Remind Me Again: What Are We Doing Here?

“A brave heart and a courteous tongue,” said he. “They shall carry thee far through the jungle, manling.” —The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

We’re in India for a few weeks and currently we’re riding in the back of an open jeep. We spent the better part of 5 hours each day on really bad roads to get here. D31_9982_DxO8Now we’re layered in the few long-sleeved clothes we brought along. How cold can it be if you’re not way up north trekking in the Himalyas?

How cold? Man, it’s effing freezing.

It’s shortly after 6 a.m. in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and we’ve been up since 5. “Remind me,” I beg. “What are we doing here?” I wrap the blanket the tiger lodge lent us tighter around my body. (What I really want is a sub zero temperatures sleeping bag.) “Remind me,” I ask again. “Why are we doing this?”

“You wanted to come back to India,” Uwe prompts.

“Oh, yeah. Now I remember.” And it’s true: I was really excited to return. I fell in love with the subcontinent when we visited a decade ago. In Goa we walked miles of pristine beaches. In Karnataka we attended an astonishing Nandi Purnima, the full moon festival, and Hampi was a bare landscape filled with gigantic boulders and ancient temples.

In a country this exotic and large, surely we’d experience something new when we came back. What I did not expect was that I’d be freezing my ass off.


Entrance to Bandhavgahr National Park

We’re doing a mix of culture and nature. India is one of the two most populated countries on the planet, and we thought it would be smart to schedule some time in quieter areas too. I’m glad we did. The north central region of Madya Pradesh is green and varied and home to some of the few remaining wild Bengal tiger populations.

So for two days at Bandhavgarh and a day at Kanha National Park*, we haul our sorry butts out of bed at the crack of dawn, pull on all our clothes and drape ourselves in borrowed blankets. 6 a.m.-1 p.m. for the early safari; 3-6 p.m. for the afternoon attempt. If we’re lucky, we’ll spot a big cat.

We’re not lucky. We’re cold.


Later we shed layers as the day warms up. The parks contain barking and spotted deer, D32_0066_DxO8gaurs, nilgai, D31_9870_DxO8

lemurs and langurs, D31_9944_DxO8

D31_9854_DxO8wild peacocks and other birdlife, D31_9997_DxO8

Green bee-eater
Green bee-eater


Crested hawk-eagle
Crested hawk-eagle

wild boar, D32_0649_DxO8and a landscape filled with watering holes and high grasses, forest and farmers’ villages. On the second day at Bandhavgarh our jeep carries a park ranger to inspect a water buffalo kill from the night before. It occurred just outside the official boundary of the preserve and the farmer will be reimbursed for the animal the tiger took down.

One dead water buffalo
One dead water buffalo

We aren’t allowed to leave the jeep – ever – and the ranger approaches the carcass very slowly.

Park Ranger inspecting water buffalo carcass
Be sure you notice that the ranger’s got on lots of clothes too.

Where there’s a fresh kill, the big cat can’t be far.

I mean it: it's really cold out.
I mean it: it’s really cold out.

By the third day I’ve perfected what I name the mummy wrap. I have myself wrapped so tight that I literally can’t move, but this way the blanket doesn’t unwind in the cold wind.


And, suddenly, a tiger leaps from the forest, followed by his mate. He moves into the reeds and returns dragging a dead spotted deer by the neck.




D32_0402_DxO8 We see them for less than a minute and those seconds are absolutely worth the days of waiting. My God, they’re magnificent! During the afternoon safari we get lucky again: 10 seconds of spotting a shyer, rarer leopard.

The leopard moved unconcerned in the back through the high grass

Uwe captures the group of spotted deer nervously fleeing the leopard. He’s in Photographer Heaven.

Naturally we’re already dreaming about an African safari (… and I’ll pack a wool jacket, just in case…).

NOTES: *Kanha National Park provided the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. Go to my earlier post Travel Karma to read about our first visit to India. More pictures from India and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at

35 thoughts on “Remind Me Again: What Are We Doing Here?”

  1. Fantastic!!! The tigers really are magnificent – I saw some in Ranthambore – such an exhilarating experience, and you’ve had a catch!!

  2. I have been twice to India but the closest I came to wildlife was a nearby zoo which I had to leave, they were uncomfortable with me asking questions about the inhabitants and the conditions in which they lived – not great. So except cattle and monkeys on occasion in various parts and unexpected places, and small amphibians on the walls of my granddads study – these pictures were a delight. I did see the Taj Mahal and other fantastic places, and met my grandparents and the rest of my family for the first time on the first trip, all of which are treasured memories now.

    1. Hi Anita, what a great image of your family. The tiger reserves are wonderful and a good break from how crowded India is. It was a long haul to reach them! We wanted to include some nature in that trip though.

    1. I hate the cold too if I’m not dressed for it. This was one of the (very) few times in my life when it really did end up being worth 3 days of shivering. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Jadi, I have not been to the north of India. Your text and photos have me thinking that would be a great trip. I think, though, that I will return to Kerala first…..

    1. Have a wonderful time. We keep hearing that Kerala is the part of India we should visit (advice from Indians from other parts of the country).

  4. Jadi, Did you forget your coat? You will have to tell me more when you’re here in June.

    1. Uwe gets all the credit for the awesome pictures! I didn’t even take mine out of the pack cuz I knew I’d couldn’t unmummify myself in time!

  5. Jadi,

    You and Uwe have simply got to get to Southern Africa. It’s the same deal with the early mornings, back for breakfast and whatever before the afternoon drive. But those few precious sightings, tracking the cheetah and her cubs, watching the lion saunter by our jeep without a care in the world (and who were we to think he would give us the time of day?) were worth every cold, shivering minute. Loved your description.


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