A long time back, I ruminated on one of my biggest fears – Claustrophobia. I had written about having to deal with it in scenarios like being in a tent in the middle of the forest and waking up to total darkness, and feeling suffocated. Over a period of time, I felt that things had improved, that I wasn’t feeling it so much, that I might have gone past it, or just outgrown it. I couldn’t be more wrong!
Jungle Lodges’ K-Gudi Wilderness Camp is different from the rest of their resorts. It sits in the middle of the Biligiri Ranga Temple Tiger Reserve, well within forest area. (Rest of their resorts are all outside the forests, at the edge within 5-10 minutes’ drive from them.) This means there are no power lines running up to it. Whatever power is there is from a diesel generator which is switched on for 3.5 hours in the morning and again in the evening. The lights go off at 10 PM. After that, you are advised to stay indoors and not venture out as wild animals can possibly be moving around and you don’t want to end up in a tricky situation. For the toilet they leave an emergency lamp to turn on when needed.
Another quirk is that, unlike the rest of the resorts, they don’t have a bar. But they’re “alcohol friendly”, meaning they don’t frown upon people bringing their own bottles. And even make some snacks to go with it for you. Except that we did not know this. On enquiry we found that a “town” called Nallur, some 15 Kms away had a shop. So we set off right after lunch on reaching there, hoping to get back before the Safari. We found Nallur, which turned out to be a decrepit village. We continued further on to another equally decrepit village called Nagavalli. Beyond that, as if ostracised by the village, there stood a “wine shop”. The best we could find was Blender’s Pride, a “Premium Whisky”.
So when night dawned the first day, I had downed 3 rounds of this whisky, which somehow didn’t seem to be going well, was feeling high and had had a heavier than usual dinner.It had been a stormy evening with lightning, thunder and the works. Around 9:45 PM we crashed, and I fell asleep almost immediately.
Only to wake up within the hour. And feel the darkness envelop me. It was like waking up blind. I looked around, trying to latch on to any sign of light, anything that would make me feel normal and show me something that wasn’t pitch black, some shade of grey in that darkness. There was nothing.
I made my way to the bathroom. My head was spinning. In the dim light of the emergency lamp, I threw up. Like all throw-ups after getting high, it helped. The spinning reduced. I had no idea how long the emergency light would run on a charged battery. I left it on, left the door of the bathroom slightly ajar and went back to sleep.
Sleep eluded me. Rather, complete sleep eluded me. I knew I’d have to battle the next few hours at least. There’d be those phases of semi-sleep, of semi-wakefulness, never complete rest. That would come only closer to dawn. I flitted in and out. I tried to fight the urge to open my eyes and look for light, to make my mind just assume it is there. It never worked. But the light was there each time.
Around an hour later, Anand woke up. He saw the light in the bathroom and promptly switched it off. Almost immediately I jumped and asked him to turn it on. I had told him about my trysts with darkness, so a lengthy explanation was not needed. But this time, the door was almost closed. The light was still there, any little light is usually enough – the usual one is the one from the mosquito repellant.
I went back to the same mode of wakeful sleep. After a few hours, as expected, I went into deep sleep. The wakeup call from the staff came at 6 AM. I woke up to find that the light was still glowing. That was more than 7 hours of working off the battery! This wasn’t something you got in the old days with tube light based emergency lamps. Thank God for little mercies and LEDs!
The second night, I used Anand’s power bank which could also work like a torch. The LED light of that torch was kept against a tray’s side, emitting a glow on one side of the tent. I slept easy. There was this, and if this turned off, there was the emergency lamp in the bathroom. Of course, I had also laid off the whiskey, not going past one round.
For the next visit, a few things on the list – a simple battery powered night lamp, and some good alcohol that won’t cause so much grief.
(Photos and trip details next post)