Mumbai was a big congested city, and I mean big. The population hovers around 21 to 25 million people. The city sat on a peninsula like San Francisco and was surrounded by the Arabian Sea. I have a deep relationship with the ocean and I was excited to be in a coastal city. Traveling through the Mumbai, there was no shortage of signs of the former British colonial presence and I spied a number of gorgeous neo-Gothic buildings.
Hare Krishna. Mumbai, India. 2017
From our hotel, we had an ocean view that overlooked the Gateway of India Arch. Looking out the window at the small bay in front of the arch, I could see small tour boats moored on one side and small fishing boats on the other. The sunset was beautiful. We decided on dinner in the hotel at the modern Indian restaurant, We were seated next to the gentleman who was hand rolling, tossing and cooking roomali roti, known as handkerchief roti in english. They looked absolutely delicious.
Happiness. Mumbai, India. 2017
We walked around a few places in Mumbai, one being an outdoor hand wash laundry and another being the lunch box people. While we were driving I saw a weathered wooden fishing boat up on the sidewalk next to a group of what looked like lean-to’s and shanties. This looked interesting and we stopped. It was a small busy community of fisherman. Judging by the looks of things it was low tide as men were being attentive to their nets and children walked about looking for ways to send their homemade kites high into the air.
Lunch. Mumbai, India. 2017
I found Mumbai to be a very vibrant city and appreciated having a chance to see and visit the smaller communities and businesses that contributed their energy to the life of the city. No trip to Mumbai would be complete without discussing “Slum Dog Millionaire”, and our chat about the slums was pretty interesting. I can tell you that all the shanties have power and satellite dishes. Also due to their hard work and population density, the people that live in the slums make up an important part of the cities economy.
Lakeside. Udaipur, India. 2017
Udaipur lies in the southern region of Rajasthan, or as our friend Rohit says, it is Heaven. Having spend a few days there I can’t disagree. In addition to being Rohit’s hometown, Udaipur is a resort destination for both domestic and international travelers. It’s appeal was immediately clear.
Carpet. Udaipur, India. 2017
When we arrived, we could see just how lovely the city was with it’s many lakes, rolling green hills and beautiful architecture. Also the air was fresh and the sky was blue. Across the lake from our hotel we could see the City Palace spilling down the side of a hill like a giant layer cake until it stopped at the waterline.
Mirror. Udaipur, India. 2017
Visiting the City Palace was fun and it similar to many other Indian palaces we had visited except for the view which was really spectacular. I also really loved the shadows and light playing off all the lovely marble used in it’s construction. Windows of colored glass and mirrors showed off the shapes of the rooms and the columns.
Cool. Udaipur, India. 2017
Jumping on a boat it was really a pleasure to be out on the lake, tour around and watch the sunset. A few films had been shot at locations around the lake here and I remembered seeing the scenes. Rohit had us over for dinner at his house and we enjoyed an amazing home cooked meal as well as meeting and spending time with his family. I especially had fun sharing calligraphy with his niece. She showed me her notebook and pen and I showed her mine, inky fingers unite!
Spirit. Udaipur, India. 2017
Our most profound experience In Udaipur however was spiritual. For me it was somewhat unexpected since I consider myself very grounded spiritually. This was something new and I think it something to do with the cumulative effect of spending so much time in India and being in so many powerful spiritual places. I’ll be telling that story soon.
After a week in the jungles of Central India we returned to Delhi to catch a plane to Dharamshala. Unforunately the weather in Dharashala was bad and our flight was delayed several hours. We decided to stay in Delhi, see a few sights and catch the new Star Wars movie.
Step Well. Delhi, India. 2017
One of the sights was the second oldest step well in Delhi called Agrasen Kibaoli dating from approximately the 10the Century. It was massive and deep with several levels build into the walls and a long descending staircase. When we arrived voices and shouts were echoing off the walls. A group of students were there, perhaps on a field trip and from the looks of it, they were having a great time. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.
Up. Delhi, India. 2017
After the step well we continued on to the movie theater which was in a suburb of Delhi. Pulling into the parking lot I looked up and there were blue skies! Blue skies near Delhi! It was a very new theater with IMAX 3D and we had reclining chairs in the back, very nice indeed.
A peculiarity of watching movies in India is that you have to stand for the Indian National Anthem at the start of the film. The sound system loudly declared “Please stand for the Indian National Anthem” and respectfully we did. Another thing is that there is an intermission in the middle of the film that lasts about 15 minutes. The first time this happened I thought there was something wrong with the projector but now I know and kind of appreciate it as a good time to get up and take care of personal business.
Christy and I have enjoyed seeing films in other countries because it’s fun to see how other cultures go about the same familiar rituals as we do. It was a great time.
Tiger Khan. Kanha, India. 2017
We had been having good luck. With the exception of our first day at Bandhavgarh, we had great tiger sightings every day. Curiously, all the tigers we had seen were female. A male tiger sighting was conspicuously missing. Thankfully that was remedied in the fading light of the last hour of our last day.
Tiger Tongue. Kanha, India. 2017
He was a large 8 year old male and he was quite the character. We noticed he had an injury on the front of his left shoulder.
Tiger Fun. Kanha, India. 2017
We followed him for for an entire hour and he was so much fun to watch.
More Tiger Fun. Kahna, India. 2017
He had a long name and number so we started calling him Sher Khan after the tiger character in “The Jungle Book.” Truly he was the king of the Jungle.
Sher Khan. Kanha, India. 2017
There was a tiger who roamed the hill top and she was a ghost. Our naturalist Partha told us that this was the tallest hill in Kanha. He said that from time to time there were paw prints that would be seen on the roads and paths that crisscross the area, the hill was rather remote, and the roads were rarely used. This tiger was talked about among the rangers and naturalists but all that was known was that she was a solitary female.
Chandra the Tiger. Kanha, India. 2017
We had been driving and tracking all morning and the day was warming up. The ranger traveling with us suggested going to the top of the hill not so much in hopes of spotting a tiger but precisely because it was remote, peaceful, had great views and maybe if we were lucky we would see something. The road was windy and steep and none of us were thinking we’d see any tigers. We were thinking about lunch and bush breaks.
We stopped for a moment and there was absolute quiet and stillness. Suddenly the ranger pointed “tiger!” and there she was, maybe 20 yards ahead. Christy and I reached for our cameras and watched as she lay down in some tall grass and began to roll around. She was about four years old and very beautiful. We followed her for a few minutes while she patrolled and marked a tree or two before retreating into the jungle.
Chandra Poses. Kanha, India. 2017
The ranger knew the area well and speculated that she was headed to a water source further down the hill so we followed the road for a while and turned right at a fork. Continuing downhill we met a busload of local children being taken for a tour of the park, the were adorable in their smiling faces and matching hats.
Continuing to track, the ranger knew exactly where to stop. there was a small break in the foliage and he said this was where she would come out. A few minutes later she did.
Chandra. Kanha, India. 2017
We had a little more time with her before she again went into the jungle. I asked Partha what her name was and he told us she was very shy, rarely seen and didn’t have a name. Apparently in Kanha many of the big cats had numbers instead of names. We decided to give her a name and looking at her markings I suggested Luna for the moon shapes on the top of her head. The Hindi word for Luna or moon was Chandra, we all agreed this was a good name. From that time forward she became Chandra.
Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve was our next stop. We came to India to photograph tigers and so far we were having really good luck. Kanha was a larger park than Bandhavgarh, and with many more tigers. I also found the scenery at Kanha to be completely different. It was very diverse and beautiful.
Sunrise. Kanha, India. 2017
The forest was denser here with fountain like sprays of bamboo shooting out of the ground every few feet. There were broad swaths grasslands and dense forests of Sal trees. Some of the Sal trees were quite ancient and we saw one tree which may have been a thousand years old. There were also working elephants kept by families of Mahuut which are the traditional elephant owners and trainers in Indian society. They are very careful to treat their elephants humanely.
Mahaut. Kanha, India. 2017
I asked our naturalist Partha what the difference was between a forest and a jungle. He explained that it was controversial and while both seemed to be forests, jungles had denser undergrowth and thicker vegetation. I began to see the wisdom of this distinction as we traveled deeper into the older parts of the park that had been less disturbed. The sounds and the atmosphere changed and you felt as if you had entered another world.
Jungle Light. Kanha, India. 2017
Partha had two field guide sitting atop the dashboard of our jeep, one was “Birds of India” the other “Mammals”. As a biologist I was curious about the various species and habitats seen in the region so I chose “Mammals”. I saw that there were two species of bear, one being the sloth bear of Kipling’s “Jungle Book” fame. These sloth bears were extremely rare and sadly we did not see one in the wild, although we sat for quite a while at one location where we thought there was either a tiger or a leopard. Turns out, based on the tracks, it was a very shy bear.