We must have been in the park 10 minutes when we caught up with one of the jeeps in front of us that was stationary in the road, apparently there were extremely 'fresh' tiger tracks, everybody was very excited as there is only a one in four trip chance of catching a glimpse of this prized park inhabitant
. The guide told us that of the 4,000 Indian tigers in the world Corbett was home to approximately 200, however in the long grass and thick jungle vegetation they were increadibly difficult to spot. On our first drive of the day, between 6am and 12 noon and our second between 2pm and 6pm we saw Kingfisher, Bee Eater birds, peacocks (one in full display mode, and one up a tree!), Hornbill, Paraqueet, Spotted deer, Barking deer, Samba deer, Black face monkey, Rhesus monkey, the endangered Vulture, Eagle, Woodpecker and Wild Elephant. We had a rather hairy moment with the elephant which we came across right in the middle of the road. We watched it for a while then on instinct the guide got the driver to turn the car around, as we couldnt drive as fast in reverse, expecting the animal to charge us. I have to say it was a very scary moment but the elephant obviously thought better of it and ran back in to the denser forest. It was amazing. The jeep was proving a little hard going on the bum cheeks with all the rocky uneven ground that we were covering. We left the jeep hardly able to walk, ouch.
We got back to the lodge weary and filthy, looking forward to a bit of a feed and a cool 'bucket shower' then bed ready for our next full day safari. Ramesh obviously had other plans for us. As I was taking a shower two of the staff had come to the door and told Andrew that Ramesh was expecting us in the garden in ten minutes for a meeting. They also came with a mountain of forms that needed filling in. Despite Andrew being dressed in only a t-shirt and a pair of 'y's both men boldly enterd the room and sat down while he filled in all his particulars. Very disturbing. I could hear him through the bathroom door asking the men who weren't fluent in English whether they liked his beard and underpants. Sick. Anyway unsure what to expect from Ramesh's meeting we quickly got ready and found that the seating area in the garden had been turned in to a small lecture theatre complete with television and dvd player
. Ramesh gave us a short talk about himself, how he set up his business, the local area and the plight of some of the animals. Then we watched a film about elephants, one about Vultures (in Hindi with no sub-titles - a little strange), however the third one he had lined up for us wouldn't play so we will never know what the finale should have been. We then ate a meal that the staff had especially chosen for us and Ramesh invited us to his home the next evening for dinner. Ever the one to grab an opportunity for free food with both hands Andrew told Ramesh that it would be our pleasure to join him and his family. All the other families had been invited too, so we went to bed wondering whether we would come away from tomorrow nights soiree with a small time share property in Corbett.
We woke at 5am after a lovely sleep in the bungalow. We quickly threw what we thought we might need for the day in our day sack, quite what you take on a safari we weren't sure however Andrew was adamant that the portable footspa was unnecessary, and off we went to meet the infamous 'Ramesh'. A small bearded Indian man, complete with serious binocular holster, met us at the hut, this was Ramesh finally, we chatted over a cup of chai as we waited for the other family who were taking the second waiting jeep to arrive. My worst fears were dispelled - we weren't in a cycle rickshaw, phew! We got to the park at about 6am just in time for it opening, there seemed to be a race to get in the queue first, with about 15 jeeps jostling for position in front of the gate. Once inside we had all our papers checked and were joined by our guide for the day, sadly not Ramesh as he stayed with the family (clearly they were not on the 'Smartprice' option).