When You Lose your Crocodiles and your Temper!

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January 11th 2018
Published: January 12th 2018
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This is always an element of pride when you succeed in doing something in a new and different country even if it is only the purchase of train tickets.

Woolly says – Our plan for our second and last day in Chennai was a train ride down the coast to The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology which runs a conservation program for the sharper toothed animals of India, as we waited for our train I couldn’t stop myself from singing ‘Never smile at a crocodile, No, you can't get friendly with a crocodile’ it was a rather pleasant way of passing the time at least.

My small friend sounded like he was in a lot of pain, possibly his digestion wasn’t to good given the three meals of curry a day were consuming, although Zoe and I seem to be managing alright. As the train pulled in I chuckled to myself realising that we had segregated carriages, waving to the small furry one we climbed into the ladies’ carriage.

Woolly says – Undeterred I clambered into the male only area and plonked myself down, hundreds of pairs of eyes stared at me, I beamed around and launched into my first joke.

We could hear raucous laughter coming from next door, I just hoped to goodness that he was behaving himself! Fifty minutes later we descended from the train to find the mammoth being helped down the large steps and onto the platform with twenty or so men patting him on the head and wishing him good travels.

Woolly says – What a great ride, I’d only managed to get to my twenty ninth joke of ‘why did the mammoth cross the road’ before arriving and I definitely felt this was the way forward with our travel arrangements as at least I had no one moaning at me and telling me off all the time! Having found a rickshaw driver and done a whole routine of charades for our destination we flew through the manic traffic, pulling up outside a rather impressive entrance to a large park. Paying for our tickets and having had our bags checked we set off to look around, a nearby map showed us a route round, although I was rather bemused to see that not only crocodiles were on the list but bears, elephants, tigers and a whole hoard of other animals, I scratched my head and looked at Jo.

I’m not sure how, but we appeared to be at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park, I looked at the other two and wondered how to break the news.

Woolly says – And they think I’m the stupid one in the group! Sighing in total exasperation I knew we would have to make the most of it and led the way forward. The first twenty minutes or so passed in silence as we peered into tiny cages covered in so mush mesh it was difficult to tell what anything was, the seven cages of monkeys would have had more room if they had moved into our current room and as for the poor peacocks if they dared to spread their tails they would be guaranteed injury to the feathers. The girls were visibly upset, we plodded into the butterfly area which was light and very big, enough room to house a hundred or so elephants, it didn’t seem very fair given the confines that we had been looking at. Groups of school children kept running up to us and asking for photographs, it’s such hard work being a celebrity, but Jo and Zoe seemed to tire very quickly at the invasion of our privacy. We passed deer who stood on rubbish piles and cattle that seemed more interested in knocking into each other than anything else, it wasn’t going well. Hope however was rewarded as having walked a few more miles we found ourselves admiring the Sloth Bears, a large paddock for them to play in including a slide, although I’m not sure that it would be their first choice of toy. Having taken some photo’s we moved onwards following the signs towards the crocodile area, I went back to humming, ‘Never smile at a crocodile, da da de de de, when Jo suddenly shot across the road towards another group of students that had been following us for a while, I watched as my carer stood next to a girl and demanded that she remove the pictures from her phone, glancing at Zoe I could see she was upset and I gently nudged her into a small secluded area before hurrying back to assist Jo.

Enough was enough and having been asked repeatedly by the same group to have their pictures taken with us and having smiled politely each time and refused they had started to film us and take pictures anyway. I was angry and told them very bluntly to remove the photographs, as I watched them remove each and every one before telling them that they had paid to see the animals not us, before adding that we would never show that much disrespect to them, I marched back to the other two and burst into tears.

Woolly says – Having sat down and tried to calm Jo down and mop her up our saddened group carried on. The crocodiles were in plenty and housed in fairly good sized pens, not as good as the trust I would think but I felt happy that I had seen some new species of them if nothing else. The reptile house however was another matter, as we entered I could hear hundreds of chicks cheeping away, which isn’t what you expect to hear in a place full of snakes, it dawned on us all at the same time, we hurried out visibly shaken. Yes, we all know that snakes need to eat but to see the cute fluffy chicks consumed in front of our eyes was several steps to far for any of us. We lost all enthusiasm for the park and quickly passed by the elephants and giraffes not to mention another thirty plus requests from more school children for pictures of us. Shaken and exhausted we nearly ran out of the gates and into the first passing rickshaw to get back to the station.

The train ride back to Chennai itself was a subdued one, although weary from our outing and knowing that we would all just prefer to get back to the digs and go into hiding we still had to sort out our train tickets for the following morning.

Woolly says – We had worked out that Chennai Egmore Station was the biggest of the any across the city, so it seemed a sensible place to start on making our reservation. All long distance tickets have to be booked in advance and I knew it was something that would be a huge advancement in our knowledge of travelling around the country, we hadn’t realised quite how much. As the women asked a variety of people for directions we eventually found ourselves in a huge room with counters on one side and a queue to join, were British and very good at queuing so we joined onto the end. Everyone bar us was clutching a form and having pointed this out to Jo she politely asked the man in front of us if we needed one, he nodded and pointed to a box of them, having collected and filled in all the boxes (or so we hoped) we sat on the hard benches shuffling up each time someone went to a counter. An hour or so passed before it appeared to be our turn, the brusque man behind the counter took our form and asked for our passports before announcing that we needed to go to Chennai Central Station before giving us everything back and moving onto the next person.

We were a bit bemused as the train we would need to get on was going from that station but being new to this method of booking transport we duly got onto a further two trains, walked a mile and found the ‘foreigners’ desk in Chennai Central.

Woolly says – The man there didn’t look to thrilled to see us and having asked for photocopies of our passports to which we all looked blankly at him having not known that we would need this, he disappeared. I sighed, it was hot, I was tired, and it looked as though the women would expire very soon. Half an hour passed before he returned took our passports and vanished again, was this good news I wondered. Having reappeared he thrust a form at Jo who filled it in at lightning speed before handing it back, we handed over our money, it seemed that progress was being made, a few more minutes ticked by before our train tickets, passports and forms were finally handed over. A huge sigh of relief came from us all as we made our way back into the masses on the platforms and finally emerged from the station. Maybe a change of scenery will do us good tomorrow, well it can’t get any worse….can it!

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