Monday, 22 November 2010

Life's a bitch, bitch, bitch!

For our first day of the second safari, a non riding day, sightseeing and meeting the rest of the group filled the itinerary! Having already toured Udaipur I skipped the sightseeing to catch up on my Internet stuff, but joined the others for lunch as an introduction. I’d caught up while they were in the Botanical gardens, waiting with Vishan the safari manager while they completed their flower gazing and had a boat ride round the cities lake. It was hot and unpleasant hanging around the city, waiting in the sun for other people to see the sights. At least I can’t claim to have been lonely; there were a whole host of Indian tourists wanting to have their pictures taken with the white freak with dreads and tattoos. My attitude remains one of patience, I do travel around wanting nice photos of curiosities. Well, to them I am a curiosity! Having to pose with one after another, many times for the same group, is touching on the ludicrous, and is certainly an infringement on my personal space. But they have little respect for that anyway, it’s not a part of their culture. Their world is too crowded to allow for personal space, the idea occurred to me to ask for money, as the locals do. There again, I’m not in favour of making such payments, so wouldn’t demand it myself, it could have proved lucrative though. I must have posed for more than a dozen photos. If there’s one thing I haven’t seen much of around Udaipur is western folk covered in tattoos, or people with dreads. But the locals are different in their response than those I’ve fell foul of in Muslim countries. I do get the attention and the comments, most are compliments though, simple statements like, “nice hair,” “ hey tattoo man, nice tattoos”. I must ask of myself, why have I got dreads and tattoos? I like them, I like the way I look with them, if I don’t want attention the I should keep myself covered; maybe I should get a full Burkha. (Photos: 1] Birds and fishing camp; 2] New found guard dog - Rajastan)

I found myself in a pretty poor mood to head off on another safari, I questioned the other members of the safari, how much I’ll enjoy their company. Which wasn’t fair on either myself or them! My worries were being one amongst a group, there is strength in numbers, an established group tend to be less flexible than a group of individuals. But what was the point imagining problems that didn’t exist? If I felt bad it was down to my own head state, therefore it was my own problem, something I needed to sort out for myself rather than let it taint my ride to Pushkar. So what if the other three people are all together, so what if they speak German amongst themselves, it’s the language they normally communicate in, of course they will revert to that amongst themselves, though it does set them aside from the other two of us. What I needed to do was sit quietly and chill out for a short while, use a bit of meditation to sooth away the stress, which was why I went to the trouble to learn it all those years ago! And so the following morning found me relaxed and eager to start the long ride to Pushkar. We drove out to a place called Deogarth where our first camp had been set up, though only 120 km by road we were taking the long way round, avoiding tarmac except for short stretches to connect between trails. (Photos: 1] The old and the new; 2] Heading into the mountains - Rajastan)

Poonham turned her head away and lifted her foot as if threatening to kick me when I greeted her on arrival at the camp for the start of the safari. Stroppy mare, but she was OK after I refused to give ground. By the time I sat on her back she took more notice of me than the handler. She persisted in trying to trot every few minutes, which wasn’t totally out of character for her, she can get like that, and I know I can deal with it no problem; if only everything were so clear cut. Laxshmi, the new lead horse, is a bit skittish and tends to fight against the hard treatment by Jesal, our guide. But she is number one horse and the others know this, and are used to it. Mumol’s rider made a real issue about it, from the group claiming to be advanced riders she was the one stepping forward proclaiming to be the most experienced. As soon as we tried trotting she was nose to tail with Laxshmi, so when Laxshmi started prancing Mumol started getting nervous too, so a battle between horse and rider ensued. Now I know from experience that Mumol doesn’t react well to harsh handling of the reins, she fights against it, she needs understanding, soothing. Having a tendancy to kick out at other horses if crowded from behind I always keep my distance, and I’m generally the one riding behind her. It was pandemonium, Dunraj came along one side of me, pressing close to Mumol, Kumari pushed up from behind on the other side, crowding Mumol even more. No way was I about to allow Poonham to get kicked, so kept my distance. I tried to block Dunraj off, to keep him far away from Mumol’s rear, to force him behind me. His rider had no control over him, he was acting purely as his pack instinct dictated, regardless of his rider. And the same for Kumari really, for their reward Mumol starting lashing out with her hooves, catching Dunraj and nearly Kumari as well. I was the only one who really kept out the fray, the owner’s last words before we set out was to keep a reasonable distance, the horses were bound to be a bit uptight on the first ride of the safari. But no, the advanced riders knew better. Mumol was declared out of control by her rider, too nervous to be ridden effectively, the other two blamed their horses as well. Of course it couldn’t have anything to do with the riders, they are much too experienced, they all own their own horses, they know everything. I’d say the proof is in the pudding, or should that be in the eating? I don’t know, I’m just a novice! (Photos: 1]Bygone days on the farm; 2] Mid-mountain farmland; 3] Ever upwards - Rajastan)

Arriving back at camp not one of them made any attempt to unsaddle their horses, or lift a bloody finger to do anything, they were huddled in a group bitching about the horses, the organisation and Jesal the guide. What a lovely start! But what idiot allowed himself to get press ganged into acting as go-between, it was perceived as the easy option, smoothing the way for guests and staff, an attempt not to let emotions get out of control. I tried making points diplomatically, but they had made up their minds, the horses had problems and Mumol at least couldn’t be ridden behind Laxshmi. Poor jesal was really worried, it was obvious they weren’t happy, my suggestion that Mumol and rider go nearer the back was gratefully accepted. Ironically Mumol’s rider on the first safari was also from Germany, but a totally different class of German. Sebina was cool, calm and collected. When finding the battling for dominance got her nowhere with the horse, she adapted, eased off a touch and got so much more from Mumol. (Photos: Mountain homestead - Rajastan)

It only got worse as days went by, our first full day Andrea, Mumol’s burden, refused to attempt to trot or gallop on Mumol, claiming her to be unridable. Mohan, a 16 yr old inexperienced assistant guide swapped horses with her, he managed perfectly well. In fact the last safari he rode Mumol for a few days after Sebina’s half safari had finished. He had his first ever gallop on her, which put a huge grin right across his face. But swapping placated one of the group at least, the others weren’t complaining so much about their horses, they just had limited control over them. I couldn’t even get to canter, as soon as we did Dunraj and Kumari came steaming past me, out of control. A trot couldn’t be sustained due to this problem, so we spent most of each day plodding along, with me seething but trying to encourage Jesal to get us cantering and galloping. Whenever he tried it was bedlam again, I don’t think he could take the risk of the situation getting out of hand. I could see his point, yet understanding was no compensation for me, my reasons for the Pushkar safari was for the hard and fast riding in was meant to consist of. (Photos: Top of the Aravelli mountains - Rajastan)

Early on the stage had been set, whether it was about the horses, food, the weather or the local people, someone always had a complaint about something. We passed through some lovely farmland, gorgeous terrain and lovely people. We may as well have been sat on a bloody merry-go-round for the enthusiasm they showed. Lucky for me not to be positioned between two of them, I’d have had the whinging in stereo then. I could hear the mother, on Dunraj, and daughter, on Kumari, bitching constantly as they walked their horses side by side (contrary to basic instructions of riding on safari); the mother in particular maintained a sour faced expression almost throughout the entire safari. When we stopped for a break they did indeed speak amongst themselves more often then not, as it turned out Sylvia also spoke German so I pretended to sleep or sat with the guide and his assistant, one of the lackies. I maintained a smile in their presence and tried to explain things as they moaned about them, in an effort to get them to understand better and think more positively. Sorry to say, they were the worst example of ignorant, arrogant tourists, they are the type of people that give German tourists a bad name. Being invited into a person’s house to eat our lunch, two of them didn’t even take off their boots, even after being told it was disrespectful not to. I found it an effort to feign companionship with them, eventually I didn’t bother, but that is another story. (Photos: 1] Footloose and fancy free; 2] Our fortress home - Rajastan)

1 comment:

SabinaOnly said...

Hi Les, nice to read about the safaris in your blog. I like your writing, please go ahead finding a publisher, I am sure there is one out there who will take it. You made me see Mohan's big smile on his face after his first canter. I miss you, Kate and the amazing horses! Had a great with you! And sorry to hear that your German fellow riders were such a pain in the ass, what a shame! I know Germans can be like that, oh god. Scares me, going back in Feb.
All the best for you and keep on riding!