Last weekend myself and another teacher took a trip to Nagarhole National Park.
On the Friday afternoon we took the school bus into Whitefield to collect the car that we had hired – not an easy task. We arrived at the office at 4pm as arranged and were shown the car, before being told that we needed photocopies of passports, driving licenses, credit cards and Resident Permits. This required a walk to find somewhere that would make the photocopies for us, this shouldn’t have been a problem as Bangalore has numerous shops that offer Xerox services. Unfortunately none of them were in the same area as the car hire office. Eventually we decided to ask at a supermarket and, although with very bemused expressions, they made the photocopies for us free of charge.
Once we got back to the office at 5pm we found out that there was a powercut in the building and therefore they were unable to print out the hire agreement. At this point time was running short for us as we both had to be back at school for 5:45 to start our boarding duties. Finally they managed to print the paperwork and, duly signed, they gave us the key.
Two minutes down the road we realised they hadn’t provided the GPS navigation system we had paid for. We turned around and asked where the Sat Nav was and were told that they didn’t have one for us. This promised to add an extra dimension to the planned trip.
On Saturday morning we set off at 5:30 for the 210km drive through Karnataka to get to the nature reserve. It was brilliant. Once we had navigated the very potholed roads from school to the appropriately named ‘Nice Road’ (a toll road that is the only road in the state without potholes) and turned onto the very long road to Nagarhole, we passed through many villages. These provided some amazing views into rural life here, especially as there was a major festival taking place over the weekend. We stopped for chai in one village and at a bakery in the next. One of the strangest sights we came across was a decorated cow standing on a man’s lap while a band played!
On a couple of occasions we got caught in Indian style traffic jams.
Once at the nature reserve we were shown to our log cabin and realised that the pace of life here was going to be slow. Having arrived at 11, lunch was at 1:30 and the first trek was at 3:30.
During one of the breaks, whilst sitting on the balcony I saw a deer wandering around and decided that it was worth trying to take a photo. I got within a couple of meters before the deer even noticed me. Unfortunately, once he had noticed, he seemed to take rather an interest. As I was lining up my camera the deer was getting closer and closer, until I ended up with his front paws on my shoulders and was trying to push him away with my knee whilst still attempting to take a photo.
After a fantastic lunch (and another rest) we set off in the open top jeeps on the first of the weekend’s two treks. A two and a half hour trek, in near silence, through the forest not only allowed us to see some great views but also more wildlife than I expected.
Once we’d returned to camp there was an option to watch an episode of a David Attenburgh documentary on the elusive tiger (they hadn’t spotted one on their treks for over a fortnight!) I declined and went back to the cabin to get a quick shower. As I was sitting on the balcony waiting for James to return I heard a lot of rustling noises just outside. Grabbing the kerosene lamp we had been given I looked in to the darkness to find three wild boars snuffling around just below our balcony.
After dinner James and I returned to our balcony and, with only the kerosene lamp burning, and shared a bottle of wine as we listened to the sounds of the forest gradually stop. One of the greatest things about being here was being out of the city. This is going to sound sickeningly sentimental but it was fantastic to be out of the city; total silence apart from the occasional sounds of the forest, actually being able to see the stars rather than the glow of lights from the city and being able to smell fresh air instead of dust and smog.
The next morning we received our wake-up call at 6am, along with a cup of freshly brewed tea and made our way to the jeeps for our second trek.
After about half an hour our guide stopped suddenly and looked over the edge of the jeep before pointing out tiger tracks. We moved on silently, almost holding our breath in expectation. Suddenly there was a flash of orange on the track in front of us. Certain we had seen a tiger, but with no clear image of one, we moved forward to where we had seen it. We waited in silence for 10 minutes before very slowly reversing back up the track. After a few more minutes of silent watching and waiting there was a sudden movement in the undergrowth about 15m to our left. As we turned to look we saw not one but three tigers watching us. They only stayed still for a few seconds before disappearing in a flash. It was only for a very short time but was a truly magical moment. And unfortunately they were far too fast to get a picture of!
During the rest of the trek we saw more deer, elephant, monkeys and a wild dog
On our return to camp we had breakfast, packed our stuff and set off on the road again and it was my turn to drive. What an experience! I thought that, having been a driver in Cyprus I had come across every type of dodgy driving imaginable to man. And then I drove in India!! The very few traffic lights on the road are completely ignored, people step out into the road without looking and as long as you swerve there is no problem, there are no speed limits (although the number of pot holes do tend to slow you down,) no-one uses their mirrors hence when you overtake it is your responsibility to sound your horn to let them know that you are there and parking is even more random and haphazard than in Cyprus. I have to say – I loved every minute of it!
Again on the drive home we saw many sights; tiny villages, a procession along the street (which stopped and played for us as we took photos) and a cow being blessed in a river just upstream from people doing their washing.