INDIA

India Conclusion

Streets of Delhi

The last few days have been spent at and around the guesthouse in Delhi. We've taken the time to relax and recover – the overnight train from Delhi, followed by 9 days on safari with early mornings, lack of sleep and being jostled around in a jeep for 7 hours a day, plus a couple of long travelling days in between had taken it's toll.

The first night we arrived back here we got straight into bed at midnight and didn't know anything more till around 9:30 the next morning, we haven't had that kind of concentrated sleep in weeks. We've spent the days reading, updating the blog and sorting out our budget, which has been hit due to the extra unexpected flight we took. We've been going to bed early and sleeping in in the mornings and finally whatever flu/cold bug that had hold of us is now mostly gone.

Abandoned Again

Near Humayuns Tomb

We left by taxi at 09:30am.

During the journey, someone rang our driver to tell him that the train was delayed by several hours and we were less than happy when it seemed we were again about to be dropped and ditched at a train station in the middle of a bustling city. We told our driver we didn't want to be dropped and left there, with no way of finding anything out and we had also started to wonder if anyone would be the other end to meet us from the train at some silly o'clock early hours of the following morning. I think our driver, although speaking very little English, sensed our concern and so it was that he took us to a random guest house, where the owner had absolutely no idea who we were or why we were there. Our driver explained to her in Hindu what the position was and she allowed us to sit in her guest lounge to try and figure out what to do next.

Wakey Wakey!!

David preparing our snack

They are not set up here for tourism at all, this has become obvious. Every time we go on the game drives, we have to wake people up at the boathouse this side of the river, in turn they then phone ahead and wake people up the other side of the river to send a boat over to get us. Whenever we come across a gate we need to pass through David has to go in search of someone to open it. Most of the time we have been the only vehicle in the entire park, which would be absolutely wonderful if we could actually find some animals to watch, but I'm beginning to wonder if there is really anything here at all other than the handful of animals and birds we've seen and I guess this is exactly why we are alone here. The park itself is beautiful and there is much to be said in favour of the lack of tourism here and the experience that alone provides. The daily ritual of waking everyone up and the ensuing scenes that follow is amusing, however I'm not sure it would be on the top of my list of places to visit to see tigers, which is essentially why we had come here.

Silence Is Golden?

Spotted Deer

There is no atmosphere at this lodge, none at all, maybe it's the lack of people, although normally that wouldn't bother me, maybe it's because we had such a fantastic time at Bandhavgarh, I don't know – but for the very first time on the trip neither John nor I wanted to be here. We couldn't put our finger on the exact problem, but we just lay and hugged this morning on a bit of a downer. We very quickly reminded each other that we are here now and will be for another two nights, so we'll just make the best of the way things are.

Deserted

Tea Stop

We had a quick piece of toast each before starting off on our journey. On the way we stopped at a tea stall in the middle of rural villages and John asked if there was a toilet he could use, which made me smile. The driver points and John asks if he means round the back of the stall ....... so I have to tell John that he means find a bush!! So now he has become a true local, well not quite, otherwise he'd have whipped it out at the side of the road! We sit in the sunshine with a drink for a bit, then we're on our way again. The rural villages are much different than the big city, there seems to be much more of a sense of community, which is probably true of most countries you go to I guess.

We were told that we would be taken to the train in Jabalpur and accompanied to our seats – so imagine our surprise upon arrival at a bustling train station when it very quickly became apparent that we were two hours early and our driver was about to ditch us and disappear!  At all times whilst unloading our luggage, setting it down and even just prior to driving off into the sunset, the drivers response to Johns questions of "You are staying with us aren't you?" was "Yes, yes, yes" although that roughly seemed to translate as "No, not a chance" when we watched him speed off leaving only a trail of dust!!

The Massage

Tiger Cub

We got Mahindre back today and the reserve was quiet this morning. We did see some spotted deer and langur monkeys. You often find the deer and monkeys in the same spots as they have quite a good friendship going – because of the way the monkeys crash around in the trees, it leads to nice juicy green leaves dropping to the ground for the deer to eat and the monkeys also have a good vantage point from which to see any predators coming, so the deer like hanging around with them.

Jumping down from the jeep at the tea stop this morning we bumped into Graham and Theresa who we'd met at our guest house in Delhi, so we chatted with them and caught up on what each other had been doing since we'd last seen them, it was nice to see them again. It was during this tea stop that a large bird decided to fly over and poop on me, which of course provided good entertainment for those around me!!

New Years Eve

John and Harish

It was no surprise to find this morning that we had another swap of driver and got sent off to zone 2. Truth be told, it is indeed fairly barren of wildlife, however, it was somewhere new that we hadn't seen before and the landscape was slightly different, a lot more open spaces. We did spot some tiger tracks around, so there were tigers over here, but Harish told us that nothing else much lived over this side in the way of mammals and the tigers were only here because once a male is around two to three years old, he has to go off and make his own territory and they then have to walk several kilometres to go hunting for food. The tigers remained elusive this morning, but we still had a good time anyway. We thought we might be able to have another elephant ride to see a tiger again, but after queuing for a while we were turned away. For obvious reasons, there are very strict rules here for the elephant rides and long before our time came the park rangers were saying that the tigers had gone and people were being turned away. Harish said that often the tiger will still be there, but the park director will decide after a certain amount of visits to it that the tiger should be left in peace, and I was glad to hear that the interests of the tigers comes first before the tourist buck – that's exactly how it should be.

Wife Swappers

Lemurs in Bandhavgarh National Park

It seems there has been some descent within the group. Someone has decided that they are missing out on something, so even though we were told we'd have the same driver/naturalist all week, apparently people have complained, which led to us getting a different driver this morning …. and we would later get to appreciate just how good our driver for the last few days, Mahindre, had been.

There is a standing joke in our jeep about snakes following Alex shouting out snake yesterday, everyone in the jeep turning around to look, only to see a man standing having a wee, which caused much laughter. So at 6am this morning as we're heading down the road, on my side of the vehicle was a man standing at the side of the roadside having a wee, both Alex and myself were quick to claim the first snake sighting of the day – which again led to another bought of laughter.

Into Tala

Langur in Bandhavgarh National Park

Today I felt like Sanka from the film Cool Runnings, it's very cold here early mornings and just about every piece of clothing I have in my backpack went on. A quick cup of coffee and a couple of biscuits in the dining area, then it was off for another game drive. There are 3 circuits allowed to be driven in the park, one of which none of the drivers like getting as they say there is never any wildlife to be seen on it. The drivers have no choice though as at the entry gate they are allotted two of the three loops and they have to abide by whichever they get. It was our turn to get the unwanted route and essentially this means that the driver hacks along the track at a fast rate of knots trying to get it over with, so that you can then get onto the second loop and start trying to spot things.

No Teasing Tigers!!

Tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park

John was a greener shade of white on the journey to the lodge and I was really worried. Bunty stopped at a market to get some bananas, which he shared around and it was at this point that we realised what most of Johns problem had been, he had been taking ibuprofen for his cold, antimalarials and cough mixture, but had barely eaten or drunk anything for two days, since our wonderful lunch in Delhi the other day in fact. So worried was he about getting a dose of Delhi belly for the overnight train ride that he'd decided not to eat anything to prevent it from happening. Once we realised, we knew he would be fine and he now promises me that he will make sure he eats something regardless of what we are going to be doing!! The good thing was that the journey to the lodge from the station was much shorter than I thought and only two hours long.

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