Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Ride in the Park

There are purported to be 164 tigers in the Corbet Tiger Sanctuary. We saw two. They were in the souvenir shop. But we did have an interesting jeep ride through the park and saw lots of black faced monkeys and white spotted deer, not exactly novel when living in rural Ontario.

We did enjoy our three days in the park where we swam in a beautiful pool, walked along the rivers edge and enjoyed lots of Indian food. The real high point, literally, was an elephant ride. Because we are here right after monsoon season, the park is still quite wet so we couldn't go on an elephant safari but we could do an Elephant Joy Ride down the main road so we opted for that. Each elephant carried four of us on a table-like platform and they lumbered along making for a pleasant swaying motion. Their handlers sat behind their ears with a vicious looking pick and steered them with their feet. Before leaving, we saw all the trappings for a government officials wedding-4 bands, tons of flowers, thousands of lights, 2 elephants at the gate, and men in various uniforms some white with red turbans. Talk about excess! It brought home, once again, the huge disparity between the classes.

Then it was off to Nainital, a city in the Himalayas, where the British used to go to cool off during the hot summer months. Now that we re away from the cities, the traffic has thinned out and we actually enjoyed the 152 km ride. We find that the best practice is to ride about 20 – 30 kph; slow almost to a stop at the edge of the road when we meet oncoming trucks; and stay close to the chase van in towns where he can clear a path. Fortunately we could relax a bit and take in the scenery which was absolutely breathtaking! We climbed up 6,000 feet along twisty, narrow roads through dense forests but, surprisingly, several types of cactus. Bougainvillea grows wild and there were other beautiful flowers. Naturally, cows are everywhere and rounding corners must be done slowly because one never knows what hazard awaits around the bend-cow, people, pile of ruble, or road out. We re becoming quite proficient motocross riders!

Nainital is a city built on the mountain so the buildings cascade down to a beautiful lake where small rowboats with a seat for two make like gondolas. Unfortunately, we had to take a less then satisfactory hotel so we got to use our sleeping bag liners for the first (and hopefully, last) time. Dinner was Chinese food and breakfast was toast and tea. We are really trying hard not to get sick so are staying away from salads and cold food which limits the menu.

The bikes are running as well as can be expected with this primitive technology, as Ross calls it, They do handle really well in all the dirt, mud and water we encounter and are reasonably comfortable, considering we re riding them for 10 hours a day even if we don't do that many miles. Our mechanic is right there if there are any problems and even turns the bikes around and faces them in the direction of travel when we stop for a break. I m hoping he ll fit in my suitcase!

The India Buttbusters 2008