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Published: June 21st 2017
Geo: 23.6127, 80.387
Our trip round India is characterised by a series of contrasting adventures observing the different way of life both in cities and villages, discovering the culture and history of forts, palaces and temples as well as the fantastic wildlife of the national parks with their supreme predators, tigers and leopards. Every subsequent location presents an exciting new experience, even if getting there has sometimes been a challenge.
Travelling with our own car and driver has largely been a breeze, with journeys between cities 4 or 5 hours long, but the journey from Udiapur to Orcha was 11 hours with no cafe stops on the road, because we were off the tourist route. The road in places was being rebuilt, which entailed an uncomfortable, bumpy diversion for many miles, a dirty toilet had to be found in a garage, strained nerves from swerving to avoid dozy cattle all over the road, together with villagers wandering and crossing, bicycles and scooters, sudden braking for holes and bumps in the road and playing chicken it seemed with oncoming trucks to see who was pushed onto the hard shoulder first. Fortunately we arrived safely, but tired and bad tempered at our destination, and cross
with our driver for not being better prepared with food for the journey. The hotel at Orcha was spacious, with beautiful, flowered courtyards, shady terraces and lovely pool and healed our spirits with musicians and good food . So we were able to enjoy two lazy evenings and a quiet day, with lots of swims, exploring Orchas crumbling fort, palace and mausoleum, still awaiting conservation work from the department of archeology and therefore only attracting a few tourists. The village livened up in the evening with the ubiquitous tuneless temple drumming and a street performance of prancing, dancing horses to the rasping strains of a bright pink uniformed band.
Then a half day drive brought us to the peaceful gardens surrounding the, stunning Kujaraho temples, decorated with vast numbers of carved statues of Hindu gods and their female consorts, some entwined in acrobatic sexual coupling.
Our wild life adventure began with an excellent breakfast in the westernised Radisson hotel, just as well since food for the next three days at Skays camp was simple and vegetarian. We embarked on another long journey on rough rural roads to get to Bandavgarh Tiger reserve, in the jungle. Peter had had to book our
trips into the National Park, with money up front, six months ahead, since there is a limited quota of vehicles allowed and some middle class Indians find themselves with disposable income, so places sell out quicklyThe time and effort of getting there was well rewarded. We went on four game drives over two days, two at dawn and two at dusk and saw the same male tiger on two of them and a female on our first drive, amazing luck considering the park average. We were well entertained with stories of the park, tourism, India and life histories by our hosts Sateyndra and Kay and other guests and found a lovely pool in a neighbouring hotel within walking distance to while away hot afternoons. The game drives were spectacular both for the scenery and long shadows as the sun came up and set, the beauty and variety of birds and animals we saw, including of course the tigers. We watched our sleepy male tiger, as he panted from the heat in the shade, yawned and licked his lips from just two meters away, relying on our driver for an emergency get away if required. The tiger's deep throated roar when
he called for his mate reverberated around the jungle. The guides and drivers were quick to detect paw marks and hear alarm calls of the spotted deer to predict the tigers direction of travel, which sometimes resulted in a sighting. Watching lots of different birds and other animals kept us entertained; patrolling elephants, lots of spotted deer, two types of monkey, noisy peacocks, water buffalo at the water hole, a jackal dragging a spotted deer he'd killed, eagles, vultures and wild boar.
Next, a couple of days in Varanasi on the Mother Ganga, then home.
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