It was a long time since I had taken a proper vacation. This was largely because I was pulled between work pressures and also had this need to keep going back to
So it was Kabini/Coorg afterall, but then was the other task of planning out the sequence and what we wanted to do. As we were taking this break after such a long time, I had in my mind that it should be as comfortable and well paced. I therefore consciously avoided public transport in the consideration. For this time, I also did not want to reach destinations without reservations, having to haggle at railway stations or bus stands, or wait. I knew that I was taking an expensive option, but decided that it was worth the indulgence.
We bought the Outlook book on 52 weekend breaks from
I had heard that the Jungle Lodges are very professionally managed and one could see that while the general approach was that of a government undertaking – right from wanting upfront full payments, to the need for a demand draft if you were booking from off site [and non acceptance of cheques] and the non-availability of the option of online payments they had moved slightly in some payment options if you were at the booking office – that they accepted credit cards was a saving grace! The nice thing about the sarkaari set ups are that once they decide to get into the serious act, they do their job quite well – helpful in customer interface [not necessarily courteous], and a certain non-elite approach. For the middle class it puts you into great level of comfort. The choice of accommodation was between a cottage, a tented accommodation and a regular sort of a room. We thought it would be exotic to stay in a tented accommodation, and that was a bit cheaper than the others. It was a good decision even in retrospect.
So there we were armed with a booking for 2 night stay in Jungle Lodges and trying figure out how we were going to append an additional 2-3 days to this. Coorg looked inviting, but the options were several – do we go to Coorg first and then come to the Lodge, do we opt for a plantation stay or a hotel in coorg and how do we organize the logistics of reaching the Jungle Lodge from whichever route we were taking. It was clear that while it was possible to reach Coorg using a KSRTC bus [with appropriate reservations] it was absolutely necessary to have own transport for reaching the Jungle Lodges. The lady at the booking counter [and the website] gave us two options of taxi operators who they suggested were reliable. I called up Skyway and had a chat with Amaravati [also calling herself Vishal] and she infused enough confidence in me. For one, Skyway had offices in
Though the reporting time at Kabini was only around 12.00 noon, we decided to leave early. We thought it would be a good idea to stop over and meet some relatives in
Hemant was a good chap. He was from Somvarpet. He had done these trips often and told us that Skyway specialized in offering services to the Jungle Lodges customers and rarely took up other assignments. Therefore their drivers knew the beat well. Though Vishal had warned us that the road from Kabini to Mercara could be bad, Hemant said that it was pretty decent. Any day I would take the driver’s word than the owner’s! He was quite careful in driving and was also well behaved – and appeared patient. The last thing one wants to have on a six day trip is an irritable driver. The only thing that worried us was that he had just returned from Coorg – a fairly long drive and had reached
It was nice to be with Gowri and Arjun, and it was a great feeling to be going off like this, without a meeting scheduled at the other end of the journey. As we approached Srirangapattana, I asked Gowri is she was willing to visit the Ranganathaswamy temple. For me, having stayed in
One dilemma that I face everytime I visit a temple is a question of where to take the footwear off. Given that we were actually off on a safari, I was not even in my slippers, but in sneakers. In Srirangapattana, and every other place we took the footwear off in the car, and each time we regretted it! It was nice to drive around Srirangapattana and that place does not seem to have changed in the last several decades. We did not go to the other places of tourist importance there – Darya Daulat, Gumbaz or Sangam nor did we stop by the fort or the place of the death of Tipu. The detour was just incidental and not planned, and there would be more occasions for us to visit these places if needed.
After a brief stopover in
The welcome at Kabini was quite warm. We were stopped at the reception for a briefing, the bookings checked and without much fuss ushered into our tent. The person at the reception told us to have lunch and report at 3.00 pm for a tea to be followed by a briefing and a safari.
The tented accommodation is quite nice. Given that Jungle Lodges extracts a heavy price from its tourist, the facilities can at best be said to be modest for the price. I never understood the logic of pricing on a “per person” basis, as most of the spaces they had were on the basis of twin occupancy. I guess it would have been much better to have a per tent/room basis with premium charged on extra occupancy. We had a single person staying in the next tent paying a third of what we were paying for the same accommodation! Well, I guess the logic of per person charges is something to do with the entire package which includes lots of variable costs such as food and trips into the Jungle. The tent had an attached bath, a tea kettle with ample supplies of tea, milk powder, coffee and sugar and adequate lighting, a fan and a couple of plug points for plugging in your mobile charger or the laptop. Obviously one did not expect to have a television and there was no chair inside. The bathroom was almost as spacious as the room itself with a shower and all other facilities, including a supply of hotwater from the nearby fuelwood fired boiler. When we came out, we saw a fire extinguisher perked up promptly on a tree near our tent.. just in case there was a forest fire??!!