From Don, and Alison – thoughts and memories intertwined:
Once on board the train from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur, and into our First Class AC cabin two men stopped by to spray the cabin floor with perfumed liquid and mop it with a most filthy mop. First class AC on this train looked like an old-fashioned first class carriage on a British train, but with grotty bathrooms. Still, it was a whole lot better than the accommodation in the AC2 carriages, and it meant that we didn’t have to face the perils of driving on Indian highways after dark, an almost suicidal option.
We arrived at Sawai Madhopur shortly after 10:00 pm. Finding our way off the platform and onto the main street was a bit of a challenge, involving dragging our cases up a very long steep ramp and down an equally long and steep one on the other side of the tracks. There we found a large open space inhabited by people, cows, dogs and pigs. They all may or may not actually live there.
Once out onto the street I saw a jeep with its driver holding a card in his hands. As Don approached he said “Alison?” and we knew he was our driver from the hotel. We all bundled into the jeep and within a few minutes were at Tiger Safari Resort Hotel. The name implied a much grander place than we found when we entered the building, but our room was clean and comfortable and we soon fell into bed, with the alarm set for 5:30 am.
Next morning our driver arrived just after 6:30 and off we went after signing our lives away on the usual disclaimer form. We drove into Ranthambore National Park, a few minutes away from our hotel, and immediately began seeing the most amazing sights: a blue-winged kingfisher, a dead tree filled with dozens of green parrots, the remnants of an old gatehouse with a huge banyan tree in front of it, many crocodiles gliding silently across a large lake, dozens of spotted deer, two very cute owls, lots of white egrets, and langurs everywhere. I felt very enlivened seeing so much wildlife: this was the “Incredible India” I’d been wanting to see. Although we didn’t see any tigers that morning, there was still a chance we’d see some when we went back to the park in the afternoon.
This is a photo that I stole from a friend of a friend. At roughly the same time that we were at Ranthambhore National Park, Jane was at Bandhavgarh National Park. It’s a photo of what we didn’t see! :(
Photo credit Jane Sepede. Thanks Jane.
Although our guides were unsuccessful in leading us to a tiger, what we did see was so exciting. Rumbling along in an open sided jeep, over rough tracks, we stopped often, to take in the landscape and the abundance of wildlife. We went out for two excursions, one early morning and another in the afternoon and each time were rewarded with the sights and sounds of native birds and animals in their natural habitat.
Female Sambar deer
Ringed green parrots
Green pigeons! I never knew there was such a thing as green pigeons.
Male Spotted deer, or Chital
Two tiny, but fully grown owls
Male Nilgai, or Indian antelope, commonly known, for obvious reasons, as a blue bull. The females are fawn in colour and look much more like what you would expect an antelope to look like.
Female Spotted deer
A very rare chinkara, or Indian gazelle
An egret fishing in the swamp fom the back of a sambar deer
The following morning we set off by car, braving the Indian traffic, to drive to Jaipur, and this is what we saw along the way:
A group of five ladies pounding on logs. The pounding loosened the bark so they could strip it off. The logs are then used for carving and making furniture. A very hard way to make a living.
The wonders of Jaipur and Diwali in the next post.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.