Thursday, 24 May 2012

Wonders will never cease

Indeedy,finally the staff get down to writing for me.  I think I may start looking for another amanuensis - wotever that is - but he does still take me places so I suppose I shouldn't complain. No you shouldn't. Spoil Sport.

Where was I? My bounce filled brain is struggling to remember. Ah yes Ranthambhore.   Before we have a few more photos of the tigers, I think I'll share a few more animals and birds that we saw. First of all some monkeys.  We liked this mother and big baby in the banyan tree.  The mummy langur looks really relaxed sitting in among the roots doesn't she, and her colour matches so well too.

Next we have a real live cheeky monkey.  Alan says I'm a cheeky monkey sometimes and I don't look at all like this.  We were looking for the tigers and this baby was in the tree with it's mummy.  As we got close and stopped to look, it clambered round and had a good look at us too. I like its big ears and shiny eyes.

I thought it was having fun and I wanted to go up there and play too, but it was too far up for me to jump 'cos I've only got wee legs and heavy insides, so I just had to stay with Ann and Alan.

Now this is a Ruddy Mongoose. No I'm not being rude about it, it's just that it has a red face (embarrassment at being photographed, I spect.) Alan's not too pleased about the sharpness of this one, but it was nearly dark when he took so I suppose I'll let him off.  There were two mongooses (mongeese?) hunting together among the rocks and it was quite hard to see them.  They were looking for snakes to eat - coo, you wouldn't catch me doing that.

Here are a few more birds too. The little bird with the black crest and the fiercely blue eye is a Brahminy Starling, and the one with the browny orangey back is a Ruffous Treepie. I think browny-orangey treepie (pronounced treepee) sounds much less pompous myself, but hey humans just are - pompous that is.

Next we have a spottie wollet (Spotted Owlet), yes, that's what I said.  It was looking a bit unsure of himself sitting out in the daylight and he sort of squinted at us and went on sitting there.  On our last bird, and even the last animal we saw in the park was  a Brown Fish Wol. Again it was getting dark and Alan was very pleased to get this picture through the branches of the tree as it sat there looking at us with it's big yellow eyes.  I know they eat brown fish - I'm not surprised the fish are brown the water in the pools looked a bit that way, but I thought it might have been lining me up for a little snackeral, so I couried down just in case.

I thought I'd show you a picture of these lovely little Indian Antelopes.  They look just like Tommies from Africa, don't they.  They are very small but they can still fight with each other as you can see.

Finally, Finally a few more pictures of tigers. 

The first two are of Machali again - isn't she big and scary?   The next two are of the young tiger looking a little bewildered at all the fuss made by the noisy people in the vehicles behind ours.  Raj told them off for scaring her and that was quite right too.  

The last picture of the tigers is of me with a different Machali who walked out of the bush just behind us to be my friend. She's a very inexperienced tiger indeed and she suddenly appeared last Saturday when Alan and Ann came home from a dance.  Very strange I say (We won her in a raffle). No, I bet she just knew you'd been to India and came home 'cos she liked the thought of meeting me.  Anyway she's here to stay. 
Well, that was it for India, after we'd seen the tigers for one last time, it was trains, 'n 'nother big notel 'n 'nother big nairyplane and bump back to reality.  But I still have stuff to tell you about, when he can get his act together.

Until then, byee,


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Off to see the tigers

Now where was I - it's getting to be a long time ago now and we've been to Ipswich this week already.

 Oh yes I know, we were off to see the tigers.  First though we had to go back to Delhi.  It was a long journey and we got to the Taj Palace very late.  Just in time to sort out cases for the next bit of the journey and go to bed.  When we arrived we found that we had been given a lovely room.  On the table there were two chocolate brownies, one each for the staff and Ann with their names written on them.  You can see my consternation that there were no brownies labelled "Jock" and "Lily" A swizz I say, but they did share and that was nice - I even kept a bit on my fur for a midnight feast.

 Next morning should have been a lie in day and then off to the airport back home, but instead we said goodbye to all the others and had another ridiculously early start, because we were going back to see the tigers on the train. (No, we were going on the train to see the tigers.)  It was a crazy early start so you can't expect me to get my English right, I'm confused just by the memory of it.

So there we were in another car at 6.15 next morning heading for the station and the train back to Mawai Sadhopur and Ranthambhore.  As we waited for the train, we watched the world of Delhi Nizamuddin Station swirl around us.  Can you believe that people actually live on the station, and on shacks by the track and even in tents between the tracks? These two boys were gathering plastic bottles to re-cycle and make some money. (Very very little I'm sorry to say, but enough to live on, though they should have been at school.)  Alan and Ann were rather sad to see that.  We have a much easier life don't we, and we should be glad that we do.

Soon enough our train drew in and on we clambered. Alan had had great difficulty getting a train ticket, and the nice folks at Ranthambhore arranged one for us.  It was a strange journey as we found ourselves in a sleeper car. Alan folded up the bed to form a bench and we sat fairly comfortably.  I sat by the grimy window and managed to get a view out.  After one of the stops we got talking to a very nice young man who, it turned out, was on his way to Mumbai (Bombay) for a job interview.  He couldn't afford to fly, so he was going to spend 22 hours on the train instead.  We hope he got the job That is a long time, and fortunately for us it was only a little over 4 and a half hours and we are picked up and taken to our new hotel.  A man in a red shirt took our case and carried it to the car by balancing it on his head. He looked as if he didn't weigh much more than the case. 

My, what an interesting sign there was at the hotel.  I wondered if we'd see tigers inside, but instead there were tents for people and bears to sleep in.  This is the front of our tent, and the pretty flower was growing just outside.  We met all  the staff at the hotel and Mr Ramsingh took us under his wing and looked after us all the time we were there.
When we'd had our lunch and had time to relax we went off to see the fort at Ranthambhore.  We had to go back through the gates of the reserve and up a long and very bumpsty track at the end of which lies the fort.  
Our nice guide took us up the very steep walk to the fort which is ginormous with lots of gates and walls and parapets and statues and pools and palaces and everything like that. You can see the buildings and walls high up above us in this picture.  When we were on our way up we looked from the walls across the lake and saw a tiger very far away.  I could see it but Alan had to get his twonoculars out to see it. Can you spot it?  It's behind the island walking through the grass. Still can't see it?  Neither could the staff!

Excitement over on we walked.  The place was built over many years, but many in the 13th and 14th centuries, and lots of people got killed fighting over it then and afterwards.

At the end is a Ganesha Temple that people come to visit from far and near.  To get there they often have to walk miles through the park past the leopards and tigers and crocodiles, and of course all the way back too - very scary. Can you see the langurs?   They were very cheeky indeed trying to get food from the stalls nearby.  These two stole some rose garlands and proceeded to eat them!  
When we were walking back we spotted some lovely parakeets.  They are called plum-headed parakeets. The male has a lovely plum coloured head while the female's is grey. Aren't they pretty with their blue tails?

We set off to walk back and Ann was chatting to the guide as we wandered along, when suddenly Alan said "Look out! There's a snake!"  Ann looked down and saw it and hopped smartly to her right.  Then Alan and the guide watched it as it slithered away.  
"Oh," said the guide, "that's a cobra. It's most unusual seeing them out during the day." Gulp, I thought. Alan didn't get it's photo he was so interested in watching it slide away.  That's enough excitement for several days, so we were very glad when we'd had dinner and it was time for bed.

More tiger stories the next time.



Sunday, 13 May 2012

Out and about on the hilltops

I'm sitting in full public view, near a hot cup of coffee, on a train - again. Honestly, there's not time to draw breath and I haven't finished telling you about the holiday (We'll catch up this week.) That's what you said last week, so you'd better get on with it.  (Enough already, now that I've finally given Katy your bearthing fees there's no going back.) Ha, that's what you think. I can still jump ship if you don't behave. (I think I have the whip hand there, as I can leave you at home if you don't behave.) You wouldn't do that would you?  I mean I'm really quite a nice bear.  I just have forthright views.  (Let's get going shall we?)

We left our intrepid explorer enjoying the beer and chilling in the Oberoi Cecil Hotel and not an early start in sight.  After another lovely meal we had a good night's kip, though Ann was coughing like anything.  (Yes poor thing, she had caught my chesty cold and it's not yet completely gone!) 

We had an excursion planned for the next day in the hills around Shimla, close in and then into the hills.  
First stop was the Monkey Temple, built where Hanuman rested when he was taking the mountain back to Ram in Lanka to help save Ram's brother, who'd been shot with an arrow by the ten headed demons on Lanka.  Quite how a mountain could cure him I don't understand. (Well, he didn't really need the whole mountain.  You see, when he started to fly from southern India to the Himalayas he'd been told to bring back a magic plant which could only be found on one mountain. Silly fellow he forgot what the plant was so he thought that taking the mountain itself would be easier than searching for ages and talking the wrong plant.)
Whatever. They built a temple to Hanuman and it's simply inundated with monkeys - Rhesus macaques - and they're very cheeky indeed.  He and she had to take their glasses off in case they got stole and hold a big stick in case the monkeys got too aggressive.  The monkeys have learnt that by doing that they can get food. So Alan stumbled about and guessed where he was pointing his camera. (I could make out where I was going but couldn't see the details, but you're partly right about the guesswork.  Thank goodness for autofocus I say.) I snuggled down out of the way and only came out for a moment to get the picture above. Ann held on tight which is just as well, as no sooner had I appeared than the three desperadoes above appeared.  I've never been so glad to get back in that bag!

Soon I heard the pleasant sound of car engines and I knew were back on the move, but boy was it bumpy and twisty!  So much so that I was very glad of the stops.  My eyes were spinning, but when they stopped and I came out again I found I was looking at these monsters.  Haven't they got big horns? In case you don't know they're yaks, and they were there for people to greet them and even get on their backs, except I only got to say hello.  Still they were nice, and I think one of them even winked at me.
We travelled out along the bumsty roads (bumsty?) Yes a mix of bumpy and twisty. As I was saying - we travelled out along the bumsty roads until where we came to a point where we were supposed to see the Himalayas, but we couldn't see anything.  It was very high at (2,700m that's 8,750ft for those of you who can't read metric) and people had to walk a way out to see what could be seen. Some of them got very out of breath indeed, but Alan really enjoyed it.  Anyway we got a really good view, but it would have been nice to see the Himalayas.  Here I am being held up by the other Alan so I could get my photo taken.  
Ann and Alan also held me up so I got lots of pictures of me, and you can see that they were there too.

We went back bumpstily to Shimla and had our lunch in an interesting hotel and then we made our way back to the hotel where we were staying.

Sadly it was tipping down with rain and I didn't want wet fur so we just went straight back to the hotel instead of walking about in the town.  On the way back though Alan saw a picture he wanted to take so on our last day we went out so he could get it.  The next shots are what he saw and wanted pictures of. They're interesting and scary too.

Here I am sitting on a wall with the town behind me and below is fantastic picture of the town climbing up the hillside.  He let me sit there all alone with a HUGE drop behind me. If I'd fallen off I'd still be rolling down hill. At least there was no hot bot.  (I was very careful as usual and you were alright.) One day I won't be and then we'll all be sorry. 

Alan tells me he lost count of the levels after 35.  Me, I haven't got that many paws so after I counted to 4 it was just many. (I haven't got that many paws either, I can just count, but even I had to say, "Lots" after a while.) 

He got his great big lens out and took some closer in pictures.  This is a nice green house isn't it.  You can just see it at the bottom left of the other picture. Isn't it a long way up or down depending on your point of view?
After we'd had a good look at the view we went back up to the top of the town and the Mall where we had a very interesting walk seeing lots of things.

The next picture is of Lily and me at Scandal Point.  This is where Lord Kitchener's daughter and the local Maharajah's son eloped from a long long time ago.  Neither family was too happy about it and they were returned to Mummy and Daddy.  

The upshot was that Kitchener moved out of town and built a little pad called Wildflower Hall, out along the bumsty road.  It's now a hotel and you open your curtains to a view of the Himalayas.  Very nice - Alan and Ann want to go there. Next week?  (No, sorry little bear maybe in few years.) Oh shucks.

We walked on a bit from there and found out that nothing in Shimla gets delivered by road, well by van I suppose I should say.  Instead everything gets delivered by porter.  Can you see the man with the huge load in the next picture?  

Shimla has lots of sets of stairs you can see a lady just coming up some stairs just behind the porter.  Well, one person on our tour saw a porter coming up a set of steep stone stairs carrying a fridge freezer on his back,  Cor, that's amazing. (Yes Jock we are very lucky aren't we living such an easy life.)

We were so worn out we just walked backed to our hotel and flopped.  We just had time for a last beer before we had to clamber into our car and get taken all the way down the hill to Kalka to catch the train back to Delhi.

I'll tell you all about our journey to see the tigers next time I can beat the staff into action. (Ha!)



Monday, 7 May 2012

Shimla - One day it will all slide down the hill

The staff are paying some attention, though it's a bit late in the afternoon to be starting.  He's been doing washing and housework and processing photos ready for his book (and working). It's a holiday you idiot why were you working? (I dunno.) Anyway here's a lovely picture he processed.  It's in Jaipur where we went to a long time before we went to Shimla, the place I'll be talking about to-day, so forgive him the out of order posting. (It was only a week.) A week is long time when you're only inexperienced like me.
He's had to do a lot of jiggery pokery in Photoshop to get the verticals straight, but those really were the colours. Isn't it a beautiful place? It's called the Palace of the Winds, and in olden times the ladies of the harem used to look out of the windows on the world going by.  It's hard to get a picture because of the busy road in front, and this was taken with a very wide angle lens.  If you want to see any more views you'll have to go to his website. Right I'm bored with techie things let's get back to my story.

So, back to Shimla and the country round about.  You will recall we travelled on the world's slowest train up to the hills where we were going to stay for three nights.  We were in a very swish hotel indeed - the Oberoi Cecil.  Our room had a balcony on the outside, though we didn't use it in case the monkeys got in and kidnapped me.
Here I am just outside our room sitting on a post on the balcony on the inside of the hotel.  The space below had the bar and some soft seating.  It's just as well that I have cloth ears because there was a grand piano down there. It was out of tune and the pianist was, how shall I put it, of limited ability, but he manfully played on two of the nights were were there. The Staff and Ann didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  (We did both, but it was lovely when he finished for the evening. It all added to the charm of the place.)

By risking life and limb, I was able to shuffle my bot back enough so that I could share the post with Lily.  We smiled though we were worried we'd fall over the edge and it was a long way down for a wee bear.  (Two wee bears. You were OK.) All very well for you to say, it wasn't you perched on the edge of a veritable precipice.  Next time I want danger money or ropes and pitons please. No I don't, I want danger money and ropes and pitons. (Oh don't be so dramatic you were quite safe.) Well maybe and at least I was spared a hot bot.

All the staff at the hotel were very friendly and the ladies wore beautiful saris.  I got seen several times and had to come out and be cooed over and patted.

We went down for a beer before dinner and it was all very pleasant apart from the ear bashing.  I just loved the spicy nuts as did the staff of course, and the beer tasted just nice after a long day on trains. Dinner was held downstairs, and though it was two floors down we still had a lovely view over the mountains. Here's the hotel and you can see it's on a steep hill.

Dinner was very, very tasty indeed. Ann had something fishy, nice but fishy, but Alan had something called burgh dhauladhari.  It was worth getting your teeth around the name because the dish was exceptional.  It had chicken in it and lots of spices, (tomatoes and chilli and garlic and ginger and cardamom and stuff) but what made it different were  the pomegranate seeds. Yes that's right, pomegranate, and it was scrumptious - so good that Ann had it the next night and Alan had it again the last night.  

We settled down and had a lovely sleep with no wake up call.  Next day after brekkers we set off on a wee tour of the town. Sadly it wasn't a good day but we didn't let that dampen our spirits. Here I am at the old Vice-Regal Lodge. (Note a cool bot this time.) In colonial times India was ruled from here for six months every year - because it's cooler in Shimla than down on the plains.  (It certainly was - we had jumpers and raincoats on.) Now it's an institute of higher education. It was the Presidential Lodge for a while, but then one president said that it should be better used, so it became an institute instead.

It stayed dry while we wandered around the gardens  and everybody's heart leapt when we got round the back of the Lodge because we could see the Himalayas.  It was quite hazy but even so they were there and lovely too.  Just so you, know they are 200 miles away so a bit of haze is not too surprising! Sadly, we only briefly saw them again and not at all the next day when we went out to look for them - but that's another story for another day.

When we'd finally looked all around the Lodge and seen all the boring photos of old people from long ago we went into the town. (Don't knock exhibitions they're very educational, but among the interesting photos there were some duds too.) There see, even you found some of them boring.

 By this time it was raining pretty hard so I only peeked out now and again. This picture shows how steep the hillsides are and we were convinced that one good storm and the houses would end up in the valley.

Anyway we wended our way back to the hotel and spent a lot of time just chilling out.

The next day we had another adventure and I'll tell you about that another time. (Next weekend I'm afraid as I'm off to London working for the next few days.) What! You slacker, I'm going to be in a huff for the rest of the week, so just don't expect me to be friendly. (Oh alright then I'll leave you at home shall I?) Well ..... I'll be a bit friendly, but you'd better behave.

Bye for now,

Grumpy   JOCK

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Big toys and big smiles

Well, it's about time we got on with this.  Yesterday we had a grand day out and I got to go to a birthday party, but sadly with no photos (I know, you can't get the staff.)  I got to meet the birthday girl, Alan's Mum who was 94 on Friday - coo that's a lot of birthdays.  I also met Alan's daft brother Ian who still has his leg in plaster three months after he broke it - skiing.  He and Diana, his wife, are very nice and greeted me warmly. (and he didn't call you daft.)  It was a good party but it means that the staff couldn't be bothered to write the next part of the journey.  (Whoa, whoa, whoa.  I was driving for six hours and had my Mum to look after, so I wanted to give your blog my undivided attention.) Well that's alright, but then you watched the rowing this morning, so let's get going.

There are going to be lots of pictures to-day, but only a few of me which is a bit of a shame, but you'll get used to it.

First we went back to Delhi from Mandawa by road.  After many days near the back of the bus we finally got to ride at the front, and we got lots of scary shots through the front windscreen.  The bus in the picture was on our side of the road coming at us quickly and when it veered back to its own side we thought it was going to fall over right in front of us.  Alan asked if he could change his underwear after that incident, though I can't understand why.  He's just a cowardy custard. (You bet!)

Next we saw a three wheeler that wasn't a tuc-tuc.  Like many we saw, the bonnet had fallen off so you could see the little engine - it was on the steering column, so when the driver turned the handlebar the whole thing turned too.  This one had nine people inside and eight on the outside.  I thought it looked like good fun and I wanted a ride, but rotten old Alan wouldn't let me. (Well, little friend, it would have been quite a crush and they were going the wrong way.)  Excuses, excuses.

After a night under sedation in Delhi we had another early start so we could catch the train to Kalka.  This isn't it, because we were on a regular big train, and you've seen me in one of this so it's boring.  When we arrived we had to cross the platform from the great big train to the little train on its narrow gauge rails.  The engine was a bit faded as you can see, but it made a healthy enough noise.

These are some of the colourful carriages for the train, do you like the red Post Office car at the back.
Here I am sitting on the window ledge.  Do you like the new string I have for my key.  It's called a mauli, or kalava, and Hindus tie it to peoples' wrists to bring good fortune to the wearer.  Alan had it tied to his wrist at Mandawa, and he gave it to me.  So now I wear it as a symbol that I've been to India.

 Of course I invited Lily to get into the act. Here we are with Ann in the background holding on to us in case we fell on the track.

As were were waiting, Alan was looking around the station and he came across this brown train.  When he looked closer he found that it was a rescue train!  When he reported back, I wan't sure I should have trusted these people for bringing me somewhere so dangerous.  I was glad of that string. (It is safe enough, that's only there just in case.) Humph, I wasn't convinced.

So off we trundled very slowly - the train takes 4 and a half hours to do 98km - that's about 60 miles.  Alan got vey excited because the door was left open all the way to the top and he could take pictures from it. Of course he was inside the carriage looking out.

He seemed to spend his time with a fixed idiotic grin and bounced around so much it made me feel quite sick.  Lily and I were safely in the bag under Ann's feet where we could look out through the open door without feeling in any danger at all even if the impromptu air conditioning got a bit much later in the trip.
Some of the views were quite spectacular.  On the other side of the valley there were lots of terraces with crops growing on them, and little groups of houses were visible high on the hillsides.  Alan says that people have to walk all the way down to the valley to sell there crops and walk all the way back again with whatever they buy.  That would wear my wee legs out I think.

This is one of bridges we crossed and you can sense just how tight the bends are because the back of the train had only just crossed the bridge when Alan took this picture.  
There are more than 40 bridges and 102 tunnels on the line.  There is another tunnel that's no longer used, but that's a lot of holes in the ground for such a short journey.  This is the entrance to the longest tunnel at Barog and it was scary dark inside for simply ages. (Yes it's 1200 metres long so it must have seemed a long time.)

Alan got off at Barog station with another person called Alan. What a common name, boring I think. (Excuse me!  Who's pounding the keys at your behest?) Yawn.  

Anyway they both came back to the carriage with even bigger idiot grins 'cos the nice engine driver man let them up into his cab so they were able to take his picture.  Here he is, isn't he a nice man and aren't all those dials fascinating.  (I have to say that about the dials to keep him happy.) (Well he is a very nice man and the dials were interesting.)

Trundle de trundle de trundle, on we went and Lily and I snuggled down and had a zizz, because it already had been a long and exciting day.  We even slept through all the screeching the wheels make on the tight bends and the two Alans jumping around. Eventually everyone was getting quite excited (and a bit cold) and that woke us up. It was because we were able to see Shimla.  We all thought we were nearly there, but it still took ages get round to the other side of the valley and into the station.

When we finally got there the station was very crowded, and I didn't believe them when they told us that we'd arrived, but you can see from the sign below that we had indeed.  
If you can't read the little lettering on the sign, it says that Shimla is 2,076m that 6,810ft high, so no wonder it was a bit cool.
So there we have it, an exciting adventure for us all, though we were very glad to get to our hotel and get a bit warmer, and I'll tell you all about Shimla and how it clings to the hillside in my next instalment. 

Bye for now,

P.S.  Ann says there was nothing wrong with her tummy, it was a complete mystery why she fell over.