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Friday, February 27, 2009

Delhi and The Corbett National Park

The trip to Delhi was the best so far. A nice train, we took CC class (sitting in air conditioned). Besides being a quieter atmosphere and only people with a ticket being allowed on each coach, they served us food, 3 times! Well worth the money I must say.

We arrived at the New Delhi train station and were dealing with some rickshaw drivers and taxis to take us to the hotel we had booked when Tiago spotted a pre-paid rickshaw counter. In the end we managed to get a rickshaw drive for 3 times less then we would have paid if we hadn't taken a pre-paid rickshaw. After a 30 min drive around the dark and ugly streets of Old Delhi we managed to arrive to the hotel we had booked in the morning. It was quite close to the Jama Majid which is quite convenient given the short time we have to visit Delhi.

Once we enter the hotel New City Palace, we are informed that they do not have any rooms left. We reply with the booking we had made in the morning. They wake up the guy the supposedly had taken our reservation and the impossible had happened, they had lost our reservation and they didn't have any rooms left. We are offered a place in the mess with the personal. A place in the last floor, without any type of door, where a bunch of people are sleeping all together. We reject of course, they argue with each other in front of us, almost ignoring our presence, we still manage to ask them to try to go and find us a place to stay. In the end, I have to make a few phone calls to some of the lonely planet numbers I have and manage to find a room at 1 am in the Paharganj. We take the first rickshaw we find. It was interesting riding a rickshaw through the streets of Delhi with a drunk driver... The guys at the New city Guest house offer us a room that was not clean, we complain a little (although we knew we would have to take if they didn't have anything else) and in the end they manage to find us a clean room in a close by hotel. Time to rest and prepare for the next day.

We decided to take a more relaxing day. After the previous day events and after the rhythm we had in Rajasthan we kind of needed it. We checked out from the hotel and went to Conaught Place, where Joao wanted to book his flight to the place where he is going to work. We ended up spending the rest of the morning and the beginning of the afternoon there. Since we hadn't heard anything from the agency we had contacted regarding the safari package at the Corbett National Park, we decided to call. The guy is in Delhi and wants to meet us so that we can pay a part of the safari in advance. It was nice conversation and me and him almost set up a travel business. Let's see if I want to focus my career in tourism!

Finally at 3 pm we manage to do something in Delhi. We rent a taxi to drive us around for the rest of the day. The driver is quite nice although he hardly speaks English. He drives us to the Gate of India, where we just take a few photos and later to the mausoleum of Humayun. We couldn't have chosen a better place to visit in Delhi. We are amazed with the beauty of the place and the peacefulness and quietness we find there. We wander around the complex until the sun almost sets.

After that there is not much time left to see anything in Delhi. The driver still drives us to the Rajhgath where Ghandi and some other important people were cremated, but it is already closed. All public places close at 5.30 pm. It's a pity because it looks like another quite nice place to spend some time.

We ask him to drop us at the station then, so that we can book some of the train tickets we need for the rest of the Indian journey. On the way to the old Delhi station we get a glimpse of the Red Fort. An astonishing monument, that we have to leave for another time.

Corbett National Park
We spent the night in the train to Ramnagar and after showering and relaxing a bit at the hotel (quite luxurious for the standards we got used to in the last few weeks) we were ready for the day.

The package we chose included, a 1h walking tour through the park and surroundings, 1 jeep safari and 1 elephant safari, among some other things. We chose to do the walk in the first morning, the jeep safari in the afternoon and the elephant safari the next morning.

We walked through the outskirts of the park, spotted a couple of deers, some birds, termites nests, and the local vegetation. We saw some tiger footprints, according to the guide they were fresh and he was not far away. We next went pass a local village and relaxed a little by the river. After this, time for lunch and to prepare for the jeep safari.

As we entered the limited access area of the Corbett National Park, one of the guards joins us in the jeep. It is mandatory apparently. As the journey starts he points out all the animals we see. It's amazing how easily he can spot some animals, like the lizard you can see on the picture, which would have gone unnoticed otherwise. We kind of got tired of seeing deers (different species) and monkeys. We saw a snake eagle, some birds and not much more, until suddenly Joao asks the driver to stop and drive backwards. He had spotted something. He uses the binoculars and screams "it's a tiger. He's looking at us". With all the excitement he is not able to explain us exactly what he is observing, so only later me and Tiago understood that we had also seen its head between the trees. Joao took a picture of it, but it was too far away, so it is quite hard to distinguish it from the vegetation. But the event brought some excitement to the afternoon and we leave the park happy and hoping that the next day in the elephant safari we will be able to see some more rare animals.

In the evening as we prepared to sleep, the bad news came. A tiger attack had happened and all elephants had been called by the guards to go catch the tiger. We went out to the reception and were told that the elephant safari we had planed will not happen and that we can take a different jeep safari instead. We don't feel like doing another jeep safari and tell them that. The only solution discussed they come up with is returning the safari money (2000 rupees). I don't think that's enough and decide that I'll speak to the guy from the agency the next morning. As we get back to bed, we hear gun shots quite close by.The shots continue as we fall asleep.

The morning after we got some more details about what happened. The tiger attacked a villager that was grabbing some wood. The attack occurred less than 1 Km from the hotel was the same tiger whose trails we had been following the previous morning! They caught the tiger and will now send it whether to a different national park or to a zoo. I speak with the guy from the agency and the best he can do is offer himself to pay for the extra meals we were not told about when we bought the package. As for the rest of the day, well we spent it in the hotel, doing literally nothing...

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