Naan fights and dead goats
Seems I'm getting accustomed to these early morning starts as I didn't even need my alarm to wake me this morning. This does not mean, however, that I will become a postman on our return home. Have made husband promise that on the next holiday, we...sorry, I will a) stay in one place, b) do precisely diddly squat if I so wish it and c) sleep in.
The 5am start turned out to be not so we could get in the park early but so we could book our afternoon jeep trip. The infamous Indian bureaucracy came to the fore and led to a long wait at the park offices. Mark went in with our jeep driver and didn't return for about an hour. I watched lots of people go in and lots of people come out but none of them my husband - had he been kidnapped by monkeys?
I overheard there was a woman in the office keeping order with a stick so I'm guessing it must have been a bit of a bun fight or the Indian equivalent - a naan fight perhaps? When they did eventually emerge, all he'd had to do was complete a form with his name and passport number which duly signed and filed away. Quite why this process took an hour is beyond my ken.
And so it was a positively late 7am when we arrived at the park entrance. Without the urgent need to see tigers however, we simply sat back and enjoyed the ride. We saw more pug marks here than we had at Ranthambore, and a giant p**** cat scratching post too, so they were definitely out there somewhere. Alas, it was not to be on this drive but we did get great views of Oriental Pied Hornbill, Jungle Fowl and a cute water snake poking out from under a rock.
Our newly booked afternoon game drive was due at 1pm so we managed a late breakfast on our return. Our bellies just couldn't face another stuffing at lunch, a mere hour later, so we opted for a quick snooze instead. We do appear to do that fairly often don't we!
We were off to the south side of the park which meant a 20 minute drive to get there. Our park guide was wearing a fetching wooly hat so I commented to him that it was not really all that cold. His excuse was that he was wearing it to keep his hair out of his eyes on the drive. He did have rather lovely long, luxuriant hair so I let him off.
The drive there proved to be just as exciting as the park. As we excited the Dhikuli village, I spotted what looked like large white pillowcases in a pile on the riverbank. Overstuffed and a little grubby, I wondered what they were doing there - was it laundry day perhaps? As we drew near however, I could also see something blue and coiled in amongst the 'pillows'. It's a good job I have a strong constitution as I rapidly changed my identification. I now think it more likely they were a pile of bloated cow innards. All I could think about was how improved they'd be on our return journey after sitting in the sun all afternoon. Really glad I'd not had lunch!
Driving through the buffer zone on the outskirts of the park, we came across a group of people carrying a dead goat - is there a theme here? Our guides slowed down to investigate and spoke to the lady whose goat it was. It had literally just be nobbled by a tiger, along with another two, seriously injured. Our guides quizzed whether it wasn't a leopard instead but she were pretty adamant it was the stripy beast. Suddenly the environs of the jeep didn't feel all that safe anymore - there's never a canter when you want one!
The forest here was beautiful, all sunspots and dangly trees. I was rather taken by all the blue butterflies flitting past but not being allowed to get out, I had no hope of photographing them, let alone identifying them. Our bird guide, Ganesh, promised to show me some once we got to our next destination. I nodded along with this but privately didn't get my hopes up - we would be in the lower Himalayas and I couldn't imagine many butterflies liking the cold.
Arachnophobes would find themselves permanently on edge here I think, as it seemed every piece of vegetation had at least one funnel spider web. We kept our eyes out for the occupants but other than Mark thinking he spotted some movement, we never did see the builder of these fabulous constructions.
We made the obligatory stop for tea at what looked like an old military post. It now seemed however, that the only bandits around to subdue were the macaques. As mentioned in previous blogs, they are not my most favoured animals so I steered clear of the little darlings as they gathered in waiting. The minute we left the jeep, they were in, so it was a jolly good thing we had taken anything not bolted down with us. After imbibing a fine cup of tea, we recovered a jeep decorated with a multitude of tiny monkey handprints.
The remainder of the day's drive saw a gorgeous Emerald dove, a Changeable Hawk-Eagle eating a peacock up a tree and a rather fine bull elephant. We returned via a different route so am unable to confirm the ID of the cow innards but we still have tomorrow.
After all this excitement and dust, we greatly praised the virtues of even our rather dubious shower before dinner.
Treated self to double pudding as I felt I deserved it, whilst husband enjoyed a bottle of Godfather - 'extra super strong beer' according to the label. I wondered whether this would affect his ability to meet the even earlier start on the morrow. Only time will tell...