Last evening was spent looking at the stars
over a beer on one of the hotel’s patios. It was lovely and cool, just like an early Canadian summer evening – not too warm and not too cold. A soothing breeze cooled whatever heat remained from the stone terrace as we sipped our Kingfisher beers. We couldn’t believe that we were in India! Suddenly, how cool, how livable, how not unbearably hot! We glanced up at the star-filled sky and thought of Ruth, John’s sister, who could tell us where we were in the celestial sky. We revelled in the noiseless, honk-less, people-less-ness of it all. No noise, no pollution, no crowds….no nothing! We don’t dally with this euphoria because we have a wake-up call for 4:30 for our first day of Safari in Jim Corbett National Park. The Tigers await!
John shakes me out of sleep at 4:50 am. “Greg, we’ve missed the wake-up call…what the hell’s going on?” I, of course, being completely engaged in what I do so well – sleep – have missed the tumultuous thunder and lightning storm that has engulfed the park overnight. Just our luck – not a lick of rain or even a cloud in the sky for the entire two weeks that we have been in India. Not even a chance of rain in the forecast. It is at least 6 weeks till the monsoon starts. There has been a constant comment on the heat and dryness of the country, and we arrive for our first day of Safari and it rains. The phone rings at 5:00 and a stilted voice tells us that our Safari is cancelled due to rain and to hang on for further information. Ok. I roll over and pull the pillow over my head and proceed as soon as possible back to ZZZZZ land. My favourite place to visit. I hope to live there one day.
The phone rings at 8:15. It’s our stilted friend again telling us that we can do a full day safari today but we must be prepared to be out for the entire day, which is 9:30 – 7:00 and do we have raincoats with us, etc, etc. etc. I agree and roll over again for another half hour. We get up, have breakfast and head out into what is now a completely different weather pattern and onto the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
We officially decide to change our trip to followautumn.com. I have to put on two layers and my rain jacket. I wear short pants on safari and justify it by wearing the two layers and rain gear on top for the trip. I’m a hardy Canadian. My bare legs can take it. It’s India for God’s sake. Everything feels smells and looks like our annual Labour Day retreat to Bluesea Lake in the Gatineau region of Quebec with our friends Bob and Brian. All of a sudden we are in a beautiful, wet, late autumn with hints of a glorious Indian summer. It is the foothills of the Himalayas after all. Talk about a brain fart. By the end of the day, we are both shivering and completely cold with the rain and wind. Our safari vehicle is a big open truck with seats in the back with no windows and no protection. Of course, this viewing situation would be perfect when it is hot and sunny. Just enough protection from the sun but still able to let a nice cooling breeze flow through.
Scenes from a Safari
We have seen langur monkeys, rhesus monkeys, deer, both spotted and not, sambar, eagles, herds of wild elephants, mongoose, 2 species of crocodiles, beautiful long-tailed flycatchers, hornbills, peafowl, pheasants, forest fowl, and wild boars, but no tigers! At the mid-point lunch break, a group of Indian tourists out for a Sunday drive in the park say they experienced a “first-class sighting” of a tiger. The base camp suddenly springs into action; each guide wanting his client to catch a glimpse of the elusive Bengal Tiger. This, despite the pouring rain. 4X4’s roar into gear and head out in search of the Tigers. To no avail, it seems. John and I wonder that if all this sudden action actually scares the Tigers away.
The Beating Rain Lulls Us to Sleep
We arrive back to our hotel by 7:00. We have driven over torturous muddy, wet and rut-filled roads. The thunder and lighting are tremendous and we grab hot showers and begin the familiar ritual of packing for the next leg of our journey to Greece and Turkey. We have a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant. Our lights are out early (as usual) and we listen to the beating rain on the roof of our bungalow.