Tiger Hunt

Trip Start Jan 17, 2010
1
11
40
Trip End Jul 17, 2010


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Where I stayed
Skay's Camp

Flag of India  , Madhya Pradesh,
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We Left Varanasi two days ago having met up with Kanan's cousin Shayur for a very pleasant meal.  He lives in the city, so it was really interesting to get his insight into the inner workings of Varanasi and its ebb and flow.
Earlier that day we had visited Ramnagar Fort on the opposite side of the Ganges (forever now known as the museum of a billion weapons), and decided to return the 3 or so kilometers up river by rowing boat. Kanan's expert bargaining won us the kind of price agreeable to us, but not to the slightly irked vendor - whereupon he gesticulated in a general direction and told us to wait for 2 minutes. 2 minutes later our rather smug feelings dissipated, as around the corner, rowed by three boys, barely able to stay above the level of the water, crumbling, ancient and held together by bits of tape, came our boat. We really should have requested another and some older boatmen, but for some reason neither of us took the initiative and five minutes later we were in the middle of the Ganges and barely afloat. Needless to say we were a little tense, much to the amusement of the boys who seemed to delight in rocking the boat as much as possible. To our amazement though, the thing stayed above water, and it was with relief that we approached the Varanasi shore. Several metres away however, I felt a cracking, crunching sound and the ancient piece of wood upon which i was sitting finally gave way under my (ever increasing in India) weight. I found myself sitting in a pool of water (of which th job of one of the boys was to constantly bail out) at the bottom of the boat, our drivers rolling around in laughter. What had me rolling around in laughter was their audacity to ask for a tip when we finally got off.
Anyway, yesterday we arrived in Bandhavgarh National Park (hereafter known as B for spelling and brevity purposes) - which is kind of in the middle of nowhere and quite tricky to get to - in Madhya Pradesh to resume our search for the elusive tiger. Our overnight train journey was brightened by a fascinating party of about 40 Jain people on a pilgrimage who took up the rest of the carriage we were traveling in. They were really lovely and took great care of us, and gave us a real insight into their religion and customs. Great though their company was, I couldn't help but feel though that we were getting off the train at the right time when they produced a loudspeaker hooked up to a PA system and began to recount to each other their feelings about the experiences they had had on their trip at this and that temple.
In B we were staying with a couple (an Indian guy and British woman) who were experts in the field of tigers. Their knowledge and experience, having tracked and charted the tigers of B for over 13 years, greatly enhanced our experience of the park. We set out on our first Safari this morning with fingers crossed and great excitement. And round and round we drove in our jeep, constantly searching out the bamboo thickets and open grassland; all to no avail, and we had but 1/2 an hour left of our four hour morning Safari. Then our driver and guide got wind of a tiger which had been spotted not far away, but which could only be accessed by elephant through the jungle. We hot-footed to the spot beyond which no jeep could pass and jumped onto an elephant (I later had a few pangs of guilt that I had not thought twice about this - poor elephant). The elephant gently passed through the jungle for about five minutes when we saw her sitting up, quite alert - our first, beautiful tiger. We were within about 6 metres, but the young female did not seem to mind and looked at us inquisitively. Kanan and I, as you can imagine I'm sure, were incredibly excited to see a creature of such beauty and scarcity.
When we got back for lunch to our hosts they filled in the gaps in our knowledge and could identify the tiger from our photos. She was a descendant of the very first tiger seen in B and was 3 years old. They told us that, contrary to the information pedaled out by the Indian government in current campaigns (which states that there are 1411), there are only about 900 tigers left in India - to have seen one of them in the wild made us feel privileged indeed.
In our time in B we took in three safaris in total, and were lucky enough to spot tigers on each of them; which our hosts said made us the first people who had stayed with them to do so. We sighted 4 tigers in total, two fully grown, and two 9 month old cubs. We were fortunate indeed. We leave later today to catch a train to Jabalpur, where we rest for one night before moving on to Baroda (17 hours on the train!) and just under a week at "Patwa Estate", with Kanan's mums side of the family. They have kindly managed to get hold of tickets for the One Day International Cricket Match, India VS South Africa which, needless to say, I am over the moon about.... Almost as excited as we were about the prospect of seeing tigers. And that turned out rather well.

Love as always, Jo and Kaa XX.
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Comments

Tony on

Wow you lucky things to see such a beautiful Tiger. I am so pleased you are having such a great time but miss you both. Enjoy the rest of your trip.
XX

kamal on

hi jo,
seems like quite an adventorous time u gys had,lovely pics of the tiger

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