23nd February 2016, Tuesday…Day (4) Pilibhit-Dudhwa NP-Lakhimpur, 305 km
Pilibhit has been in my wish list for many years. Many people from our area migrated to this area in 1980’s due to disturbance in Punjab. Even earlier also many small farmers from our area shifted to this area as farm land prices were cheaper here. Another reason was lure of drive through the marshy, forested, shivalik foothills close to Indo-Nepal border and in the hope of sighting wildlife on the road.
While I was fast asleep inside the car, someone knocked at the car, at around 2am morning, enquiring who I was. On getting prompt and satisfactory reply, the man told me to sleep peacefully and offered help if any. He was the owner of a nearby building where my car was parked. The family had returned late from a function and noticed a covered car parked amongst other cars and wanted to make sure there wasn’t any foul play.
I could not sleep all that well thereafter and got up very early. A cup of tea from a tea shop on the main road and I was on my way to Dudhwa National Park. Few sign boards at Pilibhit were interesting like the one in above picture and the other one, below.
NH 730 looked old but wide and good enough. There wasn’t much of a traffic. The landscape around was good too. Last evening was bit hot but morning was pleasant and cool. The road passed through big farms and farm houses. There were many Gurudwara and dhabas run by punjabis. The whole area resembled Punjab.
I checked up with few people on these dhabas. I was told many farmers from Punjab migrated to this area years ago, bought the swamp lands at cheaper prices, toiled hard and transformed them into fertile lands. Raised crop after crop, resultantly, the area has become very prosperous and rich. It is currently known as mini punjab.
I took a break at one of the punjabi dhabas in front of this Gurudwara and had nice tea paratha over a small informatory chit chat. I drove further towards Puranpur and beyond. Turned left near Mohanpur just before Khuta towards Mailani and Bira.
The road continued to be good and passed through big farms and forested area. Due to onset of autumn the leaves on the trees were turning yellow and rusty. At times they would break away from the branches of the tree and fell on the road after remaining airborne for quite sometime in the gusty wind.
The tinge of green was still there on the trees and was good enough to provide shade in the mild heat. At places, the trees were bent towards one another as if they were trying to hug, in the process resembled colorful umbrella.
Bira is an important place on this route. On my return journey I would be turning to the right at Bira for onward journey to Lakhimpur. Palia is an important town with a large punjabi rich farmers population and many industrial units. It has an airstrip which is used in emergency.
In between Mailini and Bira there was an abandoned railway station, Raj Narainpur, which looked very attractive with a thick bed of fallen rusty autumn leaves. Took a little break and spend some quiet time walking near the railway trek. It was very fascinating. The fear of wild animals and monkeys made me flee the place quickly though.
There were kutcha (temporary) hutments all along the road. From a distance, they looked good in a larger landscape. A closer look would fill one with pity seeing the plight of people living in them. They were mostly landless labourers deeply stuck in poverty and barely able to make their living.
After Bira I drove over the bridge on river Sarda, a tributary of Ghagra river which further flows into river Ganga. The river bed was all dry, infact parts of it were prepared for farming. This temporary embankment is erected to stop the sudden flooding of the area in rainy season.
Dudhwa National Park , in terai (swamp land) region of the Uttar Pradesh, is located near the Indo-Nepal border in Lakhimpur Kheri district and is a part of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. Major attractions of the park is dense sal forest, big grasslands and large wetlands.Wildlife includes rhinos, tigers, swamp deer, barasingha and many others including 350 species of birds. It is a stronghold of barasingha, around half of the World’s barasingha population resides in this park.
It was good to see swamp and spotted deer right near the entrance of the park. Some turtles were visible from the road, on the bridge over a river. It was good start to the drive inside the park.
When I reached Dudhwa NP there was complete silence. Office was open but no one was there. I walked up to two men standing at far end of the complex. They were press reports and were there to report about non functioning of the forest office due to strike. Since I could not go inside the park due to strike, the reports advised me to visit Chandan Chowky post on the Indo-Nepal border.
In the meantime I took the opportunity to click few pictures at the entrance of the park with the background of dense sal forest and thick blanket of leaves fallen on the pathway.
Another view of beautiful autumn burnt sal forest.
And another one, I clicked so many pictures, it felt so good.
After sometime I drove on a narrow road through the park and soon reached a small bustling village, with a number of shops selling all kind of stuff. I came to know later that it was Chandan Chowky border with Nepal and anyone can walk freely in and out of Nepal from there. I parked the lalpari on one side of the road and after a little chit chat with security personnel at the post, walked through a forested area into this temple on the outskirts of a village in Nepal.
This Nepal village was hardly a kilometer walk from Chandan Chowky but still it looked very different. The built and structure of houses, lanes, streets and everything looked very different from an Indian village. The people were very good to talk to, they knew I was not a local but a touristy type, so everyone was very polite and friendly towards me.
Posing in that Nepal village with this sign board for a memory..
After spending about half an hour in Nepal village I walked back into INDIA. The narrow path in the picture leads to Chandan Chowky.
Most of the people seen in this picture are from Nepal. They are crossing over into Nepal after shopping for essentials from bustling market in Chandan Chowky.
This name Madhushala sounded good, especially to a punjabi like me.
From Chandan Chowky I drove on a katcha (dirt) road to Gauriphanta along the Indo-Nepal border. Gauriphanta is an Indo-Nepal border gate on the main road into Nepal. A few kilometer into Nepal lies a big city, Dhangadhi. It is a big commercial city and has a running airport. I took an e-rickshaw from border gate to Dhangadhi and had a good round of this Nepal city.
Dhangadhi looked like a bustling big metro with thriving business and middle class. Most of the things looked similar except it felt that there was more freedom in that country. Women driving these e-rickshaws was a pretty sight.
Booze was available openly and sign boards like this meant there were few dance bars and some night life at Dhangadhi.
For a while I felt like driving into Nepal for few days, however, thought it would be better to postpone it for some later and exclusive time. Picked up my car from Gauriphanta gate and drove back through Dudhwa national park to Palia, Bira and then towards Lakhimpur.
But not before clicking few pictures of sal forest in the fading evening light.
The road from Bira to lakhimpur was nice, tarred road. It felt good driving in the dark through a thick forested area. Lakhimpur looked like a busy thriving place. I wanted to eat dal (lentil) and tandoori roti (bread) so asked for a punjabi dhaba and found this one on the main road.
The battery of my camera needed to be charged so I plugged it at the dhaba while I ate my dinner. Felt like sleeping, so after getting permission to park the car in front of the dhaba and sleep inside, I pulled the cover over and slept inside the car but forgot to collect the charger of the camera…..it cost me Rs.2500-!!!