According to Dan, bird watching can be experienced in one of two ways; the easy way, or the hard way. During the course of our travels, Dan, while being a relative newcomer to the art of bird-watching managed to engage in both ends of the spectrum!
Let’s start with the easy way.
Dan has always been into chicks, whether they be the feathered variety or other. On each of his expeditions he enlisted a beautiful and intelligent sidekick, (he can use the word ‘sidekick’ as both are currently on the otherside of the world from him) to accompany him.
The first bird-watching colleague was Janie, who has been a bird fan from way back.
The park is the world’s largest free-flight, walk-in aviary and is home for over 3,000 birds a considerable amount of which Dan managed to photograph. Seriously, we now have (virtual) rolls and rolls and rolls of birds.
While the bird park was spectacular with lush bush and many different species of birds, were were consistently reminded that we in a zoo for birds and NOT the great outdoors. Had we been in the wild, of course we would have been pulling and picking bird’s feathers until we could pull and pick no more. After a wonderful time walking around the grounds visiting with the exotic and beautiful birds, you might start to feel a little ‘peckish’…and what could be more appropriate to eat on the grounds of a bird park than…fried chicken?!? Oh, so that’s where the dead chickens go…
So that was the easy way. “A walk in the park” truly describes the Malaysian bird watching expedition.
Bird watching in India,however, was a different story.
This time, our lofty adventure takes place in the Northern Indian town of Bharatpur, Rajastahn. The town itself barely exists other than housing a few guesthouses all of which are there to hold people who have come to experiences the wonders of the local attraction, the bird park. Now we had become quite accustomed to accommodations that were perhaps less than our usual standards but here we were pleasantly surprised to discover that not only was our abode in Bharatpur clean, and far from any noise, it was stunning. As soon as we were able to get into our rooms gorgeous, queen sized beds were jumped on, floors were danced on and, best of all, long, luxurious showers were enjoyed using the full range of fine bath products. Bliss.
Scrubbed, clean and happy it was to the lawn (poolside, we might add) to sip gin and tonics while discussing the events both past and to be undertaken. How very colonial of us!
The activity of choice, of course, in Bharatpur is none other than bird watching. The royal majority of the troupe were more interested in enjoying luxury for a day or two than in glimpsing our squawking avian friends so Dan enlisted the help of his other intelligent and beautiful sidekick, his Argentinian friend Vanina.
After spending two overnight train trips trying to teach Dan the words ‘Diarios de motocicleta’, Dan and Vanina decided it was time to forget the ‘motocicleta’ and stick with a good ol’ ‘bicicleta’ through the bird sanctuary.
Once the domain of royal duck shooters, the World Heritage-listed Keoladeo Ghana National Park is now regarded as one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries with over 400 different species. Even for non-bird fanciers, the forests and wetlands in the area are a welcome respite from the noise and chaos of Indian cities and for our weary, dusty selves Bharatpur, where the park is located, seemed like a mirage in the middle of the desert. Oh wait, it kinda actually is!
This time round, no over abundance of signs pointed to the suggested behaviours when bird watching It seems in retrospect that perhaps Dan would have indeed benefited from a sign suggesting that a very, very important thing when bird watching, even if there are squillions of exciting birds around, is to make sure you stay on the track.
A minute later Dan came back to the road, his arms all cut up, bleeding and without half of the gear which he had left under the just-visited thorn bush a mere 10 metres away.
Like everywhere else we’d been lately, hoardes of scary, plotting monkeys lurked at every turn. The park was wonderful. After Dan suffered his mix up with the thorn bush we thought surely that would be the only problem for the day. Unfortunately, bad things do notoriously come in threes.
Yip, that’s a part of the bike that shouldn’t be lying on the ground – but as luck would have it before Dan and H-J decided to go on a crazy Asian adventure Dan used to work at a bike shop. Well, technically he ran the cafe inside the bike shop, but over his time there had picked up a thing or two about bike repairs. Sweet! Bending down to fix the bike, poor Dan encountered Number 3 as his pants split from seam top to seam bottom (no pun intended). Gutted.
After getting ripped to shreds by a thorn bush, broken bikes, suffering severe chafing (though not as bad as the camel induced type of earlier in our travels) and shorts displaying a hole that was increasingly bigger every time Dan moved it, was time to say goodbye to bird watching. Oh wait, maybe bad things come in fours! And that’s how NOT to bird watch.
Thanks to a stroke of good planning by H-J (who had had her feet up sipping on gin and tonics all afternoon) she was there to comfort Dan with her wide range of Korean skin care products. Dan cleaned himself up and met up with Vanina for a cheeky face/ foot moisturising treatment at the end of a very tough day!