To Bee Honest…
My time in India is over, actually it’s been over for about a month but I honestly believe I have been unable to synthesize all that happened. Since I have returned all my friends want to know about my time in India and I’ve found it so hard to recount my experiences in a succinct manner, there are so many stories. This was supposed to be the last post but by the time I got done writing I realized that India still has one more story.
The Last Days
After a hectic last week at work my co-worker and I set out to Kolkata from some sightseeing. Our train was scheduled leave at 2:00am, yes you read that right, am not pm. Apparently trains in India are a 24/7 affair, unfortunately they are rarely on time regardless of when you travel. Our train ended up being delayed for over two hours with no explanation or apologies, kind of reminded me of flying in Nigeria. Luckily, the first person we spoke to at the train station took pity on us and let us sit in the VIP room which was extremely comfy, nice seats, air-conditioned and best of all silent and free of people staring. We had some slight drama with some “officials” who came into the room and tried to get us leave, needless to say we paid them no mind, nothing was going to move us from our comfortable hideout.
When we finally emerged from our cocoon eager to board our train, we encountered what my coworker considered the most traumatic sight of the trip. A little boy, he couldn’t have been more than one, was held in a squat position by his mother on the train platform expelling a liquid stream of neon green diarrhea. I hope you weren’t eating as you read that. I took it in stride, poor child was sick what were the parents to do, although, I’m not sure the platform was the best option. As we tried to move away from the child we moved closer to a woman suffering from such a hacking cough, that I expected to see intestines or at least blood in short order. Then of course were the stray dogs that someone attempted to chase but only succeeded in directing them towards were we stood. As I seriously considered retreating to the VIP room, our train pulled up and we boarded quickly. Our luck held and we were in a double room, so we locked our door and zonked out for the 5 hour ride.
I returned to my friends’ lovely parents home, this time with my coworker and we met the same unconditional welcome and great spread of food. Friday was wonderful and we casually explored Kolkata with some other young folks. The market hustle and bustle reminded me of the old Tejuosho market, my Lagosians will get the reference. We purchased gifts for family members and friends and returned home for a late dinner and nightcap.
My coworker was obsessed with the idea of seeing tigers in India and I had no better suggestion, so we set off for a two-day and one night tour to the Sundarbans.The Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world, a larger portion of it is situated in Bangladesh and the remainder in India.
We had found and booked our place on Tour de Sundarbans, the tripadvisor reviews had been great and we were not disappointed by their service at any point. We boarded a comfortable bus with two other couples, a retired french couple on their 5th trip to India and a young Irish PhD graduate and her English boyfriend who were beginning a tour of Asia before moving the states. As we munched through the provided breakfast and snacks provided our small but lively group engaged in continuous conversation throughout the 4 hour drive. Conversation was the only thing that stopped me from dying a thousand deaths during the drive, so many close calls but thankfully we made it safely to the last stop.
I expected to board a ferry at our last connection to civilization but I guess there are different definitions of ferries because what we boarded was definitely just a local boat. I had my many reservations about the boat but what was I going to do? Turn around and look for someone to drive me another 4 hours at night? I took a deep breath and decided to live a little. On arriving at one of the larger islands, we took a walk through the market places and then boarded what our tour guide generously referred to as vans. I would call them motorcycle drawn hay carriage. We proceeded to bump along the rough roads and I vowed to invest in some better bras after the ride. Let’s just say a lot of resolutions were made during this trip
Then we arrived at our destination…Got ya. Nope at this point we boarded the real ferry and proceed down or maybe upstream for another 30 minutes, then we arrived at the eco village. It was extremely cute, very close to nature and our little huts were adorable in their minimalist nature, just a bed, mosquito net, a small desk. The bathroom had a small sink, a WC (thank God, I couldn’t deal with a pit latrine) and a shower. There was also solar-powered light so we were able to sleep with the fan on and charge our phones. The food throughout our stay was great, and after a filling lunch we were encouraged to proceed to the hammock tower and relax, an order we all eagerly obeyed. At this point we met a few others, two young Indian couples and an Indian family with two daughters who became my inseparable friends.
After a brief rest, we went walking through the village at a leisurely pace, taking in the rice paddy fields, little temples and lovely water views.Our evening threat was a boat ride through the silent and very peaceful mangroves. Here we were encouraged to remove our shoes and wade in the mud, I try to be adventurous and I am big on minimizing regrets. However, I dislike squishy soft textures in everything from cereal to sand and could not fathom myself EVER regretting not walking in this mangrove mud. Plus I had socks and sneakers on, I hate wet socks and shoes, so this Indiana Jones remained comfortably in her boat. Did I mention that when we were in the middle of the lake/stream my coworker and I had to change boats? Craziness.
We returned to our village for musical entertainment by the village locals and some Indian snacks. During the tasty dinner we were joined by a geologists from Colombia University and Bangladesh, and an American filmmaker couple. They had all been working on a documentary on the Bangladesh portion of the Sundarbans and came over to India before flying out. After the dinner we were lead to the nearby village to indulge in some rice wine. We were basically all done with the wine before someone had the presence of mind to ask how it was made. The moment I heard that the rice was cooked and let to rot my tummy revolted, thankfully I didn’t consume that much.
Day 2 – Tour
The next morning started early, by 6.30am we were on the boat and remained on the boat until about 6pm. We cruised around all 100+ islands of the sundarbans in search of the elusive tiger. We apparently had a few close misses with tiger sighting but we did see spotted deer, monitor lizards, crocodiles (I can’t get the alligator/crocodile difference straight), loads of birds, apparently all exotic ad rare but since I am not a bird watcher I couldn’t really appreciate them. The single funniest thing we saw was a jungle chicken, I kid you not, our tour guide literally pointed and said “look, a jungle chicken” and flurry of cameras went off. It was all my coworker and I could to not collapse laughing to the floor.
At the end of it all, no tigers were seen but it was a really great experience.