Good thing about travelling together is being able to get the information much much quicker. It's already normal for us to come to a bus station, split (without even talking or giving any signals to each other) and then meet at the bus. Luckily we were given the last 2 seats, even though they said that we can't board the bus anymore. They didn't think that we can stand for an hour and instead we should take a bus that will be leaving 3 hours later. Not so easy mister, excuse us, as non stupid tourists are coming though! As usual getting to a place is more interesting as staying there. And our morning begins with yet another travel day. Indians are not used to travelling, well, maybe by trains, but not even that. The road coming down the mountain was in a good shape, and only little bit winding. I'm not good with winding roads, but here I didn't feel anything at all, except something wet on my arm. Is it raining?? No, it's only a girl on the front seat with her head out of the window losing all her breakfast :S
Indian men love to color their nails for some reason. They wouldn't wear high heels or lipstick ... sometimes they'll color their eyes black, but usually any red color would be either their pan rotten teeth or their nails. They also grow them, and some of them are very very long I’m assuming to get to as far as they can up their noses to scratch their brains :)
When the bus stopped, the porter found me no problem and asked me to pay 50 rps to roll my suitcase 50 meters to the train station. Get away from me you thief!
On the train there was no space at all, and we put our luggage next to the toilets in the general class. The train was overbooked, and in the 3 square meters space, there were 12 people and just as much oversized luggage. One guy started talking to me, at first normal conversation, and he looked educated, properly clothed, but it didn't take him long to ask me to show him nude pictures of me on my camera! WHAT??? First of all, I don't have any nude pictures of me on my camera, second of all, are you dumb?? Who are you for me to show you anything even if I had anything to show!!?? Then he asked me for my breasts size, telling me that his wife's is 33 cm. OMG! And that's meanwhile Andy is sitting right next to me reading a book. He then took a picture of me, of course without my permission. I covered my face and gave him a lecture on his rude behaviour. He apologized. He then wanted to check my camera out, which I didn't give him, and then asked me if my Ray Ban glasses are real or fake. I said real, in response to that, he took them from me and dragged his nail on the lens to see if it will scratch. Jesus christ ... what the hell is wrong with these people!!! ????
On the next station, I just randomly went into an empty ticket counter, so strange, an empty one, it must be the wrong counter. But they like to help tourists, and even if you're in the wrong spot, they'd still be able to help you. I bought 2 tickets to the next town and the train was leaving in 1 minute. Lucky us! We run into the platform knocking everybody on the way, and got into a random wagon while the whistle was blowing (meaning the train will start moving any second now). The thing with India is that the people can look at you and see that you need space to pass, but they'll just look and won't do anything. I usually walk right up to them and tell them to move, if they don't move, the suitcase is rolling on their feet. Now they have more motivation to move. If the train/bus is over packed, just put a suitcase in the door, and keep pushing it in, squeezing everybody inside. Locals do it too, so don't think that I'm a lunatic :) Even where there is no space at all, there is space for all.
On the train as usual, Andy got attacked by a bunch of questions mostly concerning his kindle. Nobody can believe it's not a notebook, and they have to check to make sure, and probably more unbelievable is the fact that why would you carry an electronic thing whose only purpose is to display books when nobody in India reads anything ... what a waste! The conversations in very broken English and mostly pantomime started leading to our relationship. If we're married, if we have a baby, I laugh and say "with him, never!" :) Then one guy does many circles with his hand and very fast shoots his index finger to the roof? Huh??? He repeats the motion by circling his index finger near his face and shooting it up! Hm ... interesting ... we call for a backup for someone who knows more English than him for a translation, apparently it meant "How many years we've been married?" :)) Um ... we didn't go that far into making up our marriage story, so I just looked at Andy and let him answer. Now I know, we've been married for 1 year on April 27th ... or something. I was arguing with Andy that we should've set the date to April 1st which I think is very appropriate :) But he insisted that it would be on his birthday cause this way he could remember it. Well he could ... but I can't, I'm terrible at remembering dates :S They kept digging into his/ours private lives when I went and sat at the open door of the train enjoying the sunset.
We arrived at the very friendly kumkum lodge. The crazy bus driver asked us where we're going and dropped us off right at the entrance to the lodge. First time in a long time we've heard phrases like "You're very welcome" or "Please sit down". It was nice talking to the owner, except that he talked too much giving very vague answers, so in a short time I got a headache and headed to the room. Tala is located inside a national park, and during the course of a day I found 3 spiders sitting on me, and we had a pet frog in our bathroom.
This national park is the best place in India and probably in the world to spot a tiger, not only it's the best place, it's also the best month of the year (May) to spot a tiger. Safaris are super expensive and the whole day we went from hotel to hotel trying to see if there are more people going to a safari. We couldn't find anybody, and the stupid thing is that a jeep fits 6 people (and the price is per jeep), but if someone does an online booking even for 4 people, that's it, the jeep is full, and nobody else is allowed in. All the people did online bookings. We waited another day, but no luck. One Indian guy in the hotel said that he doesn't really want to go to a tour, but if we agreed he could go, and give us some money. Of course some money is better than no money and we agreed to go. It was nice that while we were in the room he showed up with a bag of cookies, chips and pepsi as a thank you :)
I set the alarm for 4:00am. The phone saves 6 different alarms. I look at it, and all the alarms are set at stupid times, 3am, 4:40am, 7pm ... travelling is hard, it's not a vacation!
In the morning we wake up and drive to the gate. There are so many jeeps already standing in the lineup. Where did that many people come from? During the day, the streets are completely deserted!
The safari was very nice. It's one of the best ones I did. We saw so many animals, but most of them were deers. Many many peacocks. And 1 was dancing for the 2 ladies. I've never seen that in my life, although I've probably seen 100s peacocks. Many different kinds of birds and animal sounds. The animals are scared of the jeeps so they would run and leap across the road, it's must more interesting than just to see them eating. We saw something on the road, something brown. The jeep sped up and at that moment 1 bear disappeared into the bushes. We haven't seen it initially, but there were 2 bears, and the 2nd one was a bit slower to run, but when it saw us, it almost run on the spot, picking up all the dust in the air and with crazy speed run into the bushes. That was awesome!! :))
We drove around and around, 4 hours in total, but we've seen no tigers :(
I was extremely disappointed, the best place in the world, the best time of the year, and no tigers. We couldn't afford another safari, since 1 safari was equivalent to our weekly budget, and with a heavy heart we left Tala :(
That's when I thought that if you guys enjoy reading the blog, and make a small contribution of 50 cents, it would accumulate over time and would give me an opportunity to see these amazing things which are just outside the budget zone.
The drive back was unbelievably different than the ride into Tala. We changed 2 buses which were so relaxing and comfortable. No honking, soft music was playing, if only every bus in India will be like that.
Relaxing bus rides ended up in not so relaxing tuk-tuk drive to the train station. I wish I filmed it. I've been to India long enough now, and took too many tuk-tuk rides, and I'm telling you that this one beat them all. Surprisingly, we weren't scared at all. Indians are masters on the road. If a foreigner would get behind the wheel, I'm sure he wouldn't last more than a minute, but we've barely seen any accidents in India.
At the train station, 1 guy helped me twice with the luggage. I needed to get it over the railing to get to the ticket office. When I came back, he just saw me and followed me to help me over the railing again. He said that it's a pleasure to help a guest in his country. It's a pleasure to be a guest :)
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pix at https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Tala