Bandhavgarh National Park - The Search for Tigers
Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
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Here we entered the enchanting "Jungle Book" like rural India of the imagination where roads are nearly free of motor vehicles and we encountered more cow jams than traffic jams, an India of women in bright saris wandering along the roads with big bundles of brush firewood on their heads and men sowing fields by hand or turning over the ground with ox-pulled plows, an India of infrequent towns with picturesque markets and long-tailed Langur monkeys frolicking between trees and homes
The reason for coming to this part of India is Bandhavgarh National Park, one of several reserves in central India set up to preserve the Bengal Tiger, and said to be the single best place for tiger spotting because of its relatively small size. Despite the crush of India's 1.3 billion people, the country does have a quite good system of national parks and sanctuaries designed to preserve what remains of its natural heritage. Our afternoon Jeep adventure into the interior zone of the park led to some wild boar, spotted deer, jackal, peacock, and monkey sightings but tigers remained elusive. Our Jeeps darted back and forth between spots where tigers had been sighted in recent days and those where fresh paw prints in the dirt on the road indicated they had passed recently. The guide made one sighting, but I couldn’t make it out behind the bamboo thickets. Seeing a bush that allegedly has a tiger behind it doesn’t really count as seeing a tiger, does it? At another spot several of us in the Jeep were sure we saw a light-colored beast framed between some shrubs. Our guide informed us that we were looking at a log. Oh well, this isn’t the Serengeti; big kitties are notoriously hard to spot in the thickly wooded environments tigers prefer.
We spent two nights camping at a small rustic lodge near Tala, the gateway village to Bandhavgarh, the warm sunny days followed by clear, chilly moonlit nights
I took the lead with Fiona, the matriarch of the four member Australian family on the tour, to create a variety of dishes to serve with rice – cucumbers and tomatoes in a honey lemon vinaigrette with caraway, a mild coconut milk curry with potatoes, cauliflower, and peas, and a spicy curry with tomatoes, onions, spinach, ginger, and chili peppers. I didn’t think it was possible a vegan dinner could actually taste so good. It’s all in the spice. We then ingeniously used the leftover rice and potato curry in the morning to make an Indian version of “Bubble and Squeak” for breakfast – patties of the mix bound with egg, dipped in flour and egg, and the rolled in ground corn flakes and deep fried. Ya gotta love any breakfast you can douse with hot chili sauce! This vegetarian lifestyle does have some advantages in terms of warding off the infamous “Delhi Belly” that’s the scourge of foreign travelers in India. I haven’t