Game drives are really boring until they’re not. There are five sections in this park and each guide is randomly assigned to one of them for each game drive. This prevents any one area from getting overloaded. There was also a lot of traffic from local pilgrims who were headed to the temple near the fort we visited yesterday. We bumped and lurched down the dirt road and everything was coated with dust.
The morning drive was uneventful and our guide pointed out numerous birds which were mostly of great interest to the bird watcher in our group. He talked about the difficulties of managing tigers in such a setting. In some ways they are their own worst enemies. Tigers are extremely territorial and require a larger territory than is available to them here. The males destroy the young fathered by other males. They fight with other males who come near and seriously wound each other. If a female is raising someone else’s young and they’re in the mood for love, they destroy her babies so she will come into heat. Although there are plenty of deer and antelope here for them to eat, sometimes they wander off to sample a villager’s cow. In return one of the tigers was poisoned last year. It’s a problem.
Even though two groups saw tigers yesterday,it’s not a regular thing and we resigned ourselves to peering into the underbrush and seeing the occasional deer and antelope. The guide’s strategy was to pay close attention to the warning signs from the animals that the tiger preys upon. He could hear their cries of alarm from the peacocks, monkeys, and deer often and tried to triangulate the tiger’s location from their calls. All of a sudden there he was and there were seven other jeeps gathered in front of him. The almost grown two year old male sat placidly licking his fur, yawning and gazing out at his subjects (us). Eventually he headed to a stream for a drink and ambled out of sight. What a thrill!
My joy during this experience was tempered somewhat by the fact that I felt near death. I have had a bad cold for about two weeks and my nose ran so much I could hardly keep up with the kleenex. In between blows I coughed and coughed. As all of the jeeps headed out of the park after the tiger show, the dust from the road hung heavy in the air and I could not breathe. I gasped and wheezed and carried on to such an extent people around me looked more than concerned. One handed me a dust mask and I moved to the front seat of the jeep behind the windshield. That helped a bit, but every time another vehicle passed, the dust set me off again. I couldn’t catch my breath and couldn’t get enough air. The ride back to the hotel took forever and I wasn’t sure I would be conscious by the time we got there.
Out of the dust I felt much better, but a doctor was called to check me out. He came to the hotel within an hour and prescribed four medications to alleviate my nose/throat symptoms. When I took a shower the steam set me off wheezing again. We had a nice BBQ dinner outside and the smoke from the fire made me feel tight as well. I’m hoping after a good night’s sleep and the medicine, I can continue to enjoy our next adventure without worrying about bronchial spasms.