Before I set off on my little adventure family and friends kept telling me I was going to be pushed out of my comfort zone in ways I will never know. Yeah, yeah I can do this I thought !
After a hasty slurp of my favourite masala and ginger tea at 6.30 in the morning we were met at the entrance by our jeep and safari guide. Another day of getting the dress code wrong (how come Kate Middleton nails it every time?). There was a family of 4 Indians wrapped in multiple layers of clothes with bobble hats, gloves, scarves completely covering their faces and sunglasses. Me? Dressed in a borrowed pair of Hannah’s Urban Outfitters trousers which I had managed to break the zip 5 minutes before and were held together by a safety pin, my rather lovely Zara top and a bright pink pashmina (would look good in the photos I thought?). Our wonderful hotel manager quickly rustled up 2 heavy Rajasthan blankets for Hannah and I and we sped off. We picked up a young Indian boy aged about 16 who sat next to me and who stared at Hannah and I for the entire trip – in between spitting over the side of the jeep – really?!
As we sped (and I thought I was a fast driver) past oodles of camels and other wild life I began to wonder what I was doing. It was 6.30 I am wrapped in a Rajasthan blanket on the back of a jeep with strangers and we could be heading anywhere!
Thoughts running through my head? I am a responsible and loving mother and my beloved daughter and I are going to be kidnapped in what can only be described as a scene from Homeland. Passports? should I have left the passports in the room or brought them with me – what would Carrie have done in Homeland? Will John pay the ransom? Are we going to die? Will Dad just say, I told you so? Is there a gun in the glove compartment? Relax Sal, you can do this – wrap your pink pashmina round your face and act cool. Hannah was constantly asking, with excitement all over her face, are you alright Mum?! Yes, darling, couldn’t be better – now wrap the blanket around you so you don’t get a cold! I am a responsible mother after all!
There are 10 zones in the Ranthambore National Park and we were heading to zone 10. I started to relax and concentrate on keeping my bottom on the seat. We saw water buffalo, antelope, tons of monkeys, spotted deer and Indian deer. It was so peaceful in the park and with the sunrise appearing over the mountains, I was slowly beginning to relax and admit my passport was not needed!
The jeep stopped suddenly (keep bottom on seat SA – you can do this!) and we inspected the numerous tiger paw prints. There were about 5 other jeeps heading in all different directions and it became almost competitive to find a tiger! After 4 hours of searching we saw the backside of a tiger and decided to return to hotel for a break before returning for the afternoon safari ?!? The other people on the jeep seemed to take more selfies with Hannah and I than the landscape – so bizarre!
After breakfast we returned, rather dishevelled, to our room and had a little nap before being called at 2 pm by the wonderful Devendra letting us know that our afternoon jeep was waiting. I don’t want to go I wanted to cry but, promising to be a cool Mum, I clambered into the back of jeep number 2 and covered myself with my blanket again. This time we had a nice family from Chicago; a mother and three grown up children. They were on a 2 week holiday which comprised of a day in Copenhagen, Paris, Amsterdam, Bavaria (!!!) and a week in India via Shanghai – madness but I looked impressed.
Another 4 hours of searching for, what I now regarded as, the bloody tiger we found nothing. Even the antelope and water buffalo were no longer interesting me. I couldn’t even care if we were kidnapped – I just needed warmth and a cup of tea! Our guide was so lovely and friendly and we drove at angles I thought would literally tip us out of the truck. It was like being on a Land Rover discovery course.
We came across a jeep with an English couple and their daughter who were obviously staying 5 star (who needs 5 star?!) and were kitted out in the most up to date, straight out of Vogue magazine, attire. Just keep your head down SA and don’t make eye contact – they don’t know you are British – DO NOT CRY!! Note to self; next time you do a safari at least wear a pair of chinos!
Driving back through the chaotic villages I was quietly congratulating myself on a) not being car sick and b) not crying when, all of a sudden, 5 dogs races down the road and literally jumped on and killed another dog – all too much for me and I just bit my bottom lip all the way back to the hotel.
We returned to the hotel with a flat tyre looking like we had spent the night on the razzle dazzle (I wish – if not just for the champagne). A quick cup of my favourite tea and then a shower and hair wash.
Lovely Devendra lit the fire pit for us and we were called for our supper. Devendra is mesmerised by Hannah and they have become good friends. She politely commented on his somewhat new hair colour from the previous night and he explained how he had used a henna treatment and was pleased with the result. Not the shade I would have recommended but I didn’t want to be a kill joy and remarked how gorgeous he looked. We were rewarded with a small tub of ice cream which was very welcome and calmed my mouth and throat after dinner.
I have texted Sukhvinder who will come one hour earlier in the morning to collect us (he is staying at a guest house down the road) at 9 am for our trip to Jaipur. Hannah has googled and found a lovely Italian restaurant in Jaipur – surely curry and pasta won’t be on the menu?
Hannah is just the most wonderful and patient travel companion and I truly believe she doesn’t, for one second, regret agreeing for me to join her on this trip! We laugh until we cry.
Today’s worry! Am I ever going to manage more than a three hour sleep during this trip? Photos to follow shortly ….
I miss you my wonderful friends and family but having the most wonderful magical time xx
Love and tiger backsides