It is midnight;arrival at the airport of Mumbai
(Bombay). Endless queues - time seems to play absolutely no role. After
our successful passing of the passport control and the very first changing
of traveler checks into bundles of Rupees, we start searching for a taxi,
which should bring us to Pune (Poona). An Indian friend has told us previously
about something called "Cool Cabs". They are supposed to drive
between the two cities for a very small fare. Unfortunately, we could
not find any of them. The normal fare for a taxi (2500 Rs, about 75 CHF)
seemed to be too expensive, considering that we were in India. So we ended
up driving to the Dadar train station. The Indian way of driving is somewhat
special. First you have to get used to it. There is one rule, which is
followed more or less: "drive left" and there is one unbeatable
rule: "the stronger and louder can go first". Light is normally
not used, pedestrians are in danger.
The station looks strange, too. Even during the night, there are lots
and lots of people there - they sleep on blankets on the ground as well
as on goods, which are standing around. In the meantime, it is half past
two and the counter, in front of which we have settled, is opening. We
buy for very little money a ticket and move on to a bench, watching the
nightly actions around us. People are standing around, talking, spitting
on the ground or standing in front of balances, which look like one armed
bandits. After another three hours we sit rather tired in the train to
At Pune we check into the hotel National. It
is like a green oasis of silence in the center of the hectic center of
the city. We look around the city using motor rickshaws and buy some useful
stuff. We get as an example a railway atlas, which will help us later
on to plan our travel. On the next day Silvia calls up Mr Kulkarni. She
met him three years ago during her exchange year in India. Mr Kulkarni
is in the city at that moment and wants to be with us "in ten minutes".
That is how we learn, that a minute consists of about 180 seconds ;-).
Mr Kulkarni invites us to the restaurant Ram Krishna. Since this meal
we ask each other, if ever we will get something as delicious as this
Another friend of Silvia is Gauri. We spend the afternoon and evening
with her. We decide to visit with her the Parvati temple early next morning,
which is built on a hill in Pune. Unfortunately, we do not meet her in
time and we decide to climb the hill without her to see the sunrise. Citation
of Silvia's diary:
"We were aloud to see an all color sunrise. Beside this, it was fun
to look at the morning gymnastics of the Indians. People in Switzerland
are jogging, those of Pune are walking to the temple and perform some
After three days, we leave Pune in a night bus. Who is associating "night
bus" with "sleeping" will learn better now: The first two
hours there is loud Hindi music played for all passengers. Wilu, who has
only heard Silvia telling of this music before, was quite
surprised to realize, that he likes the tunes. He would have preferred
to drive on like this all night long. But at midnight the loudspeakers
are put off. But we don't want to sleep anymore and so we are listening
to our music for the rest of the journey. The landscape in the moonlight
is fascinating! The journey ends at seven in the next morning at Kerwadi.
Dreamland, a home for destitute children,
is situated here. Is has been built up by Mr Kulkarni 24 years ago.
Fifteen boys are welcoming us full of joy. They almost fight
about the right to carry our luggage or to hold our hands. So sweet!
Since Silvia's last visit three years ago there have been quite
a lot of changes. New buildings were built, some were enlarged and the
eating site has been paved. Of course there are also new children and
employees, others have left the orphanage. Nevertheless it is a reunion
with many a well known and loved person for Silvia. But Wilu is welcomed
with lots of smiles, too. We are getting an own room to sleep in. Only
few meters above it, runs a power cable. It gives us the unique opportunity
to watch bee eaters! We are really fascinated of these birds, which are
represented very often in our photo albums.
The children do not know any fear of us. We do not have many quite minute...
The presence of foreign visitors is - especially here in the countryside
- a special event. As guests we enjoy a lot of attention and privileges;
but actually we do not really enjoy the latter ones. We would rather be
"on the same height of eyes" with the people. But this is difficult.
An example: Silvia starts to wash her clothes. As soon as the woman in
charge of the kitchen learns about it, she comes to our room and takes
this work away from Silvia; resistance is without any chance. As we are
now talking about the chief of the kitchen, Soru moushi: we liked her
especially a lot! Although she talks only Marathi, which doesn't make
the conversation much easier, we understand each other very well.
Dreamland is not the only project of Mr Kulkarni, but it is part of the
Socio Economic Development Trust (SEDT). Belonging to SEDT is for example
also the Women Development Center (WDC), which is situated about one kilometer
from Dreamland away. The local community can profit there from various
programs, which help them to enhance their means of life. We are also
aloud to join two meetings of the Income Generation Program. They were
held at two remote villages. We get some unique impressions of the very
difficult lives of some villagers. As "normal" tourists we probably
would never had had this opportunity. After the meeting, the chief of
the village invites us to drink a chaha (= chai = tea). The richest family
of the village together with "high" visitors, that means about:
tea with very little water, a lot of milk and heaps of sugar...
Even more Dreamland
One week we spend together with the people of Dreamland. One really gets
to know a lot of things there! We visit for example a village, where some
college classes hold their practical. There were some important people
talking on a stage. And so are we! We have to admit, that it was not really
our free will though: the chief of the village just told us to say some
words to the students.So, there we are, telling them about who we are,
where we come from, what we like and what we dislike in India. Afterwards
the students are aloud to ask some questions, before we start thinking
about going home. But we are actually far from that. First there is a
meal served on leaves of some kind of tree for all the adults who have
had some part in the practical. While we soon are satisfied, the Indians
are still eating a XXL portion of rice. It is always difficult to convince
an Indian that we do not eat as much as they do. And this although Silvia
has taught Wilu the most important words in Marathi very soon: thora thora
and baas - a little bit and enough.
On a sunday, we are told that we would go "to the field with Dada".
We think, that the grand father (Dada) wants to show us some kind of field
work. But we realize soon, that we are invited to a picnic. Most of the
employees of Dreamland join the party and we eat newly cut wheat, Jwari
and chickpeas with a chutney. Soru Moushi is boiling the tea.
Once Wilu makes a small tour by bicycle. Like this he can be alone for
some time and move out of his own power instead of being driven everywhere.
He cycles to the next village and back. There he meets Silvia and together
with some boys they drive in the other direction. It was Wilu's wish to
take a bicycle like that to Switzerland. Therefore some words about it:
brand Atlas (an Indian product), one gear, bar-breaks, way too low saddle
(so that also the kids can drive it) and veeery heavy. In short: a bicycle
like it was fashion 60-70 years ago. But there was one difference; the
Atlas-wheel has "semi rickshaw tires for longer life". Nevertheless
Wilu has to push his bicycle the last few meters because of a wheel break
down. For the reparation we go to the WDC. Wilu wants to repair it himself...
Citation of his diary: " At least I was aloud to help. Repair kit:
two screw drivers a big (!) tube of vulcanization liquid and an old tube.
Because of the sharp edges of the screw drivers there was soon more than
one hole and I just got a different bicycle for the return journey."
Of all the other things we see and do in Dreamland, there is one special:
We decide to make a drawing and handicraft competition. It is our goal
to sell the incoming things in Switzerland during one of our slide shows
and like this collect some money for Dreamland. The children were divided
into three age classes. Within each class there are fife winners. They
were aloud to choose first and take one of the 60 items, mainly teddy
bears and small cars, we had brought for them. Afterwards all of the children
get a random number and following these, each of them can also come in
front an choose a thing
to play with. The joy in the faces of the children is great and many
of them decided long before it is their turn, which item they would like
best. Mr Kulkarni, who arrived with his wife the same morning, says: "some
of the boys probably never owned a game before".
The time in Dreamland was so nice, that we feel a sad to say good bye
on the last day of our visit. We spend all of the day together with the
people there. As a matter of course we make some photo sessions, for example
with Sarang. In the
evening we finally sit in the jeep. All members of Dreamland are standing
around it, everyone is waving and shouting "good bye" and "see
you again". We hope too, that we will meet these friendly people
Let's go on
In the evening we are driven by jeep to Nanded. If there is a car coming
from the other side, the driver changes from dim light to long distance
light - different countries, different habits. From Nanded to Nagpur we
use a night bus (with TV!). At Nagpur we change to the train in the direction
to Jabalpur. After we have found a hotel, we use a rickshaw to reach the
restaurant Zayaka.It belongs to the hotel Rishi Regency and provides us
with the second best dinner of our travel (paneer tikka and nan). Even
the price is fantastic - 212 Rs for both of us. To say it differently:
in India a very big and exclusive meal for two costs about three quarter
of a Big Mac Menu in Switzerland... The waiters like Silvia's Sari and
our mehndis, which some women in Dreamland had painted on our hands. There
was a TV in the restaurant. And TV means cricket - the world cup of cricket
is taking place in South Africa at the moment. Firstly we did not much
like this game. But after two weeks in India, even this attitude has changed.
We do not really understand all the rules of this game, but it is nevertheless
fun to watch.
Near Jabalpur we find Bhedagat. Here, we first visit the nice water fall.
Not only the huge amounts of water coming down stream, but also the people
washing and bathing in the floods are fascinating us. But - we do not
stay invisible ourselves; too many of the Indian tourists want to take
a picture of us with them... Finally, we manage to escape the crowd and
visit the nearby temple, which is found - needless to say - on a small
hill. The temple is surrounded by a circle of walls ornamented with beautifully
carved figures. We allow ourselves a short break and watch the squirrels
and langurs playing nearby. Then we hit the road again. Our destination
is the end of the short canyon, which starts just after the before mentioned
waterfall. From the lower end of the canyon it is possible to get a seat
in a big rowing boat. We enjoy the ride with 18 other tourists (all Indian),
marveling at the different shades and forms of the Marble
Rocks. The two oarsmen have to row with all their strength against
the current. One of the tourists starts translating the most important
explanations of the guide into English for us. About in the middle of
the canyon the leaders of the boat tell us, that our tour is "officially"
at its end, but if everyone is paying an additional fee, they would continue
to row further up... After a short arguing the others decide to pay 10
Rs (~0.30 CHF) more and so do we. Back on the mainland, we stroll through
the market. There are endless souvenirs made of marble, even a telephone!
We can not withstand and buy some souvenirs and gifts before we return
Travel to Kanha NP
There are some moments, when one would wish to have a little bit more
comfort as a back-packer. One fine example is on our way to the Kanha
national park. The bus doesn't look better or shabbier than the others
- just an elderly bus. Short citation of Wilu's diary:
"The horn of the vehicle was fabulous; however, the power of the
motor, comfort and space per passenger was not quite so. On a flat road
the bus drove about 50 km/h, but as soon as there was a slight rise it
slowed down markedly."
At eleven o'clock we depart in time. In front of us there is a bus with
the same destination - but not for a long time. After half an hour this
bus breaks down and most of its passengers try to get into our bus. It's
becoming that much tight that it is definitely no more possible to move.
Here we need to mention, that in general the personal integrity zones
are much smaller in Indians than in Europeans. At mandla there is an official
one-hour stop. The time is used to screw around at the engine. Luckily,
most of the passengers moved out at Mandla and the space to sit increases
again. But before we leave the town, our bus stops. At least it happens
just beside a garage, which facilitates the mending a lot. Again the engine
hood is lifted. It lies inside the bus just beside the driver. A thread
is damaged and a fluid is therefore leaving the engine. After about five
quarter of an hour the damage is mended and the travel goes on. At seven
instead of five in the evening we reach Katia, the village at the entrance
of the national park. Actually we are heading for a specific lodge, but
we end up at an other one in the end. An Indian named Bafati organizes
a room for us. We only pay 150 instead of 250 Rs. It is the best room
we had so far. The best thing is the WC-bowl - a combination of the Indian
style privy and a western style bowl.
Kanha NP - kingdom of the wild beasts!
Together with an English couple we get up early the next morning. Bafati
is driving us at 6 o'clock to the boarder of the protected zone of the
national park, where the "Jungle Book" of Rudyard Kippling is
playing. Here we pay the entrance fee. Additionally the official guide
enters our jeep. He costs 200 Rs and his only job seems to just "be
there". So he sits all day through in the car and doesn't say anything...
Soon we see the first animals in the early morning light. It was a group
of sambar deer. Typically:
the male with huge antlers quickly vanishes while the females let us observe
them a rather long period. The animals easily find protection in the thicket
of bamboo. But the national park also has open steppe vegetation, which
is the favorite place of other species. As mentioned before, the guide
of more or less decoration. However, Bafati our driver did a terrific
job! He knows the animals inhabiting the park very well, birds included.
Even while driving he is spotting the smallest birds on the top of the
tries. We usually stop and consult a bird guide if needed. This let's
Silvia's heart bounce up to the canopy or higher. Beside a good variety
of birds like vultures, eagles,
peacocks, kingfishers and bee-eaters we also see monkeys, wild-boars and
many spotted deers.
Emilie and Tom, who share our jeep, take a short elephant ride for 300
Rs. The attraction is not the elephant itself but a tiger in the thicket,
which they can observe from the top of the elephants back. For us, this
is too "sensational" because the tigers are tracked down every
day to present them to the tourists. Therefore, we do not use this opportunity.
At noon, our trip is over and we lie down to rest. Towards the evening
we are getting a little bit more active again and visit the visitor center.
We especially like the bats that are flying around. The house was built
in a way that a colony of these fascinating animals could lodge there.
The exhibition of pictures and text about the park is informative. We
also join a group of tourists watching a documentary film about elephants.
The second film about tigers we cannot enjoy because of a power cut...
This time it is an "unusual" power cut. Normally there is 4
hours of power cut every day at the same time.
At sunrise of the next morning we are sitting again in Bafati's jeep.
This time we are the only guests and the tour last a full day. We get
a guide, who is a bit more active than the last one, and who spots some
animals from time to time. When we just enter the park, we see two jackals.
We spot many animals throughout the day, especially during the morning.
Sometimes, we can hear alarm calls of monkeys,
peacocks and other animals, which means that a big predator is nearby.
We do not see a tiger, but Silvia spots a jungle cat. During the lunch
break (the park closes down between twelve and four in the afternoon),
Silvia accompanies Bafati to a river where
working elephants are taking their daily bath. During the afternoon,
on our tour back to Katia, some alarm calls of two spotted deer let our
heart beat faster.
We search the meadow intently for any sign of a tiger. Unfortunately we
do not see any. An unexpected encounter with this marvelous animal would
have been much nicer than an arranged one. Nevertheless, a highlight still
awaits us at the very end: during dawn, we suddenly spot a herd of the
rare Indian bison! After the tour, Bafati invites us for a chai and we
spend a comfortable evening. To show our thankfulness for the two nice
trips, we present him a small bottle of perfume for his wife. He is very
happy about the perfume and the fact that we do not present him a Swiss
army knife (he has already a whole collection of them).
Back in Jabalpur
We believe that the first bus back to Jabalpur leaves Katia at eight.
A quarter of an hour earlier it departs just before our unbelieving eyes.
At half past eight the next bus leaves, but it doesn't reach Chiraidongri
early enough for us to catch the train. Initially, we wanted to avoid
to take the bus again for the long trip back to Jabalpur. But this time
we were luckier with the vehicle - faster, less people and no break downs.
But on this trip, Wilu looses Silvia's keys for the small locks that protect
our luggage against pickpockets. Silvia has additional keys for three
out of four locks, so we need to break open one of them in Jabalpur. After
that we rent a room in the hotel Rahul (the one with the fine view), before
we buy some Fuji film rolls in the Kodak-shop (because in the Fuji-shop
they had only Kodak film rolls).
While the stomach of Wilu revolted during the time in Kanha, it was Silvia
who feels somewhat bad in Jabalpur. But at noon, she feels better and
so we again visit the restaurant Zayaka and eat a marvelous dish with
In the afternoon, we want to get rid of the metal box with our souvenirs
and surplus luggage. But the counter for parcels has already closed. First,
someone important looking tells us, that we can just leave it and they
would send it the next day. But suddenly the facts change against us and
we are facing a journey, where we can carry with us an around 8 kg tin
On the next day, we get up at a quarter past four in the morning. Outside,
it has finally got quiet, the traffic has ceased. We had not thought about
the fact that it would be difficult to find a rickshaw at that time. After
some searching we finally find a cycle-rickshaw. The speed of travel in
this kind of a vehicle is obviously not very high and we fear to get late
to the station. But first of all we reach in time and second it is the
train that arrives late.
At Umaria, we take a rickshaw to the bus terminal, after having no success
in getting rid of our parcel at the local post office. But as the bus
is going to leave late in the evening, we decide to take a jeep ride to
Tala. We pay 75 Rs per person to reach the village, which is situated
at the border of the park. Citation out of Wilu's diary:
"We probably over-payed for this ride, as an American showed us afterwards,
who drove for 50 Rs only. Anyway, we departed from Umaria - Silvia, me
and our luggage in the back part - in the direction of the NP. They put
in more and more people in the jeep that soon became full. We were driven
over the bumpy street with about 80 km/h. The driver reached his steering-wheel
only from far away - no wonder with a jeep load of up to 17 adults, 5
kids and a sweet little dog!"
Later, we will be told that it is possible to put even more people into
a jeep. We check in the Kum Kum Lodge, the room we get for 150 Rs - we
love the off-season! On the next morning, we sit together with John, the
American, in a jeep. The driver as well as the official guide neither
know English very well nor do they know much about the animals in the
park. Only one animal they are professionals with: "tiger, tiger!".
Although there is a sign at the entrance of the park that requests the
visitors not to be focused only on this big wild cat, it is actually exactly
this and nothing else what our guides are. As soon as they get to know
from other guides that there was a tiger sighted somewhere, we dart off
towards this place without any respect from loss resulting from the bumpy
roads. Finally, we can spot the heavily searched animal for a short moment.
Now, the "must-see"-program is over and thereafter we drive
in a comfortable pace through the marvelous, very divers landscape.
One thing to mention is something, which we learn through many joyful
shouts and fire works: India has won against Pakistan in the cricket world-championship.
An Indian has told us once that Pakistan may become world-champion, but
that they would never beat India...
The second day proceeds in about the same pattern as the first. But this
time we are very lucky and find the tiger after the necessary rally in
the early morning. A total of 17 jeeps gather in the close vicinity of
this animal. Did we already mention that we are in the off-season?!? After
this happening, we enjoy a great day and even drive to some very remote
part of the park. We can observe for example a Lesser Adjutanted Stork,
a hoopoe and a rhesus monkey.
Conclusion of the two national parks: the landscape in Bandhavgarh is
more interesting than that of Kanha. The high density of tigers in this
park leads most of the tourists and guides to be too much focused on them
and neglect the other beautiful animals. In both parks we realized how
important a good guide or driver is. If the two of them share your attitude
towards nature, it is possible to have a terrific day out in the field.
If this is not the case, unfortunately, it is also possible that you are
disappointed by the end of the trip. In the small park of Bandhavgarh,
with its high density of tigers, the officials try to mediate the feeling
that it is very unfortunate not to see a tiger. On the other hand, in
the larger park of Kanha, the official's attitude is, that you are very
lucky if you can spot this beautiful cat. That's why we prefer Kanha.
Continuation of the journey
We leave Tala by the hotel jeep. Luxurious: only 6 passengers and about
50km/h. At Umaria we change to the train to Katni. Wilu settles himselfe
on the luggage rack (which is built solidly and with lots of space, as
if they knew how it would be used). He is able to watch the other men
on the neighboring rack playing cards. At Katni we immediately search
for the post office. There, two hours of pure fun await us. First we sew
our metal box into a peace of cloth. Actually, we only have to sew the
top peace on, because the rest was already done by a sewer at Jabalpur.
After this, the custom documents were awaiting us. One peace for the post
office, and three had to be sewed to the cloth of the parcel. Next, all
the visible seams had to be treated with sealing wax. Well, now it's the
turn of the stamps. The parcel costs 1325 Rs, which means almost two entire
sheets of 15 Rs stamps and one 5 Rs stamp on top. Finally: solemn delivery
to the postman, who was helping us through the whole procedure.
After this post adventure, we continue our journey by train. This time,
both of us sit on the luggage rack. From below and from all sides, many
eyes are staring at us for two hours. Staring back leads to short time
success. This situations we know since three weeks, but today we are not
in the mood for such little games. Even the countless rickshaw drivers
that are trying to convince us to drive with them aren't getting any reaction
from us. Our moods get a little better at the hotel India where we are
enjoying a candle light dinner (thanks to a power cut).
The room temperature is hot even during night time. Therefore, we do not
sleep very well. But in the morning, the weather is foggy, windy and quite
cold. At the bus stop, we meet two people, we already know from the Kum
Kum Lodge. Our luggage is put on the bus. Positive: each sitting row is
built of two benches for two persons. This means there is enough space
for us to sit rather comfortably. Negative: we sit just behind the rear
axle. At the first bump we are jumping into the air and it is not for
the last time during our journey in this bus that we loose our "grip
to the ground". And two rows in front of us, a man makes unbelievable
wrenches to get a look at Silvia...
Translation of this chapter is coming sooner or later...