We made it to Sawai Madhopur train station (near Ranthambore National Park) without a hitch but it was entertaining!
We had to catch two trains, and we got chatting to a guy on the first train. He had a good job in Jaipur, but he had to travel 3 hours EACH way every day. He asked us do we live with our parents. He said he lives with his grandfather, father, mother, brothers family and his own family. He said all the money they earn goes into central pot, which is common here. He also said 50% of his wages pays for his daughters schooling. Paying for a good education for their children is very important here, which is slightly odd for girls as they have an arranged marriage and live with the husbands family. But the children's education is a lot about status, and for a girl it would make it more likely that they can marry into a good family. It was very interesting to talk to the guy, and he really emphasised the difference in our societies.
Whilst waiting for the next train I think we encountered a man with probably the worst job title ever, 'shit cleaner' (sorry no nice way of putting it). We were by the track waiting for the train and he literally had a water jet spray and was moving faeces to the side of the track (from people going whilst train is stationary). The spray was going everywhere, we moved 3 times but it was like a car crash, you couldn't not look or gag. As soon as it was clean though, the locals saw this as a blank canvas, and threw rubbish onto the tracks.
The 2nd train was eventful, we had booked seats but it seemed to be a free for all!! People without tickets pushing and shoving, and there seemed to be people everywhere selling everything and anything!!!! Young kids kept offering to shine our canvas shoes, and a different Chai man walked past every minute! Eventually the ticket man came to our carriage and it was a mass exodus!
Emma's sister (shout out to Karen!) had told us to watch out for 'hermaphrodites' on the train. They are pretty distinctive as they clap a certain tune and really scare the locals!! The ones we saw were also distinctive as they looked like men in saris! The local men think its really bad luck if one touches you and are honestly pretty scared by them! They threaten to touch you or show you their bits if you don't give them money. They even asked the women opposite us for money to protect her young boys, which is a pretty mean I think!! They didn't bother us though, as they know Westerners aren't bothered. Plus we suspected at least one of them really was a man, and was just willing to earn money this way, as locals weren't willing to risk it. A man could earn a lot in this line of work as people were giving them 10 Rupees, which is a lot for a local!! All very weird to see.
We didn't have anything booked so let a tuk tuk driver take us to somewhere in budget and in the area we wanted. He took us to 'Hotel Continental' which was fine.
Again it appeared like we were the only guests (is this really high season?!). We walked around town and realised there was nothing to do, but we were here for The Tiger Safari anyway. We got food and were playing uno in bed at 8.45, before going to bed at 9.30! Early nights have been fairly common here in India. It's too cold to stay out on a rooftop restaurant and there's only so many Banana Lassis or Chai you can have!
We knew that we may not see tigers at the National Park, but we'be been to a few National Parks around the world now and have always been impressed.
We got picked up and drove to the entrace where I guide had to do something. Whilst we were waiting a Canter (safari vehicle) drove past half empty with westerners only, we on other hand were picked up by one full of Indian tourists. We always seem to be doing the opposite to other tourists!
Inside, it started good no rubbish anywhere in sight and quite green.
We quickly saw some deer and antelopes and then some more deer and then... that was it. Everything was so bad we ended up laughing about it! The park itself consisted of shrubs and dying trees didn't make for an inspiring drive! We drove for 30 minutes and then had a toilet break. A shed was pointed out to us, although when Emma walked up to it, it was empty, so the toilet was 'find a bush' using the shed to hide!
We hadn't seen a Tiger by this point and to our astonishment, we turned around and drove down the exact same road we came from! So we saw exactly the same deer again!! At one point we did think we had come a wild boar, but it just turned out to be the man near us snoring very loudly! That's how boring it had become!
We knew the guide was scraping the barrel when he pointed to what looked like a blackbird and said 'important bird'!
On our way out the guide got out again and went into another hut. At this point the driver started passing round his phone with a photo of a tiger on it...as this was as close as we were going to get to the real thing!! It didn't even look like a photo he'd taken in the national park, it was just a random photo from the internet. The Indian tourists didn't seem too impressed, and we just found it hilarious! We sniggerred to ourselves like kids expecting the guide to come out from the hut any minute with a tiger suit on!! It had got that ridiculous!!
As we arrived at our hotel the guide asked us if we wanted to go it again in morning, and told us morning is better. Kris asked when the last time they saw a tiger, he paused for about 5 seconds, then said yesterday afternoon! We didn't believe him one bit and I doubt if there are any tigers there! Oh well, we still had a good time in the end.