An Animal Sanctuary, a Picnic, a Shopping Trip …. but not as we know them

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”

Aldous Huxley

To travel is certainly to discover. If I told you that we were off to start the day at an animal sanctuary, followed by a picnic, followed by a spot of local shopping, you might imagine our spending an hour or two with distressed dogs or donkeys, maybe some homeless hedgehogs. Then you’d picture us with a pack of sandwiches, maybe sharing a bag of crisps and some Jammie Dodgers, perhaps on a park bench, or dodging the cow pats in a country field. Then you’d suppose we’d nipped into Sainbury or Tesco on the way home.

But this is my Indian Adventure, so you would be wrong. Our animal sanctuary was Dubare Elephant Camp. This is where elephants who’ve had a long career working transporting logs for the Karnataka Forest Department go to live out their retirement years.

We watched them enjoying their daily bath in the River Cauvery. One elephant needs maybe three young men to bathe them: good tough scrubbing brushes required to give that hard leathery skin a good old scratch.

We were in time for their breakfast. There was a cookhouse where an appetising mixture of jaggery (a dark brown palm sugar), millet and vegetation was boiled up and formed into giant balls of nourishment. Just because they ate it daily didn’t stop them finding it delicious.

That was it really. But we had to set off for our picnic in any case. With some difficulty, we waded through paddy fields, where the young rice plants were an impossibly citric green, vivid and vibrant. And there, at the end of our walk, was the River Cauvery: a perfect scene from a travel documentary: tall palm trees, knotted and intricate tree roots, little islands among the fast-flowing waters.

We were glad to climb into our costumes and plunge into the river – muddy, but otherwise clean. There was quite a current, and I wasn’t strong enough to swim the width of the wide river, so stayed close in to the banks.

And then it was time for our picnic: something special, this. Staff from our host’s residence clanked down the hill with great metal cans yoked over their shoulders: rice; sambal; a wonderful bitter curry made out of some dark green leaf also used to de-worm children; chicken curry; a sour and bitter sticky chutney; curds; and a gorgeous buttered cabbage curry. It truly was a memorable feast.

On our way home, we stopped off at our local town, Madikeri, to do some bits and bobs of shopping – get our photos onto CDs in the days when memory cards didn’t have much capacity, buy sandals, that sort of thing.

Oddly, I took few photos here, but I’ve used others from later in the trip, because with their rows of tiny shops, Indian shopping streets are standard in their own way. No M&S, Boots and Costa certainly, but there’s still a certain uniformity in the small shop fronts with goods stacked and hanging outside, and pedestrians, bullocks and auto rickshaws all jockeying for position in the crowded streets. Here’s the auto rickshaw that four of us (and our driver of course) contrived to travel home in after our trip…

The rickshaw that somehow got four passengers and a driver back home on a ten mile journey on a bumpy road.

I wasn’t so much wrong about India as didn’t have a clue.

My contribution to Debbie’s challenge, inspired by the quotation at the beginning.

26 thoughts on “An Animal Sanctuary, a Picnic, a Shopping Trip …. but not as we know them”

  1. The shopping streets look so colourful in your charming photos. Our northern European light doesn’t have the same effect even on a fully sunny, summer’s day or is it our High Streets and markets are simply more drab. We have a different view of colour don’t we? There’s plenty of Suffolk pink amongst the painted cottages and farmhouses in this county, but in general it’s pastels only thank you!

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    1. Jammie Dodgers? They’re a rather 1950s kind of biscuit, but still in production. A round biscuit, topped with a layer of jam, topped off with another biscuit with a circular hole in the middle so the red jam can peek though. You’re not missing anything….

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  2. I’m loving these posts! But what really struck me from reading the first part of this one, is how different an animal sanctuary, a picnic, and shopping are, even if we were comparing Great Britain and the US!

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  3. A great post – and yes, thank you for welcoming me back! I’ve been busy otherwise but look forward to some reading…. Love the elephant wash and the loving preparation of their favourite food balls – I also know and love the quote! It speaks for itself because until you DO travel, you think you know something or all about another country and its people. Except that you don’t (and of course, I speak in general terms here, not you Margaret!)

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    1. Oops, I hadn’t replied! Oh no, I’m far from immune. We all have our lazy ways of summing up a country and its people, and the best way of challenging these is to go there and meet some. But a few weeks, even a few years isn’t anything like enough. But it’s fun to keep trying!

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  4. Great quote – and great response. You have me thinking about the various animal sanctuaries I’ve seen – and also what constitutes a sanctuary. Clearly the elephant camp fulfills the brief – would all the elephants have a place like this to retire to? I do hope so. The photo of the elephant being bathed, heavily submerged, with the tip of its trunk above the water is a delight. Elephantine bliss!

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