Tag Archives: monkeys

Lions, Bengal Tigers, and Sloth Bears, Oh My

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Today was zoo day at Bannerghata National Park. We packed up the van and headed south, early on a Sunday morning. The park is south of town; we live north of town. Usually that is a two hour crawl through traffic, but leaving by 9 on A Sunday morning and we drove through a shuttered downtown without even slowing down. Bliss.

We stopped at the Indian Institute of Management to pick up our friends Rahul, Sharmila, and Ria.

With eight of us packed into a minivan that sits seven, we made our way to the zoo.  The Bannerghatta park is a part of the cluster of parks that includes the Kabini Lodge where we took our safari and the Dubare Elephant Camp where we bathed and fed the elephants. But this place is more of a traditional zoo.

We began our adventure with the Grand Safari tour.  The queuing was the most organized that I Have seen in India. Shaded, orderly, no pushing or shoving. It felt strange, actually. We boarded the bus and set off.

The animals are not wild in this park, but they live in vast natural habitats on the safari. The bus is covered in grating and you enter and exit different areas of the forest through big double gates that keep the animals in their respective ares00the bear area, the tiger area, and so on.

  

While they have houses and are fed regularly, I was amazed at just how close these buses got to the animals. We had remarkably up close and personal views of animals that we saw from very far away on Safari, including:

Very adorable sloth bears


Bengal tigers

White tigers. This male looked through a dividing fence….

To his love…..

And my personal favorite, the lions. This lion was lying across the road that we had to travel.  It refused to move until the bumper of the bus gently nudged it along. I did not cropping of this photo—we were truly this close.

After our adventurous safari ride we visited the butterfly building. While the room did not have as many butterflies as expected, we enjoyed the beautiful architecture.

  

The kids had even more fun climbing a mango tree and picking its sweet fruit outside of the building.

We got just as delighted by the wild monkeys as all of this big lions and tigers and bears! They are so funny.

  

  

Then we headed off to have a delicious pizza, pasta and salad lunch.

 

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Banyan trees

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We have seen some beautiful Banyan trees, and especially on the Taj property  Goa. The Banyan tree is the National Tree of India and actually is a fig tree.  As the trees get really old, they develop aerial prop roots that grow into their own woody trunks such that on really big trees it can be hard to tell where the tree begins and where it ends.

Many rural villages in India have a banyan tree as a focal point for relaxing, chatting, having chair, and often a bus stop is there. Often a small deity is present at the base of the tree. The trees are breathtakingly beautiful. They remind me of the big redwoods in California in that they make you feel so small. And that I don’t think photos really capture just how giant they feel!

Not surprisingly, Banyan trees have spiritual significance.  Buddha was said to have found enlightenment while meditating under a Banyan tree. The leaf of the banyan tree is said to be the resting place for the God Krishna.  After consuming all the universe during the time of destruction, Krishna  absorbs everything created and turns himself to a child small enough to fit into the tiny leaf of the banyan tree,  until Krishna decides to recreate everything back out from him.

The kids had a blast swinging at the biggest banyan tree on the property. The limbs were so high that the ropes of the swing were super long, making for a long and thrilling ride. Kaden said it reminded her of the pirate ship ride at Del Grosso’s park.

   

On our way out of town this weekend, we stopped to see theDoda Alada Mara (translated as the  Big Banyan Tree,  located in the village of Ramohalli. The single plant covers three acres and is one of the largest in the world, rumored to be over 400 years old.

  

   

Even cooler for the kids–they counted 31 monkeys living in this tree!

Plus two more monkeys is 33!

  

little girl in front of the Shiva temple located at the center of the tree

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

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Today was a day of memorable moments—some of our funniest moments of the trip and some of our worst.   Friday is Republic Day, kind of like the 4th of July but without the fireworks–just a big parade up in Dehli. A big flower show was happening at the Lalbagh botanical gardens to honor the day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lal_Bagh

The day begin by convincing the kids to leave the house (a common occurrence in the U.S. too I must say. Transitions are not our forte).After the slow start, it took over an hour to get to the gardens due to intense Saturday morning traffic. My mom was only planning on staying for an hour since she and my dad were meeting a good friend during his layover at the B’Lore airport at lunchtime. The traffic was so bad that she literally just turned back around with the driver and headed back home without seeing any of the gardens.  Probably just as well because it was hot, crowded and a LOT of walking. The paper said 100,000 people attend the flower show this weekend (or 100 Lakh is how they say it here).

So, the kids and I set out on our own. We started with the Japanese gardens, including a very cool exhibit of tiny bonsai trees. The kids had fun guessing the ages of the trees, ranging from 13 years to 50 years! This one was the oldest .

We were also blown away by this peacock made out of flowers and also really liked the sand sculptures that we found.

  

Then we climbed this rock mountain. The rock was 2 BILLION years old!

At the top we bought some much needed water, and headed back down toward the main event—the Republic Day flower display in the glass house/conservatory. This display turned out to be one of the worst moments of the trip. The crowds were unbelievable and the display was interesting, but not worth the crush of people. It was hot and claustrophobic and we were ready to get OUT of there. But nonetheless here are some photos of the pretty flowers during our crush.

  

We snuck our way out an illegal exit, despite the guards saying that we had to make our way all the way back through the exhibit. We just couldn’t do it! And we were so hot and bothered that I took a chance and bought us ice cream from a park vender. It was ice cream from a box (like Good Humor bars at home like chocolate eclairs, etc ) and  I could see that the freezer was plugged into permanent electricity rather than a portable cooler. But still it was a bit risky.  It is hard to see all these food venders everywhere and not feel like we can have 95% of what is offered. But luckily the ice cream turned out to be a safe call.

 

Did you know that bananas grow UP?

At this point my camera battery died, so the rest of the pics of the day were from Kaden’s itouch. Apologies for the quality. The exhibit opened into the broader Lalbagh Park, which is a pretty big place with pleasant footpaths, cool flower displays and big trees—some of which are 200 years old. We saw a flower clock, a topiary garden, a lake

  

AND…. Monkeys! Our first siting of monkeys! There were at least 15 of them in this massive tree that looked like maybe it was a bamboo stand. Lots of babies, a mom, and what looked like a very grumpy dad/alpha monkey that almost started to chase us a few times. We were so happy to finally see monkeys.

   

  

We have heard some crazy stories about monkeys this week. My friend Tey lives on the 9th story of her building. She has a dog and monkeys have come to her balcony but when the see the dog they don’t do much more than pee off the side of the balcony. But one day when she was taking the dog for a walk, she left her kitchen window open just a hair, with the screen on. She came back to find a half-eaten pear on the counter, her balcony composting pots dumped out and some spices scattered on the counter. Monkey hijinks!

Our Bangalore family has also had encounters as well, on the 13th floor. Mamoni saw a huge monkey coming into her kitchen from her balcony. She tried to chase it with a knife but it chased her instead! Finally she chased it to the balcony where it turned on the water hose and made a big mess of things. So, that’s to say, monkeys sure are cute, but WATCH OUT!

While the monkeys were quite a photo opp. for many park goers, apparently we are a photo opp as well. Two separate young couples stopped to ask if they could take our picture. One wanted photos of the kiddos. We were having a grumpy moment at the time and I told him he could have as a caption, “Grumpy American kids wanting ice cream.” Another said his wife wanted a photo with us. I wonder what they said about the photo—we saw some strange looking Americans in the park today and they let us take their picture? And then another woman selling me water said, “Ma’am, you are very beautiful!” And then later, a 9 year old girl came up to us to practice her English. She was so pleased with herself that when she was done talking, she skipped down the lane laughing while her mother chased after her.

We thought that our adventures were done for the day, but apparently they were only beginning. Since mom took the driver with her back to meet up with the friends at the airport. The kids have been wanting to take an Auto-Rickshaw ride and I figured this would be a good time to take one home. It would be a long ride, but the cheapest and easiest way for us to be back toward home. Ha ha. Fatal last words. I really need to learn to speak some Kannada. The first two Autos were not willing to take us so far. The third guy seemed great. He was willing to use his meter, which is the first sign of an honest driver. Almost all refuse when they see me coming and instead try to triple their fees. But he turned on his meter.

I said, “Airport Road! Bellary Road! Go to Esteem Mall! Go North!” (the kids wanted some Baskin and Robbins on the way home).

“Okay, okay!” He said. He nodded that he knew where to go. Perfect.  Carson was so excited he was positively beaming. Here is our picture getting into the Auto

  

As we were driving, nothing looked familiar, but I thought, well maybe we are going a different way through town. 45 minutes later, we are hot. We are dusty. We are tired of being in this vibrating machine that feels like a roller coaster. He pulls over and motions like we are here. I have no idea where we are at all. Turns out he took us to the OLD airport road, which is south of the city. Basically, he took us 45 minutes in the opposite direction from where we needed to go. We were now an hour and a half away from home. I had the kids with me so I had to hold it together. I called my dad and said, “help!” He handed the phone to his driver who could speak Kannada and explained to my Auto driver where we needed to go. But there was NO WAY we could ride in an Auto for another hour and a half. We were done already. Half hour is pushing it in one of those things. So I had the auto driver take us back to the city center and Ran sent the driver down to find us.

Here are photos at the end of the Auto ride. I literally told the kids, “We fell miserable now, but this is one of those times that we’ll look back and tell stories about someday. And we’ll even laugh.

  

It was a tough drive back into the city. Our legs wobbled as we got out of the Auto, kind of like after riding a roller coaster too many times in a row. But luckily at Mom’s recommendation, we followed our Golden Rule for travelling. When having a rough day in India, find the nearest five-star hotel. So we had the driver take us to the Taj on MG Road. Best decision ever.  The place is so service oriented that you feel safe and cared for after harrying experiences. Kaden got a strawberry banana milkshake and fries. Carson got pasta Bolognese. I had the strongest mojito of my life.

And we were happy again. So happy that we got a little giggly and loud. At some point after the mojito, Carson apparently hid behind a potted plant and jumped out to surprise what he described as a “billionaire with a briefcase.” I’m kinda glad I missed that one. He remembers it fondly as his favorite memory of the day.

  

 

The silliness continued all the way back home once the driver found us. And we got that Baskin and Robbins ice cream as a final treat.

So in the end, all’s well that ends well. And with a Mojito, it’s just a little bit better.