We were up at 03:00 this morning for a 03:30 departure so we could be at the famous Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve. Corbett was an Englishman born in the Himalayas in India, in, and who loved its people and fauna. At a time when there were many tigers yet in the wild, he was called upon to kill tigers who had become man eaters. This was a rare event among tigers less so for leopards, usually caused by sickness or old age, which prevented them from killing their normal prey. Once a weakened tiger discovered how easy it was to kill humans, this became the obvious solution until Corbett intervened.
Some of the tigers he successfully hunted had already killed and eaten more than 400 people before he ended their carriers! He was a much beloved benefactor who later became a conservationist when this became necessary for the preservation of tigers, leopards and other wildlife. When the area was set aside as a tiger sanctuary, after his death, the land was eventually named in his memory.
A month ago, Dave had asked someone he knew locally to make the necessary arrangements for us to enter the park. Jasbir was ready to go on time with the vehicle, and with our eyes more or less open we drove back into town to pick up Eugene and then started out in the dark, over mediocre roads. The sky was light by the time we arrived in Ramnagar, where the park office is located.
Upon entering the office, we received very disappointing news. No reservations had been made, as was required, there were no more spaces open for the day, nor were there any cancelations. No Corbett reserve for us.
When we arrived at the park entry we found there was a long line of jeeps waiting to enter and start the circuit (of which there was just one). There must have been 50 or 60 vehicles visible which didn’t bode well, especially since a circus atmosphere prevailed with much shouting and honking and laughing, few signs of a desire to spot wildlife.
The men had a cold beer to wash the dust down, in this case pretty literally, and even Marjolaine had a luncheon glass of Chardonnay, a rarity for her. We ate and talked about our day so far, and how we’d to be able to do it over. Eugene shared his local perspective on the “game drive” on which we had been. His opinion? “It was just a racket to make money!” We had to agree. Perhaps one day we’ll make our way back to this part of India and try again, but the chances don’t seem strong at the moment.
Having driven completely around the lake, we turned back toward Moradabad, a trip that took us about three hours. Dave and I had a discussion about hunting, our different rifles, anecdotes, ballistics, wish lists etc. Eugene listened quietly. Dave asked how he was doing and he responded with laugh: “I wonder how ministers can talk about guns and ammunition!” We laughed too and said it was about hunting, a way to provide inexpensive and healthy meat to our families. Hunting is mostly illegal in India, country where many people are vegetarian, so this is a societal difference and perhaps incomprehension.
We finally dropped Eugene with smiles, handshakes and best wishes, and drove back to the hotel. We showered the dust off, and changed, had an enjoyable dinner in the restaurant, and will now, no doubt sleep well after a very long day.