Busride of death – but not ours

The following morning we left early to visit our 5* accommodation next to the Nagerhole national park. The KAAV (pronounced as Kawu) Safari Lodge has some fine rooms and luxurious tents, amazing food and an infinity pool. Whilst pricy we decided to go for it (it’s our honeymoon after all).

So far we found that bus drivers were pretty sensible compared to what we experienced in Sri Lanka. Not for the bus from Mysore to Nagerhole though. It should have been an indication of things to come when he repeatedly drove towards roundabouts and junctions at speed, forcing others to stop to avoid being hit and only stopping at the last second if the person in front did not drive on.

Once out of the city he really got in his element: driving 80km/h overtaking everything ahead, even when traffic was coming from the other side, pushing past trucks, riskshas, motorbikes, mopeds and bicycles, sometimes with inches to spare. It was pretty dangerous driving, not so much for us but for everyone else.

After about 20 minutes two guys on a white motorbike overtake us (with some effort I might add), and then slow down right in front of the bus. The rear guy waves at the bus driver he needs to stop, which he does in order to avoid running them over. Motorbike guys get off and walk to the bus driver’s side, and a proper case of road rage ensues. Bus driver and ticket inspector get off the bus, and rapid shouting takes place for what felt like half an hour. The bus driver wants to actually physically attack the motorbike guys, which luckily a police man prevents.

At this point the road is blocked in both directions due to spectator traffic queues. Parties seem to somehow have resolved their differences as the motorbike guys speed off and the bus driver get back in his seat. His mood not having improved though, and neither did his driving as we continued to Nagerhole at top speed, with the driver not even bothering to stop at bus stops where people wanted to get on. We beat the 1.5hr estimated duration by 15 minutes, and this includes the road rage stop!

We were welcomed by manager PK and naturalist Ashwin. They told us that the lodges were designed by Tony Joseph, one of India’s most successful architects, and that the surrounding garden area was deliberately left untouched to blend in with the surroundings.

The rooms and lodge area were amazing! And the food! There was sooo much of it. We couldn’t fit it all in if we wanted to. Since we arrived late morning we had some time to spare before our safari so we put on some swimming gear and plunged into the cool water of the pool.

Since it was off season we were the only guests in the lodge. Whilst that’s usually a good thing, it also meant that staff had hardly anything to do, and literally continuously hovered around our table to serve. No glass of water was left half full (or half empty), plates were cleared immediately, dessert was brought seconds after finishing eating mains. The whole experience was very uncomfortable, as we’re not used to having staff and prefer to eat in peace. The issue also came up later in the evening.

The lodge has it’s own tripod and telescope, and since the night was clear Ashwin and us thought it would be cool to use them. It was also a good moment to test how my new camera would lend itself for astrophotography (not very well at the first instance). Anyway, I’m more than capable to carry a tripod up some stairs, but there was no stopping it: we had to wait until Ooty was ready to carry it for us. It was quite awkward to stand around waiting even though we know it comes with the right intentions.

Our stay was memorable also for very good reasons, specifically the safari we did in the afternoon. Nagerhole national park is a special park in the sense that there are only government operated tours available, and during each safari there are at most c. 6-8 vehicles in the park’s zones A and B. You therefore feel like you’re properly alone in the wild. Couple that with this park having the highest number of tigers in the country, and that there have been tigers seen on a number of days prior to our stay, so we felt lucky! We were not disappointed, within minutes of entering our zone a call came that a tiger was spotted. A few minutes later we came eye to eye with our first ever wild tiger.

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Whilst it was incredible to see these mighty beasts from up close, it nearly didn’t happen as we initially decided to go on a boat safari in the afternoon. Luckily we changed our minds! The only minor negative point of the safari was that we shared our vehicle with a group from Bangalore, who were on their 3rd safari in a row. They’d therefore seen lots of monkeys and birds, and tigers, bears and leopards was high on their (and their spotters) agenda. We therefore felt a bit rushed past other animals, but the tiger made it all worthwhile. Towards the end of the trip we came across another tiger. We spent some time enjoying the view of this one, before turning back to the park exit, which closes at 6.30pm.

The driver was not gentle on our way to the exit. We rushed through potholed roads, making it to the exit by 6.31. Subsequently an argument broke out as the police had already closed the exit gates. Phones were pulled and our driver and spotter started calling people to make sure we could get out. The police did not seem inclined to open the gate, but after some debating we were let out.

During and after dinner we learned more about Ashwin and his work at the lodge, the local political situation and much more. Later in the evening we used the telescope, not much too see other than Jupiter with its moons and our moon, and he managed to get a decent photo with my camera in front of the telescope.

Satisfied with the day’s events we turned into our huge comfy bed. But not before we had to wake Ooty to fix the generator, as we had no power. Unfortunately a frequent occurrence in India. Anyway, that’s a story for another time. The next morning, after a birdwatching walk and breakfast we said our fairwell to Ashwin and got on the bus to Bangalore.

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