Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trip to Pench National Park

I was the last person who was informed about this trip, because neither my friends nor I was certain
about going. My friends weren’t sure because I was in Bangalore for a long time, and I wasn’t because
I had bigger and important things on my mind at that time. I don’t know who among all of them came
up with the idea of this little adventure, yes adventure, because it was, and even before it started,
it sounded like one. Then when Naman and Piyush went and actually booked a resort and a safari, it
occurred to me I was going. 22nd was the chosen date. The trip was planned for 10 friends for a single
day. As most of them were businessmen, they wanted a short and sweet trip. So it was just a one day

We departed from Raipur on 22nd in the afternoon, arrived at Nagpur in the evening, reached the
resort at Pench National Tiger-reserve Park at night. Our plan was to stay overnight and then go for a
morning safari. After the safari we would head back home. Everything was set. The trip started. We had
an awesome dinner at the MP tourism Resort where we were staying followed by some fun and beer.
We had one more reason for this - It was Piyush's birthday that day. After our late night photo-shoots
and masti we all slept at around 2 and woke up at 5 in the morning. We got ready and our gypsies were
ready to take us to the deep forest.

Just to tell you, Pench is a National tiger reserve which lies in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The
area is around 750KMsq but the area opened for tourists is just 20% of the total reserve. It has 33 tigers,
40,000+ spotted deer, 30,000+ peacocks, 350+ varieties of birds, and many other animals. The forest is
mainly made up from Teak.

So our gypsies started running towards the jungle. We completed formalities at the entrance and
entered the Pench National Park. Now let the photos speak for themselves.

The first thing we saw was an owl. "King of camouflage" It was so wonderfully blended in the tree that it
took us 5 minutes to spot it. There were 2 of them.

Then there were many many peacocks and hundreds of spotted deer.

As we kept going deeper and deeper our guide was trying to keep our expectation levels low by
continuously telling us that no tiger has spotted in last 10 days. So, there was very few (or no) chances
of spotting a tiger that day. Then we reached a lake and our guide noticed some markings on the road.
And it was a tiger’s footprints. But then he said that the tiger has crossed the road and went towards
the forest which is out of bounds for tourists. Again our hopes crashed. We kept moving forward and
spotted some wild boars along the way.

And as we moved further, our driver suddenly stopped. He was trying to hear calls (Monkeys and deer
start “calling” out to other animals as a warning if they see/ feel the presence of tiger). Then he showed
us fresh dropping of a tiger (dropping = potty). That means the tiger was there 15-20 minutes ago. But
again our guide told us to keep our hopes low as it again went in the jungle. Then we again moved
further. Other gypsies moved in other directions. Our guide asked our driver to go to “Hand-pump”.
They’ve named the areas inside the vicinity. And as we were on our way to that Hand-pump, our driver
said- “Silence…a Tigress”.

And we were all awestruck. She was coming towards us in a slow majestic walk. I started clicking her
every step. I took 88 photos of her in just 3-4 minutes. She came and stood near our gypsy as if she
was giving me side pose, her feline body shining shades of orange yellow and black. I clicked her till
my photography instincts were saturated. And then she slowly disappeared into the jungle. It was an
awesome feeling filled with both fear and excitement in her presence. As she went deeper and deeper,
we couldn’t see her, but animals started calling out. On our way back we saw jackals and many other
birds. The trip ended with a feeling of utmost content, we were now going home with a once in a

lifetime experience.
Dawn at Pench.
The Team

Roads to the Mowgli Land

"King of Camouflage"
"Indian Scops Owl"

Spotted Deer || The bigger the horns, the better the girlfriend ;)
Their Antlers Shed
And they get new beautiful Antlers :D
Eye Contact

Changeable Hawk Eagle
Indian Ringneck Parakeet
Indian Roller
Pied Kingfisher
Basking Bird
This lake is the main water source to the animals
Tiger's Footprint
This is how a tiger marks it's territory. It pisses on the tree trunks. Unlike most animals, their urine leaves a characteristic yellow mark.
The dropping tells many things. The hair you can see in the photo tell us that the last hunt of this tigress was a deer. And the hair come out when the dropping is the last digestive remains of that kill. It means she's on hunt again. And the freshness tells the time when she was there.
It's of great help.

Tiger scratches tree trunks. Some say they do this to sharpen their nails while some say they do it just out of aggression.

This was the time when I first saw her.

And she started coming closer.
She has a collar on.

She was walking straight to us.
She was wonderfully resplendent.
White dots on her ears look majestic.
They spray their urine on tree trunks to mark their territory.

A monkey was shouting out loud. She just gave him a look and monkey fainted :P
Jackals of Pench are the most colorful ones in India. And unlike the Jackals of other parts, they hunt also.
Birthday Boy Piyush.
Wild Boars.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Reading this may make your train journey easy.

Festive season and summer vacations, these were the times when doing reservations in trains used to be tough. But nowadays, all 365 days are the same. Getting a confirm berth is becoming like bringing a piece of meat back from a tiger’s mouth. In last 18 months I’ve travelled a lot. And in these 18 months I’ve been through a lot. So just want to share some tips and tricks which I’ve learnt the hard way. Reading this may make your journey a bit easy if not completely.

I won’t say that you should plan your journey at the earliest, because that isn’t possible. Courtesy - our lifestyle. So let’s assume, you want to go somewhere next week, after 10 days, that gives you 10 days to plan your journey. Now when you open your IRCTC account and try searching for a train, every train you see is full. Some are showing regret and some are showing the numbers that you know can’t get confirmed. But still you see a train which has the least number of waiting- maybe 7 or 8. So-

1. Chances of clearing of a waitlist number in AC 2 are least. Then AC3 is second and then Sleeper. It means, Sleeper waiting list has fair chances of getting cleared. Why? Because whenever the waitlist is full and the status is showing Regret, it means there are enough people in the waitlist who can fill 1 or 2 complete coach/ bogies of 72 seats each. So if the division which is running the train has extra sleeper coach (which they generally have), they will put in the train and your ticket can get confirmed. But usually they don’t have extra AC coaches. So chances of your ticket getting confirmed are quite rare in AC.

2. I didn’t say AC1 in the last point, because it’s better to take a flight than to travel in AC1. Charges of AC1 are quite equal to domestic flights if you make your reservations 30 days prior to the journey date.

3. There are many people who say they can get your ticket confirmed by putting it into VIP quota. They are just bluffs. It’s true that there’s something called VIP quota but that has a very small number of births in trains. So chances of getting your ticket confirmed by VIP quota are very rare (until and unless you know a VIP personally or you yourself are one LOL).

4. It just happened accidently. I was trying to get a ticket in Tatkal quota by logging in the IRCTC website at 10 in the morning. And if you’ve ever tried doing that, you would know how big pain in the butt that is. So I tried doing transactions 2 times. Money was getting debited from my account but the website kept saying “You’re session has expired”. I was so irritated and suddenly a friend of mine called from USA. And I asked her to open the website and to do all the steps. And to my amazement, everything was happening very fast. And she didn’t face any problem at all. Maybe it’s because the servers of our internet providers get coagulated with the requests for IRCTC. But if it’s really urgent, ask a friend living abroad to help you.

5. PQWL- Well this is a point which can boggle your mind. We all are acquaintance with GNWL (General Wait List). Generally if you buy a waiting ticket, it has got GNWL written on it. But there’s one more thing- PQWL (Pooled Quota Wait List). Understanding PQWL maybe a bit tricky. So read it carefully-
Suppose you want to travel from Bangalore to Nagpur and there is a new train 09308, Yashwantpur- Indore Special (YPR- INDB SPL). When you check on IRCTC, YPR to NGP, it shows 6 waitlist (It’s not specified there, GNWL/PQWL) in AC 2. You go ahead and book the ticket which is at waitlist 6. But then when you check the same train from YPR to INDB (INDB means Indore which is the destination of this train), there are 16 seats available. WHoaahhh !! Then what was that?? Just few minutes ago, it gave you waitlist 6 ticket and now there are 16 tickets available. How’s that possible.
Let me explain this to you- This train starts from Yashwantpur and goes to Indore. You were trying to book ticket from Yashwantpur to Nagpur. Nagpur is like somewhere in the midway. So, if you will get a confirmed ticket from Yashwantpur to Nagpur, who would pay for that seat after Nagpur all the way to Indore!! It would be the loss of railway. This diagram would explain it to you- 

The fair between YPR- NGP is 1800 and between YPR and INDB is 2500. So if you take a birth from YPR to NGP, you would pay 1800 Rs. But what if there’s nobody to sit on that birth after NGP !! So, instead of giving you the birth, railway put you in PQWL. Now there are 2 cases-
(A)-They wait for a person who is willing to go to Indore, because he will pay 2500 Rs.
(B)- If a person wants to go from Nagpur to Indore, then you both would be paying a sum of 2500 Rs and the seat would be acquired the whole way.
So, ultimately you can say that GNWL has higher priority than PQWL. And whenever you try to book a ticket and see waitlist, don’t forget to check the availability of the tickets till the destination. It may cost you more, but it’s far better than taking the pain of doing tatkal reservation and dealing with those agents.

6. Now if you’ve to travel and you don’t have reservation (or may be waiting in sleeper). Here’s what you can do-
S1, S3, S5, S7, S9, S11…..   The sleeper bogies, with odd extension, have 1 birth reserved for TC (Ticket checker). Birth number-7. You can ask the TC, and can get that seat. It depends on your convincing skills though ;). Especially, it really helps while coming to Multai from Bhopal or coming to Raipur from Nagpur.

#All of the above information is based on my experience and my knowledge. It’s up to the reader to understand it and follow it, if he wishes to. But if something goes different from what is stated above, I am not responsible for it. This is just my blog post.

Some questions this blog answers:

Reservation in AC1, AC2, AC3 and sleeper class?
What is waitlist?
What is PQWL?
What is GNWL?
What is VIP Quota?
Reservation problems in using IRCTC?