|Our day yesterday was hard, being jostled about for a long time, with our non-English speaking driver who was always obsequiesingly agreeing and not understanding, comprehending, or following through on our questions or requests. He was a safe driver, but did not really know the shortest route, nor would he stop for many miles for bathroom breaks, and no food stops.
After leaving at 9 am from Agra, we got him to stop at 3:30 pm at a roadside vendor so we could buy peanuts and bananas - both peal able and therefor somewhat safe to eat. We arrived after many stops for directions, after dark, past 7 pm, just past Ram Nagar near the Jim Corbett National Park, and our Le Roi Hotel. Exhausted success, after hours of anxiety.
Judson had an Indian meltdown last night after driving the almost 11 hours from Agra, with no meal stops, over potholes and gravel, with a few wrong turns costing hours of travel time by our driver, when he was told by our hotel staff, that all safari times for the week had been filled and we had to book them online, months in advance.
(For months I had tried to book online but could never plough through the bureaucratic complications, so we were taking a chance. The boys thought it was all a scam for me to send money, so I didn't.)
Brian demanded to see the manager, and when we were escorted into his office, refused to stay because it smelled of smoke. The Wastenage boys hadn't eaten all day!! My turn. I told the manager that we might have a safari booking for the second day we had booked his hotel, but that I had been unable to put a deposit down when we arrived in Delhi, as it was a Monday and places were closed. Could he investigate for us? "Of coarse madam." It seems all safari's were booked except for one two days hence, that could accommodate four people, and did we want that one? YES! Done. Put on our hotel bill, confirmed, and able to pay by Master Card when we check out.
Meanwhile, Jud, in his Capricorn manner had been busy checking out social media sites on his phone, without consulting with us, and had found "lots of safaris for the week", and had a man coming over to the hotel to discuss options in ten minutes.
We all conferred when he arrived. His prices were almost half of the hotel price, but it seemed the only one possible option was for this morning, nothing else all week. We decided to do both Jud's discovery plus the hotel arrangement, since there are many gates to the park, and possibly different sitings of various species in alternative areas. Jud was insistent that our booking was only going to show us birds, whereas his could possibly show us tigers, elephants, and more. We did have to have cash for his booking though, and they assured us we could get to an ATM after the safari, and pay then.
Finally checked into our rooms, and by 8 pm the hotel dining room was open for dinner. Good prices, good food, and as my Granny used to say the best spice is a good appetite.
Another benefit of waking up at 4 something am is being ready for a departure at 5:30 am for an Indian safari experience. It was dark and cold, so we were very happy that we had brought our winter coats for the open jeep ride before sunrise.
We saw spotted deer, Sambar deer, barking deer (apparently they sound like dogs barking), peacocks, small birds, languar monkeys, fresh elephant and tiger poop, elephant and tiger paw prints in the sand and muck, but not the wild animals. There were two hobbled elephants used for elephant safaris in the evenings but they were sad to see in the park, as we imagined they would want to be free to roam with their families.
The sunrise was lovely, the various smells provocative - from musk, to sweet grass, to smoke, to damp exotic leaves. The colours of sun and shadow through the grasses and trees were evocative. Banyan trees, white mottled-bark trees used for fodder for cattle, trees with gnarly limbs like our Gary Oakes, and many other types. Out of the shady trees, the river beds and grasslands warmed up. On a notice board someone had seen three tigers the day before "right after lunch", and at the bottom someone else had written "1 tiger sited 8/12/17 at Garjia area" near where we were and today's date. Sigh, not to be seen by us.
Of coarse when taken to the ATM to get money to pay for the safari, it was closed, because it was empty of cash. I scrounged around in my bags and found enough to pay, plus a $10 tip for the guide and driver. They would have gotten bigger tips, but they asked for more money than what had been previously agreed upon.
After an 11:30 full-on breakfast included with the hotel price, we roused our driver to take us back to Ram Nagar, to find an ATM, as we were flat broke. So typically Indian, we began with the State Bank of India, which could not accommodate us in the bank as we needed an ATM for both our State Bank of India (Canada) card or any other card we might want to use. Their ATM had no cash so was closed. They directed our driver to the main branch, same story. Next door, a local state bank, wouldn't accept our cards even though it said 'cirrus' and 'interact' accepted. Next to that a private bank ATM again out of cash. Further down the street the ICIC bank, no luck. Two more, no go.
Finally a man on the street wanted to know what we were doing, and directed us three blocks over, up, and over again to an IDCD bank which swallowed Brian's card, spit out the rupees, and then disgorged his card, much to his relief. Always, only $200 worth, is the maximum available (10,000 Rupees). Hopefully, it will see us through the next three days here, and on to Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Delhi.
Tomorrow, we have our next safari, but not until 6 am!