Let the chaos begin!

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Flag of India  ,
Friday, April 2, 2010

It all begins with flight AI 112 to Delhi, I take my window seat next to a nice man from Delhi. Its always reassuring as you get comfortable to have your neighbour pick up a piece of loose scrap metal that we both assume should be attached to the floor..this would be an indication of things to expect in India. It seems that everything is still under construction or as many of the signs state "a work in progress". It seems that at least 30% of the passengers are on their cellphones right up until when the plane begins to move, Indians love their mobile phones and to call each other it is something like a rupee a minute locally. There are 5 movies in English available and i managed to sleep through my first authentic curry.

Many had prepared me for the chaotic experience that awaits me at Delhi airport. I expected people to be yelling at me if i needed taxi or touching my belongings in order to help me for a small fee. But i just put on my game face and got out of there as soon as possible to find my driver waiting for me right outside..so the expected ordeal never eventuated. Note to self - worry less!

The journey to Tiger Camp, on the outskirts of Corbett Reserve, was supposed to take 6 hours - I think it may have taken more like 7-8. My driver hardly spoke English - not that we would have been able to converse due to the constant, constant tooting. During my time spent in the car i figured out that the tooting on the most part is for people passing and waiting to pass to let the vehicle in question know. Strange as I'm pretty sure that is what indicators and mirrors are for in New Zealand!

The bustle along the road is immense. Picture huge lorries carrying people or testing fate with overloaded goods, hundreds of motorcycles (Honda does well here) and people in cars such as I was, making nodding off for a kip impossible. Everyone narrowly misses each other and there was some suspicious veering to the sides - i swear my driver was catching a few cheeky winks!

Our lunchstop would be the first of many cultural 'realizations' shall we say. First as expected, the open restaurant was full of men, who look lazy and just stare. Then there is the food which was so so spicy, after saying i wanted no chilli and no cheese - only to receive both. In India it seems yes no somewhere in between is how it goes. And finally, the toilet which is a hole in the ground with lino around it; wowsers lucky i was prepared for that hygienic nightmare with my hand sanitizer in tow.

The journey continues and when we pull up to a stop due to an oncoming train my driver gets out for a wander. Maybe he is off to be one of the many men i have seen peeing on the side of the road or on the street. I see stray dogs, piles of rubbish, cows roaming free and men fixing motorcycles in their tiny street stalls. Men sit in groups in the shade and seem deep in discussion. I can't help but think what all the villagers do - especially battling the heat. As we wait for the train to go by, 2 boys, 3 then 4 until about 10 young curious boys are outside my window. They're trying to sell me peeled cucumbers - its very disarming the way they smile and joke - although i cant understand this language. A wave goodbye is all they get from me and we continue on.

I drop in and out of dozing until I realise the sun has set, which means people driving along with their headlights on full..not ideal when the roads are pretty basic and its hard enough normally to cope with that!We draw closer as more and more tourist buses and lodges crop up. As we force our way through the villages i see my first group of monkeys scurrying across the road. Shortly after we seem to be sharing the road with two elephants being ridden back to their base. The hotel establishments hire or lease the elephants from delhi to be part of the programme or attraction for the guests staying.

Where I am staying, is a homestay with a lovely Indian family who have two rooms a bathroom and office above their place near Tiger Camp. I feel very safe and welcome, not to mention the food and clean living facilities. I think i will be very comfortable here indeed.

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