Death by doorbell
Despite not having hot water bottles and only canvas between us and the chilly elements, we slept pretty well. Breakfast of tea & biscuits was booked for 6.30am, before a quick final bird walk. I took the steps up to the road at a more leisurely pace and happily reached them without a wheeze in sight.
As well as the usual bird suspects, we managed to bag views of a gorgeous male Green-tailed Sunbird and a Blue-throated Barbet, and Mark managed to get some rather nice shots of the latter perched in a tree. That morning's trees were also full of cicadas screaming their faces off and Ganesh easily found one to show me. After many, many failed attempts to find them on previous trips abroad, I'd given up looking for them so it was great to finally see one of the little blighters.
After some rather picturesque views of one of Sattal's lakes (Sattal actually means seven lakes), we sat down to a more substantial breakfast number two. We were accompanied by an intermittent thumping coming from the ceiling. When the waiter saw my eyes tracking the moving noise, he told me it was mice. Biggest damn mice I've ever heard, more like badgers in clogs!
We were due to start the long drive back to Delhi after breakfast so it came time to say goodbye to Ganesh. He was off to catch a train to meet his next tour group - a bunch of hardcore birders on their 10th trip to India. We wished him luck as they sounded a lot more work than us!
The drive back started through misty hills in Uttarakhand and CB stopped at a roadside stand on the way, to buy fresh guavas for us all. Unbeknownst to us, however, it is common practice in India to eat them with hefty lashings of salt. Mark 'accidentally' lost his out the window but I persevered. Once you got past the initial mouth-puckering shock, it wasn't too bad and found myself reaching for another segment unconsciously. Did I mention that they were the size of grapefruit? Good job we had plenty of water with us is all I'll say.
As we reached the outskirts of Delhi, the flow of interesting sights increased exponentially. Most of the tuktuks appeared self-propelled via the judicious use of the driver's left foot hooked around the wing-mirror/bumper/passengers of the vehicle in front - I figured the saving in petrol must reduce the tuktuk's carbon footprint significantly. I have also decided that this is my father's ideal vehicle - easy access and uber cheap running costs. And he could be safe in the knowledge that the '24x7hrs' ambulance would hurry to his aid if an accident occurred - as long as it was within the designated hours of work, of course. We guessed the ambulance was also kept busy by the previous owners of the multiple kites wrapped round the electricity cables stretched across the roads.
Need a police officer? Forget Dinky Donuts, the Indian police would all be found, we assumed, in the 'Central Police Canteen' - a huge building on the main road into Delhi.
We noticed car indicators being used for the first time since leaving Delhi 13 days ago - not correctly I'll grant you but at least they were being used. It seemed both Burbury and gingham were currently in season for the fashionable turban-wearer about town, as was dyeing your hair and beard (men only) bright orange. We later found out this had a religious significance and wasn't simply a mistake by Wella.
Arriving at last at our hotel, I must admit to being just a tad disappointed. After all the impressive, homely and canvas-based places we'd stayed, this establishment was not exactly cream of the crop. With a dodgy air con unit and a shower that supported climate change all by itself, we were both looking forward to getting our heads down as quickly as possible on our last night in India.
While Mark nipped out to grab us some snacks, I browsed the TV for anything which held a signal for more than 5 minutes. Captivated by a cartoon of small blue babies, I was jolted out of my revelry by a almighty screeching noise. In my scared-nearly-witless state, I thought for a minute the noise was coming from the door. With ears ringing and heart pounding, I crept closer to investigate...just as someone decided to knock on the door. Once I'd peeled myself off the ceiling, I gingerly opened the door to a porter who had kindly brought our passports back. The screeching had been a doorbell. "Thank you very much for bringing our passports", I said. "No, we didn't want any food, yes, I was sure, no, there's nothing else I want and by the way, if you press the doorbell again I will not be held responsible for any pain I inflict upon you". The doorbell was meant to sound like a bird called a Bulbul apparently - a 50 foot man-eating one with the lungs of a free-diver!
And husband wondered why I opened the door to him a little tentatively 5 minutes later.
After snacking on curry crisps, we eventually fell asleep to the whirring of the ceiling fan and prayed to whichever god would listen, that the air con wouldn't blow up before breakfast.