Tiger in the woods
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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The only reason people come here is to see tigers in the park, so every resort organises safari jeep tours to help them achieve this. The problem is that there are way more resorts than tourists, so it is hard to find a jeep that is full
Johnny kind of latches on to us after that, regaling us in his tales of eight months in the remotest areas of Papua. "Oh, Papua New Guinea", I say, nodding, "sounds interesting". "No, no, Papua, the Indonesian side. Different place", he informs us. Having travelled for eight months in Papua and a bunch of other places on different trips, Johnny says he has "perfected the art of backpacking". At dinner, we realise that he hasn't perfected the art of speaking to people who don't speak English. He rabbits away to the waiter in his English accent, oblivious to the poor chap's blank stares. Every time he finishes, Jane and I have to 'translate' what he has said into clearer English. God knows how he got on in deepest darkest Papua. Nor has he perfected the art of not burping or farting at the dinner table. The one time he excuses himself is before he lets a particularly long fart bubble out.
Our cavernous room with its concrete floor and solitary think blanket provides little protection from the winter cold, so our 5am alarm is actually quite welcome
We are the fifth group into the park. The other four continue straight ahead, while we veer off on another path, meaning we have the whole place to ourselves. The sky is slowly starting to lighten up, revealing a spooky layer of mist across the treeline. We drive slowly along the deserted path, our eyes peeled for the black and orange beast. Every now and then the driver stops and the guide points out the heavy imprint of a set of tiger tracks. There are 131 tigers and 96 leopards in this National Park but no tigers have been sighted for the last five days.
As we drive through some thick jungle, we catch a glimpse of something scampering across the track in front of us
After about 90 minutes of driving around, we arrive at the station of Kisli where we can buy tea and go to the bathroom. All the other jeeps are stood here too. No one has seen any tigers yet. Then word starts to creep around that a tiger has been sighted somewhere in the park so a bunch of jeeps drive off. In a case like this, the tiger has probably killed a deer or something and will spend the rest of the day eating it and sitting around, so there is no rush. You can only view the tiger from atop an elephant, which of course costs another 600 rupees per person to ride. We're not sure if we are throwing good money after bad but we decide to give it a go and we drive off to the kill site. There are a number of other jeeps there so we have to wait
And that is more or less it. We drive back to the park gate, still looking for wild animals but less enthusiastically. Our jeep-mate Johnny doesn't have enough money on him for the jeep hire so we have to drive the extra two kilometres down to his resort and then back to ours to pay. Johnny is one of these guys who believes that everything is on his time. Instead of just grabbing his wallet and coming out again, he stops to change clothes, go to the toilet (a #2 by the sounds of things) and rearrange his luggage, as well as having a chat to the resort owner, while we are all sat in the jeep waiting for him.
The driver tots up our bill: "okay, total is 972 rupees. Just make it a thousand."