The challenge of getting out of India continues…More favorite photos, some never posted…

On the last night of the Maharajas Express, we were all assisted in dressing in traditional Indian attire. 

The single most important thing we can do right now is to stay calm by reminding ourselves that being safe is of the utmost importance and that being uncomfortable and inconvenienced is of little significance in the realm of things.

We’re bracing ourselves for the next several days. It won’t be easy. This we know for sure. This experience is not foddering an excellent story to post or adding interest to our 7½ year world journey. All of us are facing challenges during these difficult times.

We never imagined we’d see the Taj Mahal. And yet, that morning in the haze and pollution, it lay before our eyes in its entire splendor.

Whether it’s being cooped up in one’s home for weeks (or more) to come wondering how to get groceries when many market shelves are bare in the US and other countries or, wondering if there are “germs” on the snail mail, the newspaper, or even the paltry foodstuffs one has managed to acquire.
No, this isn’t easy for anyone. Nor is being confined to one’s home accessible in itself, even if all necessary supplies are on hand, sufficient for weeks to come. The news on TV is disheartening (we don’t watch), and the worldwide information on our devices is also frightening and worrisome.

Exquisite decor in ancient palaces and temples.

We know many who’ve lost their jobs. Many small businesses will fail in the weeks to come. Many are fast losing the value of their savings, their retirement funds, and other assets. 

Thus, as we share our tale over these next several days until hopefully we reach South Africa, never for one moment do we imply this dreadful scenario is any harder for us than for all of you. We are all in this together, although it may manifest differently based on one’s circumstances.

The locals are doing their laundry in Lake Pichola, but no laundry soaps are allowed. Nor are fishing and private boats permitted on the lake.

We’ve decided to share the details of the challenges we’re facing, moment by moment, day by day, as they occur. We may upload more than one post in a day or none if we have no access to WiFi somewhere along the journey, which easily could happen during these times. Please check back. 

Whether we attempted to return to the US or travel to any other country, we’d be facing these challenges. Many flights are being canceled and changed, as has been the case for us. Chaos at airports is rampant, and we’ll witness that first-hand today and again in two days when we can hopefully leave India for South Africa.

Several castles are located in or near the artificial lakes in Udaipur.

We’ve been cooped up in hotels for about a week, having suspended any more tours in India. It’s certainly not surprising we lost interest in sightseeing a week ago when our cruise from Mumbai was canceled in light of what was going on. We knew at that point that everything was about to change and, it has.

Taking the risk of visiting crowded temples and other sightseeing venues was foolhardy. We informed our driver Raj, who waits for us in the vehicle in the parking lot of a hotel, that the tours were done. 

A snake charmer, an expected site to see in India.

Imagine him sleeping in the van, wondering how his family is doing in Chennai, anxious to return home. Tonight after he drops us off at the Madurai airport, he can begin the long journey home.

Our flight from Madurai was scheduled to depart at 4:00 pm today. A short time ago, we received a call from the agency that the flight had been canceled, and we are re-booked on a flight leaving Madurai at 8:00 pm tonight.

There are numerous stunning places in Udaipur.

They arranged a 4:00 pm checkout at this hotel. They suggested we wait in the lobby to leave for the airport at 5:00 pm. The lobby isn’t air-conditioned, and it will be hot in with the temperature expected to be 99F (37C). 

We’ve decided to have Raj take us to the airport early. We’d rather wait there in air-conditioned comfort than sweat it out in the lobby. Plus, going early allows him to begin the 8-hour drive back to his home in Chennai.

We visited countless numbers of forts while in Rajasthan.

Last night, before going to dinner (we were the only guests in the restaurant), we received a text and email from Kenya Airways that the second leg of the three-leg journey to South Africa had been canceled. 

However, they moved us to a later flight requiring a 12-hour layover in Nairobi, which will result in a red-eye beginning at 12:30 am (to us). At that point, we’ll have been up for 21 hours. If all goes well, we should arrive in Nelspruit sometime in the morning. 

The fantastic chef on the train, John Stone, assured me all my meals would be perfect.

We canceled the overnight stay in Nelspruit while waiting for the rental car agencies to open in the morning. In the tiny airport, they don’t open until 7:00 am.

Where we’ll encounter the most challenging part of this long journey will most likely be in Johannesburg, South Africa, when we go through immigration. It’s there that our entry will be accepted or denied. So far, India is not on the “high-risk” list, which looks good for us, as long as that doesn’t change in the next 48 hours.

Dancers at the dunes in the desert as we lounged enjoying beverages, snacks, and the show on an outing from the Maharajas Express.

So far, India has 138 cases. Adding to South Africa’s high-risk category today (no entry allowed), France has over 1200 cases. We hold our breath to see how this rolls out in the next few days.

If the number of India cases increases exponentially while we’re traveling, we’ll be turned away at Johannesburg to fly somewhere else on our dime. We have no choice but to discuss some options.

We were situated on the comfy seating in the sand as we watched the entertainment at the dunes.

If we ever needed “safari luck,” it’s now. It takes on an entirely new meaning during this crisis. At this point, we’re uncertain as to where we’ll be a week from now. If we’re able to make it into Marloth Park, we’ll be very grateful. But, if we don’t… As always, we’ll figure it out from there.

Be well. Be safe. All of you, travel with us in heart and spirit! Thank you for all your well wishes.

Photo from one year ago today, March 18, 2019:

Wildebeest Willie often makes eye contact, often with only one eye, as indicated in this photo.  Wildebeest’s eyes are far apart on either side of his head.  He loves for me to talk to him. How do I know this?  He won’t begin eating a single pellet until I’ve finished talking to him.  For more photos, please click here.

Arrived in Udaipur after a 16 hour travel day…The latest tiger photos are delayed…The pure joy of safari…

We passed over many sprawling rivers in Kanha National Park.

Note: We’d intended to post the new tiger photos today, but apparently, our order for the camera-to-computer adapter from Amazon India didn’t get delivered. Subsequently, we’re posing other safari photos and will get caught up as soon as it arrives. Thanks for your patience.

By the time we arrived at our hotel in Udaipur, the Fateh Sagar Lake Hotel, it was already 8:30 pm. We’d left the Tuli Tiger Resort at 4:30 am. As expected, we were greeted by a tour guide at the layover point in Mumbai, who drove us to the next terminal and again by yet another tour guide at the airport when we arrived in Udaipur. 

The beauty in Kanha National Park is breathtaking.

This personalized service is slick. We never have to figure out where to go and how we’ll get there. It is all arranged for us, included in our Indi tour package with Tailormade Journeys. Rajiv has done a fine job covering each step of the way. From time to time, we have questions that are responded to quickly and efficiently.

On the first of two flights, I ordered a small container of almonds and a cup of tea. Tom never ate a thing. We’d planned to go to dinner upon arrival, but after being so tired, we decided to go to bed and hopefully sleep by 10:00 pm. For the first time in a long time, I slept through the night. Tom awoke several times but also managed to get sufficient sleep to feel refreshed today.

A pair of Sambar deer.

The included breakfast is served at the hotel’s restaurant, and we both looked forward to a hearty meal to start the day. Although we can’t get bacon or any facsimile, we usually eat lots of eggs with veggies for me and eggs and toast for Tom. It fills us for the day.

The hotel in Udaipur isn’t as plush as we’d expected. Still, it has a view of Sagar Lake, and our room is spacious, clean, and well-appointed with everything we need: good WiFi, air-con, comfortable bed, and good plug-ins for our adapters and converters.

The bulky gaur, a rare type of buffalo.

The hotel reminds me of those I’d visited in years past, which was historic with 1930s decor. We’re pretty OK here. We’re staying in Udaipur for four nights total, and on Thursday, March 5th, we’ll head to Chennai. In the interim, we’ll be visiting points of interest in Udaipur and surrounding areas starting today at noon. We’ll share photos and stories of those visits over the next few days.

But today, we wanted to wrap up our final safari experiences, including the last sighting of a tiger in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh (there are 28 states in India and eight union territories).

Many people live within the national park in modest houses such as this.

At the moment, we’re awaiting the arrival of the SD card adapter. Once it arrives from Amazon India, I’ll download the photos from the camera, which contains all the final safari photos.

On the last day in Kanha, I went on both the morning and the afternoon game drives on my own. Tom felt a little under the weather and is fine now, but he wasn’t quite up to bouncing around in the safari vehicle for 10 hours.

As I sat alone in the center seat of the safari vehicle’s three rows of seats (including one row for the driver and the naturalist) with a park representative in the third row), I felt comfortable and at ease. I had three professional guides to focus on finding a tiger, and all I had to do was balance myself on the outrageously bumpy roads and take photos when we spotted something.

A peacock was searching for a mate.

Of course, my eyes were peeled on the surroundings, hoping to spot the familiar stripes of yet another tiger. Yet, it was almost equally exciting finding other exciting species such as those we’ve included in today’s photos.

Once the safari ended, I found Tom waiting for me in the lobby, where he stayed and worked on his laptop in my absence. It was great to see him, but I felt liberated and pleased with going on safari by myself.
After my long and difficult recovery, it felt good to be independent for a day after a year of Tom’s thoughtful and generous hovering. I’d managed to get in and out of the safari vehicle independently without him or anyone spotting me, which requires cautious maneuvering to avoid injury.
Sambar deer on the side of the road.

We didn’t sleep more than four hours on the last night in Kanah, and after the long travel day, I was exhausted last night. The substantial bouncing for 10-hours left me a little stiff and sore, but not unlike the feeling after a good and healthful workout. Today, I feel like new.
Today, we headed out on a much-anticipated exciting tour in Udaipur, details of which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

Have a fantastic Monday! We’ll be thinking of YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, March 2, 2020:

This adorable female kudu is suffering from TB, as indicated by the tumor on the left side of her face. For more, please click here.

A travel day with challenges…

The outdoor dining room at Tuli Tiger Resort. It was very cool at night, and we had to bundle up for dinner.

It was unbelievable. We were going to the Nagpur airport to take a flight to Mumbai, change planes, and head to four nights in Udaipur.

When asking various people at Tuli Tiger Resort, we received varying opinions on how long it takes to get to the airport in Nagpur. We anticipated the drive would be between four and five hours, depending on traffic. Since our travel company planned a driver at 4:30 am, we went with it.
I enjoyed the special meals they made for me, along with a few salads. They don’t serve lettuce salads in India.

We considered it might be too early, leaving us with too many hours to kill at the airport instead of sleeping, but we went with it, and we were certainly glad we did.

About three hours into the drive, we encountered the worst traffic backup either of us had ever seen. Hundreds of trucks were lined up in a dead stop on either side of a narrow road for at least five miles due to a convoluted road construction zone.                 
One day I had the best kimchee I’d ever tasted. Perfection!

Nothing was moving! Our driver got out of the SUV on several occasions to see what he could find out. But, each time he returned to the vehicle, we were left without a clue when he spoke no English and couldn’t seem to relay the information with hand signals adequately.

After an hour without moving, we were concerned we could miss our flight. When we’d grumbled about getting up at 3:45 am for our driver’s arrival at 4:30, we were now grateful for the extra early start.

Photo of life in the small towns located within the border in Kanha National Park.

Finally, after over 90 minutes of angst and a bit of frustration, we were on our way once again, albeit a little concerned about getting to the airport on time. If we missed the flight, there wasn’t another until the next day. What a mess that would be!

Luck was with us, and we made it on time. We checked in, paid the overweight baggage fees of US $33.25, IDR 2400, boarded the bus to the plane on the tarmac, and we were on our way for the first leg to Mumbai.

We were crossing over a river on our way to the national park.

Thanks to our conscientious travel rep Rajiv and travel agency, Tailormade Journeys, once we arrived in Mumbai, reps with signs with our names were ready to drive us to Terminal 2, which was a seven-minute car ride, certainly not accessible on foot.
By the time we got situated in a comfortable cafe for the remainder of the 3½ hour layover in Mumbai, we’d fly to Udaipur, arriving around 8:00 pm. It’s a long travel day, but we will have four days to relax until we are on the move again. Tomorrow, we’ll sleep in for the first time in 20 days.

Sunset in Kanha National Park on a clear evening,

We are managing the pace OK thus far and hope to keep up, especially when we won’t have to get up so early for a few days.

Tomorrow, at our hotel, the SD card adapter will arrive. Once it does, I will upload all the photos from the camera, including those from yet another exciting tiger yesterday morning.

We will be back again soon!

Enjoy the day, the evening, wherever you may be!

Photo from one year ago, March 1, 2019:

Ms. Bushbuck and growing baby come to call. For more, please click here.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride…A leopard in the palace…

The locals are doing their laundry in Lake Pichola, but no laundry soap is allowed. Nor are fishing and private boats permitted on the lake.

It would be possible to upload 20 posts with the information and photos available after yesterday’s fantastic tour in Udaipur, India. We visited places, rode in wild congested traffic in fast, expertly driven tuk-tuks (two motorized passenger rickshaws) to get Shiv Niwas Palace to dine in a fabulous nearby restaurant with exceptional food and service.

A structure on the grounds of Shiv Niwas Palace also known as the City Palace.

But before going further, we must provide an overview of what transpired yesterday to explain a change in the arranged itinerary (through the Maharajas Express train).

Tom listened to our tour guide and provided headsets with the five-star Taj Lake Palace in the background.

After a lovely breakfast on the train by 10:00 am, we wandered to our company-owned, assigned bus #2, of two, that follows the route of the train always to be available for passenger tours to various arranged venues from the several train stations where we stop along the route from Mumbai to Delhi.

The Maharajas Express provided us with many gifts, including scarves and hats.

In air-conditioned comfort in the luxury buses, the ride to the first venue of the day in Udaipur was pleasant and uneventful. We pulled into the guarded gates of the City Palace, also known as Shiv Niwas Palace. We headed to a veranda overlooking the famous artificial (1362) Lake Pichola for photo-taking and detailed storytelling by our guide.

Side view of the City Palace as our boat wafted past.

We’re posting several of those photos today with more following as time allows. About 40 minutes later, the 70 train passengers boarded a flat bottomed boat wearing mandatory life jackets for what proved to be about an hour-long boat tour of Lake Pichola.

Descendants of royalty still live in the Shiv Niwas Palace 

When the first segment of the boat ride ended, our guide explained the much-anticipated lunch venue in the City Palace would have to be moved to another restaurant. The reason?

The palace began being built in 1559 and is always under construction and renovation yet today.

A leopard had entered the palace overnight and had been seen in an area close to the original restaurant in an area that had been cordoned off to protect visitors as well as the leopard.

In recent times, the lake was bone dry during periods of little rain, as shown by watermarks.

Rangers had been called with hopes of tranquilizing and relocating the leopard back to the nearby mountain from whence it had come. Unfortunately, we never had an opportunity to see the leopard, nor did we hear if they had been safely relocated.

A shrine was built between the walls of the palace.

Subsequently, very last minute, the lunch venue was changed to another restaurant on the opposite side of the palace, which was way too far to walk, nor would buses be able to maneuver in the congested, traffic-laden area.

Lake Pichola was man-made in 1362.

After the boat ride, we all meandered to a nearby street within the confines of the palace to be driven by tuk-tuks for what ultimately proved to be an adventurous, heart-pounding 20-minute ride through the worst traffic one can imagine.

As is tradition, a bride and groom have photos taken before their wedding.

My favorite ride as a kid was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, most like long gone from the park but memorable for those of us who remember this ride. Nonetheless, it was the wild ride of our lives. We both giggled over the excitement of it all, which reminded me of my childhood living in California and visiting Disneyland quite often.

Another stunning palace overlooking the lake.

The sights, the sounds, and the smells as we whipped through the city streets were a senses overload. The cows wandering through the streets, the smile on the faces of the adorable children as they waved to us, the shops, the street food, the endless array of motorbikes, the tiny tuk-tuk type trucks, and the people, all was a part of this glorious experience.

Jag Mandir Palace.

Tom couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as our driver rapidly darted in and out of traffic and tight spaces, unlike any ride we’ve ever experienced. We felt like little kids having the time of our lives.

We spotted a few green parrots on the grounds of Jag Mandir.

The lunch as the fantastic restaurant was an indescribable buffet of Indian foods like none other with many items I could eat. The head chef walked me through the buffet line, pointing to the safe things for my way of eating. Once back at our table of eight, I was in pure heaven eating the spicy and flavorful foods.

The tuk-tuks were lined up and ready to take us to the opposite side of the palace, which required a 20-minute wild ride through narrow streets and outrageous traffic.

On the other hand, Tom only had a few bites, claiming he was saving room for another great dinner on the train. But I knew him better. He politely tasted a few items, but these spicy items were not his “cup of tea.”

A cow and her calf were scavaging for food on the city street.

And, later on, we did have a fabulous dinner with Chef John Stone, preparing yet another memorable meal for me, often stopping at our table, hands pressed together in a gracious Hindu bow, seeking the knowledge that I was pleased.  I was.

Colorful shops lined the streets, many offering a variety of textiles and Pashmina scarves.

Tom even ate lamb last night, the first time I’d ever seen him do so, finishing every last bite. This morning I only had a bowl of plain yogurt since I was still full from yesterday’s eating frenzy.

Busy streets on which we scooted through traffic.

Tomorrow’s post will share some historical facts about the palaces and the fort we visited. There isn’t enough time to go through all of that today since soon lunch will be served, after which we’re heading out on another extensive tour which will include “dinner on the town.”

We were awaiting the name of the restaurant where we dined on delicious Indian food. We’ll add it later.

Need I say? Yep, we’re enjoying every moment of this marvelous adventure, and, undoubtedly, we’re loving India. We’ll be back with more…

Be well

Photo from one year ago today, February 4, 2019:

A hippo and a cattle egret have symbiosis in their relationship. For more photos, please click here.

Humm…Post or nap…Guess what I chose?…

Both of us were excited to be on our way to the palace and Lake Pichola in Udaipur.

Udaipur, also spelled Udaypur, is a city in southern Rajasthan state, located in northwestern India was one of the fascinating cities we were anxious to explore after doing some research on the country many months ago.

Today, the Maharajas Express train made its way to the Udaipur train station. We disembarked to make our way to one of two comfortable air-conditioned buses owned by the train company to be transported to Lake Pichola, where a fantastic day of sightseeing and dining ensued.
We returned to the train close to 4:00 pm, and I was faced with a difficulty, either rush through the hundreds of photos we’d taken to get somewhat of a post uploaded before the 6:00 pm happy hour or take a much-needed nap.
Sorry folks. I chose the nap. It’s now 5:40 pm, and we must get dressed for the evening of lively conversations, food, and wine with some of the beautiful people we’ve met in the past 30 hours.
Tomorrow after breakfast will be a  perfect time to put everything we’ve discovered, sort through the photos, and share the wonders we experienced on this rich and fulfilling day. 
Please check back for some gorgeous surprises.  Need I say, we adore India, just like we thought.
Have a lovely day/evening. We’ll see you soon!