Woke up without setting an alarm although Jayne woke up to the sound of the TV in the room next door… At 5.20am! A very stressful morning trying to re-juggle our bags ready for our mangrove jungle safari tour was made worse by a phone call from reception at 11am saying we should have checked our at 7am and if we didn’t leave immediately, they would charge us for a second night. Managed to get us 30 extra minutes to have a quick shower and throw everything into a least one of our suitcases before going downstairs to check out. Had a brief ‘chat’ with the hotel manager and, I’m ashamed to say that as I am now a ‘genius’ client on booking.com (which says on the app that I’m allowed early check in and later check out), I used the line ‘I get this because of who I am!’. The manager looked suitably shocked, as if I was a celebrity, and began to apologise profusely. He looked less impressed when we continued our bag reshuffle in reception!! Decided to head out to the nearby zoo as we had both had our fill of temples recently. Managed to negotiate a deal with the first TukTuk we found and drove 16km out of the city. The Nandankanan Zoological Park is enriched with 101 enclosures. The very name of “Nandankanan”, in mythology, delineates the ecstatic but imaginary beauty of the celestial garden. Certainly, they use terminology of the same ilk on their website and brochures. It’s worth looking up their ‘About Us’ page for the successful breeding stories and firsts among this zoo and gardens.We saw Himalayan bears, white tigers, lions, Indian rhinos, hippopotamus and leopards. The enclosures were incredibly spacious although some did make me feel a bit worried about the ability to keep the animals inside! The only sad enclosure was the elephants, who had an amazingly large jungle like enclosure but the three of them were tied up in a shelter near the middle. They were being fed at the time so I’m hoping that it was so they wouldn’t steal each other’s food but who knows! Carried on walking about the zoo, looking for food as we went but the restaurant and snack shop had sold out! Tried to get into the nocturnal house but it was closed as there was no lights (seems a bit of an oxymoron, closing a nocturnal enclosure because there’s no light!)…? Finished up at the small aquarium which had wrongly labelled fish tanks which Jayne tried to explain to our TukTuk driver with little success. Left the zoo about 20 minutes before it was due to close although there were still people coming in.Got the TukTuk driver to stop at a road side snack place and got us all something to eat – think he was more hungry than we were, based on what he ate, but the total price for 3 of us came to 50p!! Got dropped off at the main bus station and we searched for a nice place to wait whilst we waited for our bus. Found by chance the ladies waiting room and, as we went in, an older Indian lady came over to me and said ‘ladies!!”. At which point, I pointed to my breasts and said ‘I am a lady!’. The woman was beside herself – clearly was the funniest thing she had heard and seen ever! She then spent 5 minutes trying to talk to us in Hindi before asking me to say ‘have a nice day’ – to which she roared with laughter! After she left, we pulled out the UNO cards and started shuffling. The whole waiting room was intrigued and, by our second game, we had about 20 girls and women watching us. Tried to get some to play but they kept refusing until we dealt out a third hand of cards and just waited. One woman joined us and then they were all keen to help her! She played for 2 games before another girl joined in and suddenly 2 hours flew by! We even taught her how to shuffle cards. Had quite a large audience for most of our game, including men who weren’t allowed in the waiting room but watched us from the door. We were asked where we were going to and when we asked her to show us on a map where she was headed, she really struggled to find it. Really regretted having to leave to get something to eat before our bus. Ate a mixed vegetable dinner and then climbed into our ‘double’ bunk to chill out before getting some rest on our way back to Kolkata.
Sunday 20th December 2015