This post comes to you from deep within the jungle of the Bandhavgarh National Park. I am feeling very Bear Grylls / Steve Backshall but in reality I am probably giving off an air of Ray Mears / David Bellamy.
But before we talk tiger - singular, I had better update you all on the past few days.
In my last post I said I was going to impose myself upon some travellers for my last night in Udaipur and I did just that. I went back to the same spot to watch the sunset and got talking to 2 Oz women, Lara and Moss from Sydney who were in India on a business venture. They were staying at the City Palace Hotel (an actual palace) which was slightly nicer than the Khumba Palace (not an actual palace) where I was. So we hung out for the evening there and drank expensive drinks (my wallet took a hit by Indian standards). They were also telling me about a newlywed couple who were at the hotel - an Irishman and a German woman and that David (the groom) had come down to the pool in his full suit and tie at 11am that morning. When asked what he was doing he said it was for the photos they were taking! It was about 35 degrees that day.
Anyway, about 10 mins later David (sporting a white tux and was remarkably like Brin from Gavin & Stacey in personality) and his bride turn up and join us. I have to say, he was brilliant, very funny. We all ended up back at their suite that overlooked the lake and carried on with the drinking. David kept doing Sean Connery impressions for some reason and before long it became apparent that his bride was a massive film buff and I think he was getting into character for some fun and games later because she kept replying in an evil German accent!!
The next day was spent hanging around waiting to leave for Agra and I wasted the time by hanging out with Lara and Moss at their swimming pool.
A good thing about meeting these 2 is that I now have a couple of more people to hang out with in Sydney and Lara's brother plays for a footy team there too, so hopefully I will be able to get a few matches in, as I am desperate to kick a ball already.
Onto Agra and more sightseeing. My hotel was located about a 5 min walk from the Taj Mahal gate and the roof top restaurant had a great view.
I arrived on Friday, the only day of the week that the Taj is closed so went on a tour of the other sights. First was Agra Fort. I can't tell you much about it, I am truly fed up with all of this fort, palace and temple sightseeing business (as I said in my last post) so I walked around in a bit of a daze not paying any attention.
Next was the baby Taj, which was quite impressive and I got to see some eagles close up which was quite exciting for me.
Finally I went to a spot where you can see the sunset over the Taj. It would've been great if it wasn't cloudy!
On the way back, my rickshaw driver picked up a couple of stranded Kiwi girls, so I ended up having dinner with them.
I got up at 5am the next day to see the Taj at sunrise and I am glad that I did. The Taj is one monument that I would never get sick of visiting. I literally stared at it from every angle possible for about 3 hours. It is hard to explain what it is about it, but in all the pictures you have seen, nothing compares to actually seeing it there in front of you and I would say to everybody to try to go and see it before you die.
I also ran into Dave, an Oz bloke I met the week before in Jaipur, as you do.
Agra was a short and sweet visit, literally 18hrs. My taxi ride to the train station out of there was interesting. In the passenger seat was the first openly gay Indian man that I have met. Of course, he took an instant shine to me and told all about how he hasn't had a boyfriend for 3 years and is really in need of one. I was then told how sexy I was and had beautiful eyes and he kept winking at me. The worst / best bit was when he sang to me in a very high voice and I had to tell in him to stop it. As I got out of the cab he asked me to cancel my trip and stay with him for a few days - I had told him that I was only into women about 5 times already but that I could hook him up with someone in Soho if he wanted. Anyway, I was out of there a quick as.
We are now back to the present in Bandhavgarh.
I arrived at the station at 5am, with no transport, no hotel and no safari's booked. I managed to blag a lift from one of the resort drivers to the park which is 30km away for a paltry 300 rupees - about $4 (I am using dollar for pound sign as I can't find it on the keyboard). I asked him about rooms at his place and they were going for $215 per night! He dropped me off in the village and I found a room for $5.70 per night. Admittedly it isn't the Hilton and I am sharing with a few insects but it will do me.
As for safari costs, it is about $60 for a 4 hour safari, no matter how many people you have in a Jeep. So my mission yesterday was to find people to share with, which is what I did. I met Ravi and Adele in the afternoon and agreed to share with them. As I am finding is usual with these things we then had dinner and drinks and played some cards at their hotel, which is a lot better than mine and cheaper too. I am sending this post from their hotel which I have just moved into! A sweet $5 per night and full of travellers too. Over dinner we met a couple of Germans and they agreed to share the safari too. So my safari this morning cost me $12.
The reason I am telling you all of this is that I got a few quotes when I was back in England to stay at this park and the cheapest I got was $600 incl 3 safaris.
So far, it has cost me $27 for 3 nights accommodation and 1 safari. Organise it yourselves people!
One bad thing about where I am staying is that there is no ATM. This meant catching a bus back to the train station which I had just come from. My first Indian bus journey and it broke down half way there.
I eventaully got back to Umaria and went in search of the ATM. It was evident that people on safari do not visit Umaria. As I walked around, some children ran and hid from the evil white man, whilst other people peered through their garden gates and came out to watch me walk past. If ever I was self-conscious, India has cured me of it.
I could'nt find the ATM so some random bloke took me there on the back of his motorbike - of course without a helmet.
Back at the park I was accosted by a group of about 10 Indian lads to sit with them and they asked me all about sex and women etc in the UK. They were a little shocked about how it is at home. For some reason I had to then arm wrestle 3 of them. I won the first 2 but then they brought out Hans who hadn't smiled since I had been there and was pretty big. I lasted for a while but then gave in - I am not sure how he would've taken losing.
I blame the loss of the fact that I had already had 2 contests and didn't have a cap to turn around like Sly Stallone in Over the Top.
So, the safari, the reason that I am here; which I can summarise it it in 2 lines:
Started at 6am, bloody cold, saw a tiger in the wild in our first 10mins which is one of my dreams fulfilled and then didn't see anymore!
We did miss 2 extremely close up tiger sightings, by close I mean crossing the road in front of the Jeep by only a couple of minutes each time, but it is all about luck. I am going again tomorrow so need to find some more people to share, but if not I will go on my own, so fingers crossed.
Only last week, a tiger was walking through the village I am in and killed a cow - I want some of that action.
That's it for now, oh except that I hate mosquitoes! They are eating me alive in the jungle and do not care that I have repellent on. I have resorted to wearing trousers and long sleeved top even though it is hot. I got one of the little ******** yesterday and was rewarded with a covering in my own blood.
Next post will me from Mumbai (Bombay), Slumdog Millionaire stylee.