Sunday, 28 February 2016

How to go on Safari

Going on safari is a pretty hardcore thing. You have to book your jeeps months in advance, and really commit yourself to experiencing the jungle in all its beauty. Your day revolves around making it to your safari on time, making sure you’re the first jeep to enter the jungle, making sure you’ve timed your food and water breaks according to the jungle’s schedule. 

Jungle path
It can be quite daunting trying to figure out what to pack and what to leave behind on your jungle adventures. Having been on multiple safaris multiple times, I still get stumped and overpack. 
It’s important to wear warm, natural colours when you’re in the jungle. Beiges, browns, khakhi, dark and olive greens are your best bet. Bright colours make you more visible to animals and birds and reduce your chances of seeing them. Darker camouflage colours help you blend into the natural environment and can increase your odds. Avoid red, yellow, white, orange, bright blue, bright green and pink. Yes tigers are orange, white and black, but they don’t like it when you try to dress like them. Raaar. 

Morning safaris in India usually start at 6am and go on till 10.30am. You need to be lined up in your jeeps half an hour before the gates open, which means you’ll be leaving your resort at 5.30 in the morning, and waking up much earlier than that. 

If you’re going on safari October through March, be warned that the jungle is FREEZING in the mornings. Carry a lot of layers that you can throw on, and also remove while in a moving jeep. I was in Kanha in December wearing ten layers at 4.30am and then going down to four layers by 9am. The jungle is always 2 or 3 degrees colder than the temperature in the area, and don’t forget the wind factor as you hurtle up and down in your jeep. 

Buffs are great for all kinds of weather. You can wrap your face up when its cold, and use it as a headband when its hot. 

Buffed up
When packing warm clothes, try to pack things that are multipurpose, or you’ll end up paying overweight on your flight. 
  1. 2 thermal t shirts/ long sleeved t shirts
  2. 1 very thick/ woolly sweater
  3. 1 regular sweater or hoodie
  4. 1 wind cheater which you can wear to cut the wind out, it gets freezing in the jungle
  5. 1 pair of gloves for the morning rides
  6. 1 woollen beanie to pull over your ears or 1 buff
  7. 1 heavy jacket
  8. 2 pairs of jeans/ thick pants
I can’t stress the importance of closed shoes enough. You may think that it doesn’t matter, that you’re only getting in and out of the jeep, but you’re overlooking a few things. Dust and dirt travel. They don’t care where you’re sitting. Ants can also come in from everywhere. 

Water splashes into the jeep when you cross these 
You can obviously dispense with most of these clothes during the summer months (April to June) but don’t be brave and wear sleeveless clothes in the jungle. Your jeep tends to go through narrow trails at times and the plants and bushes have nasty thorns. You can switch your heavy jeans and pants for lighter linen pants and tracks. 

Pretty in the afternoon
Don’t wear any perfume when you go into the jungle. Animals have a heightened sense of smell and will not go anywhere near you if you smell like a fruit basket or the ‘nectar of a dozen citrus fruit’. 

Checking his own smell
Even though its dark when you start your morning safaris, you want to put sunblock on your face before you leave. The morning sun gets pretty harsh and you can burn quite easily. Essentials to carry with you (not necessarily into the jungle) are:
  1. Sunblock 
  2. Lip balm
  3. Vaseline
  4. Hand Sanitiser
  5. A packet of tissue or wipes 
  6. Tiny packets of washing powder - I used to roll my eyes at this but it makes more sense to rinse a few things out than pack more stuff than you need. 
  7. Shower gel - because the tiny soaps that you get at most resorts dry your skin out and then it feels sad. The Dove moisturising body wash is amazing, it helps keep your skin smooth. 
  8. Heavy moisturising cream to help your skin recover from its shocking exposure to the cold and dry air, or the hot and dry air. I like using Gutti Ka Tel, its light and really helps keep my skin moist. 
Carry trail mix. No one wants to eat at 5 in the morning, but you do tend to get hungry as the sun rises. Most people stop for breakfast around 8.30 am, by which time the animals have finished what the naturalists call their ‘morning movement’. Trail mix is a great snack to munch on while you chase tigers and leopards and keeps you going until breakfast.  

Power packed with energy

I love visiting the jungle, but it confounds me to see people lugging two and three cameras with them, and multiple lenses. I’m sure that I will reach a stage where it’s all about serious photography for me, and I’ll want them too, but for now I’m more than happy with my multifunction camera that allows me to zoom when I want to, and get a wide angle shot if I need to as well. 

Scops Owls
Binoculars are a good idea for bird watchers. And you will become a bird watcher - it’s difficult not to when you see billions of deer everywhere and not enough carnivores to make you happy. You will need: 

  1. A good camera
  2. Binoculars
  3. Torch for when the lights go out in your resort
  4. A smaller point and shoot camera to give to your guide. In the excitement of seeing a tiger, you may not get your shot. The guides have been doing this for years, and are comfortable with the animals and their movements. Chances are that the pictures you'll be showing your friends later are the guides, because your hand shook.  
Woody Woodpecker


Creepy Crawly Bug

Constanti-Turkey (Eating in Istanbul)

Spending time in another country is a wonderful way to have a birthday. It hadn't been a great year, and I couldn't think of anything better to do than eat my way through several tonnes of lovely luscious lamb in Istanbul. Eight days in Istanbul (affectionately dubbed Constanti-Turkey) was a lot, but I know that we could spend a year in the city and still not have had enough. 

Here's my uber quick report on things to eat in Istanbul: 

Kuzu Sis is lamb kebabs, skewered and grilled over an open flame. They are moist, juicy and absolutely incredible. We ate them every chance we got. 

A Turkish Breakfast normally consists of white cheese (similar to feta), old cheese (kaşar peyniri), black and/or green olives (zeytin), butter, honey, jam, an omlette or boiled eggs (yumurta), sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and Turkish sausage - Sucuk. Accompanied by twists of bread, Turkish tea or coffee. 

Street food is kind of interesting too. We found vendors up and down Taksim selling mussels stuffed with rice, which looked far more exciting than they actually were. 

The fish sandwiches being sold by the ferries at Kabatas were incredible! Lightly fried thin pieces of fish were literally SQUASHED onto pieces of bread, doused with lemon and served up. Yummy. 

Stop every chance you get for cups of Turkish tea, and spend your time watching locals and tourists walk by. Every corner has a tea shop or a coffee shop placed just-so. Do it justice.

Eat Haloumi. Always.

We found a restaurant called Kasabim in the Cihangir district of Istanbul, and went back there twice in the week we were around. Eat the lamb! They also have a butcher's shop down by Taksim, so you can get your meat cut fresh and take it back home to cook too. The staff was most amused to learn that we were taking lamb chops back to India with us!

Making kuzu sis - Lamb kebabs

Korocec - Lamb intestine sandwich
Turkish tea for two

Turkish Breakfast
Mussels stuffed with rice
Deeply fried sardines
Nutella banana pancake

Mixed Mezze
Meatballs in tomato sauce
Kuzu sis again
Lamb chops for my birthday
More Kuzu Sis
T Bone

Grilled Haloumi 

Friday, 26 February 2016

In the Bazaars - Constanti-Turkey

Istanbul is the kind of city that everyone has been to. In fact, we got so many recommendations from so many people that we kind of closed our eyes, and ran our fingers across each column till we landed on something to so. It was great :D 

The bazaars, while not so different from our own versions of it - Crawford Market, Bhajji Gully, Pali Naka etc - teemed with different kinds of spices and smells. Everything was priced way too high, and it was just a matter of bargaining them down. We spent hours in the Spice Market, which enchanted us with its wares and its extremely enthusiastic vendors, but rushed through the Grand Bazaar which was disappointingly formal. Turkish delight, spices, exotic teas, hilarious teas, ceramics and glass pieces all came together amazingly.