Wednesday was a travel day...Now amid more safaris at Kanha National Park...

Note: All of today's photos were taken from the car on yesterday's road trip. No captions needed.

Yesterday as I wrote this post we were in a crisp clean white SUV with aircon comparable to other vehicles that have been transporting us from one location to another.

It was travel day, once again with an expected 5½ hours drive until we'd reach our destination and yet another safari camp, Tuli Tiger Resort, this time to Kanha National Park where we'd be spending another four nights with two game drives each day.

The drive is interrupted every three or four kilometers by small towns line with shops vendors selling fruits vegetables clothing and a variety of tourist goods and household goods for the locals.

Cows, dogs, and goats wander through the streets aimlessly in search of the next meal and women walk with baskets of food and other items atop their heads, while men congregate in small groups discussing the events of the day.

The woman wear colorful Hindu costumes impeccably draped and pleated regardless of their income level of poverty. The beautiful garb us unike any other we've seen in the world. Although each town may have its own personality the premise of the Hindu philosophy is evident in every aspect of creating a certain familiarity from town to town.

Once back out on the highway the landscape is brown and somewhat desolate, scattered with trees and vegetation of one sort or another. 
It's winter time here and until the monsoon season arrives everything the grasses remain brown and less hearty for the cows and other animals in search of good grazing fields.

With nary a patch of green for meandering cows and sheep, they often seek out public areas in hopes of food donations from the locals who appear at times to be very generous with their sacred cows. Hindus have a love of all creatures, both human and animals.

People often smile and wave as we pass through. School children in freshly pressed school uniforms play together in the streets without a toy or a ball and yet seem happy and content in their lives .

Their simple life is accepted with a powerful faith not so much as a religion but as a way of life leaving them grateful and accepting of whatever lifestyle they've been provided.

We are humbled and in awe of their dedication and their strength as they work their way through any obstacles life presents them. Many have no access to medical care, modern conveniences, clean water and in many cases such taken for granted commodities such as electricity.

These individuals and families work together however they can to create the best life possible without complaint, without disharmony and without a longing for what could have been.

I often think of all the times I'd grumbled when making a call for customer service to end up with a heavily-accented Indian person on the line, often working in a hot uncomfortable boiler room taking calls for various digital and computer equipment companies all the way from India to provide customer service for companies in the US. Now,I have an entirely different perspective.

In a land of 1.3 billion people there's is little to no government subsidies such as welfare, food stamps or government assistance. Overall, Indian people are on their own.

We've seen less homeless people here in India in the almost month we have been here than we saw in an equal time in the US. That speaks for itself and the powerful work ethic and life values imposed by their Hindu strength and principles.               

This morning at 5:30 am we began our first morning safari from the resort. We didn't see any tigers yet but we have five more safaris scheduled at this location, including another today at 2:30 pm. 
By the time we return for the afternoon game drive at 6:30 pm, we'll freshen up for dinner, dine at 8:00 pm and head to bed shortly thereafter. Its a busy and exhausting day but typical in the lives of wildlife enthusiasts like ourselves.

Have a fantastic day and night!
Photo from one year ago today, February 27, 2019:
The kudus give us "the look," which means "more pellets please." For more photos, please click here.

Safari adventures continue...The rigors of game drives...

A female sambar deer.
It wasn't entirely about the Bengal Tiger. Safari in Bandvargarh National Park also included many other forms of wildlife and as shown and some stunning scenery along the way.
This baby elephant was being prepped for humans to ride him in search of tigers. Riding an elephant is a custom in India, but as most of our readers know, we wouldn't ride one. 
The morning drive beginning at 6:00 am each day was cold and we covered with the blankets provided by the resort. The roads are as bumpy as can be and thus, those with back or spine problems would be miserable during either the morning or afternoon game drives.
The baby's mother was chained nearby. We have to respect the customs in other countries as we travel the world. After all, we don't cringe when horses are ridden. I supposed the chains are the most disheartening part affecting us animal lovers.
Bathroom breaks are at a premium and often the toilet is but a hole in the ground, not conducive for us women wearing pants. What a challenge that is! I choose not to drink any fluids in the morning to avoid the necessity. Of course, for men, behind a tree works well.
A white gum tree, the bark of which is used by locals for medicinal purposes..
Between the morning and afternoon game drives, one can expect to be out for no less than 8½ to 9½, making for a very long day. There's a 3½ hour break between the morning and afternoon game drives, allowing time for lunch in the dining room, all Indian food, spicy and flavorful (not necessarily flavorful to Tom. He ordered separately on most occasions).
When we stopped during the safari for our packed breakfast, consisting of boiled eggs, toast and muffins for Tom and vegetables for me, a few cows entered the picnic area in the park.
Climbing in and out of the safari vehicles is not easy. With my legs not fully recovered it was challenging but I kept a stiff upper lip and did so with nary a whimper. Tom stood close by spotting me in the event of a fall. But I managed well.
Not easy to see in this photo taken at quite a distance, a tiger is dining on her catch.
In other words, safari is not necessarily for everyone. But, for us, after years of experience in Africa, we didn't complain at bit and bounced our way through hour after hour of game drives through the rough terrain.
We saw many of these vine trees in the park.
Our wonderful safari driver was with us throughout the three days and each session a different naturalist joined us. But, our driver Babalu was most knowledgeable after 27 years as a safari driver. 
"Apart from being a rich wildlife reserve, Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh has other ways to beguile travel aficionados. One can be interested in noticing an age old fort called the Hill Fort or Bandhavgarh Fort standing right in the middle of the national park. This majestic fort allows visitors to peep inside the rich history and shows the prominent influence of religion in the state. So, what exactly are we talking about here? Well, we are focusing on the priceless heritage that includes the cave dwellings, shrines and several sculptures that indicate the strong faith on the power of Lord Vishnu here."
We wouldn't have needed the naturalist when many barely spoke English (our problem, not theirs. We are in "their" country, after all) but seemed to provide good service as spotters who's hearing is acute and eyesight keen for sightings.
A Common Kingfisher.
When a tiger is nearby, the spotted deer make a barking warning sound. The driver and naturalist quickly picked up these sounds and then the watch for the elusive tiger would begin. We'd often sit quietly in the vehicle at the side of the road for 20 or 30 minutes watching and waiting for the animal to appear.
A gorgeous sunset over Bandvargarh National Park in India.
On a few occasions, they did appear. On many more other occasions, they did not. An impatient person would not do well under these circumstances. There's tremendous with no sightings of any animals and others when they were in abundance.
Another photo of the tiger we spotted.
Since my camera card doesn't work with my new Chromebook (no slot) I wasn't able to use my camera until such time as I can purchase an adapter or cord. Subsequently, all of our photos were taken with our Google phones, not the best for zooming in, as we all know. There was a bit of frustration over this on my part.
Male spotted deer.
Plus, the photos from our phone which normally would appear on my laptop within a few hours of taking them, didn't appear for at least 24 hours with the slow WiFi signal using my phone as a hot spot or when sitting in the reception area of the resort. Yesterday, photos appeared on my laptop in a more timely fashion and I was able to do yesterday's and today's posts in a little more timely fashion.
Rare wild buffalo referred to as a gaur. We were excited to spot this elusive animal.
We apologize for a lack of a post on Monday. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get photos to load. There was no point in writing a story about a fine artist without being able to upload the photos I took in the shop, especially when I was thrilled with their clarity.
Mom and baby wild boar. I love all types of pigs. This was no exception.
If you didn't have an opportunity to see yesterday's post, please click here.

Today, we are on the move again on another over five hour drive to the next safari lodge in our itinerary. We'll be back with more on that soon.
Photo from one year ago today, February 26, 2019:
This is our Basket, the Bully, who was thrilled to see we'd returned to the bush.  Many weeks ago he appeared with a bloody right ear, which now is but a stubble of an ear which appears to have healed nicely. For more photos, please click here.

A noteworthy artist at Tiger's Den Resort...A wildlife artist beyond comprehension...Rakesh Prajapali...

Over the past 48 hours at the Tiger's Den Resort, we've been so wrapped up in going out on safari twice a day (8½ hours a day) and dining on delicious food three times a day, we've had time for little else.

With the resort's WiFi connection only available in the reception area, preparing posts in our room using my phone hotspot technology has been slow and laborious. The only post I'd uploaded from here was yesterday's story after our first tiger sighting. Please click here for details.
However, getting up at 5:00 am and being safari-ready by 6:00, has left me a little weary and preferring to stay in our beautifully appointed room when not in the jeep or dining room.

Today, I decided to bite the bullet and head to the reception area where the signal is perfect. Also, today, after last night's heavy rain and hail, this morning's the sightings were few in the safari areas of the park. 

After a five-hour foray of searching for the elusive tiger, after yesterday's great success, we decided to forgo the afternoon game drive and stay in at the reception area in order to do a post that was nagging at me... The stunning work of Rakesh Prajapali, a young and vibrant wildlife artist like none we've ever seen in our over seven years of world travel.
Darling cubs so beautifully represented.
We happened across his fine work by accident. When staying in a hotel or resort, we may breeze through a gift shop paying little attention to the typical trinkets-type inventory offered to impulsive tourists, often overpriced and often unused and unappreciated once returning to one's country of residence.

When we casually entered the "Souvenir Shop" after dinner our first night here, when at that point, we'd yet to embark upon the first of many safaris and weren't quite as tired as we are now, our mouths were agape at what our eyes beheld.

There before our eyes lie the most exquisite paintings we'd ever seen of any wildlife, let alone the mysterious Bengal Tiger, only found in India, with only 2500 remaining nationwide. 
Leaning against a glass countertop stood a handsome young man, Rakesh with a tiny paintbrush in his hand, painting an exquisite rendition of a tiger from a photo he'd taken here in the Bandhavgarh National Park with its 1536 square kilometers (593 square miles) surrounding this and other safari resorts.

After being engrossed in his work, I asked him if we could highlight him with a story and photos of his actual paintings and, let me stress, these aren't photos of photos.  These are photos of his actual paintings.

Of course, the tiger is a perfect subject for the skilled and determined artist, but Rakesh has taken this advantage to an incomprehensible level. After seeing hi
Such fine detail.
Today, we share a few of Rakesh's stunning works (painted, not photos) and invite any of our readers who may so wish, to contact him directly if you'd love one of his masterpieces. 

He ships his works worldwide in a secure cardboard tube for your framing preferences once received. Prices range from INR 5000 (US $70) to INR 75000, (US $1043) plus shipping. The sizes of each original painting vary. Feel free to inquire as to the size of each masterpiece. Many would perfectly encompass a substantially sized wall.

To reach Rakesh, contact him at his email here:
Rakesh paints a wide array of subjects, human and animal, besides tigers. Outstanding work!
As for this resort, Tiger's Den Resort, we couldn't be more pleased. The grounds, rooms and public areas represent a vast wildlife and safari persona. The service is impeccable. Monkeys, birds and a few lovely German Shephard dogs protect the guests and yet are friendly and welcoming. The area is safe and unhindered by many risks one may find in more populated areas.

We will leave here tomorrow, but will take with us many fine memories of both Rakesh, Tiger's Den Resort and its staff.
Happy Day!
(Today, it is one year ago that I resumed posting after a two week break after open-heart surgery).
Photo from one year ago today, February 25, 2019:
Tom had cut several stalks of celery, saving the scraps for the kudus, bushbucks, and zebras, all of which love celery.  For more photos, please click here.

Safari luck prevails in India...The elusive Bengal Tiger...How lucky could we be?...

There she was. We couldn't have asked for a better vantage point.
We never expected to see a tiger in India, although we're scheduled for six full days on safari in two different national parks, where we are now at Tiger's Den Resort in Bangvargarh National Park and also upcoming on the 26th, Tuli Tiger Resort in Kanha National Park.

We were up bright and early at 5:00 am and having coffee-tea (as they call morning beverages here in India) by 5:30 am in the dining room of our lovely resort. Both of us were still tired but, also pumped for our first-morning game drive that began at 6:00 am while it was still dark.
Our hearts were pounding with excitement while we attempted to take photos.
In no time at up we were bundled up with blankets on a chilly morning and headed to Gate 1 of 3 in the area. As planned by our diligent travel agent for India, it was us, a driver and a naturalist, alone in a small open-sided vehicle Jeep with elevated seats.

The naturalist sat in behind us on the seats usually reserved for additional guests to ensure we could easily hear him and to provide him with an elevated view as well.

After the first hour and a half without seeing more than some spotted deer, monkeys and bush chickens, we resigned ourselves to the fact that spotting the elusive tiger may be more of a dream than a reality. 
Such a beautiful animal!
And then, around 8:00 am, it happened. Our guides were able to predict there is a tiger in the area when varying antelopes were rapidly on the move, monkeys and birds were particularly noisy.

Suddenly, we were hopeful but still kept our enthusiasm in check. And then, there she was causing no less 10 other safari vehicles jockey for position to get a glimpse of her majesty.

She was walking perpendicular to the road and as shown in our photos at one point she bravely crossed the road. Our guide explained the tigers weren't as intimated by safari vehicles as one might think. They grew up in the park, which has been a popular destination for many wildlife enthusiasts for decades.

Oh, yes, I wish we could have been able to get better photos with more closeups. But, since my new laptop arrived, I sadly discovered it didn't have a slot for a camera data card. I tried to Bluetooth the camera to the laptop, but that didn't work.

She didn't seem to be disturbed by all the gawkers. 
The only option for the future is to purchase an adapter to fit Chromebook but for now, we're sadly stuck using our phones. And, although the photos are adequate, they surely aren't the closeups we'd have been able to get with the camera.

Right now, using my phone as a hotspot, since there's no WiFi in the rooms at the resort (not good) I was having trouble gaining access to the photos in a timely fashion. Hopefully, by dinnertime, the photos were in my cloud ready to be uploaded to this post. 
A pretty scene we spotted in the national park.
Hopefully, as you are reading this we have plenty of photos we were able to upload.

This afternoon at 2:30 pm, after the 1:00 pm lunch, we'll go out on our second game drive of the day. At this, after seeing this morning's tiger we can sit back and relax and simply enjoy nature and whatever may come our way.

Happy day to all. We'll be back with more soon.

Travel day...We've arrived in Bandhavgarh National Park...Here we go eight days of safari in India...

"The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu temples and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh India, about 175 kilometers southeast of Jhansi. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures."
These five or six-hour road trips are teaching us a lot more about India than any other tourist venues we've been visiting day after day. Traveling through the countryside of this country with a population of over 1.3 billion is without a doubt eye-opening.

Today on our way to the Tiger's Den Resort in Bandhavgarh National Park we acquired yet another perspective of life in India away from the big cities we've visited to date.
We couldn't have been more thrilled with our private tour guide, Dr. Anand Tiwari who had a doctor's degree in Hindu idols. He explained he'd done a tour the prior day with guests on the Maharajas Express! What a coincidence and an honor for us! He can be reached here for tours.
The distance between towns is often as little as two to three kilometers. Then suddenly we were caught in yet another quagmire of horn honking traffic, tuk-tuks, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, cows, goats and dogs in the streets.

Here again, vendor lean-tos line every possible surface with often impoverished sellers soliciting passersby, particularly tourists like ourselves. The amount of poverty before our eyes is unbelievable and yet these cheerful people seem to take their circumstances in their stride. 
It's ironic but we visited this historic site on a very special day, the wedding anniversary of the revered Lord Shiva, as part of an annual festival. This stairway to his temple was packed with visitors coming from all over India to honor him.
Sure, there are obvious homeless beggars in the street, but overall the people seem to be preoccupied with their work and tasks at hand, often with a smile on their faces. We are the "odd-man-out" and they may look at us in a state of sheer wonder and curiosity.
The carvings on the temple resulted in many years of work by the skilled artists.
Our India travel agency and rep Rajiv didn't let us down. Upon arrival at the beautiful upscale safari camp, Tiger's Den Resort, we were escorted to our beautifully appointed "luxury accommodation" (as they described our room) to find it to be perfect. 

It's not a tent. It's a series of rooms, each with its own small veranda connected as duplexes might be by a common wall, each with direct access to the outdoors. The furnishes remind us of India in the 1920's such as the former retail shop in the US, Bombay Trading Company.
The various temples are breathtaking.
As soon as we arrived, and explained my special diet, our reception host brought my food list to the chef who met with me to discuss options. I made it easy for him. Prepare chicken or fish in butter (not bad oils) with a side of steamed vegetables without starch. Add two hard-boiled eggs at breakfast and lunch, not dinner. Easy peasy.
Visitors climbed these steep uneven steps but we opted to observe rather than climb.
We had a nice lunch in the nearby dining room and now we're situated in our room or outdoors on the veranda until dinner at 7:30 pm. Perhaps we'll order a glass of wine for me and a beer for Tom to enjoy on the veranda. Humm...sound familiar...just like South Africa.

Tomorrow morning at 6:00 am, we'll experience our first of six safaris we're scheduled for during our four days at this camp. Our travel agent booked us for "private" safaris each time, with a driver and a naturalist on board in the vehicle. We didn't expect this but are delighted. It was included in our package. 
We're posting only two Kamasutra photos etched into the temples here but they are a part of the history and needed to be represented.
Unfortunately, there's no WiFi in the rooms so at the moment I'm using my Google World phone as a hotspot and although the signal isn't great in this area, it's working. It will cost us quite a lot for the data we expect to use but sometimes, we have to bear such expenses.

Most likely, when we head to our next location on the 26th, there will be more of the same. The only expenses we'll incur at either of these safari camps will be tips and beverages. Three meals a day are included in the package. A picnic breakfast will be provided when we go on safari in the morning. Nice.
Another hand carved representation of Kamasutra as it was practiced centuries ago. It is no longer accepted based on the polyamory (multiple partners) premise frowned upon by the Hindu people.
So now, I must get to the photos of the fantastic tour we had yesterday in Khajuraho to some of the most stunning temples we've seen to date. Again, we don't have a lot of time until dinner so I need to wrap this up quickly.
This is a goddess surrounded by servants and admirers.
Gosh, I'm excited to be here. It reminds me of Africa and nothing warms my heart more than that! Will we see a tiger? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever we see, we'll share here with all of you.
Happy day.

Last post with Varanasi photos...Visit to a textile company...King of Brocade Weaving Centre...

Exquisite handmade silk brocade made on site at Tiwari International.
We are experiencing awful Wi-Fi issues at the Ramada Hotel in Khajuraho, India. The town is considerably smaller than many we've visited over the past three weeks and without a doubt, this is the worse signal we've experienced.
The quality of the work is evident in every piece.
I have been trying, off and on for the past several hours to complete and upload today's post about a fantastic silk-weaving facility we visited on our last day in Varanasi.
Neatly arranged shelves with countless fabrics in varying designs and colors.
From time to time, over the past seven plus years we've been traveling, we've had an opportunity to describe and subsequently promote a small business we encounter along the way. 

Whether is a barbershop, gift shop, street vendor, or luxury shop as we describe today, we've always enjoyed sharing details with our many worldwide readers.
Shelves are lined with stunning fabrics suitable for both the wardrobe for Indian women and men, tourists and for many household goods such as draperies, furniture, bedspreads, pillows, etc.
Should any of you decide to visit Varanasi in the future, the stunning shop is definitely worth a visit. I drooled over the gorgeous Pashmina shawls, and scarves and only wish I'd had room in my luggage for one or two.
The staff was busy working with customers.
Unfortunately, after recently paying the airlines for overweight baggage, there was no way I could purchase even the lightest item and have it make sense. Plus, I am not one to wear scarves often when I attempt to keep my clothing accessories to a minimum.

But, as we travel throughout India we find most women, Indian and tourists wearing scarves and shawls. In seems that once women arrive in India from other countries, they immediately adopt the scarf concept in order to blend in with the population.
The shop also offered a wide array of ready-made clothing including scarves and Pashmina shawls.
On the Maharajas Express we all received no less than eight scarves as gifts at various stations as welcome gifts. I will have no choice but to give them away along the way. No doubt they contributed to my bag being overweight when some of them were fairly heavy.

But, few travelers have our same issue of "traveling light" and many tourists come to India for the shopping which is exceptionally exciting in this land of diversity and color.
The owner escorted us to the fabricating area where a diligent weaver was hard at work.
Tiwari International appears to be a family owned business. With the shop so busy when we arrived we had little time to speak to the owner/manager Kershav Tiwari who was extremely kind and welcoming, even knowing we were "lookers," not "shoppers."

He was excited to share the fact that actress Goldie Hawn had recently visited the shop, as he pointed to the framed photo on the wall as shown here in our photo. They were so proud to have a celebrity visit but equally enthused to welcome us.
This photo of actress Goldie Hawn hung on the wall in the shop. The staff was proud she'd come to visit and purchase a number of products.
We told Kershav about our visit to India and our site and promised him a story with today's photos as a thank you for showing us around. He couldn't have been more pleased, as were we.

The quality of their products is breathtaking and we reveled in every category of cloth he showed us. Of course, we were in awe of the workmanship he showed us by one of his workers, diligently at work on a loom. 
The finest of detail went into this lovely brocade, almost completed.
When he explained how time-consuming and deliberate the work is, we were all the more in awe of his massive inventory. Prices are reasonable and support staff is available to assist in selections.

From their website, the following:

"Banarasi Brocades, as the world knows it, is called by the name kinkab in Varanasi. A high-quality weaving is done using gold and silver threads. Silk Threads are also used as well. The most common motifs include scroll patterns and butidars designs. The other designs are Jewelry designs, birds, animals, flowers, creepers, paisley motifs. Hindu religious and Mughal motifs also influenced brocade designs. When a Gold embellishment is done on a silver background it is called Ganga-Jamuna in the local language.

This elderly weaver spent long days working at these looms.
The designs are first drawn on paper. The person who draws the layout is called Naqshbandi. The main weaver is assisted by a helper. This design is then woven on a small wooden frame to form a grid of warp and weft. 
The process is slow and painstaking requiring intense concentration and expertise.
The requisite number of warp threads and the extra weft threads are woven on the loom. The famous tissue sari of Varanasi is unbelievably delicate, combining the use of gold and silver metallic threads."

It was fascinating to observe the complicated and time- consuming process.
Finally, attention from Kershav was required and we bid him thanks and goodday with a typical Indian hands-together-bow and we on our way back out into the crazy traffic of Varanasi.
We had an opportunity to handle this finest of silk made by worms and of great value.
It was delightful, as always, to see how local products are made, adding even more substance and interest to sightseeing outings.

That's it for today. Now, the challenge of uploading this post. Tomorrow, we're embarking on an exciting road trip which begins at 8:30 am taking us to one of our most sought-after adventures in India...eight days of safari in two distinct national parks where we'll live in camps. Yeah!
Artistic design, coupled with great skill produces such fine works as this.
Thanks to all of you for the many birthday wishes. Your kindness means the world to me!