Despite my plans to miss out the rest of winter going a-rye, it was good to take a trip, albeit a bit stressful. A girlfriend of mine, who also has a friend living in Goa, had decided to join me and my mother on our adventure and see a bit more of India other than the beach. A bold decision but, being the most experienced traveller of the Asian sub-continent in our triumvirate, I did feel a tad responsible for their welfare. Travelling with my 72 year old mother in India was not that dissimilar to travelling with my son in the same country when he was 10, checking they're drinking plenty of water, they've remembered their hat and haven't wandered off somewhere.............I didn't manage to lose her but we did have to get a train stopped as it began to exit the station without us. We frantically clambered aboard, hoisting our heavy cases up with the help of the hundred or so random folk that always seem to be busy going nowhere on an Indian platform. The stopping of a train greatly bemused my travelling companions but in rural India the sight of three memsahibs in distress is often met with great kindness and much help, needed or not. And so we continued our journey, me, Mrs Moore and Mrs. Moore light, from Ooty to the majestic Mysore then on to the hazy heat of the boulder-strewn ruins of Hampi and finally the beach at Patnam.
At the Mudumalai National Park, in Tamil Nadu, I was particularly keen to encounter the Giant Flying Squirrel having seen a large painted likeness of this unusual beast with it's evil staring eyes by the Park reception, next to a sign saying 'Park closed'. It was apparently 'Tiger counting' week, something the fabulous Bamboo Banks camp, where we were billeted, had failed to mention. But as animals are less sure of the Park boundaries than the rangers there were plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities to be had. Alas, the Giant Squirrel eluded us and we failed to spot a tiger but we did see spotted dear, Macaque monkeys and encountered wild elephants wandering in the roadside jungle, and one who payed our bungalow a nocturnal visit. In a scene reminiscent of Jurassic Park, I sat bolt upright in bed, heart beating hard in a 'what-the-hell-was-that' way, listening to the mighty crack of something large moving outside followed by the unmistakable blustery exhaling that only a creature with a trunk could make. Elephants are not known for attacking harmless strangers in their beds but it felt scary. In the places where they roam wild, the locals consider them as vermin, a nuisance that causes considerable damage, like foxes with their merciless chicken genocide, the pachyderm breakdown the fences, trample the crops and rip up the vegetable patch.
The proprietor of our hostelry, a formidable octogenarian Indian of the old school, with Elephantine ears and a trunkated nose, who spoke RP English, had opened the joint to amuse himself and his wife in the latter years of their apparent glorious lives. He drove about his property on a quad-bike, trailed by two Golden Retrievers, a mischievous old man who saw conversation as sport, to catch-out, cajole and cause offense and at which he was a master, gleefully watching his opponent gulp and gasp as he denounced democracy, education.......the wheel. Unbeatable comment: 'Gandhi that crook, my father put him in jail.....'
To be continued.
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