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Jaisalmer

Camel Safari

sunny 38 °C

So we had booked a camel safari with 'Trotters Independent Travel''. (Cue people saying ''Lovely Jubbly'', ''this time Rodney, millionaires'' etc a lot). Now hotel managers in Jaisalmer do not like if you don't book a camel safari with them, and our manager was no different. He was a creepy, sour, mean and obviously annoyed git. He charged us whopping fees for booking our train and insisted we 'pay now' for everything.
Anywho, we ignored him as much as possible and after checking in at 10am, myself and Marion went up to get some breakfast in our rooftop restaurant.
The place was COVERED in flies. There must have been about 15 - 20 flies on our table and I just couldn't eat there. We made our excuses and left while the chef shouted and pleaded after us about how great a cook he was and that he'd make us anything we wanted!
We hit the streets of Jaisalmer, which in all honesty, were no better. They were covered in cow shite and goat shite. Jaisalmer is literally a shit hole. Excuse the auld french. There were so many flies, and they were all landing in the poops and then landing on other stuff. It was pretty gross.

Now some of you man know me as a bit of a Monica and I've never denied that - I like things clean. But I'm not neurotic (really I swear!) and I have parked that side of me for my travels, especially India. I left Monica at home. I have not complained about dirty towels, bed bugs, unclean sheets and pillow cases, grotty bathroom floors, hairs in my food - nuthin'! And while I am appalled at all the rubbish on the streets everywhere, I've basically gotten on with it - used my own towel where there was none, slept in my sleep sheet, used a t shirt as a pillow, cleaned aforementioned dirty bathrooms a bit with the hose, ignored dirty glasses, picked the hairs out of my food and continued. NABB, NAB!
However, flies and bugs are my downfall. Put a cockroach in my room and I can't sleep. Put 20 flies that I know have probably munched on cow shit for breakfast and I can't eat in the vicinity. FOOT DOWN INDIA. ;) Soooo luckily Marion thought that Flymaggeddon was indeed a fly too far and we soon found a restaurant that had only 1 fly on the table, a cool chilled vibe, lovely relaxing garden and EGGS! Nom.

After breakfast, once again we were waiting on the 2 lads to get ready so we could go and start our camel safari. Timmy was doing his hair I reckon, and Cecil hadn't even gotten showered yet. 20 mins later and we're still waiting on them, so eventually they're ready and the manager won't let them leave without checking in first. So Marion and I say feck this and we trot off to Trotters, thinking the lads wouldn't be far behind. Well we should have waited on them, as we spent the next 30 mins explaining to the lads in Trotters that we thought they were on the way but we weren't sure. hahaha. Another 15 - 20 mins pass before they rock up in a tuk tuk. sheesh!

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So of course Cecil doesn't have any cash and needs an atm, so off we go looking for dosh for him. Eventually we are piled in the jeep on the road to the camel safari. We stop at a small lake for a ''five minute break'', but once again, when the time comes for us to get back in the jeep - who's missing? Cecil. lol. He'd gone off to roll a spliff behind the tree so we all have to wait for him to come back. Tum tee Tum. The driver was getting pretty irritated by this stage. So Cecil comes back all riled up saying that some local kids were playing with his back pack and his passport is missing! After 5 minutes of searching around the place, it's in his bag, so off we go again.

Finally we get to the camels and camel guides and they are awesome. The camels looked really laid back and cool. They didn't smell at all and there was no spitting!
I was saddled up first onto a camel called lucky, and was told to lean back as she stood up. WEhehehelllehehhellelelelellele - that camel standing up or down bit was hilarious and I couldn't stop lolling. I was also once again reminded of how little control I had over any animals I sat on and how I was again at the mercy of a wild animal and whatever it wanted to do!
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Soon we were all strapped on to our camels and attached to one another, except Cecil who was let off on a camel on his own and proceeded to spend the journey rolling joints, smoking fags, dropping things that the guide had to get down and get for him, and burning holes in the camel's dress (?) ;D Even the Germans behind us commented on how much he was smoking. (Marion could understand them! ) The ride itself was awesome. The sun was blazing and the land was super dry and barren for miles. It took us a while to get into the camel rhythm, but once we got used to it, we were all loving it and in our own little worlds. After an hour or so, the tall sandy dunes came into view. I stuck on the Jozif - Balance album on my ipod and it made for an altogether spectacularly blissful safari.

After 2 and a bit hours, we'd reached base camp and dismounted, to the lads' relief - apparently camel rides are a smidgeon uncomfortable for the lads. Suddenly, as if Lord Shiva himself had heard my innermost thoughts, a man dressed all in white appeared with a bag of super cold Kingfisher beers! HURRAH! A beer man! In the desert! With Beers! We all greedily relieved him of his wares and went off to spend quality time watching the sunset, cartwheeling in the sand and posing for arty sunset-sandy type photos.

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When it was pitch black the camel lads decided to serve us a Thali dinner. A Thali consists of rice, chapattis, dahl, curry, pickle and raita. It's the best value in town as you get a bit of everything and it's usually only about 2 euro tops. Anywho it was delicious, but we couldn't see a thing. I had to keep shining my torch on my plate to ensure I wasn't eating one of the many, ever encroaching black beetles that were so prevalent in the dunes! (And which I was terrifed of)
We weren't allowed a campfire (boo) so we just sat around in the dark, yapping and laughing and flicking beetles away. Our guide (blessed with the universal language that is Only Fools and Horses) was great fun, and a real hero, protecting us from beetles and making sure we were all ok.
I was a bit weirded out with the thought of having to sleep on a thin mattress under the stars with black beetles crawling all over the place. :/ Timmy was also terrified and opted to sleep on the roof of the jeep. i wanted to join him but only one person was allowed up there. So Marion promised to protect me and we got our mattresses and moved them into the softer sandier parts of the dunes. The beetles did start to hide after a while so it wasn't too bad, but I still tucked myself up in my sleepsheet tightly!
There were so many millions of stars in the night sky, it was amazing. We spent the first half of the night just staring up at them just twinkling away. The harder we looked, the more we saw and we could see the plow and Orion's belt and I saw 4 shooting stars. It was awesome.

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I fell asleep for a bit but then awoke at the sound of some ferociously loud growling animal which scared the bejaysus out of me. I decided to ignore this growling and go to the ''bathroom''. It was so freaky. I could hear footsteps coming towards me all the time, but they didn't get any nearer! And how was there footsteps on the sand!? Then I saw a giant mouse or armadillo and tried to follow it for a bit with my torch but it was too fast for me. I hastily returned to the relative safety of my mattress under the stars . Unfortunately I couldn't get a wink of sleep for the rest of the night. A very cold wind whipped up at one stage and some dogs howled away nearby. (how did they get there?) I discovered the growling was the camels breathing and they must have been responsible for the footstep noises as well.

Hours later, I saw a very nice sunrise and joined Cecil who was awake and having his first chillum of the day.
After a breakfast of toast, jam and biscuits we all saddled up for another epic camel ride back out of the desert. Once again it was amazing. Camelz Rool!

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Posted by squeakylee 01:02 Archived in India Tagged safari camel dunes jaisalmer beetles Comments (0)

Chitwan National Park

Rhino what you did this summer..

semi-overcast 28 °C

We arrived to the most beautiful setting in Chitwan, a fantastic wooden lodge perched on the bank of a meandering river. The lodge had plenty of lovely huts surrounded by beautiful gardens full of flowers, swings and hammocks. The lodge - Sapana Lodge - even had its own pet elephants!! There were lots of kids playing in the river, some local women carrying baskets of leaves on their heads across a wooden bridge and a big elephant eating grass and leaves by the river bank. BLISS.

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This was to be our awesome home for the next few days.
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Sapana lodge was run by a gent who had a dream that he would one day own his own guesthouse and be able to give back to his community. In his former job as a guide, he had met a Dutch couple who had listened to his dreams and promised to help them become reality. They asked him how much he needed to set up his own place and then they had to return home. He didn't give it much thought until they contacted him and sent him $10,000 that they had raised for him. They told him he could use it to party or he could use it to make his dreams come true. And he did. He set up Sapana Lodge and hired lots of his local neighbours. What a story eh? Inspiring!! He also has more plans to build a new school nearby. He has saved up some more money and bought a plot of land nearby.
In the bedrooms of the lodge, there was a pamphlet with some information on the lodge and all the staff. Each staff member had their picture on there and a blurb about how long they've been working for the lodge and a bit about themselves. Some of their stories were so cute! One cleaning lady said that she 'loved (her) job and was so greatful to be able to provide fo her family''. It brought a tear to my eye and made me feel like a greedy materialist for always wanting more in my life!! ;)

Anywho we all got a cocktail and sat out on the balcony in the sun, while perusing the Lodge brochure. There were lots of activities to do at Sapana, mostly involving elephants! You could do a jeep safari, jungle trek, bathe an elephant, go for a walk in the nearby villages, put make up on an elephant, go for an elephant safari in the jungle and lots of other stuff. Dushyant and the local jungle guide Sanjay brought us on a tour of the local villages. We met all the neighbours and young children who lived nearby and greeted their goats, chickens, baby ducks, cows and other petting-zoo-type animals. It was ace! :)

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After our village tour we had a fabulous dinner by candlelight on the balcony. :)

The next morning we all piled into jeeps at 6.30am to go on a jeep safari in the jungle. We were hoping to see rhinos and tigers. I didn't hold out much hope for seeing a tiger, but I was praying for a rhino, even though I knew driving around a wildlife reserve in a convoy of 3 noisy jeeps (one of them rattling loudly as the door was held on by string!) would probably scare most animals away!
And they did. We saw a couple of deer and tons of peacocks. It was mostly a peacock safari. Although this was a great fun ride through the jungle, I was pretty disappointed with not seeing any rhinos. :(

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We returned to the lodge for lunch and I decided to do the elephant safari through the jungle in the afternoon. Maree, Jeff, Ruby and Sandra decided to do the safari too. After a quick nap (I hadn't slept much the night before due to the excitement of going on safari), we bundled into the jeep. ELephant safaris are supposed to be way better than jeep safaris as you can get much closer to the animals. If you're on an elephant, all the rhinos see is an elephant! If you get down and wander about yourself, they will see you and charge straight at ya!

So off we went to the elephant riding station. Jeff and Maree were put on one elephant with a US couple and myself, Ruby and Sandra got our own We had to sit into this square box on top of the elephant, and off we went.

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As we lumbered off, we saw how many other people were also heading off on elephants and I began to think we'd never see any wildlife with this many elephants simultaneously trundling about. We plodded into the stream and the elephant next to us did a massive wee in the river, while the elephant on the other side took a big dump in the river! he he. Potty humour. This is the river we were going to go swimming in later!! I made a mental note to politely decline! Anywho, back to the ride, we lumbered through lots of dense lush vegetation and after a while, we lost the other elephants and were on our own in the undergrowth. Our elephant had a bit of an attitude problem I reckon and kept fecking us into the nearby branches. We were getting splattered with white dusty poo and our faces were strewn with cobwebs. Our trainer seemed to be giving our poor elephant a hard time, he kept whacking her on the ear and she kept trumpeting away in annoyance.

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We spied some deer on the side in the bushes and then branched off (boom boom) that way. We were prowling around looking for signs of wildlife, (as much as 4 people on a giant elephant can prowl) but weren't seeing many signs of life! Suddenly, our trainer just jumped off the elephant to go for a whizz in the bushes. Our elephant took this opportunity to get herself some tasty leaves from the nearby trees. I tried to pet her a bit but she whacked me with the bunch of leaves in her trunk. he he. So when our guide returned we hup-hupped onwards and emerged onto a big flat open grassy space. I saw 4 elephants ahead staring at what looked like a rhino. ''RHINOOOOOOO '' I said, and shouted and pointed elaborately! And off we raced towards it. Then we spotted another rhino on his own to our left, so headed towards that one. We rocked right up to him as he munched his grass. He wasn't even that bothered by our presence even though we were about 10 feet from him. It was awesome. He looked exactly like that rhino from Ace Ventura Pet Detective. :D

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We watched him for a while, took a few more snaps and then mosied onto the next grassy space where we spied 2 more rhinos - a mother and baby. They spotted us and started to run off across the road...
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So we gave chase as they disappeared into the bushes.
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Our trainer and the other trainers on their elephants had a quick pow-wow together and came up with a plan to surround the rhinos in the bushes. They all took an angle and started to work their way in. I thought cornering a rhino and her baby seemed like a mad thing to do, but what do I know! :D So off we went - all 5 elephants trampled their way into the forest looking to catch the rhinos in the middle. The trainers were hooting and whistling at each other the whole time. When we all met in the middle though, the rhinos had legged it. We all had a chuckle and headed off separately to continue the search. It was gas - the trainers were teasing each other saying ''they're here!!'' every few minutes when they plainly weren't. ho ho ho.

We were delighted to see 2 more rhinos in another spacious clearing a few minutes later. (could have been the same two from earlier) Then we saw one more big rhino too at the very end of the safari. We were chuffed and I was so excited to finally have a successful safari. YAY! We had lost Jeff and Maree earlier so I was hoping they had gotten to see some too. And they had! phew. Smiley faces all round afterwards. We bounded back to the lodge ecstatic and couldn't help boasting to everyone about our rhinocerousy afternoon. A few of them had painted an elephant - which looked cool. And a couple of others had gone on the jungle walk and had seen some wild boars and tiger poo. All in all a great day and an awesome time at Chitwan! RHINOS RULE!

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Posted by squeakylee 01:12 Archived in Nepal Tagged elephant village safari lodge rhino chitwan sapana Comments (0)

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