After the previous day's rubbish early start, today saw a 5.15am kick off. I stubbornly refused to get out of bed whilst the clock read 4am anything however, so did an impressively fast bed-to-jeep manoeuvre instead. It's not like the elephants care whether I'm wearing makeup, it's only the tigers that expect lipstick.
Turns out CB seriously doesn't like the cold, bless him. He had a fabulous scarf wrapped securely round his head so only his eyes peeped out. Husband was having none of this and was dressed for the tropics as per usual and my only concession to the 'cold' was bringing my gloves for the high speed drive to the entrance. Turned out to be a wasted effort though as they'd dug up a covered jeep from somewhere to protect us poor foreigners - more like CB methinks!
Anyone would think that we were in charge of a school outing. Following on from my ribbing of the scarf wearing, the three of them turned into a bunch of giggling children. For the entire 20 minute drive, they jostled and carried on like we were off to Butlins - I was expecting group singing at any minute and was quite disappointed when it didn't materialise.
There were oodles more tiger and elephant tracks this morning, probably as we were (finally) the first jeep in the park. After being distracted by some noisy langurs doing a very good impression of elephants, we did catch up with a nice sized group trampling their way through breakfast. The all-important stop for tea involved more thieving macaques and a monitor lizard dangling out of a hole in a tree. We were quite positive it was dead...til it blinked. Whilst enjoying our cuppa (we opted out of the snacks which looked distinctly like deep fried chicken feet), our park guide spotted some kid about to throw a stone at it and went off to intervene - he went up in my estimation quite extensively at this point. If karma exists, the kid got his deserved comeuppance and was chased off by a mighty macaque 5 minutes later.
Sadly we saw no more tigers but we did get great views of Crimson Sunbird which was almost as good. CB showed us a tree with leaves which could be used as soap. We were all pretty dusty by this point so when CB demonstrated and turned a distinctly paler colour as a result, much amusement was had jesting how many leaves it would take to turn him my colour.
A cow innards update! We hadn't had a chance to check on them the previous afternoon so we kept our eyes peeled on the homeward leg just for you. I still didn't really believe they once belonged to something bovine so I needed to check, for scientific purposes you understand. I can now categorically report that they did go moo once upon a time but sadly wouldn't be doing so again anytime soon.
As my tummy appeared to be behaving itself, I had a healthy dose of eggy bread for late breakfast and then we headed out on the drive to Pangot in the lower Himalayas. We made a stop at Corbett waterfalls on the way, where I amazingly managed not to fall in again - I must be getting good at this lark. Ganesh and Mark scouted for birds whilst I pootled about taking photos of anything that took my fancy.
Back in the car, the road started to climb and as the landscape got higher, we were faced with a never-ending stream of hairpin bends and deathly drops. I scrunched further down in my seat so the precipitous views weren't so obvious to my eye and hence, my stomach. The balmy temperature was rapidly disappearing and it seemed CB took a perverted pleasure pointing out the hailstones accumulated at the sides of the road (where the road had a side and not a sheer drop of course). Considering his aversion to the cold, I hoped he had another jumper coz he sure as hell wasn't getting mine.
Nearing our destination, we drove though 'horse town' and rounded 'telescope bend'. It turned out to be a local holiday so the traders were out in force selling horse-rides and close-up views of the mountains. The fact that they chose the narrowest and most gut-renching hair-pins to display their wares, did little to persuade me to part with my money however. We also passed what must have been the world's highest boating lake, complete with the ubiquitous swan-shaped pedalo - unsurprisingly, no one was out boating.
Our abode for the night was Jungle Lore Lodge where we received a very gracious welcome on arrival. Once we'd partaken of both the hot and dry towels for our hands, our foreheads were made resplendent with red spots and rice and to top it off, our heads were sprinkled with petals. Walking carefully with heads held high - to prevent rice and petal displacement - we explored our surroundings before lunch. The view from our cottage balcony was just plain beautiful, looking down over the wooded valley, but we were warned not to leave the doors open as the macaques like to sneak in. The damn things are following us I swear it. The cottage itself was well equipped with not only a tiger pillowcase but also an enormous iron woodburner which looked more suited to arctic exploration. Lunch proved to be the first non-curry meal of the trip, fried chicken and chips, which was very nice but it felt distinctly odd not having any rice and dahl. By the way, does anyone know at what point it's not considered bad manners to remove the rice stuck to your forehead?
Ganesh took us for a quick bird walk after lunch to see what was about - not a lot it proved but the misty views promised of more to come on the morrow. I had pulled my scarf from my bag on leaving the cottage and was mighty glad I had as the cold had settled in as the sun lowered. By the time it had finally set, we were scurrying back to the lodge for hot cups of tea and to our joy, found the stove had been lit. I cannot adequately described the enjoyment I took from the volcanic heat this thing produced. Whilst husband wrote up his bird notes, I wiggled my toes until they were suitably scorched. I fear tomorrow morning's walk will require all the cold weather gear we packed so scathingly two weeks ago.
It turned out the local dog population had decided to give us their rendition of 'Cats' that evening. The lead soprano sounded a bit stretched but all in all, a fairly good production. They finished just in time for dinner which made a welcome return to Indian fare. Not long after, we were packed off to bed, each with a hot water bottle to ward off the chill and the hope that the dog chorus wouldn't bless with an encore at 3am.