Sunday, 12 February 2012

Saturday 11th : Warning - This blog contains crocodiles!

As usual when an early start is on the cards we woke up regularly throughout the night, falling soundly asleep 20 minutes before our bed tea arrived at 6 a.m. The shower was a bit of a shock as it operates on cold water only. For hot one has to employ the bucket & jug method - at least we have our own hot water tap. We were under strict orders to be on the launch at 7.30 for our long cruise around the mangroves, and got there promptly with the Swedes - the rest shambled in at least 15 minutes late. Welcome to Indian time.

One of our guides was there huddled against the severe Bengal winter. We soon got going and our two guides were keen to point out as many birds and animals as possible. In no time we had three types of kingfisher (birds not beers) and a couple of egret/herons. Breakfast was called and while we were juggling our baked beans, sandwiches and hard boiled egg there was a shout that dolphins were to be seen. We missed them. R was feeling a bit mis about a cold and even more mis when we all saw a monitor lizard but she didn't.

A while into the cruise we caught up with another launch which was drifting and listing heavily to one side. We assumed that they were in great distress but apparently someone had claimed to have seen a tiger so everybody ran over to one side of the boat to gawp at it. We hung around for a while but saw nothing.

The tide was rising rapidly by now and the mud was disappearing under the sea. We turned into a much narrower channel and after a few minutes our guides spotted a crocodile on the bank. "Only a baby" they said but we would have posted a piccy until a few minutes later we all saw an absolute monster sunbathing just above the waterline. We were pleased to be on quite a big boat and a fair distance from the shore.

Eventually we reached the point where five different rivers discharge into the Bay of Bengal, each delivering a different colour of water. Turning for home the group adopted a party mood, starting with a sing song and moving on to a determined effort to empty the contents of the bar. A good time was had by all but by the time we got back to base we were ready for our latish lunch. Things were a bit noisier today so not so many birds to see.

Our afternoon activity was a walk down the track to see the local Bengali village. Our guide seemed to know plenty of people and we were shown round a typical home, fitted with solar panels, satellite TV and the very latest in cooking facilities. This model is extremely fuel efficient as long you as you have a couple of incontinent cows handy.

Life in the village seemed pretty hard but probably better than sleeping on a pavement in Kolkata. The children seemed happy enough especially when R started handing out sweeties. Don't these people understand about tooth decay?

Back to camp for a sundowner of black tea and spicy potato pakoras which was followed by an entertainment provided by a group of tribal dancers. This was much less painful than it sounds as the music was in the style of a scratch ceilidh band if you closed your eyes.

The costumes were colourful and the dancing energetic and we all had a great time when one of the Swedish girls was dragged onto the floor to join in. Apparently it's her birthday. Supper was a Chinese banquet - not a patch on the other meals.No daal, no roti for the first time since Monday. D is starting to twitch. Must go - another early start tomorrow.

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