As the distant sky gradually assumed a pale crimson hue, the shroud of mist engulfing the forest slowly started to disperse. I donned my jacket and stepped out on the wet grass, laden with dew drops. I was immediately greeted by the cries of a multitude of birds including the seven sisters, the grey tree pie, and the Himalayan bulbul as they heralded the dawn of another day. A family of Khalij pheasants and red jungle fowl scurried down the hill behind to nibble on grain or worm along the bungalow gardens. A pair of yellow-naped woodpecker added to the din as it diligently set to work on a nearby tree.
We (my family and a few friends), were vacationing at a bungalow in the forests of Kalagarh tiger reserve on the western fringes of Jim Corbett National Park. The house, belonging to conservationist Ashok Kumar, lies on the banks of the Sonanadi River, and is surrounded by thick forest cover, interspersed by a handful of houses of the Dotiyal village.
The rather remote location of the bungalow amidst flowering plants, lantana bushes and other trees resulted in a peaceful ambience – ideal for a few days away from the clamour of the city. One can spend a quiet morning broken only by the gentle murmur of the nearby stream with a book on the porch as scarlet chested sunbirds hop from one flower to the other in their quest for nectar.
The warm afternoons are ideal for lazing in the gently flowing stream and watch crested kingfishers hover above in search for fish. As the afternoon rolls and the light takes on a golden hue, a walk along the various forest trails allows one to experience the magical forest and its denizens at close quarters. In this regard, however, an early morning stroll can turn out to be even more productive, especially if rendezvous with the big cats is sought after – for leopards and tigers often pay a call on the village to ambush any stray cattle.
The forests, indeed, were magical if a local legend has to be believed. The caves above a nearby hill was once the abode of fairies who would cast their magic wand to bring good fortune for the villagers much like Cinderella’s fairy god mother. However, after an unfortunate fallout, the fairies deserted the caves and were never to be seen again. The villagers however feel they live on through the enchantment of the forest itself. The spirit of the forest and the spirit of the fairies is one and the same.