the bear necessities 

June 16.

We had to wake up at 5:15 in order to get back to the place where we had used the wifi and booked our safari. Once we were ready to go, we headed downstairs and to our horror the doors were locked. We tried them both several times and tried a side door. All firmly locked. The day before we had noticed the owner was using one of the first floor rooms, so we knocked and knocked and knocked. Nothing. I’d heard footsteps as we were coming down the stairs so Ethan went to check the other floors while I headed to the basement (there was no one else staying there). It was dark and I was freaking out, but once my eyes adjusted I saw people sleeping on mats on the floor. It was the kids who did all the cleaning, etc. The “housekeeping.” I didn’t know what to do so I just started yelling, “Hello! Hello! Hello!” Until one of them woke up. I felt horrible, but I also didn’t want to be trapped or miss our safari. He was only in his underwear too so I’m sure he wasn’t happy. I did my best to explain and it took a minute of pantomiming, but he finally understood. He got dressed and grabbed another guy and met us upstairs. They unlocked the door and we were free. That was terrifying! Phew!

While we waited for our safari, we talked to guide from a different National Park in India and he showed us pictures of all the animals you can see there. He was a cool guy and asked us all about our trip and where we were from. Our ride, called a canter, is an open air truck with seating for about 20 people. We were joined by a bunch of Indian tourists and one white couple. It’s the low season for European and American tourists because of the heat, but it’s summer break for Indian school children so there are hoards of Indian tourists everywhere.

Once we had picked everyone up, we headed toward the park. The road was super bumpy and sitting on the outside was not comfortable as you were constantly slamming into the metal rail. Pretty sure Emily and I have some bruises from that ride. We drove along spotting deer, peacocks and lots of brightly colored little birds. No tigers yet. I really would love to see that place after the rainy season. There was barely any water and everything was so dry, it seemed it was a miracle it didn’t just spontaneously catch on fire. The driver stopped everything we saw a different animal and once when we saw a male peacock showing off his full plumage and doing his mating call and dance.

A little while later we passed a group of men in a jeep who told the driver to turn for some reason. We turned and a watering hole came into view. It was hard to see at first, but at the back of the watering hole was an enormous python. It appeared that it was eating something, though we couldn’t tell what. This thing was crazy big and I was glad we were in the truck! We sat and watched it for a while then headed off in search of the elusive tigers.

We passed more deer, peacocks and some wild boars. Some bigger elk-looking animals. Lizards. No tigers. At the break point people were feeding some birds and taking pictures of the white people. We joked that we were part of the safari (not me of course… I’m brown and not very interesting). One guy was really getting into taking pictures of Emily. It was pretty weird, but Khan says it’s just because they never see white people.

On the way back out just before the exit, we came upon several stopped trucks, but didn’t know what they were looking at. Fianlly someone relayed that it was a tiger laying underneath the bushes. It was pretty hard to spot, but eventually we found it. It was just laying there being a cat. Every once in a while, it would look up at us, probably annoyed that we disturbed his slumber. We wondered if maybe they had somehow coaxed him out since it was right before the end. I guess we’ll never know. The rest of the ride was bumpy and we were starving.

The night before, the owner or the manager maybe had asked what time we wanted breakfast, but when we told him 10am he said that was too late. We think he was mad that we didn’t book our safari through him, so we told him we didn’t need breakfast. He was not nice and we were all pretty mad since breakfast was supposed to be included. So when we got back, we went across the street to a street stall to eat. They didn’t really have breakfast so we got some Indian food and bread.

We left the guesthouse thankful to be leaving it and it’s nasty owner behind. We hopped the next place would be better. It was a long drive to Jaipur so we settled in and bobbed in and out of sleep while Khan silently (minus the occasional horn) weaved his way through India’s maze of streets, cars and animals.


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