The Leeds Castle in the Kent county of England is a beautiful castle and located in very picturesque settings—the kind that’ll take your breath away. The extensive grounds offer opportunities for picnicking, playing golf, jousting tournaments, knight school, and so on.
The man at the ticket counter was very helpful in pointing out the various attractions at the Castle. So, when he told me not miss seeing the peacocks, I didn’t really believe him or pay much attention to this fact. Having seen many peacocks in India, they were not really on my priority list of things to “see” in the Castle.
But as it happened, I didn’t really have to go looking for the peacocks; they happened to be loitering near the path I was taking to the Castle. I actually heard the peacocks before I saw them, or rather I heard the “oohs” from the adoring tourists. It’s only when I saw the first one that, I couldn’t help “oohing” myself ! See for yourself:
“Hurry up ! The bears are already there. We need to get to the observation site quickly,” urged Doreen, our tour organiser. We scrambled out of the vehicle and followed Doreen to climb some rather steep steps that seemed to go on forever.
Our tour group had just driven to the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary from Hampi (about 15 km) over some rather bad roads, through beautiful scenery, and imminent rain. We were at the Sanctuary to see the Indian sloth bear or karadis, who came out of their caves every evening to have a special paste of rice and honey (or was it jaggery?) that was smeared on the rocks near their caves by the Sanctuary guards. For me karadi brought forth images of Baloo, the Jungle Book bear, resplendent in his Disney avatar or Jambavan, the wise bear king from the Ramayana. I was rather keen on what the karadi really looked like!
Created in 1994, the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary covers an area of about 5.58 sq.km. In addition to the bears, the Sanctuary is also home to wild boar, leopards, porcupines, striped hyenas, monkeys, hare, and peafowl, along with many bird species. Though we had come here to see the sloth bears, I secretly hoped to spot a leopard or two as well.
After about five minutes of huffing and puffing, we reached the observation site which is at the top of a hillock with fencing all around. Quite a few people had gathered there to watch the bears and they all seemed to be looking across the fencing and pointing at some black dots on the opposite hillock quite some distance away. It took me a while to realise that those black dots were actually the karadis.