I decided to take my project team on on a weekend excursion so that we could have some fun and get to know each other better. My brother was going to be in town and he owns our company, so it seemed like perfect timing for a team getaway. After extensive research we decided on Ranthambore National Park, a tiger reserve about 7 hours away from Delhi.
Originally there was to be 10 of us but 2 of our Indian staff cancelled at the last minute, one for a family obligation and the other for religious purposes. Both issues are big here so it wasn’t surprising. We had to leave at 5:00 AM on Saturday in order to make the 2:30 Safari. So we loaded onto our small tour bus and headed out for an adventure, and that is precisely what we found, but not in the way we anticipated!
We drove through rural India taking in what now feels like common sites to me. We saw painted camels pulling carts of heavy loads, goat herders and the usual cows, pigs and donkeys all over the highway. Our driver drove at top speed, weaving around the obstacles into oncoming traffic. We played chicken with colorfully decorated semi trucks more times than I could count. You just have to accept it here. Traffic laws aren’t followed and no one understands the concept of staying in your lane!
Somewhere around out 6th hour we heard a loud thump and realized we had a flat tire. Our driver pulled to the side of the road and we all got out to access the situation. Well, that’s when the “fun” began. He had no spare tire so he had to bum a ride on the back of a motorcycle to get the tire fixed. It was quite hot out so we found a little shade besides an Indian home and watched the sites. Colorfully decorated “pimped out” tractors kept driving by. These guys had LOUD sound systems with speakers and were playing party music at full volume while driving down the highway! I guess it’s a Rave Indian Style!
Soon the Indian family came out to observe the strange foreigners. At first they were cautious, but an hour later they were inviting us into their home, serving us cold water and trying to gift us the cutest little baby goat! My colleague held it for quite some time and I entertained everyone by speaking to the goat in its language. I’ll be damned if it didn’t answer back! So everyone laughed hysterically while we talked back and forth for several minutes in fluid goat.
Eventually the driver came back with the tire but then we realized his jack didn’t work, so what to do? We all pushed on the side of the bus so he could put the tire on! We said a warm goodbye to our new Indian friends and got back on the road.
We made it to the resort with about a half hour to spare. It is a beautiful little place with little bungalows and a restaurant. We quickly ate the delicious buffet and then loaded into our jeeps in hopes of seeing some tigers.
We did two safaris, one in the evening and one in the morning. We saw a bear way off in the distance and many types of deer, but not a single tiger. It seemed everyone else at the resort was seeing them but us. We think it’s because our guides were quite loud, yelling for us to look at this or that and carrying on loud conversations on their cell phones. It was disappointing, but we still had a good time. There were monkeys everywhere at the resort and you had to be careful to lock your room so they wouldn’t get inside and take your things.
The hotel staff served us a nice brunch after the early morning safari and we were back on the road by 11:00. About 3 hours into our drive back we started having problems with the A/C. Then the battery died shortly after that! We were in a little town in the middle of nowhere! I had to pee badly so I asked a shop keeper for the washroom and he pointed across the street at the garbage dump!!!! The guys all went over out of desperation and said it was foulness beyond belief, but I had open toe shoes so there was no way in hell I was going there! Well my Go Girl and an empty bottle of water were the solution. If you don’t know what a Go Girl is, it’s a device that enables a woman to pee standing up, and I am so glad I had it in my purse!
We pulled together as team and discussed possible solutions. We wanted to buy the bus a new battery but the driver refused and insisted on charging it instead . While we were waiting for someone to charge the battery we were entertained by a group of Indian transvestites that came through and aggressively pursued the men for payed favors. It was a sight to behold. I wanted to take pics but these were not the right people to encourage so I decided against it. She males are very popular in India!
Finally we were on the road again only to to find when it got dark that we had no headlights! I have to tell you we were in fear of our life on those dark crowded roads! We broke down one final time about 30 minutes from home! At this point we called the hotel shuttle where the rest of the team is staying to come get us. Time to abandon ship!
What I’ve learned about traveling within India is that it takes a lot of patience and flexibility. For example, a team member had a trip to Shiva planned and they waited 5 hours for a train that never showed up and they never even left the station because it would make them late for all subsequent plans. So you just have to find peace with it. My team tells me they still had a great time and needless to say it was definitely a team building weekend!