Floating down the backwaters of the Bay of Bengal on the search for tigers by day, sleeping in hammocks under the stars (and a mosquito net full of holes) by night. Six of us had signed up for the Sunderbans tour and stay in the eco village, it was a mixture of basic and beautiful and it was so nice to be with other travellers after a stint on my own.
After a long journey on a jeep, a motor rickshaw, a small wooden boat, a cycle rickshaw and then a larger boat, we arrived at the eco village. There were mud huts with bamboo thatched roofs, hammocks and a guitar with only two strings. It was very ‘Indian’ but had a definite western influence, I’m not sure our guide understood the point of the fairy lights and strings of colourful beads.
We rested on the hammocks and had a fresh and homemade meal, before heading back on the boat again. The atmosphere was somewhere in between eery and peaceful as we drifted down the natural canals. We all laid on our backs so we could spot the stars and avoid the low branches that were sweeping overhead. Apart from the paddle gently wading through the muddy water there was silence, and each stroke revealed small creatures that glowed in the dark.
Later that evening we listened to some Bengali musicians who had come from the local village to play for us. At one point, a British guy named James joined in with the music, playing the Indian version of a tambourine. As he played with them I just couldn’t stop smiling, the music was totally improvised and everyone kept interrupting one another and creating their own sounds, James was finding it so hard to play along. I thought of it as a metaphor for India, disorganised and loud, yet oddly appealing. A westerner comes along and tries their best to work it all out, but quickly realises theres no way to understand it, you just have to join the chaos.
Searching for Bengali Tigers
The following day we woke at 6am to get on the boat and search for tigers. It was a long day of sailing, but it was lovely to be in that environment, just floating down the calm estuaries. In between spotting falcons, spotted deer and tiger footprints (no tigers unfortunately) the six of us got to know each other abit better. There was a German guy who had been travelling for two years to places like Iran and Pakistan, a Dutch couple who were both ridiculously attractive and when they said they were professional swimmers it made a lot of sense, and two British guys, very amusing, very much 22 year old boys from South London.
The British guys were making me laugh constantly, I have missed their kind of humour…
At one point, they were playing ‘I spy’ on the boat, but their guesses were getting more absurd over time, ‘i spy with my little I something beginning with ‘P” said James… ‘pole vaulter’, ‘penguin’, ‘pillock’ guessed Tom.
Our guides phone went off and started playing the classic Nokia ring tone that Indians still seem to love. Tom mimicked the old mobile advert where the man answers his comedy sized phone and yells in the library. ‘Mate, mate, i can’t speak right now, I’m on a boat in the Bay of Bengal…yeah mate, I’ve got to be quiet, we’re looking for tigers’.
After a while, our guide asked us some questions about our respective countries. ‘what is your national sport’ he asked me and then I made the mistake of saying I didn’t really like cricket, don’t ever utter those words in India. A further question he asked was ‘what is your national bird?’ to which Tom replied, ‘bloody pigeon mate’, this made me laugh a lot. We then worked out that it was the robin.
Walking the Plank
That evening we shared great chats followed by beer and rum. I had one beer and suddenly felt very drunk, after not drinking since January my tolerance has plummeted to my 17 year old self. It did make walking up a thin wooden plank to the boat where we were sleeping seem like a breeze. In the morning it took me a good five minutes to build the courage to walk down it again.
On the third day we had breakfast and then made the epic journey back to Kolkata in the 38 degree heat, stopping for chai along the way. No tigers to be seen, but a few new friends and many more stories to share.
The yoga tour of India continues…500 hour teacher training in Patnem Beach, Goa. Come at me fresh fruit and beach bonfires and five weeks of Ashtanga yoga ❤
Photos to follow, my camera is playing up at the mo.