We went to Ramnagar because of the easy access to the Corbet National Park, a large, beautiful wildlife preserve just a 15 minute drive from town. It’s home to well over 100 tigers plus deer, monkeys, bears and tons of different bird species. We stayed at two different hotels: first the waaay overpriced Hotel Corbett Kingdom (after the bus ride I wasn’t willing to be picky 😉 ) and then the much-more-fun Motel Corbett.
Hotel Corbett Kingdom
- The hotel dining room was just bizarrely tacky, with very poor lighting, wonderfully hideous fake plants everywhere, a good sized, elaborate buffet set up but completely devoid of food, and a waiter who had no qualms telling us all the items on the menu that we couldn’t order (Me: I’d like palak paneer please. Waiter: No ma’am. Me: Okay, um, in that case, I’ll take alloo gobi. Waiter: No ma’am – and so on. 😉 )
- The hotel was partially under construction and we woke in the morning to the sound of drills and hammers coming from the rooms down the hall. It was the weirdest sensation – the smell of wet paint in the air is the first thing since I’ve been in India that has strongly and viscerally reminded me of the west. Specifically, for some reason it made me think immediately of Manhattan?? Funny and very random! 🙂
- Much cheaper than the first hotel, this place was lovely – set in a grove of mango trees, half the rooms were actually tents! There was a simple but great restaurant with some tables set out under the trees. As far as we could figure, there was an outdoor Tandoori oven – our first afternoon there we went out and there was a thick, fragrant layer of smoke hanging over the outdoor tables coming from a small building next to the kitchen. The food at this place was great!
- Lovely was waking up in the tent in the pitch dark to go on safari the first morning. Just five minutes after my alarm had roused us, we heard the call to prayer start from first one, then two and three different mosques in the city. A sound both beautiful and somehow eerie, but I loved the thought of people so devoted to their beliefs that they would start their day at that dark hour giving time and attention to God. I have practiced yoga Sadhana that early in the day a few times in my life and it is incredible, to start the day with so much peace, intention and inspiration.
- There were some lovely, sweet dogs living at the hotel including a couple of older puppies. One female dog, a mutt, spent some time following us around. She was different shades of brown and had the most beautiful, melt-your-heart golden eyes.
Tents among the trees at Motel Corbett
Yummy veg pakoras – just one of many delightful things eaten there
Corbett National Park
- The subsequent safari was also great. The feeling of cold air on our faces as we drove in the open jeep into the park, the smell of green everywhere, the transition from grey morning to bright day – all that I just loved. It was incredible as well to see such clean streams and paths after all the gulleys and streets congested with trash everywhere else in India.
- We didn’t see any tigers, but we did have some evidence of the big cats. Plenty of tracks along the water and at one point across a valley we could hear a peacock calling out in warning; our guide said that it was likely he had spotted a tiger. We did see three different types of deer, two species of monkeys (cool to see them in trees rather than ambling along rooftops in the cities), many different types of birds and tons of termite hills – apparently a favorite place for bears in the park to snack.
- Along the jeep path there was evidence of many small fires – cold ashes and blackened rocks. The guide told me this is where the park rangers would stop and make their tea during their rounds.
Travel in Uttarakhand
- The first bus driver was a young Sikh in jeans and an ancient wife beater. He was a stoic driver, calm and quite, intermittently chewing on tobacco and constantly skipping between tracks of incredibly loud Punjabi music blasting from the jerry-rigged speakers at the front of the bus (directly in front of us 😉 ).
- We passed through numerous villages on the bus ride from Haridwar to Kashipur. Dirty, dusty and not always attractive were these places and the roads that connected them but the women were amazing, like exotic flowers in vibrantly colored saris and salwar kameez. The contrast was lovely to see.
- At one point during the bus ride I looked down at the side of the road and saw the carcases of an adult and two young cows (perhaps buffalo?). They had been skinned completely so there was just flesh and bone. Strange, like cuts of meat at the grocery store only these were the entire animals. There were crows sitting on them, picking at the flesh. I’ve seen dead horses, dogs and pigs since being in India but they were just ‚standard’ road kill and I know that cows are sacred here… so I wonder what the story was with these cows.
- From the train: Thousands upon thousands of dung patties laid out and stacked against each other to dry in the sun. They are used for fuel. Striking on some of them to see the hand print in the middle were they were last pressed into shape; some sort of anonymous signature.
- From the train: First ever glimpses of water buffalo actually in water – it was a pond covered in green and they were in it up to their broad, black shoulders; you couldn’t see anything below because of the algae. Beautiful.
- On the train: A man with a handgun and extra bullets in a holster on his belt (!!). His was the top bunk in the sleeper compartment across from us. He lay up there people watching for a while and I tried not to feel nervous about it. After a while he tired of lying in the small space; he climbed down and in body language asked if he could sit on my bench with me by the window. I smiled a welcome of course – you don’t say no to a man with a gun! 😉