A Year in India
Corbett National Park, Uttaranchal
15 Sep 2006
Hello again, this weekend I went to Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal with Jo, Loz and Laura. It was quite an experience…
It was Reetu’s last night so we went out for dinner. Before that I went with her to Lajpat Nagar, a market where we got henna designed on our hands the other day. I’m sad Reetu’s gone, I’m left talking to myself in the room now like a raving loony! Anyway, then the other three girlies and I caught a rickshaw to Old Delhi Station which was absolutely bonkers. It’s so chaotic and grimey, people lie on the floor and there are rats scurrying about. It’s great though! When our train finally arrived all hell broke loose because we couldn’t find our carriage. We just got on a random one but were told we had to get off and move further down. The next one we went into was horrific, really cramped with no sleeper beds and no air conditioning (we also like our Evians at room temperature please). We were at desperado point because we realized we were in the wrong carriage and the train started moving. We thought we’d have to squidge up next to an extended Indian family for 8 hours until 5am! When the train stopped all of a sudden we decided to risk it and run like the wind to the end of the long train to find our rightful beds, jumping on a couple more carriages on the way that just got muckier and muckier. It was total mass hysteria, I thought I’d pass out from running and laughing at the same time. It was more like hysterical laughter though really because it was actually quite a scary situation. We were dodging all these men with massive crates and stuff, it was like a mad strategy video game. After doing some more classy Baywatch-running a man pointed at one of the compartments and said ‘Air Conditioning?’ and Loz screamed ‘yes!yes!’ and nearly fainted with ecstasy, we’re such drama queens. People thought we were a bit of a joke really, considering that we later found out that the train wasn’t leaving for another half an hour. The sleeper beds were so comfy, we fell asleep for the rest of the night straight away, but not before Loz split her trousers in the crotch area as we climbed onto the top bunks, ending our night of ‘trauma’ on a high.
We stayed at a hotel called Tiger Camp which was lovely. Mind you I saw a massive fluorescent yellow spider which was worrying. That morning we got on a jeep with a guide who took us around some of the park. This guide was verging on the ridiculous. He started the car and we soon realized he couldn’t actually drive. Lord knows he tried though, which was a frightening experience. In the end he got a mechanic to drive us around while he yelled facts at us. There are villages around the park, which is huge, and we went to a Hindu temple which was on a small island on top of a hill. We had to take a raft across the lake to get to it, the setting was like something out of that film ‘The Beach’. After lunch we set off again to go on an elephant ride! On the way we saw some animals like wild boar, deer, buffalo, eagles, a bee eater (?), a pied king fisher, a monitor lizard and some monkeys. No tigers though! The closest we got to tigers was seeing some fresh paw prints and seeing some really unpleasant stuffed ones in the local museum. The elephant trek was terrifying at first. The four of us had to sit back to back with our legs dangling over the side with no support and only a knob on the side to hold onto. We were just sitting on a big piece of wood with padding on it basically, and we all nearly fell off. We used laughter as a coping mechanism again. We went through dense forests and the like, which was very nice. By the end of our two hour ride we were gritting our teeth because we’d lost all sensation in our bums. The sun was setting and some of the park keepers that were there started waving about in a panic because apparently you’re not supposed to be in the park after sunset, because that’s when all the predatory animals come out. I’ve never seen anyone drive so fast in my life, and the roads were really bumpy. At times like this (and especially on rickshaws) we wish we’d brought a sports bra. Even better would be a couple of face huggers from that film ‘Alien’ which would offer a lot of support. Our driver was really worried and it got dark, and we were still in the park. We started imagining all these tigers leaping into our jeep and mauling us! After an hour we reached the hotel and our guide said he’d been quite scared because apparently a few days ago a tiger killed some people near where we had been in the evening. Which was comforting to know.
Somehow we had agreed to wake up at 5am to go bird-watching with our guide who had gone on about the ‘beautiful birds’. After driving for ages (during which time he droned on incoherently about a species of bird called ‘laughing custards’ (?) while we fell asleep in the jeep) we reached a spot where he brought out his binoculars and started pointing out the different birds. Unfortunately I decided to write down the names of the birds we saw, and he offered me a notepad to use. I say ‘unfortunately’ because from the moment I started taking notes he chose me as his fellow bird-watching enthusiast which was quite a disturbing experience on the whole. Every time I’d try and escape and have a little snooze on a rock or join the girls, he’d see another bird and scream ‘Imma!!Imma!!’ and thrust the binoculars at me. His enthusiasm was a bit worrying, I thought he’d pass out with excitement when he started gasping ‘there! Over there! A beautiful, rare bird!’ ;we were curious to see it and then realized it was just a pheasant! When Laura informed him that we ate them at home he looked slightly horrified. When he saw a Blue Wag Tail he trod on my bare foot and, in his state of elation, didn’t realize. After a bit I went ‘ow’ to get the message across.
Here’s a list of the birds we saw, I had to go through the hell of being chummy with our Mad Guide so I’m not letting it go to waste! :
Wild Chicken (that was really thrilling)
Blue throated Barbet
Lesser racket tail Drongo
Green headed barbet
Collared Falconet (the smallest bird of prey in the world…apparently)
Black Lord Tid
White brow wag tail
Greater yellow nape
Chestnut bellied nuthatch
Later we went to another temple, the Temple of Sita Vani which is dedicated to Sita and Rama, where there were sculptures of Durga and Ganesh. We were served some really nice spicy tea.
When we got back to the hotel we fell asleep straight away until the afternoon, when we went for a walk along the nearby lake. There were little boys bathing and playing there, it was a really idyllic scene and we had a paddle. Then at 10pm we got to the station and had yet another ‘harrowing’ experience. We sat down on the floor and after a while we realized there was a perfect semicircle of around 30 men surrounding us, just staring away. It was like something out of ‘Resident Evil’, only worse. They were like mad zombies, we didn’t get why they were so fascinated, we felt like the bearded ladies from a circus show. When they started closing in Loz cried ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US??’ which cracked me up. We thought it was pretty funny but it got quite annoying after a while. We thought they were going to eat us and we’d missed out the bit in the guidebook that says Uttaranchal is a cannibalistic region. Anyway, we did get on the train eventually but some of the men actually followed us onto the train and tried to speak to us. One of them told Jo, ‘I’m in very good health’ which was hysterical, and by far the best chat-up line I’ve ever heard.
(I'll put the pics up soon)
Locations Visited: Uttarkashi