Looking for a tiger in India....part 2

The story so far.......we had arrived in Mumbai and after a week I flew to Udaipur. I was driving across Rajasthan to meet a tour group in Jaipur. http://dianeworland.blogspot.com/2012/01/looking-for-tigerpart-1.html

I’m a smoker and although my driver, Shivanth Singh Rathan, said it was OK to smoke in the car I respected that it was his place of work. This was my second more serious mistake.

Shivanth Singh Rathan

The cows have painted horns to establish ownership

After about an hour I asked him to stop for a cigarette break, he pulled off near a river and drove up a small hill. He thought there would be monkeys around for me to photograph, he was right, so I walked  further up the hill taking snaps.


I started walking back to the car and my feet went from under me on the gravel. I still can’t remember what happened next but from the cuts and bruises I must have landed first on my right side, then bounced 180 degrees onto my left side and then bounced onto my back staring up into the sky. My bag and camera had flown away and the driver was in a panic. It was only  the first day and he had already killed his passenger. I sat up gingerly and asked him to find my camera and bag; this gave me a couple of seconds to assess the damage. My right elbow and hip were bleeding, not life threatening. Now to my left side, my shoulder was banged around, my left leg had numerous cuts and was also bleeding and, damn, I’d sprained my ankle. It was a really, really, really bad sprain. Actually it wasn’t a sprain; I’d broken the cursed thing. Never having broken a leg before, I had certain misconceptions. If you could stand, it couldn’t be broken. If you could still walk, with a limp, it couldn’t be broken. Dumb. Anyway I was hunting a tiger and nothing was going to stop me.

The driver had a first-aid kit and we cleaned up the bleeding, dug the gravel out of my elbow and he found a pressure bandage for my ankle and we headed onto Ranakpur. I was in shock; the pain was still to come. At Ranakpur we were to visit a large temple complex. As we pulled up I saw the entrance was up a reasonable steep set of stairs. No problems, just took a bit longer to climb up them than normal.


The Jain Temple at Ranakpur was built between 1437 and 1458. It has 29 halls supported by 1444 carved pillars, no two are the same. The main temple is called the Chaumukha Mandir and is all carved in a milk white marble. A monk was our guide and he walked very slowly, that suited me fine.






I asked the driver to take my arm to help me down the front stairs. The shock was starting to wear off and the pain was kicking in. We stopped for lunch and I rang Omar in Mumbai to tell him about the fall. He suggested that I see a doctor or come back to Mumbai. I was hours from civilisation and I was going to find a tiger. I wasn’t going back. So we continued on to Nimaj.


The locals found it very odd that I was sitting in the front seat with the driver and every time we stopped we were stared at.

The Nimaj Palace is an elegant building in a very small rural village; it is nestled in the Aravalli Hills.  We were greeted by the Maharajah and the Maharani and led up a flight of stairs. I checked in and they started escorting me to my room at the very top of the palace. Up more stairs. Half way up the first flight I started crying with the pain and needed help. My room was quickly changed to a room on the first floor. I explained the fall and the sprained ankle. The Maharani sent one of her servants over with ice and the poor woman sat at my feet rubbing my leg. At least the cold made it numb.




I said that I didn’t think I would make it down for dinner so food was sent to the room. They sent up a magnificent feast for about three people. The hotel manager decided to stop and watch me eat. Because of the pain I had no appetite and being watched didn’t help. I politely asked him to leave. He did. Then a certain madness came over me. So much care was being taken of me that I didn’t want to appear ungrateful by not eating the meal. So I got a plastic bag, scooped half the food into it, and put it in my case. The thinking was that when we left in the morning I could throw it out. I finally got to sleep with scotch and painkillers. This was to set up a pattern for the rest of the trip. In the morning my leg had swelled to double its size and was turning an interesting colour.


That morning I was supposed to be leaving for a two day walking tour of Jodhpur, I realised that was not possible. I rang the agent in Delhi and told them of my sprained ankle and they quickly rescheduled the trip for me to stay an extra day in Nimaj and to change the route for me to get to Jaipur. I was relieved until I realised that I had a case full of curry in room with no air-conditioning. The smell was going to get really bad. Now I had to get rid of the curry. I limped into the bathroom and chose the sink instead of the toilet to dispose of last-nights dinner. I started pouring it down the sink and stuffing the large bits down with my fingers. My feet were getting wet and I looked down to see the curry running out of the pipes and all over the floor. I grabbed some lovely white towels and built a dam around the overflow so it wouldn’t get to the bedroom and on the carpet. I found a cup and started scooping the mess up and tipping it into the toilet. Because I couldn’t put any weight on the broken leg I was crouching on one leg with the other sticking out like a wounded bird’s wing. It took about 20 minutes to clean the mess up. I picked up the towels to discover they were no longer a lovely white. They were a curry yellow. So into the shower with the towels. Soap and hitting them on the floor got them a pale yellow and I gave up. I was just glad there was no fly on the wall watching all this madness.

Anyway, finally dressed, I gingerly walked down for breakfast. Some other guests had heard about my sprain and gave me some tablets to reduce the fluid build up.I didn’t do much more than just meander around the palace for the rest of the day. The Maharani paid me a visit and took me on a tour of the renovations that were happening in the hotel wing of the palace. That night I went to the dinning-room for dinner.

The people Omar was working with were encouraging him to come and get me. But I was going for the tiger.




Rather than go onto Jodhpur I was now going to Pushkar. It is one of the five sacred pilgrimage sites for devout Hindu pilgrims. It is called the king of pilgrimage sites. The agent had arranged for me to stay at a complex called The Orchard it is 3km out of the town centre in a rural village area. The Orchard is quite a beautiful site with 11 luxury tents, think silks, marble and air-conditioning, in a garden orchard setting. What I didn’t know was that it was shut and had been opened just for me. This was really creepy. I was in one tent and the serving staff, all men, hung around the porches of the surrounding tents. I knew I couldn’t walk either very fast or very far.




The agent had arranged for me to go into Pushkar with a guide. My transport was a local cart pulled  by a camel. The tourists carts are done up in velvets and cushions, mine was a local cart with unspeakable stains on the fabric. As we passed through the local villages women came out and held their children up so they could see the weird lady and teenagers chased after us laughing.


They did much better with the guide, a handsome young man who was incredibly knowledgeable about the area. As we walked through Pushkar people kept greeting him with some deference. It turned out that he was a famous local temple singer and his voice could be heard on tape all through the town. We sat by the Pushkar Lake and told me about his dislike of young Westerners who considered the town part of the hippy trail. They had bought immodesty and drugs into this very holy area. They had also divided the city between those who rented rooms to them and those who wanted them run out of town.





I returned to the hotel creating as much mirth among the villagers as had the other trip. That night I ate in the tent very aware that men were standing just outside the door. There must have been some way of spying on me because every time a glass was empty or a dish finished somebody ran in and took care of it. As I said creepy. Thinking about going to sleep I could hear music getting closer to me. I looked out to see the local dance group of about 20 people heading towards me. Normally the group performs in a large tent with a large audience; some bright spark thought it would be a great idea for them to be forced to perform for just me in the garden. A chair was bought out for me on the porch and perform they did. The costuming was beautiful and the dancers were very good  but I could see them looking at each other wondering why they had been called out for one person and how much money they were going to make. I had a bit of a scare when one of the dancers with a bowl of flames on her head walked onto the porch area and I had visions of the tent going  up in flames. After a couple of dances I took pity on them and suggested they stop. They sat around for a bit and I queried them about their outfits and who had made them. Out of guilt for the group having to leave their families just for me I over-tipped.

In the morning I walked out of the tent  to discover even more men hanging around the camp. Breakfast was a repeat of dinner with  men hovering everywhere. We hit the road again heading for Samode.




Samode is just outside Jaipur where I was to meet up with a tour group for the rest of the trip. I was staying at the Samode Palace, it was initially built in the 16th century as a Rajput fort, built in the early 19th century, under the nobleman Rawal Berisal, it was converted from a fort into a palace. As we drove in I looked with dread at the stairs. I just knew that I would be on the top floor and heritage buildings don’t have elevators. I was right.



The Palace is still used for receptions and gatherings.


The women's quarters allowed them to look into the reception rooms below without being seen. The areas are heavily mirrored to allow for light to be bought in.



My leg had now turned a really interesting black from the knee to the start of my toes.

The next day the driver turned up unexpectedly to take me to some of the local gardens. I haven’t really mentioned the driver but he was great under very difficult circumstances. The pain had made me reasonably self-absorbed but he made sure that I saw all the sights whether I wanted to or not.



On my final day with him we drove into Jaipur along a 6-lane freeway. This should have made for a fast trip except for all the cows that were sleeping or just wandering across the highway.



Shivanth Singh Rathan invited me to take tea with his family and I went with him. His family was charming but as no-one spoke English there was a lot of smiling and nodding.


 I was getting closer to the tiger.


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