Friday, August 6, 2010

Cows and Camels and Monkeys, Oh My!

Summer break is over and we are now back to school.  We've only been back a few days but it feels good to be getting back into a routine of some sorts.  We had a fabulous time in India and have been sorting photos and retelling stories to our friends and family.  One of the things in India that continually blew us away were all the close encounters we had with animals.  The sightings started slowly, goats and cows pulling carts in the busy markets of Delhi, and quickly gained momentum.  By the end of the trip we had seen rats, camels, goats, elephants, monkeys, peacocks and cows... lots of cows.

Soon after setting out on the highway we saw herds of goats and sheep crossing the road.  Cars slowed to a stop for cows who decided that the road would be a good place to stop for a sit-down break.  Water buffalo crossed the road with cars weaving between them (our driver informed us while he laid on the horn that cows will move for cars but the buffalo just stand their ground).  This highway traffic is different from what we are used to, but not too far out there.  When we got to town it was the same story though.  Cows, goats and pigs just kicking it in the road, in front of stores, crazing on piles of garbage.  This means that while walking through town you would have to walk within feet, inches even, of cows and bulls with big horns.  We wondered with all these cows roaming around town, how did their owners know where they were?  The answer is that Indian cows (and their owners) are smart.  The cows are milked in the morning and then let free to roam town to find food.  Cows are holy in India so often food is left out for them.  They may also sift through the trash on the street or find some patches of grass.  Then in the evening they find their way home to be milked again.

I had one close encounter with a bull when I passed too closely and it turned its head and his horn got me in the arm but this is nothing compared to the camel ride that left me sore for days.

Camel sightings became frequent a few days into our trip and we just couldn't get enough of these weird looking animals.  Up close they are pretty big and intimidating so our camel rides had me nervous.  We got on successfully, I let Jeremiah get on his first to test the waters, and held on as the camels get themselves up from their folded sitting position, first standing up on their back legs then straightening their front legs.  It was a rocky start and we had to hold on tight.  We headed out to the dunes to watch the sunset.

My camel and I were doing pretty well together despite the fact that I didn't have a guide sitting with me.  He stopped a few times to get a roadside snack of leaves and berries but with a few tugs I got him back on the right track.  I become aware that we are suddenly in the middle of a bunch of cows when out of nowhere a cow comes headed straight for my camel.  Trying to avoid being hit by the cow my camel maneuvers out of the way and in doing so nearly knocks me off.  I slid to the right and my glasses fly off my head.  It's quickly over but my heart is racing.  Visions of the camel falling on top of me had flashed through my head.  I gripped with my legs so tightly that I felt like maybe I pulled a muscle.  I got props from our new friends who were impressed that I stayed on and didn't freak out too much.  Over the next few days I had some very sore leg and ab muscles.

Needless to say after my cow and camel interactions I was nervous the couple times we came across groups of monkeys, especially when they were fighting amongst themselves; I am happy to report we had no run-ins with the monkeys.  They were pretty cool to watch though.  Apparently there is a monkey god and many people feed the monkeys in tribute to the god, so there were many groups around some of temples we visited as well as in the holy city of Pushkar where we were visited by a bunch them during dinner.  They were content with their meal of leaves high in the trees and were finally chased off by the owner's 5 year old son.

I mentioned we also saw rats... but you'll have to wait for the next post to hear that story.