Ghanerao Jungle Lodge seemed to be pretty much in the middle of nowhere. An old hunting lodge for the castle a couple of miles away, it had a slightly crumbling air and dubious plumbing but the staff were wonderful, if slightly confused by some of our (Jackie’s!) requests. A camp bed had already been set up as the third bed in our room but the thin, saggy mattress on top left a whole lot to be desired and Jackie deemed it unacceptable and asked them to bring a new one. Once they understood, off they went, and came back with another one which was pretty much the same. This time she told them that she wanted them to take a proper mattress from one of the other unoccupied rooms. Whilst admiring her persistence, both Jacquie and I felt that she was being quite demanding, but back they came back with a proper mattress which they duly placed on top of the camp bed. Everyone was happy.
After an excellent lunch, the two J’s went off for a sleep and I sat on the covered verandah reading my book. I was just thinking how wonderfully peaceful it was – just the sounds of birds and crickets – when a lorry piled high with equipment and several men sat on the top pulled up in front of the Lodge. There was clearly going to be a wedding the next day although, at the rate they proceeded to work, it could well have been in several days time.
Later in the afternoon, manager Bheemjeev asked if we’d like to go for a walk around the local tribal village so off we set through the wheat fields with several of the hotel’s dogs in attendance.
On reaching the village, it seemed at first that there were more dogs than people as they came running from all directions. It soon became apparent why, when Bheemjeev bought a couple of packets of biscuits from the tiny shop and started sharing them out. It was amazing to see how patient and well behaved all these semi stray dogs were in waiting their turn.
There was a Jain temple which seemed quite large given the size of the village but pushing the cows aside we headed up the crumbling staircase to the hindu temple high up on the hill.
Back down to the village and we were an object of great curiosity. Bheemjeev had an impromptu game of football with all the young boys who had come to check us out.
Jackie was keen to do some laundry and needed washing powder so we stopped at a tiny little shop which seemed to sell just about everything. Fortunately Bheemjeev stopped her handing over a 10 euro note rather than 10 rupees!
The village consisted of tribal travelling families living in very primitive, basic shelters made out of sticks from the forest. The women sleep inside the hut and the men outside with the penned animals – all within a brush fence. Once it is dark it’s not safe out because of leopards and other wild animals. Each home had a toilet shed which was paid for by the government – no plumbing but at least it afforded some privacy. All water has to be carried from the communal well. Bheemjeev went into the homes first and then we were invited in. It felt a bit voyeristic, especially given how little they had, however it gave them a tiny amount of money which I’m sure was welcome and much needed. Jacquie and I gave out the pencils we had brought to school age children. Each time, these were shyly accepted but the moment we moved away everyone crowded round to have a look.
In this house we saw a new meaning of chicken in the basket. At night, the chickens are put in baskets and hung from the rafters to protect them from hyenas and other predators
As we made our way through the village we were followed by several dogs both from the hotel and those Bheemjeev had fed in the village. Occasionally this caused a rumpus, like when a naughty young dog started chasing a family’s chickens. Queue much squawking but the chicken did make it to safety.
Everything looked so picturesque in the early evening sunshine but these people lead relentlessly hard lives just to exist. The summer heat and monsoon seasons must be virtually unbearable.
Back at Jungle Lodge, we showered using a bucket and ladle as the water pressure was virtually non existent. At least water did come out of the tap though and we didn’t have to carry it.
The cook had prepared an excellent dinner for us which we enjoyed in solitary splendour in the dining room. Not entirely sure he understood Jackie’s instructions for how she wanted her omelette the following morning though!
Our trek continues tomorrow.