Our day began with a jeep safari. We got picked up at 5am and made it to the National Park Gate at some time after six. Luckily by this time we had all woken up, and despite the torrential rain at 4.30, it just about brightened up in time to drive with the roof down!
Over the course of about 3 hours, we saw so much wildlife! Spotted deer, birds of all kinds- weaver birds and their nests, green bee eater birds, white throated king fishers, a bird of prey, many peacocks, lapwings, and a hornbill. We also saw frogs, many insects, black faced monkeys and white monkeys!
We stopped for a break an hour or two in, and saw lots of monkeys being mischevious; looking in the jeeps and eyeing up our food. Our guide then told us that some tigers had been sited, and took us back into the park to hunt them down...
We waited for a bit with another jeep, and listened to the different animal calls, but to no avail. It didn't help that another few jeeps turned up, and one especially loud one turned up and got rid of any possibility of a tiger showing up!
We waited for a while in another spot, and could hear a monkey calling to the rest of the jungle, making the tiger's presence known, and we sat in silence, waiting for one to appear, but unfortunately, the same loud jeep turned up and made lots of noise again! We were pretty angry at this jeep, but up until that point, it had been incredible to just watch and listen, and know that not far from us was a tiger, just chilling in the jungle!
After learning so much about animals at college, especially the bits about wildlife and communication between different individuals and species, seeing it all in action, and learning more about the different animals first hand was really spectacular.
We took a detour on the way back to the park entrance, as a last hope of seeing a tiger, and when we got to a point, there were 3 men in a jeep, miming that they had seen 3 tigers in the area within the last few minutes! We were gutted that we hadn't seen one, but the hunting experience was enough to satisfy us, and we got some great photos of the wildlife we did see (I love my camera so much!)
As we were leaving it started to rain, first lightly and it was warm and refreshing, but then it started to get cold, and a bit painful! We stuck it out though, and rode back standing up in the jeep the whole way! By the time we got to the hotel we were soaked through, but had already decided we wanted to go on an afternoon safari.
We were supposed to leave for Delhi at 3pm, but Kundan kindly agreed to wait another few hours, and take us back at about 7pm. We paid the equivalent of £14 (1000 rupees) each for the safari, and set off after breakfast and a nap!
Luckily we picked up the same guide from Ram Nagar (the nearby town) and were all pleased he could join us again. His English was really good and he really knew what he was doing, having grown up near Corbett, and working there for 25 years! He told us that his first tiger sighting was at 7 years old. No wonder he knew how to find them.
We saw the same amazing scenery, and took some more photos on the way in, unfortunately it was raining a bit, so we kept the roof up (none of us fancied a 7 hour car journey whilst we were dripping wet!) We waited for almost 2 hours, listening to the monkey and watching the bushes in hopes of seeing a tiger appear; other jeeps came and went, and we got agitated with them making lots of noise! (I said I thought it was Americans that were loud and obnoxious, but it definitely wasn't the case here! -no offence to any Americans, I was just joking!)
So we waited and listened, and finally spotted a tiger in the bushes. She was difficult to see, but we could just make out her movements through the trees. I find it incredible how orange and black animals can camoflage themselves in a green jungle! Suddenly, Cayla burst out "there's a tiger" and we all turned and saw a tiger saunter across the path 100 metres in front of us, pause to look at us, and continue into the bushes on the other side.
It was a literally breath-taking sight, and none of us knew what to do!
Unfortunately none of us got our cameras out in time, but we were pleased to have seen it nonetheless! The guide told us that the tiger was a cub belonging to the female we were watching through the trees, about a year old. He was huge!
By this time we had been there 3 hours, and it was time to get back to head home to Delhi. On the way back to Ram Nagar and our hotel, the road we were following crossed some rivers. This wasn't a problem on the way, but after the rain had collected from earlier, and made it's way downstream, one stretch of road had turned into a river! We ended up waiting for over an hour for the water level to drop so we could cross, and in this time, a very kind old lady allowed Cayla to use her bathroom (when would that ever happen in England, a random foreign person being allowed to use your personal toilet- the hospitality of Indians never ceases to amaze!)
A couple of jeeps got weighed down with about 10 people and made it across safely, so we followed pursuit, only with just the 5 of us, our driver and our guide! It was one of the scariest moments, and reminded me of driving up a snowy mountain in a coach in Austria! We were getting pushed to the right by the current, and I can imagine the driver was steering to the left but we still came precariously close to the waterfall bit! We all got our cameras out and videoed the experience, and the jeeps in front and behind us celebrated as they reached the other side of the crossing. It was scary stuff!
The whole time we were waiting, we were unable to contact the hotel, as the phone network was busy. This meant that they could only assume we were on our way back (always expect delays in India, especially during monsoon!) but by the time we got back, Kundan had spoken to his boss, and wouldn't be driving us home that night. So after some careful negotiating (many thanks to Kristina and her calm negotiating skills!) we managed to get another night at the hotel, one room for the 5 of us! and dinner each, for 4000 rupees.
Although this wasn't our original plan, it worked out okay in the end, and a 5am start was nothing out of the ordinary for us at this point! We enjoyed our last night, and finally arrived back in Delhi in time for lunch!
It was an incredible weekend, and I couldn't have asked for better people to share it with. I'm really gonna miss these girls (and Anjuli) when I leave, and have shared some awesome experiences with them.
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