Monday, 31 December 2012

the last leg

Down to the south of Gujarat to Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary which is the 
last refuge of the Asiactic lion. Widespread hunting decimated the population,
they were on the brink of extinction with only 12 left in 1884.

The beautiful forested park covers a huge area, and the numbers of lions
have increased, so much so, there are plans to transfer some to other

We set off at 5.30am, or we nearly did.   Two punctures called for an
solution which appeared in the shape of a very old rickshaw.   It sounded
like an old traction engine, puffing and spitting along the dark road.
We all squashed in, including our driver clutching one tyre for repair.
Issaf, such a nice man, was dropped of, in the dark, at what looked like
a deserted hut.

Ten minutes later we were at the gate of the Sanctuary queuing for our
permits.   No permits left, so we pulled out the VIP card which worked.

Still dark, and very cold, we set off through the park in an open jeep.
A driver, our forest guide, Keith, Samshu and myself.  Birds were just
waking up.    Monkeys were asleep.  A few spotted deer roaming
through the grasslands, nilgai and sambar deer appearing through the
trees.   We drove on for around two hours.   The sunrise gave hope of
some warmth!   Occasionally we would drive out of the valley, and, 
my goodness, the sun was a welcomed sight.

Did I mention it was Keith's birthday?    Where was that lion?   This
was going to be some birthday present.    We had almost given up hope
when, on the crest of a hill, this magnificent beast appeared,

followed a little later by another one basking in the sun.    Fantastic.

Back for breakfast, and we were starving.  It's hard work stalking lions
Issaf was waiting for us with the car and all punctures fixed.  I found a 
seat in the sun while our stuffed parathas and curd were being
prepared.   Later, after having a shower, I noticed weired red rings on my
legs.   Goodness, had I been bitten by something nasty?    No, it turned
out they were chilblains, things of distant memory when sitting too close
to an open fire on cold winter days.   Who would have thought this would
happen after sitting on a hot stone wall warming up after a chilly start
to the day?!!

Moving up the north coast the next stop was Valavadar National Park,
Blackbuck sanctuary.

The countryside here reminded me of an African savanna, tall golden
grasses, interspersed with single low trees.    The blackbuck are beautiful
creatures, their horns resemble barley sugar twists.

Then there were nilgai, also known as blue cows

We spent a happy couple of hours driving through the park.  On the south side were
lakes full of winter migrants, various ducks, wonderfully coloured little birds darting
in and out of bushes.   Oh, so peaceful.

Lotus flowers coming into bloom

there had to be an elephant - we noticed this one as we were
passing a small village

Our friend, and guide, Samshu (and the lovely toran over the door has machine cut shisha!)

And so our wanderings came to an end.    Overnight train from Amedhabad to
Mumbai.   Two days to catch up with some shopping and then the flight home.
We stay by the harbour in Mumbai, the other end of the road from the Taj and
the Gateway to India.    The usual routine on leaving day is to pack, have breakfast,
followed by a quick stroll up to The Gateway to India.   A bit of a boo hoo, then
taxi to the airport.

This time we could hear the strains of a military band.   Oh, I do like that sound,
and what a send off.

It was a naval band, plenty of flags fore and aft.   In the middle of the parade,
young girl sea cadets.   They were practising for a big event I would guess.

the tail end

outside the Taj Hotel the girls are giving it their all.   The complete rendition of the
Sailor's Hornpipe, including all actions.   It fair brought a tear to my eye.

We arrived in India tired and exhausted, and returned fully restored, except I was
so chilled out it has taken some time to get round to doing things that should be
done - like my blog!    

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