Three o’clock in the morning is not a time I like to be aware of when I am at home, never mind on holiday. Occasionally I see it when internal pressures require me to stumble to the bathroom, but on the whole I tend to give it a miss. Not on this holiday! We were roused at 2.45 and corralled in the dining room for an early breakfast before being herded into cars and driven to the Kaziranga National Park for an elephant safari.
The car journey was somewhat fraught as an accident had caused an unbelievably long tailback of lorries on our side of the road. Our drivers solved this problem by driving down the other side of the road, hoping for gaps in the lorry park to nip into shock£ anything be coming the other way. There were times when we reached for each other’s hand (those being the times when it looked as though prayer was not likely to be answered). Oh us of little faith, for we arrived at the park alive, in one piece but with our nerves shredded.
Elephants are best mounted by other elephants, but failing that they are best mounted from a very raised mounting block. It does seem a long way down from an elephant and of course it is. However we were seated securely with our feet on a running board. I was sandwiched between Christine and Janet. We set off in the rain, but had been provided with some interesting plastic macs, that seemed to have undergone partial decomposition back to their original raw material. As we plodded through the swamp and elephant grass we saw egrets and almost immediately our first rhino.. We were very excited of course. They are magnificent animals. Deer of various sorts, water buffalo and wild boar quickly followed on. The sky cleared and dawn broke over the plain. I was reminded of that old Bonzo Dog number ‘Hunting tigers out in India’ , except the said cats were clearly napping at that hour in the morning. Still it was very magical and peaceful, plodding slowly through the bush on the back of an enormous pachyderm.
Towards the end of our ride, as we approached our dismounting block our elephants were spooked by a badger and its cubs that lay in our way. The baby elephants who were accompanying us turned tail and fled. The others started swaying their trunks, moving backwards and trumpeting. They were clearly rather afraid of these comparatively small creatures. In the end the mahouts maintained order and we proceeded to the dismounting block.
Then we were whisked by car to breakfast in a very smart hotel. I was famished, having eschewed (rather than chewed) our first breakfast on the ship. To my delight this place did dhosas, so I had my first Marsala dhosa and all was right with the world! Back in the cars we were taken to another part of the park for a jeep safari. Peter and Glynis shared the jeep with us and we bumped and rattled over dirt roads, through wetland, elephant grass and wood land. The scenery was very varied as was the wildlife. Our guide was brilliant and pointed out all sorts of animals and birds we would have missed – but not a tiger unfortunately.
As we bumped along a little verse came to mind:
An egret when riding a bison
Said why do I have to fly so
A pachyderm passing said hop on my back
But the egret just gave him a wry “ No”.
O.K., but it was still early and it’s not easy to compose while bouncing in and out of potholes. We did get very close to a lot of single horned rhinos and saw some beautiful birds and butterflies. It was a great experience, but after 3 hours we were pretty shattered. I think we all slept on our way back in the car.
On board ship it was lunch time and so we had to do our duty and once again submit ourselves to fabulous food prepared by our excellent chef. We ate out on the top rack so we could look for more wildlife along the river bank. Alas we had just finished our 3 course meal when it started to rain and we were urged to go below ‘whenever the winds do blow’.
In the afternoon we were allowed to rest. Christine said she felt unwell and by the early evening I was feeling ill as well. A couple of others in the group were feeling far from themselves. We had a bonfire on an island and I had a G & T on the basis that alcohol is an antisceptic, but it didn’t seem to work. We were both very ill in the night and had ou4 blood pressure taken by the onboard para-medic – I have no idea why, but I think it was on the basis of needing to do something and he had the machine.