Friday, April 11, 2014

My India Travels and Eats, Day 2

We woke up before the sunrise on the second day in India to make sure we were able to get into the park by sunrise. We hopped in a jeep (which they called a gypsy) at our resort and headed out. We expected another few people to get in our car with us but it turned out everyone got their own. Awesome! We stopped at the entrance of Kanha to make sure we were cleared to go in. Since this is a tiger reserve they had to check our passports and put us with a guide.

We were put with a very sweet girl whose name I can't remember. She didn't speak very good English so we only got some bits of information out of her. We drove around and were introduced to the different animals in the park and got to see the landscaping there. So beautiful!

 Asian elephant. These guys are not wild - they're actually used by locals to clear out trees to build roads.

 Langur monkeys were all over the place. How cute are these two?

 We also saw a lot of these spotted deer. This guy had a bleeding wound.

This park, Kanha, is known for having one of the most populations of Bengal Tigers per capita. We were hoping to see one but at this point we didn't have any luck. We stopped somewhere in the middle of the jungle and our guide and driver set up a lunch for us. It was so nice of them and so unexpected! We ate a bunch and realized... oh crap! They weren't eating! We invited them in and shared our meal with them. We got vegetable sandwiches (with cucumber and tomatoes) as well as savory paratha, water, tea (with milk, which we didn't drink), bananas, and apples (which we also didn't eat). This is where I had my first experience with a bidet (without toilet paper!). Good thing I only had to go #1.

We had a nice chat with some older English folks during lunch then headed out. Our guide told us we were headed to a spot where a tiger was spotted. Awesome! When we arrived, there were probably 15 other vehicles there. They were all staring into this brush very patiently. We waited there for a while. And waited some more. It felt like forever! Finally everyone sees a tiger way out in the distance. Of course Michael and I are completely oblivious at this point. Honestly all we can see is brush. Another guide lends us his binoculars and I see an ear! YEAH, AN EAR! The tiger stands up for a split second and I hand Michael the binoculars and he says he sees it (after the trip he told me he only saw the shadow, ha). Really, it wasn't a very climatic part of our day. We had more excitement seeing the monkeys!

The sleeping tiger everyone was waiting on was out there, somewhere...

Since we waited at this brush area for so long, we had to get back (this safari ended up being 5 1/2 hours, actually). The drive back to the lodge was a bumpy one. The villagers had started digging up rice paddies for the day. Turns out when they dig up the ground, they dump the remains in the street. This isn't so terrible in a car but in a jeep without seat belts it's especially bumpy. It was neat to see how they worked, though. The women would dig into the ground with large bowls, carry the heavy bowls on their head to spots with piles of dirt, and dump the contents there.

 Of course we saw more cows on the way back.

 We got back to the lodge pretty exhausted but hungry.

We ate lunch at the lodge and it was SO GOOD. They served us aloo gobi, more daal (oh man, that daal), papadum, roti, and rice. 

We took a short rest in our room then went back out for the nighttime safari. We surprisingly got the same driver who was great but were assigned a different guide.  This guy spoke perfect English and was extremely knowledgeable. Right away he started tracking the tiger tracks and assured us that we'd see a tiger. He said a few people had spotted a tiger in this specific area, and since he knew which way the tiger was headed, we might be able to catch it before anyone else. We waited at this particular for maybe 5 minutes when we hear a whistle. Our driver takes off like CRAZY and we're swerving, dodging trees, and inhaling dirt kicked up from multiple jeeps. Our guide tells us that the tiger is close! 

 We are stopped behind a multitude of jeeps. Now before I tell you about the tiger, let me tell you about that Englishman in the teal. See him? He's standing on his seat. He's one of the people we had a conversation with at lunch. Nice guy. Anyway, all of the cars were trying to get a better view of the tiger. I am telling you again, the driving here is INSANE, even in the jungle. Everyone wants a better view of the tiger so the drivers are going into ravines, driving off the trail, and almost hitting each other. It's quite funny. Ok, back to the Englishman. His jeep sees an opening and wants to take it, FAST. Without checking to see how his passengers are doing, the driver just TAKES OFF. Poor Englishman fell backwards, almost out of the jeep. As Michael likes to put it, "his feet went one way and his head went the other.". As soon as this happens, we hear a very English "ooooooh!!!" so loudly everyone forgets about the tiger. Our guide keeps a pretty straight face, as he is a professional after all. Of course I lose my shit. I can't stop laughing. I know this isn't really a laughing matter but with the "oooooh" and the crazy driving, I couldn't help myself. I look over at the guide while laughing and he continues to lose his shit. Oh crap, I'm a bad influence. Our guide and I had a moment there. Ok, Englishman is ok now and there's another spot opening up with enough space for our jeep. Our driver makes sure to check on us and since we're sitting down he dashes to that spot. Well turns out he drove RIGHT over a giant tree root, because next thing I know I am bouncing in the air, no longer touching the car at all, and almost land on Michael. The guide and I are still laughing at what happened moments before and now we are crying from laughter because of how high I just bounced. Good thing I didn't bounce the other way or I would've most definitely landed outside the jeep.

Ok, Englishman and I are both fine now and the tiger comes out from the trees! There he is!

What a big guy. I couldn't believe how close this tiger was. We got a few good looks at him, watched him walk down the trail like we weren't even there, and turned around. Our guide said "ok, we saw male tiger, time to see another one!". Really, dude? We're going to see another tiger? I doubted him. Why did I doubt him? This guy was awesome. Turns out only minutes later, we did see another tiger -- a sleepy girl in a ravine just enjoying herself. We were lucky as there was only one other jeep in this spot. We were able to enjoy the sight of her without worrying about trying to find a front row seat.

She stretched, yawned, and headed out. Girl got some good rest.

We left her and drove through the jungle. We got more glimpses of animals and beautiful landscaping.

 After this 3 hour safari, we went back to the lodge. I tried getting a good picture of the cottage our room was in but it turned out blurry. Cute, isn't it?

Dinner was Chinese this tonight. We wanted Indian but understood that not everyone wants Indian food all the time so we sucked it up.

We were served tomato soup (not pictured), fried rice (without egg! woohoo!), rice balls in some kind of sweet and spicy sauce, and some noodle dish. Surprising to us this food was absolutely delicious. We ate many plates of this, especially the rice balls.

We went to sleep with our bellies full, ready to wake up at 3:30am to head out for another cab ride. Stay tuned for day 3 where we head to Agra!

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