Another early morning at 4.45 for a 5.10am start to go to a reserve to see if we could spot some elephants and some rhino’s. Very soon after we entered the park on the left was a HUGE round brown thing standing there… and it took a few seconds for me to realize it was a HUGE Indian Elephant! My brain was switched into Rhino mode…so I wasn’t expecting to see an elephant! Within a couple of minutes we managed to spot another group of about 4 large brown moving blobs far in the distance through the dense jungle. I thought to myself – “Wow…. This is going to be amazing… elephants already!! I wonder what else I will see.”
The four of us were seated in the back of a jeep type car ….in a cavalcade of about 8 or so vehicles in the same camouflage paint colours and fabric seat covers. It was quite chilly in the open back as we stood between the metal frame which we held on to over the bumps…..and for those who didn’t bring a coat or pashmina, was a bit cold for them. Max unfortunately for him was one of those.
We all drove at the same speed – which was way too fast for my liking, because it was hard to look through the dense jungle of strong trees with clambering vines; whilst moving so quickly along the dirt road. I saw some peacocks and other birds which I’m not sure of their names. I saw some amazing jungle forest – but no other animals. The elephant near the entrance and the accompanying herd was it for my wildlife viewing today – but how wonderful to have seen them!… and being in the dense forest with the occasional drips from the morning condensation was far more refreshing and enlivening for me than the pollution of some of the cities we had been in prior.
There was a long queue of cars stopped in front of us on our way back to breakfast. It wasn’t long before I realized it was for the train…and whilst sitting there I could see white rectangles like mint chewing gum pieces lying side by side on the shoulder of the track. There were 2 men either end of a large sheet; stretching it out and expanding it before laying it on the stones… (where most people go to the toilet). Washing was being dried on the rocks of the train lines. Nearly a hundred pieces of white linen from local tourist resorts were being dried on the train tracks and hung stiffly on lines on the edges of the train line. I was mesmerized….. and thought …hmmm I wonder where our resort did their laundry!
Our destination today was Bhutan. Mum… yes I am finally here! The book which for years sat on the glass block table that dad made; with Tigers Nest Monastery on the cover has been in my thoughts today…and tomorrow mum I will be walking up those steep steps thinking of you. 🙂
Our drive this afternoon was in a more rural setting…. Fishing. Paddocks of rice. Transporting goats. Stacks of firewood in bundles on soft pads on tops of heads. Carts loaded with stalks from grain. Speckles of bright colour splashed across the landscape of cleanly pruned blocks of shrubs – women carrying large baskets on their backs, picking small green Camilla sinensis leaves.
We visited a small factory today which was fascinating… and a long way from adhering to any workplace health and safety standards. Fresh, bright green leaves lay in long piles along the ground and on the other side of the factory the machines were being washed after they had …… and the Pekoe tea was being bagged. This tea smelled quite strong..and was quite gritty and fine…not like the loose leaf tea I am used to. I would have liked to have tried some…. But I didn’t think of asking if I could take a small amount with me so I could try in our next motel with a jug and cups….perhaps that may be a while anyway…but still I would have liked to have tried some.
I heard the rhythmical beat of an engine in a small room in the strip of structures along the side of the road and I said to Max that I thought there was some sort of interesting machinery in there. We stopped quickly and as quickly we were mobbed by inquisitive children and intrigued adults.
I looked inside this dark space and inside was a grain drying operation with a hub of activity. The rhythm of the spraying of handfuls of grain into a hot oven was mesmerizing. Barrels circled around and around, being led by large long belts from a motor which provided not only the heart of the operation; but the mechanical noise which rumbled and vibrated through the corrugated iron walls – and my whole body as I was welcomed by the locals to investigate this way of preparing grain which was so foreign to us. The grain was flattened and rolled. Now I knew what this grain was that I had often seen in the shops and markets. It was rolled rice!
As we left and older woman from the onlookers came up to me and said ‘Namaste’ – the way to greet someone here in India…. And she took my hands and held them and then gave me a beautiful hug…and we held each other in recognition and acceptance. It was like one of those moments I had felt in Morocco…. a ‘sista’ connection where no words needed to be spoken in discussion… other than Namaste … “The light in me honours the light in you.”
…So then onward to the Bhutanese border through a few very dusty towns … where some official paperwork and then under the decorated archway and into Bhutan, where there was a marked difference from one side being India… and Bhutan on the other. There was such a hive of activity here at this border town…. And a celebration tomorrow and a holiday… so perhaps we may find some celebrations to join in to on our drive to Paro tomorrow then Tigers Nest Monastery I think the next. Stay tuned.