Friday, January 27, 2006

Freezing in the forest


I'm now at Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madya Pradesh and I'm pretty cold!!

Who in their right mind would get up at 5.30, put on three pairs of trousers, two T shirts, two shirts, jersey, sweat, shirt, fleece , beanie, scarf, two pairs of socks and still be cold sitting on the back of an open jeep with frost glistening on the grass either side. (It's the wind chill factor with a vengeance) However such madness is often rewarded - on the first afternoon by an excellent sighting and photo-op of a tiger (even close enough for my little camera) and then yesterday THREE cats - a tiger, at greater distance, a jungle cat (not unlike domestic) and (wonder of surprises of rarities) a good long view of a leopard - OK too far for my camera but still .... Downsides include severe snuffles and disappointments, like this morning when the "tiger show" (elephant takes you there) with two adult tigers and four cubs was closed by the time we arrived to clock in.

Things are much the same as when I was first here eight years ago (apart from increase in the amount of jeep traffic asllowed - and prices) and I was lucky to track down (with ease, little tracking involved) the excellent driver/ornithologist I went out with last time. Also, two active tiger sightings, not just dormant under a bush, is two better than last time when I was here for twice as long. But this time the steep ramping of prices for foreigners and the bone-chilling cold will have me moving on tomorrow. If I can get the train booking, it'll be Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha's enlightenment under the Bo tree, and then Varanasi (or vice versa). But then again, I could just decide to head for the gentler and warmer zones of the South.

[Added on 28th Jan: I've taken a day off from travelling and exploring to just be - and try to get over a rampant ENT infection - or just extreme irritation with the dust and cold. Very reminiscent of the contents of Sarah Macdonald's excellent "Holy Cow", every current India traveller's must-read. Tomorrow the challenge of Jabalpur, and hassling for train tickets to somewhere spiritual and hopefully not too cold!)]

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