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The Jungle Book

Meeting Mowgli in the jungle

sunny 30 °C

So after the smog and noise of Kolkata, it was off to the Sunderban Tiger Reserve for peace, quiet and no electricity. We met up with our group at 8am and set off in a very funny old Ambassador car painted and decorated in very many colours – the inside was like something out of the 70s. We listened to what I can only describe as ‘Indian pop’ for most of the 3 hour car journey (our guide Rakesh was 21 so full of life!)
We got to the edge of the mainland and had to get onto a local boat (everyone standing) For a 10min ride to the near island. The four of us (we went with a lovely German couple – Jana & Andre) then jumped onto a cycle rickshaw (a bike with a flat wooden plank to sit on) and had a 25min ride to the end of this island for our next boat ride to the island that we were staying on.

We arrived at our ‘Eco Village’ and were shown our rooms for the next two nights – very basic but big and clean and of course no electricity. We had food and a walk around the small village – Rakesh told us to go barefoot and we soon understood why – the monsoon rain had caused the path to become extremely muddy (it wasn’t really mud but a sandy grey claylike substance). We all struggled to walk on it at first as it was v v slippery but we soon got the knack. Of course a number of small school children trotted right past us laughing at our struggle…
We then took a small gondola type boat (no engine) into the mangrove area close to the village – here we saw mangrove trees and tree crabs so close up that he had to keep ducking out of the way of big branches.

(One thing that really stands out in India – there is no health and safety whatsoever. This at first was a bit strange for us, coming from a country where H&S has, I my opinion, gone a bit mad, but now it seems normal – if there is a hole in the road, walk around it. If there is a branch about to chop your head off, duck! No need for stupid yellow signs warning you of danger! It makes a refreshing change)
We then had our evening meal and were treated to a 2 hour musical set from a very local 3 piece band – the instruments they used were a harpsicord, a bongo drum and an instrument best described as a small bongo drum with a string attached which you pull and slacken and strum to make a ‘boingy’ sound – no idea what it was called. The songs were all in Bengali and mostly about local village life eg going to school, riding bikes etc. It was great to experience traditional rural life, the sounds of nature and folk music, the smells of cooking fires and general traditional ways.

Day two was spent on the main boat ‘Para Siempre’ We headed out into the actual Tiger Reserve at 7am and spent the day searching for the elusive Bengal Tiger. Unfortunately we did not spot any (there are only 200 or so in a space covering hundreds of square kms) but we did spot man eating crocs, various types of kingfisher, egrets, spotted deer, jungle fowl, monkeys, lizards. It turned out that Tess is a female David Attenborough – being by far the best and quickest spotter of all the animals, even better than our actual guide! I was v proud of this and I think I was the guide’s favourite guest because of this (teacher’s pet!! – RK).

We returned to the village at sunset around 5pm and had some chill out time. Once it went dark we were asked if we wanted to go on a ‘night safari’. Not really knowing what this meant, but up for an adventure, we all agreed to go (except RK who was feeling sleepy so had a (very!!) early night). We got into the small gondola type boat and headed off towards the next island. As we were going through the water, you could spot tiny lights flickering on the surface - turns out this was plankton which lights up in the dark when disturbed – it was fascinating to watch! We got to the next island and Mowgli (yes, as in the Jungle Book!) asked us if we wanted any beers – this was the first time since leaving our countries that any of us had a chance to have a beer – India has not got a big drinking culture – in fact, most Indians, even the young ones, are teetotal and therefore beers/spirits are not seen in obvious places – all towns and villages do have shops selling alcohol but it is not immediately obvious) So myself, the Germans and Sergei (a guy from Belarus who joined us late on the 1st night) all said yes to getting a nice cold beer. We took them back on board the boat and drank them as we floated back to our island – it was a very peaceful way to spend the evening looking at the stars and having quiet chats with our new friends.

The final morning Rachel had a dip in the local swimming pond and we enjoyed the first sunshine after days of rain. The journey back was around 4 hours and the noise and smog of Kolkata was a shock to the senses after such peace and nature. We spent a final few hours hanging around our ‘old haunts’ in the city before boarding our overnight train for Bodhgaya, home of the Budda tree – but that’s a story for another day.

Posted by TessAndRach 02:47 Archived in India

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