Wednesday, 17 February 2016

India – Saturday 30th January

My wife Joy, her twin sister June, The Captain and I booked this holiday with India Nature well over a year ago, the anticipation had been building for some months and the time had finally arrived. Apart from the birds there was a possibility of Tiger and in the right weather conditions, views of the Himalayas the highest mountain range in the world.

Our direct overnight flight from Birmingham arrived in New Delhi at around 9.30am the flight taking approximately nine hours. Sleep was nearly impossible with several children participating in synchronised wailing for the whole of the flight. We were royally entertained by the antics of the other passengers putting their hand luggage into the overhead lockers. I had to stop myself bursting out laughing on a number of occasions.

We were nearly ready to take off when the last passengers an Indian gentleman, wife and two children turned up with four Sports Direct carrier bags bursting with clothes, despite the overhead lockers being full he was making sure his baggage fitted. The first bag when in, don’t know how, there must have been a bulge on the outside of the plane. The second, saw most of the clothes coming out and showering the passengers below in items of clothing. He then worked his way up the plane before arriving by our seats with his last bag, he somehow he managed to force it into the locker which was already full. Fortunately I didn’t end up with a pair of his skidders on my head – I considered myself lucky.

When we finally got through the numerous checks, plus fingerprinting, mug shots and endless form filling We were to be picked up by India Nature at the airport, inside the terminal there were several reps, but not ours. I went outside to find a scrum of reps all waving placards, I walked along the line not seeing the India Nature sign on my first pass, having used them before I wasn’t worried. I was in full Safari gear so I was not surprised to hear a voice call out “Mrs Forbez” I spun round to be greeted by a smiling face who followed up my acknowledgement with the line “I thought it was you, you look like a lonely birder!” Whatever did he mean, I’m not lonely!

I fetched the others and we made our way to the vehicle. The temperature was pleasant, not too hot (little did we know). The pollution in the city was a bit of a surprise with a thick smog hanging in the air. We drove to our hotel through the Delhi traffic, which is an experience in itself. No rules apply, drive on either side of the road – no problem, Islands – don’t make me laugh. Its a free for all, no quarter given, no quarter taken. I kid you not over the following two weeks we saw at least 12 accidents, some just people being knocked of their bikes up to full scape pile-ups. The front seat of our mini-bus become nicknamed the “Valium Chair!”

The hotel was a good standard but we were all very tired. The rooms were comfortable and we soon all fell asleep. I was awakened by an internal call informing me that our guide Lokesh was waiting for me in reception. Bleary eyed I made my way to reception, where Lokesh must have wondered what he was going to be guiding for the next couple of weeks. I struggled to hear what he was saying but picked up that it was a 5.30am start in the morning.  I arrived back at the room The Captain was up and ready to eat, (another recurring theme).

We had lunch and decided that we would entertain ourselves by birding around the hotel gardens. We met one of the other tour participants Mike Potts a Geordie and Newcastle fan who was in the same age  bracket as the rest of us. We had a wander around the garden seeing a few species and adding my first tick in the form of a Yellow-footed Green Pigeon.

The five of us then enjoyed a pleasant evening meal and retired to bed, the other members of the group were flying in overnight and we wouldn’t meet them until the next morning. So with the alarm set for 5.30am a welcome sleep awaited us. “Then the snoring started”.

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