After the Vatavaran festival was over, we headed north to Ramnagar, a little town near Jim Corbett National Park. Elliot is very interested in wildlife, and Corbett has one of the healthiest populations of tigers and elephants in India. We'd been told we might not see a tiger - they're notoriously hard to spot this time of year - but we were hoping ride an elephant.
We stayed at the Sparrows Nest Jim Corbett, a homestay run by a wildlife guide named Ramesh Suyal. Ramesh and his wife were great hosts - and Elliot had a lot of fun playing games with his kids.
Ramesh told us he'd been able to reserve an elephant ride for us, but only in the buffer zone of Corbett. Rides are generally scheduled for dawn and dusk, when there is more chance of seeing wildlife. So we got up stupid-early in the morning to go for an elephant ride.
Riding an elephant on pavement is a bumpy affair. The first quarter mile or so of our trip was on the main road, and it was rough going - though I was too delighted to be ON TOP OF AN ELEPHANT to really mind it much. But once we turned off the pavement and into the forest, it became much smoother.
Riding an elephant is a really, really great way to travel through the forest. We meandered through some settlements, and eventually made our way down a steep embankment to a wide riverbed.
We were pretty amazed at the way Kalina could use her trunk to feed herself, and we were confused about her teeth - so the mahout (elephant handler) showed us her mouth.
We never did see any tigers (though we did see some tiger tracks) - but riding Kalina the elephant was just as wonderful an experience as I'd imagined. Elephants are incredible creatures.