‘Please give us whatever food you have in your bags,’ said Amit Mukherjee, the manager of Pench Tree Lodge, with a smile on his face.
After my long travel to Nagpur and then another 3-hour drive to Pench, I was evidently exhausted and didn’t question these instructions. These words, I understood, were good for my health and belongings. I scanned my bag for any form of edible items and handed it over to Amit. He assured me that it was all kept in safe custody and will be returned to me on my departure.
The other set of instructions we got was not to step out alone after sundown. The six tree houses were scattered away keeping the dining hall/common space equidistant. Sauntering about the property in the dark meant increasing our chances of coming face-to-face with a wild creature. This did not frighten me since I wanted to be surrounded by nature.
But it wasn’t until the next morning, when I woke up and explored my tree house in light, did I understand the essence of the space. Supported by the green, flourishing Mahua tree at the entrance and shaded by the broad-leafed Peepal tree (sacred fig) around the balcony, I was amazed at the close encounters here. On one side, I saw how the wind swept the open grasslands and on the other, I could see the dark wood tree houses.
Through my stay the very busy golden orioles kept me company. They perched on the main door, they sang from the balcony and occasionally, they tapped on the window. The other birds included Black Drongo, Common Myna and Jungle Babbler.
Starting my day with a cup of tea, I seated myself in the balcony. And in a few minutes I saw a jackal hunting a Greater Coucal (Crow Pheasant). Amazed by my luck, I stayed a little longer in the hope for more sights.
As the days went by, the jeep safaris to Pench National Park alternated with the delicious meals cooked by Pankaj. Very open to feedback, Pankaj met us after every meal to understand what worked for our palate and not. From the exquisite beetroot chicken to the well flavoured baked cod fish and of course the spinach corn ravioli, I enjoyed every preparation. I did prefer his continental creations more than the Indian dishes. Though I looked forward to the desserts after every meal. The rose-flavoured kulfi, mango yogurt and chocolate mousse were my favourites.
I had a lot of time to do nothing here. Wandering around the spacious property and talking to my fellow travellers and the staff were a priority here. At other times, I read my book or stared at trees. One evening, I took the cycle out and pedalled away to the nearby village of Sirra-Hiri.
Every night here was unique. While I was still getting used to the sway of the tree house, at night I heard civets race on the roof. One morning I woke up to my bag neatly opened and a part of my wallet eaten by the rodent. Still recovering from the loss, I wondered what it was after since there was no food in the room. By the third night, I became smarter and left a light on to dissuade any potential wallet-eaters. I have to admit, staying amidst the warm hospitality and beautifully done Pench Tree Lodge was therapeutic though adventurous.
Would I stay there again? Sure, with uninteresting wallets and bags.
Good to know
-Food is not allowed in the rooms/tree houses. However, tea bags/coffee sachets are provided.
-You can hire bicycles from the property. The locale is worth exploring.
-In true Pugdundee Safaris style, the interiors are impeccably done by Bhavna Bhatnagar of An Indian Summer.
-There are insects and bugs in the room. Don’t be surprised or dismayed.
-Expect your tree house to sway to the wind or any other movement. It is natural.
-It is a very safe property though civets, snakes and other creatures have been seen.
Read: Realising Tiger Dreams
Does a tree house fascinate you?
I was invited by Pugdundee Safaris and as always, it did not influence my review.