Hanging my head in shame (finally the conclusion of our jungle adventures)

It is with much chagrin that I’m finally writing again. What was supposed to be a week or so of settling into reality after getting home somehow turned into two months of still not finishing up writing about our India trip!!

Poor blogger behaviour!!!

And to top it off, I head out tomorrow for another adventure. This time it’s three weeks in Vietnam with my cousin Shannon and our friend Linda (welcome to the gong show folks!).

And back to the jungles of India……..

It’s truly amazing to be able to say that I’ve seen tigers in the wild. They are more magnificent than I can even describe. Although I would have been disappointed to have not seen any of these gorgeous cats, just having the chance to spend some time learning about and experiencing the wilds of India was well worth the trip.

We were also fortunate in our choice of accommodations and guides. Ramesh Suyal, who owns and operates The Sparrows Nest runs a fantastic homestay and is an excellent guide. He also has contacts with other top notch guides in the area for times when he is with other clients.

To keep this a little short and sweet and wrap up the last part of the trip, I’ll go through some highlights and memorable moments.

– Riding the elephant through the jungle was a super cool experience. Admittedly, the dense brush made for some interesting ducking and dodging while trying not to fall off her back but it was fun. Thankfully no giant spiders made an appearance during our ride!

A couple of things I learned whilst riding an elephant:

*All that rocking side to side makes for a pretty good ab workout

*It’s humbling when your riding partner does not nurture the same healthy fear of falling from the back of a moving beast. Note Initial riding conversation: Me: “Oh My God, I can’t even let go of these posts to take a picture.” Mom: Silence Me: “You’re not even holding on are you?” Mom: laughing “No!”

* And…. an elephant farting sounds like a tiger growling in the underbrush – who knew?!

– Our morning chai at The Sparrow’s Nest, such a lovely way to greet the day. Ok, all the food at our homestay was spectacular. Super fresh vegetables purchased daily at the market, spicy, flavourful sauces…. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

– Another memorable experience, though not exactly a highlight….. spending the night in one of the forest lodges in the nature reserve. Sounds great on paper. We knew the accommodations would be very basic, no problem. What we hadn’t counted on was being the only foreigners, and almost the only women there. Only really an issue because we were staying in a dorm room with 6 men, two showers which were in the same room as the sinks and two toilet “rooms” which were basically in the bedroom. Not a lot of privacy for any sort of ablution. It was probably one of the most awkward evenings I’ve spent. We picked our beds and placed our bags on them to claim our spot and then sat outside in deck chairs waiting for the rest of our roommates to arrive. That’s when we started to realize we’d be the only ladies around. We saw two couples wandering the grounds but they were staying in private rooms. The guys finally started setting up in the room and when it was finally too dark outside to really sit out any longer we went in and just hung out on our beds before dinner. The guys were really very nice. One of them launched into a rather intense discussion abut the management of the tiger reserves in India. He’d been coming to Corbett’s National Park for years so we learned a lot about the changes he’d seen.

Finally it was time for dinner so we went to the eating area and met the family staying in the room next to ours. We chatted with an elderly man seated across the table and found out he has family across Canada so he’s been here a number of times. He was very sweet, making sure everything was going well with our trip and telling us how the dinner service worked. The food was really very good. Just simple and filing.

We left dinner a little early so we could zip back to the room and get changed and get into bed while the room was empty. I made the mistake of trying to get changed in one of the toilet rooms. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. It was so dirty and wet and yucky and I dropped one of my favourite slippers in the toilet. Sad times I know, poor slipper. I fished it out and, needless to say, did not bring it home with me (and I washed my hands exceptionally thoroughly after the recovery mission). Mom had stayed fully dressed, a much better decision. We were in bed in our sleep sacks, under the blankets, eyes closed, by the time the men all filed in. They were pretty quick to get into bed and all was quiet. Well….. except for snoring from all corners of the room and the guy who decided to make phone calls at 2am and the alarm that went off at 3 and…… yes, it was a looooong night. Wakeup was to be at 6am so around 530, since I was awake anyways, I started getting dressed in bed. The room was still pitch black and I quietly fumbled around in my backpack for my clothes and managed to get changed in my sleep sack. A pretty impressive feat if I do say so myself. Once appropriately clothed I got up and finished getting ready for the activities of the day. Chai was brought in for our wakeup call and all the men started getting out of bed. Suffice it to say I’ve heard more male noises than I ever needed to, mornings are not exactly glamorous for anyone. Hahaha.

Thankfully we had only booked one night in the rest house and that night we were back at The Sparrow’s Nest!

– One rather random highlight was the morning we spent sitting in our jeep for a couple of hours after hearing a leopard growling in the brush. In case he decided to make an appearance we stayed where we were and just waited. We happened to have chai and snacks with us that day so it was quite a civilized affair. Delicious hot chai and biscuits in the middle of the Indian jungle, watching for leopards! Funny how things like that stick with you.

– Hearing a tiger growling in the bushes not far from the road. Just an intense, powerful sound. Unforgettable.

– So many other wildlife encounters…. a family of elephants, the two babies were adorable…. caimans… three different kinds of storks standing in a row on the bank of the river… soooooo many funny monkeys…. hornbills…. butterflies…. antelope……. wild boar….. loved them all

– We also watched a group of villagers protest the opening of the park (it was the first day the park was to be open that season, and happened to be the part of the park we had permits to enter that day). Since we were not able to get in, and there was no timeline as to when the protest might break up, our poor guide had to find some way to entertain us. So, he took us to a nearby temple that is on a small island which had been brought from upriver during the monsoons a few years prior (the island, not the temple – the temple was built on it afterwards). It was really nice to visit a temple with someone who actually was actually there to worship and bring offerings. It’s just tiny but a lovely place and, as it was so early in the morning, we were the only people there to visit. We went back to the gates of the park and just waited until we were allowed in. They had to move the jeep a couple of times due to a group of naughty monkeys who were starting to throw things and pee on people. Finally, our guide brought me in a side gate, past the protesters so I could fill out the paperwork for entering the park and when we left the office the jeep (with mom and the driver) were there ready to go.

I’m so glad we decided to add the jungle safaris to our stay in India. It was a perfect end to our visit. After the overwhelming chaos and confusion of the cities, the peace and breathing room of the jungle was exceptionally soothing.

I would certainly visit India again, probably heading south next time. Though, with so many other places to see for the first time, I’m not sure when I’ll be back!

Next up…… Vietnam!!!

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