there was water every where. Usually the road is at an elevation so it was clean.


Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

Dudhwa tiger reserve is spread over an area of 614 sq km. The northern edge of the reserve lies along the Indo-Nepal border while the southern boundary is marked by the river Suheli. It is home to a large number of rare and endangered species, which include tiger, leopard, swamp deer, hispid hare, Bengal floricans, etc.

Just like Corbett or other National Parks, Dudhwa has ‘Forest Rest Houses’ as well. The ‘Dudhwa’ forest rest house is one of the best equipped ones, just like Dhikala of Corbett. It is powered and there are A/C rooms. We met the local guardian and now comes the damp-squib (literally!). Well, it had rained very heavily the previous day and because of this, one could not venture into Jungle or take jeep-safaris.

Wow! So much for all the drive!! We asked again but reality doesn’t change too much in a short span of time. Well, what about elephant safari. So the elephant safari happens from ‘Sathiana’, another forest rest house. And you would need to take a jeep to reach ‘Sathiana’. We were suggested to enjoy the delicacies in the local cafeteria, which we didn’t after a brief inspection. We had two options. One to take the room, go to Nepal (Dhangarhi, buy some smuggled goods) and then wait for our luck to get better and stay for the night OR just drop the idea. We spent some time around, took a drive towards Nepal, and decided to head back.

Here’s a pic on the same road.

Dudhwa to Nepal Road

We crossed Palia Distillery on the way and reached Dudhwa. In absence of any jungle photos, you can get some high by looking at it.

Palia Distillery

We took a different route which took us directly to ShahjahanNpur (remember N is full n and not a nasal n, now dont just smile and say ShanjahaNpur couple of times, one two, good progress). This time it was all the more scenic, we actually drove through many jungles with lush green shrubs, poplars, eucalyptus and other tress accompanying us all the while. Since there is a train connection as well, we also spotted a small railway station but it was getting late and I wanted to get back to my home so we restrained the idea of getting down and spending some time.

We were back by late night on Day2. So two days, about a thousand KM of drive and no real jungle but it was more than worth it. Dudhwa is now definitely much closer now. What do you think ?

25 Comments

  • nandanjha says:

    I need to fix some links and I would do that on Sunday. traveling but wanted to push this story.

  • Rahul says:

    Lol… With some country roads its more like … PLEASE take me back home!!
    So this is the source of the main site pic… The area looks nice and green.. all good!

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Getting paid for what one loves to do – wow! seems Goddess ‘Lakhi’ is really pleased with you.

    The route you took back to ShahjahanNNpur is tempting but driving an offroader (prize for spotting should come to me!), wonder why one look for tar? :-)

  • Cuckoo says:

    LOL..@ShahjahaNpur. See I pronounced it correctly !!

    And what a name Dudhwa !! Typical UP/ Bihar lingo. Is there a story behind this word ? The place looks clean & attractive.

    We went to Nepal thru Bihar and that’s an experience in itself.

    • freakyboy says:

      gud 2 c…people do knw dis place………….but i dont find a typical UP/Bihari lingo in d name……cuckoo!!….nywayz name`s r alwayz weird….u neva knw y people cal delhi and mumbai so……neithr wud i b interstd to delve in wht lingo causd d naming !!
      But itz an awsum place……full wth greenary and ofcourse poverty and ignorance…..nobdy givs a damn ……dere is dis ruddy bridge….125 yrs old….railway`s hav shrugged dere responsibility and put up sum shitty board….’travel at ur own risk’ …sumthing!!
      d othr bridge ….of wich d construction is in progress…wil b in progres 4 d nxt 15 yrs….thx to UP govt……as 4m d tourism point of view….no othr place is as neglectd as dis one….UP govt doesnt evn bothrs dat dudhwa is d only tige reserve and a national park in UP.Stayed at sum hotel sharda …named aftr river sharda
      the hotel is really gud….and d people r really nice dere!!

  • Deepak says:

    Hi nandan ,

    it quite daring of you to go to places..and take the roads les travelled

    hats off…

    i am sure if you you wd had a Getaway Variant you would have carried your bike or boat in it too..
    probably someone in Ngc odr Discovery had done
    Bravo Ghumakkar….

    by the way some other deepak is also posting comments for eg to …mr ram dhall(ram saab)
    i am deepak Bahl

  • ajeet says:

    nandan, i have a friend from lakhimpur khiri, thx to you i wrote to him after a v long time, he will surely tell u a thing or two abt lp.
    ok and cuckoo, i want the nepal story here. “in the uk” lot of ppl wud kill for nepal. btw i have a colleague here, who is doing the justgiving thingie (again- megha went to kathmandu from cochin in an autorickshaw, he goes to mongolia in his 1988 fiat, 10k miles, i wish i had met him before, i wud have done my visas with him) this is a news coverage http://www.ellontimes.co.uk/10166/Andrew-gearing-up-for-Mongolian.4198772.jp
    if you feel like donating, like my wasabi team has, dont think a second- http://justgiving.com/pistonbroke

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful post on Dudhwa.

    Though In am aware of Lakhimpur Khiri from my younger days (my father used to do trading in timber and had visited this area a few times), but I was not aware that a Tiger Reserve existed in the vicinity of Lakhimpur. Never mind if you were not able to enter the jungle due to rains, at least you reached close to the sanctuary.

    I think it’s the first time I have seen an unmanned rail/ road bridge. Is the road wide enough to give way to fast running trains !!!. I also observed a sign board which read “Sharda”. What does this indicate ?

    The picture showing Pihu helping herself with a splash of water from the hand pump is well taken.

  • JATINDER SETHI says:

    The photographs look good and ,perhaps, make theuneventful ride less strenous.Why to yhis place? I dont think there would be any takers to go there especially you didnt mention whether you saw any tigers in the reserve or tasted the products of Palia Distillery.Did you? Thanks for the info anyway,Now,atleast one knows where not to go.JATIUNDER SETHI

  • nandanjha says:

    Rahul – Yes thats the source of top banner pic. It was pretty clean, I guess mostly because of rains. freshly washed.

    Patrick – :) Actually the off-roader aspect starts to hit you at the bottom (pun intended) since its a high-seated vehicle (you know that theory of CG being at a height then the usual polite-n-suave sedans) but worth the hit.

    Cuckoo – Yes. You got it. I am just back from Bihar (reached today very early morning) and even though I was mostly driving in cities but I can imagine what you are saying.

  • nandanjha says:

    Deepak – I dont see the getaway version on road. If people from M&M are reading then they should probably give me one to flaunt. Thanks for your comments. Motivating.

    The author gets to see the e-mail address so authors would be able to distinguish.

    Ajeet – Thanks for the links. Would go through. Your comment is cryptic (looks who talking). I just did a 2.5 K over last week (Delhi – Allahabad – Banaras – Darbhanga – Gorakpur – Delhi) and I hope to do enough so that you also refer my doings when you comment (may be many years later)

  • nandanjha says:

    Ram – Sharda is the name of the river (or rivulet) that hosts the bridge. And the bridge is manned, its just being used for both railways and road vehicles. Its a meter gauge and they usually go slow.

    Jatinder – My wife had some work at Lakhimpur, Dudhwa was close by so we ventured. We could not go inside the jungle since it was closed because of heavy rains the previous night. It has a decent record of cat sightings and probably the only place to sight a swamp deer. I would guess that its a go-to place for wildlife enthusiasts since its still pretty virgin if you compare it with other popular ones like Corbett. The facilities are poor though. Not sure whether I would plan another trip but If I get an opportunity, I am sure I would exercise it.

  • backpakker says:

    whew ! what a trip..almost to nepal and back..I like these offbeat places..they have a certain charm about them and the stories add to the charm as well..wonder why Dudhwa for a tiger reserve ?

    Lakshmi

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Lakshmi – Yeah, agree, these places are still to be molded into so called *developed* tourist template, so they have their own distinct character. As for Nepal connection, you could spot nepal vehicles (mostly bikes) easily, the registration plate (number plate) is different, red in color with text written in ‘Devnagari’ script.

    As for the question, that is for me (as in why i went there) or in general that why dudhwa is a project tiger place. I went there because we had some work in Lakhimpur and Dudhwa was not too far. It is a ‘project tiger’ place because the place had the jungle and the tigers which needed conservation.

  • lakshmi says:

    No..what I meant was the name – Dudhwa…I like names and I keep wondering why they are called so ..

  • Bhooma says:

    You have made a fun description of your trip. Kudos to you for travelling to places less fequented. Pihu is really cute and we would like to see more photos

  • manish khamesra says:

    Very interesting read Nandan.

    Pihu is looking very cute in the photograph, She seems to be busy in washing her hands, but the other kids in background looking her with curosity. Sometimes these contrast touch you too.

    Its really rare to see such rail-road combo bridge in India and hence the bonus is very well received (Anyway bonus is awlays welcome). Wish that you would have visited Dudhwa and we would be knowing more about it. And yes name is very interesting – So can I saw that Nandanwa kaa dudhwa trip flopwa ho gaya :)

  • nandanjha says:

    Thanks Manish.

    Yeah, I could exactly understand what you mean.

    Well, I do not have any plans to go there again in near future but I think it was an interesting place, esp with the Nepal story, it makes a valuable combination. I dont think I mentioned it but you can take your car inside Nepal by taking a permit at border, which is not hard to get. If its a day permit, which I think is called ‘suvidha’, then its free or very measly, you pay more if you want more then a day. It should be fun driving in a different country.

  • manish khamesra says:

    In-fact its a nicely written post, so even though I lightly wrote the last line, I don’t mean it. In-fact after writing it, I was expecting that very soon I may see it among the most read post and I was wondering that then do I need to replace flopwa with hitwa :)

    Being based in delhi, most of the time we talk about corbett and Sariska (I hope in few days from now, it would again be a nice place for Tiger Safari), so it was interesting to read about Dhudhwa.

    It was also surprising that they don’t have months when they keep it closed, they do so when there are heavy rains ! It was a loss not only for you , but for us too. Though this post is a delight to go through :)

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Thanks, thanks and dont worry about your comment. I wonder how many people would ever go or search for ‘Dudhwa’ on internet and find this story :)

    I do not know whether they close it in rainy months but I would suspect that they do. I was there in May, I think, which is still couple of weeks away from real rains. I do not know for sure.

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  • Vivek Verma says:

    purani yaadein taaza ho gayee …college trip yaad aa gayee…
    well your blog has brought all the memories hidden inside heart from golden college days …
    thanks for writing about hidden and not so famous Dudwa

  • monika gupta says:

    dudhwa is very dense forest ihave ever seen .our tour has been completed in dudhwa forest .i am bams student we had so much fun there.we got some important information about forest flora and fauna.like shal ,sagon trees are in huge amount .ther are tharu tribes .they are very poor thru our eyes but they enjoy their life very happily.there are lots of moracea variety plants like ficus pumila ,ficus semicardata. that was very good place .it joins u with nature.

  • shadman shah says:

    its nice to see y’all so aware of the Dudhwa national parks existence, i have a farm near Pallia, which is very close to Dudhwa,which is much bigger and vast than corbett or sariska, though the tiger populatin which is rapidly diminishing ..the best part was when my father spotted a mother leopard with two cubs just outside our house, reason..i guess was dearth of water in summers,thats why these big cats stray in human habitat..the only issue reaching this place is the roads, though i havent tried but its nonthe less a painfull affair coz i have heard that its a single road and takes around 11 hrs to reach pallia, via shahjehanpur..also the roads are narrow and conjested…ofcrse the best time to visit is between nov-mar..and yes hotel sharda is on decent place to stay, considering there are in total of only 3 hotels in pallia…and it has been like that for the past 15 years :) also the road which leads to nepal border into dhangadhi is an exp in itself…the moment you step in the napalese soil time seem to stop and everythng around you seems to be so calm and relaxed as compared our fast lifestyle..well Im leaving for my farm tomm..i hope this one is comfortable one as apr isnt the best time to visit…..

  • JD says:

    Hey Guys
    I’m from Palia…..i use to go Dudhwa regularly on when i go palia (actually i’m studying In Delhi)

    Nice to see Something about DuDHWA here…..
    ( http://www.fb.com/jd.bajwa )

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