This trip came out to be the one that will go down in history as our “absolute favorite” to date! As many wildlife weekends as we have spent in the car, this proved to be the most dramatic. It was not the 1st time we had ventured out in a National Park or a campsite without any plans, reservations or the fun we were about to have! Man, they were right when they said – “you must head out with only wildlife on your mind”!
Gir National Park is one of the clinquant jewels in the crowns of India’s other popular National Parks. This is the only place in India where one can witness the beauty of the simplistic yet glorious jungle cat of the “Leo Panthera Persica” genus; the Asiatic Lion. Enriched with an impressive number of birds and mammals, Gir forest is also an important biological research area that provides 5 million kgs of green grass in annual harvesting.
So we hit the road around 20.00 hours to start our journey of approximately 390 km and our aim was to reach before sunrise. We were well fed and so was the vehicle. Our decision of taking a quick halt at “Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary” was perfectly timed. When we reach there, we heard a voice that, at first, we did not know was playing with us. We drove about a kilometer towards the sanctuary and parked the car. The voice still continued. Finally, I took my torch out to check what it was. It was a tiny creature running to the left as soon as we caught it in the torchlight.
We could only see the eyes but it kept caterwauling. From our past experiences, we decided it was a civet or a wild cat as these animals are tiny and only come out in the cover of darkness. The darkness, silence and sudden spotting of a pair of eyes tempted us to follow the road deep inside. We tried getting in there; however, we changed our mind and took a u-turn, only to thank ourselves later. As we were taking a u-turn to carry forward the journey, we saw three men coming from nowhere with sticks. The problem with these men was not that they might harm us but was that they might have seen us throwing lights in the field, which is illicit. So we quickly got inside the car and started driving away. They were so close, though we made it and left the place.
The darkness, silence and sudden spotting of a pair of eyes tempted us to follow the road deep inside. We tried getting in there; however, we changed our mind and took a u-turn, only to thank ourselves later. As we were taking a u-turn to carry forward the journey, we saw three men coming from nowhere with sticks. The problem with these men was not that they might harm us but was that they might have seen us throwing lights in the field, which is illicit. So we quickly got inside the car and started driving away. They were so close, though we made it and left the place.
We were heading to Dhari via Shihor, Samadhiyala, Gariyadhar and Sawarkundla. To our surprise, the entire route was enveloped with thin forest. We were on a consistent look-out for CNG pumps and our last fill was located at a very unusual yet bright place near Shihor. Following the Palitana-Gariyadhar highway, we were getting close to our destination.
Unanticipatedly, we again spotted a pair of eyes right in the middle of the road. It was seated and started moving in the fields as soon as the car headlights fell on it. We quickly found the torch and threw lights, followed the luminous eyes and discovered that it was a baby fox, a very handsome baby fox. It was looking right at us, going deep in the fields, stopping in intervals, looking behind at us and finally vanishing in the darkness. This was an unexpected moment of excitement. Happy as we were, we followed the path. (Below are some pics, not very clear)
As we moved ahead, a notably awakened village welcomed us at 03.00 hours. As we took turns to again move on to the main road, we saw a tea-shop. It was brightly lit with three freshly bathed men who were worshipping their deities. We asked for directions and tea. We got both. The tea was strong yet toasty in the right amount, the one we need to stay awake. (pic- above)
Following the directions, we kept driving on the same highway, passing sparse forest passage every now and then and it was 06.00 hours when we were almost there. We were at the Dhari-Amreli highway. By 07.30 we reached the Dhari gate. The watchman seemingly stopped us as the gate entry started at 08.00 hours.
We were aware of that fact. We parked the car on the side, freshened up and tried to make rapport with the watchman. He was a medium size guy in his late 40s or early 50s. There was a roar, which I missed. My friend drew me close and I shuuushed. The roar ended in few seconds but it was worth all the hours we spent driving that night. Our hopes rose. We eagerly were waiting for the time to tick off 08.00.
It was 07.50 when the watchman told us that we can get inside. We ran to the car all in anticipation. The roar had come from the left side in a kilometers range. The sun was right in our head and all we could see were the rays and rolling terrains of fully grown dried grass. 10 minutes inside the jungle and nothing seen. Just ahead of us, on the left was a man on a bike at a standstill.
Before we could ask him why he stood there my friend spotted a lioness that came from the right. She waited for two seconds and continued going in the deep to its left. Thrilled as we were, we didn’t speak a word for a minute. And as we started going ahead, yet another lion was spotted. This time it was at 10 yards away, walking in the middle of the road, straight towards us. Even before we could embrace this, I spotted yet another lioness.
The lioness that came out from the deep walked towards our car, waited, watched us and started walking towards the lion. The approaching lion sat in the middle of the road. And in another second the lioness sat too. Few minutes passed and once more there was a roar. Both the lions glanced in that direction, then towards each other, stood up and finally walked away in the deep.
It was a real breathtaking moment and we were overwhelmed. I was in the middle of nature’s spectacular creations feeling alive like never before; the feeling no one can take away from me.