Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, UP-Visit Aborted

This post is about a failed attempt to visit Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, UP. It doesn’t share details of the tiger reserve, but shares related information which could be useful to future visitors.

I had to visit Bareily, UP for a family function and I was scanning for possible places of tourist interest nearby. I came across Pilibhit tiger reserve. I tried finding more about this tiger reserve on internet, but there was hardly any information. Few bloggers I contacted had no info on this. I checked with Aircel’s PR person (who coordinates Save the tiger campaign sponsored by Aircel)- even he said he has no contacts in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve.

So Pilibhit Tiger Reserve appeared like either a hidden gem that no one bothered to explore OR a place not worth visiting or exploring.

I’d reached my destination- Faridpur near Bareily by about 8 AM. We had a family function beginning at 6PM same day- the main objective why we had come all the way. Effectively I had about 10 hours to spare. I had to decide on a destination. I could go to well known places like Nainital, Jim Corbett etc OR I could try visiting lesser known Pilibhit Tiger Reserve- All these were in 100-150kms range. I figured out that Jim Corbett can’t be explored in a day, so I need to visit it with more time in hand. Nainital I’d been to already (during Club Mahindra Binsar trip) and I wasn’t interested in other pilgrimage places nearby. 

Hence decided to try explore Pilibhit Tiger Reserve. Probably the place is not worth a visit and I would waste my time- in that case I can confirm to the world that it is not worth visit. Else if the place turns out to be great, I would be one of the few people to write about it. Besides possible tiger safari, what excited me was the prospect of going close to Nepal border. Google maps showed a road that goes so close to Nepal border that one should be able to see Nepal/Himalayas from there. 
With above thought, we decided to head to Pilibhit, some 130 kms from where we were. It was 10.30AM when we started from home, we had about 7 hours to cover a round trip journey of 260+kms & also visit the tiger reserve and Nepal border. I felt that is viable.

Unfortunately the roads were not good. They were decent in patches and with lots of pot holes. Add to this hundreds of trucks that were plying- my drive was slowed down considerably. All through the way I didn’t find a single sign board/display/information sharing any details of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve. UP tourism department (if there is one) is not really good at promoting its places. (or it could be that they don't want tourists there, to let tigers enjoy more solitude)  As we neared Pilibhit town, roads were better- next 20+kms I could cruise, again to encounter bad roads. At about 1PM, we’d crossed Pilibhit town, 2.5 hours to cover about 90 kms. Trusting Google maps, I pressed on. By about 1.45 PM, I was still 25 kms from Pilibhit Tiger reserve. The road that was worse so far, got worst. I wasn’t driving an SUV, but a compact sedan, Dzire. Road was so bad that I was running big risk of damaging my car if I drive on too long on roads like this.

While I was at least enjoying the drive, my passengers were getting anxious having to sit idle forever inside the car that is being driven on bad roads. I was occasionally reminded of the time that we were running out fast.

I had to make a decision. We’d spent close to half of our time driving towards the destination, which is still 25 kms and lots of bad roads away. If I press on, I might eventually reach the reserve, but with a big risk of running late for family function and a small probability that car  might get stuck in bad road- doomed if we proceed further, doomed if we have to return. We had to reach back by 6 PM- skipping family function was NOT an option, as it was the reason we had come all the way.

We checked with few locals- some weren't even aware of a tiger reserve, while others had heard it but didn't have any practical information that I could use.

Eventually I took a tough decision of abandoning the tiger pursuit and return to base. The odds didn't appear favorable. Pilibhit tiger reserve and Nepal border will have to wait.

On the positive side, we passed through northern UP villages, looking at agricultural fields, irrigation canals and the local life. Akhilesh Yadav govt has much more to do here.

Public transport was almost non existent. For every 25 trucks, I spotted one bus. Most of the people travel in crowded share autos.
Pilibhit Tiger reserve also has connecting roads from Uttarakhand- not sure if they are better. Google maps doesn't have a provision to view road conditions or read other's rating/review of roads.

We reached home by 5 PM and called it a day.


Basu said...

Thank you for the experience , I was planning to hit the road to the reserve this weekend and on a sports bike which will be impossible to ride or tolerate on roads like that . I stay in bareilly and you saved me from a massive headache .

I regret you didn't enjoy the drive but thanks to you , I know better now and I really appreciate that .

ps: you can't spot a tiger in these reserves anyways , been to Corbett 4 times , never seen one . Always show me pug prints which I suspect they plant themselves because they know you ain't spotting any tigers.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Basu

My experience was in May. Things might be different now. If you're staying close by and have a weekend to spare, please check out sometime and let us know what exactly is there.

I agree on pug marks... most of the time the pug marks will be on the side of the road, not in the centre (so that people can view it without getting down from the jeep) and staff can locate it even from fast moving jeeps... So I too think most of them are planted...