When one of the major tourist sites in the area is only 500 meters from your hotel, it seems obligatory to drop by.
And when that major site is a Crocodile Center, you naturally can’t wait to see what’s behind that fence. We chose to walk there, wending our way along the rough patches next to the highway. We must already be acclimated, as I wouldn’t dream of doing this a week ago. (The hotel staff was a bit surprised, too.)
We arrived at the park along with a large group of school children. They seemed very serious until I asked which one was going to be served to the crocodiles for lunch. They immediately had a candidate and he couldn’t stop laughing at the thought of his impending doom.
There is an assortment of snakes and turtles, just to start you off slowly, with a showy anaconda for dessert.
And then the crocodile fun begins. We learned that they spend most of their day in the sun, napping and soaking up the rays. Once their core temperature goes up, they take a dip in the water to cool off, then repeat. In the wild, there is also time dedicated to food shopping, but here they just watch the clock for the staff to provide nutritious meals. What a life.
But who knew there were so many varieties? And so many of each here! The variations are sometimes quite subtle, but the overall impact is quite stunning. They don’t supposedly go after humans, unless they are really really hungry or threatened, but you never know…
They even have an example of that exotic northern species – the alligator! Funny to feel so foreign. The iguana and the tortoises were cute. But then we learned to be grateful that we were far enough away from those poisonous beaded lizards and gila monsters in America!
Lots of tourists around today, and I had to partake in a few more schoolgirl selfies. So glad they don’t want autographs too. We did marvel at the drinking water dispenser. While you would assume the water is somewhat filtered, the effect is a bit ruined by the communal use of the metal cup. Regardless, it seemed a good time was being had by all, even the crocodiles.
So we walked back home, along the cleaner side of the highway, with buses and motorcycles and tuk-tuks rushing by. And then there was the cow perched on top of the median divider.
A word about the Indian highways we have seen: There is a definite place for someone like Lady Bird Johnson with her Highway Beautification program to come along and at least provide rubbish bins at regular intervals along the roads. Then community groups could sponsor various miles and get some feel-good credit for keeping them clean.
Not going to happen? Well, just get used to it. Amazingly, we do.
We went back to our hotel to make like crocodiles by the lovely pool.
Don’s Food Corner
After explaining yesterday that we could not possibly eat another spectacular breakfast feast like the ones we had been served over the last three days, we were promised a more modest sampling of the chef’s culinary skills. Still, the chef couldn’t help himself and he delivered another dazzling display of the regional breakfast specialty — dosa, the wafer-thin crepe that is used to carry a variety of different type of curries and condiments. Today we were given four different types of dosas: a spicy version of the basic rice flour dosa; one filled with peas and lentils; one made with semolina; and a softer version made with whole-wheat flour.
Along with the four dosas, there were four different accompaniments: a spicy tomato sauce; a thick coconut sauce; a peanut sauce; and the most traditional accompaniment, sweet potato curry. All were presented on a huge banana leaf. Traditionally the banana leaf would serve as the plate for this breakfast. No effete things like bowls or spoons to get in the way of eating everything with your right hand — and right hand alone. I was given a short course on how to break the dosa into manageable pieces with one hand, but I was unable to master it. They kindly gave us some cutlery and just looked the other way. Posing with the chef as his staff snaps pictures is now the way I start my day.
I was told that we have now tasted all the various dosas in Indian cuisine. Quite an accomplishment in just three days.
Jo opted for testing the chef’s skills on a Western favorite, blueberry pancakes. The pancakes were small, but nicely done. She was also able to get a big pile of truly crispy bacon, which she shared.
All of these Indian breakfasts have been completely vegetarian. But at a lunch the other day, we tried some meat-based dishes in the main dining room. Jo went for chicken biryani, which was a supremely complex and rich version of what we have had back home.
I tried what has described as “NH203 Style Lamb Curry.” The explanation of this mysterious name was “lamb curry inspired from the shacks on the national highway from Bhubaneswar to Puri in Odisha.” In other words, street food cleaned up by the chef at the Intercontinental. Similar to other Indian lamb dishes like Rogan Josh, this highway favorite had a somewhat thinner sauce. But, like all of the dishes we tasted so far in India, the spice balance is subtle and complex. Tasting so many different flavor combinations at one of these meals is, frankly, confusing.
How many “wow” foods can you have at one meal? I knew the food was going to be great, but so far everything has exceeded my expectations.
One more treat from the chef tomorrow, and then we’re off to a different culinary location.