Monday, January 11, 2010

No big cats for me! Ranthambore National Park, Dec 15-16 (Written 17 December 2009)

Sawai Madhopur as a town really doesn’t have much going for it, but it is constantly crowded due to its proximity to Ranthambore National Park. This park which became a national park in 1973 is considered one of the best places in India, thus the world, to see tigers in the wild. A tiny little town with not much other than hotels and restaurants geared for tourists, my first night at Aditya Resort was uneventful.

I went to two safaris in the park – the morning one from 7-10:30am and the afternoon one from 2-5:30pm. On the first one, the early morning light was stunning. The scenery of the park itself is quite awe-inspiring, as you traverse giant banyan trees, low dense grasses, open fields, and hills with sambar deer roaming across them. On the morning safari we saw a sloth bear which is apparently even more rare than seeing a tiger, a black and brown mini-bear (which for sure is not mini compared to humans) and it was quietly roaming around and then ran off. The park is full of white spotted deer, sambar deer, black faced monkeys, plenty of birdlife including kingfishers and parakeets, and we managed to see an antelope, wild boar, and an Indian gazelle which was gorgeous. And lots of peacocks. Everywhere.

So although no tigers were spotted on my safaris, it was an enjoyable experience. In terms of food – the first evening I had a yellow dhal and chapatti, nothing exciting. The following morning I had a lovely chana masala (spiced chickpeas) which was cooked with turmeric, fresh and powdered coriander, green, red, and yellow chilies, tomato, and onion. In the evening I had a potato paratha (a layered pancake stuffed with potato and coriander) and a palak kadhi, a very “wet” dish (this is what Indians call what we would call a curry in the west) with spinach and other veggies.

I had been told by the hotel staff that there was a local passenger train to Jaipur at 7:30pm, with general seating only. I was warned against taking it, but I decided I wanted to move onwards towards Pushkar since there was really nothing else to stick around in Sawai Madhopur for. It was fairly dramatic; I ordered my food at 6:10pm, and at 6:40pm I started getting a bit nervous – the hotel was 10 minutes by autorickshaw from the station and I had no ticket. Finally the food came out at 6:55pm and I scarfed it down. The hotel staff were soooo relaxed about it all. Anyway, I get to the station at 7:20pm, running towards the ticket office, only to find out that the train arrives at 7:30pm but doesn’t leave until 8:30pm. Figures.

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