When things don’t go according to plan: The Looteras of Asola Bhatti

Trips rarely go according to plan. There are flat tyres and unexpected holdups, sometimes we discover new places and spectacular food… but sometimes, we end up doing something completely different from what we started out to do. This is the story of one such day.

Asola Bhatti, on the Delhi Haryana border, is one of those places where you can hope to get glimpses of unspoiled natural beauty. Till about ten years ago, this place saw a lot of illegal quarrying. However, these activities were stopped by the government and a rigorous afforestation program was put in place. Now, this is a wildlife sanctuary and a scrub forest interspersed with lovely lakes. I spent my childhood in Bhopal which was filled with beautiful lakes. I still remember the clear blue water and the paradise flycatchers in the sky. I suppose it was the nostalgia that made me so keen to visit Asola Bhatti and find those lakes.

So, we planned to drive down there, park somewhere and then hike through the scrub forest to find those lovely lakes. Here we thought that we’d sit around, play stupid games and eat a picnic lunch by the lake. Simple. We had hiking boots, extra food, extra jackets even. We were very well prepared. What could possibly go wrong?

So we managed to stick to our splendid plan till the first lake. It would be criminal if I did not stop to describe it here. It was incredibly lovely. Clear blue water rippling in the cool breeze, unspoiled and pristine.

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I was delighted with the first lake and couldn’t wait to find the others. Just ahead of this lake, there is a path. The beginning of the path is strewn with large boulders so no large vehicle can get through. So we decided to stick to the plan and hike onwards. Just then, we met a group of guys. There were five of them and they looked like college kids, all of them around 19 or 20. As soon as they saw us, they stopped and asked us to turn around and leave. When we asked why, they told us that a few kilometres ahead lies a village, populated by rather unfriendly people who had robbed them at knifepoint. We must have looked reluctant to believe them because they started begging quite earnestly and telling us to leave. So, we turned our backs to our plan and the promising lakes and went back to the car.

However, since we’d already come that far, we decided to use the rest of the day to visit another lake in the  vicinity. One which wasn’t quite so pristine, having become a tourist attraction quite some time back, but it would be better than seeing no lake at all. We drove on to Bhadkhal lake. There is a staircase leading up to a point from where one can view the lake. You run up the steps and see the lake span out before you. So, of course, we raced up the steps. And this is what we saw…

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Bhadkhal Lake is now a cricket field for children. So yes, we never managed to find all the lovely lakes. There is a serious law and order situation that needs to be addressed and some environmental concerns as well. I am now scared of going back to the lakes from my childhood because I might find cricket fields there and I’m sure the paradise flycatchers are long gone.

But did we have fun? Yes of course we did. We did manage to eat by a lake (well at least what was left of it… there’s SOME water there look!), we escaped the robbers and we kept the hiking gear in good condition for another day.

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