Bamboozled: Attacked on the Road to Bandhavgarh

P1050246We left our Delhi hotel at 6:30 (again, AM.  This family doesn’t do anything at night) and headed out to our first Safari camp by way of a flight to Jabalpur and a 4 hour drive to Bandhavgarh.

The Jabalpur airport is a large establishment with one whole room and at least two flights a day.

We collected our luggage (by the way, I need to mention that Indians know how to pack.  As in, they pack up their whole house and bring it with them.  Spices, food, cooking utensils, you name it. And without fail, our luggage is always the last off the plane.)

And made our way to meet our drivers.  There are 6 of us, so we were split into 3 cars.

Keith and I were in the last car.

Our driver stopped to pay the airport toll at the exit that led to an actual highway, complete with road signs. They were in Hindi, so I guess that technically they might not be road signs.  For all I know, they could have been signs with knock-knock jokes.  But they looked liked road signs…

And then we turned around and headed out of the airport in the opposite direction.  Down a dirt road disguised as a path.  Referred to as a short cut.  Note to self: Do not take short cuts.

We spent the first five minutes admiring the local scenery, including the children playing by the edge of the road, and buffalo walking down the middle of the road (see above picture).  A few minutes after this picture, a car came up behind us honking his horn.  Actually, it was more like laying on the horn.  Also, by now, we had caught up with the caravan but we were still the last car.

Keith and I thought this driver was just anxious to pass.  But then a motorcyclist sped pass and our caravan stopped.  I found out later that the motorcycle driver had cut his bike in front of the first car which forced the van driver to stop.

While we were trying to figure out why we stopped, a bamboo stick came flying through the driver’s side window.  Glass went flying everywhere.  And then they attacked the front windshield with a bat.  Then we saw them do the same thing to the first car. Well, the bamboo stick part.  They missed out on the baseball bat to the windshield.

The driver of the second car got out of his car to talk to his attackers.  Well, to exchange yells at the attackers anyway.  Then they hit him with the same large bamboo stick.  (As you can imagine, I no longer care for horns or bamboo sticks).

Now, this whole thing is happening in some language that I don’t understand.  So we have no idea what is happening. Do they want to rob us?  To kidnap us?  To kidnap our drivers?

And the one thing that kept rolling through my head was the fact that this car has manual transmission. Do I remember how to drive a stick if I need too?  Yes, for some reason, that was the one thought that I couldn’t get out of my, head.

Looking back on it, the bamboozlers never even really looked in our direction.  Except to maybe gestures once or twice.  And we found out that it may have been a lot worse for our drivers if we hadn’t been in that car with them. Apparently Indians are exceedingly nice to foreigners but horrible to each other.

Finally, the first two cars drove off.  But the attackers weren’t done with our driver and they gave him a few more hits to the arm.  Now, I’m even more worried.  The other cars are gone.  And our driver was hit several times and is clutching his shoulder.  Our windshield was cracked in so many places that it was impossible to see out the driver’s side.

To be honest, I don’t remember what happened next but soon we were driving away and the attackers stayed behind.  But our driver was unable to tell us what happened beyond that he was ok and could continue to drive.

But most importantly, he was unable to tell us what happened or where he was going.  Keith thought that perhaps he was driving us someone at the attackers instructions so that they could finish what they started.  I was still exceedingly concerned about having to remember how to drive stick.  Really, my brain has weird defense mechanisms.

Anyway, I guess it took all of our driver’s attention to get us safely down the road.

A little further down, in the next little village, we pulled over and got out of the cars to inspect the damage and to shake the glass off of us.  We were finally safe.

This picture was taken 13 minutes after the first picture with the cow strolling down the road.  13 minutes.  Start to finish.

P1050247

Our car and driver was unable to continue the 4 hour drive so we consolidated into 2 cars and continued on to Bandhavgarh.

Every car horn made me flinch.  And I was exceedingly uncomfortable every time our car passed through a town.  And my heart rate elevated when we had to slow down or stop in the middle of any town.

But we did make it safely to our next stop and without further incident.

I found out later that the bamboozlers thought that our drivers were the ones who had hit a village child a few days before and they were out for revenge.

After the drivers, dropped us off, they had returned to that very first village with the police.

There will be no jail time for the attackers but they did apologize and will make restitution for damages.

I know that we are very sheltered when we travel but this “adventure” makes me even more thankful for the safety we enjoy in the united states.  Hopefully, this will be the most “excitement” we ever have on all of our travels.

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