For lovers of all things wild in nature, as I am, nothing excites us more than a visit to an iconic national park – Jim Corbett. But more than the park itself, I loved the journey that led me there. Here’s how it happened.
So, some of my friends and I were trekking through the villages of Uttarakhand (around Dehradun) and came back to the town for a day’s rest, before heading eastward. As soon as we landed in Dehradun, the weather suddenly changed and it started to rain. We were contemplating whether to head back home or wait, but we didn’t have the luxury of time. After much deliberation, we decided to make use of the remaining days by taking a road trip to Jim Corbett, stay there overnight, and head home the following day. It sounded like a good plan.
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To Jim Corbett
With such inclement weather, it made the most sense to rent a car and keep the car with us till the end of the trip. It is only 165 KM or so to the national park and typically takes around five hours. But since we were going with the primary agenda of a ‘road trip’, it would take much longer than expected. We would also end up camping overnight if we found the right spot. We booked a licensed cab from Dehradun to Jim Corbett, since the trip was going to be long and we wanted to keep it seamless. And thus began our unplanned trip from Dehradun to Jim Corbett National Park.
It was after Diwali, which is the perfect time to travel anywhere in India. The weather is crisp, the autumn environment feels cozy, and most importantly, you won’t find the mad rush of holiday tourists. Also, this is a good time to spot animals, before some of them go into hibernation. In all, the plan was just on point!
Within an hour and a half, we made our first stop at Rishikesh. Every trekker and backpacker’s favorite destination in Uttarakhand, Rishikesh had become almost our group’s second home. And somehow we never seemed to get over the place. So as we would usually plan, we headed straight to the Swarg Ashram area for a rafting session. Fortunately, the rains had stopped and it was mildly sunny since morning, but the river water remained at freezing temperature. The hour-long ride through the bone-chilling water and frothy currents was thrilling at its best. At this time of the year, the landscape also starts to change, making the whole experience inexplicable! How I wished we could just camp on the riverside and stay back. But we had to move on.
Rajaji National park
We passed through the outer perimeters of the Rajaji National Park, driving through thick clusters of Sal and other deciduous trees, dominating the forest vegetation, and gurgling streams cutting through here and there.
We reached Hardiwar late in the afternoon. As usual, the pilgrim town was brimming with pilgrims (because there’s no season for pilgrimage). Our main reason to stop in the town was to satisfy our starving stomachs. After Dehradun, we hadn’t had a decent grub. And if you have never been to Haridwar, come here, just to sample the taste of Pandit Ji Pooriwale and indulge a little more at Pracheen Mathura. These two places are as old as Haridwar itself and are icons of local food. By sunset, the town was wide awake with chants and chimes of prayers and bells. We snaked our way out of the town and back to the highway.
When you avail of convenient car hire in Dehradun with a reliable driver, such detours and pit stop become so easy.
On the way, we passed Kotdwar, a town I always thought I should visit, but never managed to. On our way towards Lansdowne, we spotted this quaint little place on the Pauri-Kotdwar Highway called Travel Trip Cafe. Right next to it was a modest motel and dhaba. It looked like the right stop for the night. We spent some time at the café until it closed. The extremely rugged and rustic ambiance with vinyl records, old books, and the raw, mud walls, mixed with a heady aroma of the coffee, could easily send you on a pleasure trip.
The next morning, we finally woke up to a bright sunny day with clear skies and a cool breeze. Before we reached Jim Corbett, we made one last stop at Lansdowne. The little hamlet surrounded by oak and blue pine forests was one of Uttarakhand’s best-kept secrets. Given the weather that day, a walk through the town was a must. We headed to the Tip and Top Viewpoint for clear views of the Garhwal Mountains and walked along the steep, rugged cliff. Crossing the haunted cemetery of the Kitchener Lines and Lover’s Lane, we returned to the highway and finally landed at our destination by afternoon.
From the rugged mountain terrain to the grasslands, the journey to Jim Corbett was fun-filled and adventurous and nicely made up for the treks we missed.