We have just bought our Mahindra Scorpio and that was more than enough reason to venture out. So we called up all the active ghumakkars at that point of our life and fixed a quick trip to Rajaji National Park.Rajaji is a big, very big, national park which starts from Haridwar and goes all the way till Doon and boasts of a large no of elephants.
So Jogi called up the booking office at Dehradoon and we found out that Chilla (best staying option inside the park) is not available so we booked ourselves at ‘Saung River Jungle Lodge’ which is on Haridwar-Doon road.
Day 1 – March 13, 2004
We started from Delhi early and were there by 10 AM. This river lodge is one of those very old, dilapidated building which is not well maintained by Forest Department. Its dark, the furniture is old and broken and the kitchen is not very clean. But then who cares of all these things when you are young and restless.
After checking in and settling down, we arranged for our lunch, which means getting the grocery from the market including salt/oil and everythig else. The kitchen had gas stove.
We started towards jungle safari in our own car. No animals, but we did see lots of vultures and spent quite a time on river bed. Came back, had lots of beers (got some ice from outside and bathroom bucket was beautifully utilized), had food and took rest. The high of doing everything yourself was big enough.
In the evening, we left and entered another portion of Rajaji through Motichoor Gate. Rajaji is very badly spread so much so that there are separate sections and infact a railway track goes through the jungle, at times killing animals. High Speed Delhi-Doon Shatabdi passes through it. There have been protests on this. For Motichoor, you need to get back to Delhi-Haridwar road and then look for a gate on your right as you are driving towards Delhi. You get a permit and pay some money, which is not inhibitive but not trivial as well, and then you can take your car in and drive.
Motichoor is again a big jungle with this big long artery cutting through it. You encounter forest offices once in a while and savior general jungle flora. Its a well worth drive, away from the ever maddening city. We came out, on the way we picked some mutton and grocery to cook as the lodge doesn’t have a restaurant. We had more beer in the evening (or was it rum) and slept amid animal sounds and cricket-symphony.
Day 2, March 14 2004
We started, took our bags since the plan was to go to Chilla. Chilla is a little away so we packed our bags and reached Chilla. To reach Chilla, drive towards Delhi and you would hit a round-about where a road on your left goes over Ganga towards Najibabad. Take this road, drive over Ganga and then take the first left exit. Chilla is the most well developed area in Rajaji and attracts most visitors. There is a big office where you buy permit and then you get in. Stay in Chilla, its much better and much more equipped.
We drove for 3-4 hours inside Chilla, saw elephants, deer, spotted deer and some other animals. Its very big and road was pretty decent. Some of the area is pretty dense and you sort of get a goose-bump once in a while but overall its quite open and non-intimidating. There was a kid elephant at the office which got left there and was being brought up by jungle authorities.