So here I was on Friday night thinking of informing my boss that i wont be coming to office the next day. But then, characteristically, I forgot. Late at 11 in the night while i was talking to...none other than...Sash, i remembered to call office, and did the same. Only to find the senior person. So told the secretary. After all I was going to go to GIR Snactuary on an all-expense-paid trip. a gift of sorts by Richa... [she was also getting it free ;) ]
So event hough the enxt day i was supposed to be ready abnd waiting by 615 in the monring, i spoke to sash till 2am (i think?). Barely amanged to sleep. Dreamt of alarms misfunctioning.GOt up at 445 thinking it as 545. Gave up and took a shower.
Only to realise ar 620 that the car had not ariived. An enquiry showed it was late ... and came after an hour. Well!
HOwever, spirits were high as I met Anil Mulchandani for the first time..post extensive mails, and no phone conversation. Picked up the rest of the people. But all my plans of a short nap were destroyed as I found AM to be a verbose person with many (intersting) anecdotres up his sleeve. A long time in his profession has definitely left him with nany uniques experiences...which he was more than happy to share!
Breakfast was supposed to be at this heritage site near the Bird sanctuary 'Nalsarovar' of Gujarat. and we reached ther soon. Enjoyed a lovely breakfast in an old heritage house's lawns...complete with a 4X4m chess board. Typical old world. Greeted with sprinkling of flowers (they hurt!) and pale sunlight. For the record, the temperatures here have dipped. And you definitely need warm clothing. It is cooler than in winters nowadays.
Soon we pulled ourselves away from that peaceful setting and left for the road leading to Gir... planning a lunch at Gondal Palace. that journey was a little more sleep induced. What else can a person expect with 1/2 idli, uttapam triangle, toasts and 2 eggs with sunny side up, complete with a rejuvinating Basil and lemon drink and coffee in their stomachs?
Gondal palace turned out to be a lot less majestic than it is advertised to be. A plan british straight walled red brick building with simple planning, it has been made famous by the movie 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' where it was Ajay Devgans House (i was told a million times of the 'stair scene where AD drags Aishwarya Rai down the staris...for the love of anyone or anything, i cannot remember it!) and everyone was sorely dissapointed to see that it was not as grand a staircase as made out in the movie...even for that matter the pond where they sang a 'karvachauth' song !! I mean...
The rooms were decorated by the queen herself...and not going into boring details, i found them too cluttered, and nothing too royal.
What was intersting was the railway attachment kept ouside, which was used by the Gondal king to travelt o Delhi...it was attached to a normal train realing Gondal.
Christmas parties here are apparently same as before .. .lasting for 7 days ending with the kings (?) bday on 30th...and total revelry and destruction of the premises. Champagne breakfasts and all. The house is redesigned after every such party.
Lunch was sad. inedible, except for the chicken cutlets. The best part by far was the 30 vintage cars...awesome!! I got my snap taken by the proffessional photographer Dinesh Shukla...with a vintage Jaguar and a Corvette:) waiting for the snaps! (I just got a call...the pics are ready and the Corvette and me are looking good together :) )
Left for the old Gondal Palce. definitely more majestic. Took some snps.
The evening Safari was out of the question for Sasan Gir... reached there at 9pm. Changed and came out for dinner. THe place was nice, dveloped by AM and his partner... new.
Had drinks and kebabs (fish and chiken and paneer and gobi) around a campfire. the lodge shares a wall with the sanctuary wall.
Dinner was also good...with lobsters and kingfish...and something for the veggies. Left for bed thinking it was more of an eating safari than a lion safari!!
Left the next day morning at 630am. Richa was feeling ill so she stayed back :( too much food and a stomach allergy.
Gor in on an open jeep shivering in jacket and sweater. entered the sanctuary. It was amazing. exactly like Geography books... dusty, brown, short grass. In around 10 mins we met a guard who knew AM. Asked us if we were interested in a lion (stupid question!). It is not allowed that we walk out of the jeep, but we were made a speacial exception. a little deeper from the prrescribed road there was a creek. and in the darker part of it was...a Lioness with her kill! Amazing. I could not supress a whoop. There she was looking at us casually, barely 7 mtr away. We clicked away to glory...she got tired of loking at us and got up...and turned around. :))
The rest of the drive was not very thrilling, except for beautiful deer poses - Chital and Sambar and the rest. Saw a Bager and some other birds...beautiful strong birds...real life is definitely more impacting than anything...word of mouth or TV.
Reached back, coaxed Richa to leave the room, went to the cordoned off area of Gir. Here the 'aggressive' lions are kept. These are lions who have been known to attack humans (not eat them) and are to be kept under surveillance. FInding these lions is no thrill. the forest authorities know where they are at any given pint of time, what they are doing etc. howver, you cannot go in an open jeep here coz they attack the human form. We had to stay inside a mini bus. But amazing. It was a family - dad, mom, 2 growing cubs. took lotsa snaps...them looking at me straight and all. :) only thing they were close to the cordoning fence...and the fence is there in many of the pics. By the end of the trip we were coated in a film of dust. Right from white eyebrows to camera.
came back and feasted on prawns and fish :) and left for Ahmedabad.
Reached home at 12 in the night, after a long and excrutiating, tiring jounrney. Uncomfortable for me. Sat with Roopam and Anil 2, her husband). interesting couple. Would like to meet up with them again. They are also jurnos, and definitely our type. but it was the last seat and every jerk was felt. Richa was feeling a little unwell so she had streached out in the seat we had been sharing.
There was an old french woman (wife of Anils Partener) who was intersting. Very enthusiastic in life and all...always smiling.
There was Dinesh and his nephew (also a photographer) Atul. Then there was a Piyush from business Standard.
So thats that. Met lions, and we were terribly lucky. chances of a person seeing a lion in the actual Gir sanct is rare, and to see one in the first trip is even rarer.
I say the lions knew I was coming and waited for me :)
Will upload some snaps when i develop them. Still got 16 pics left in the camera...
Am teribly tired and aching all over. Naturally, not doing tuppence worth of work. :) he he....