India Day 6: Jaipur to Ranthambore

On the bus to Ranthambore …

Our dinner last night was outdoors at a place called Marian Nina’s. We started with a tomato soup followed by chicken and cheese appetizers from the grill. Dinner was buffet style featuring Indian and western dishes. The entertainment was amazing with a puppet show, a traditional Indian dancer performing on broken glass, and a fire-eating drummer.

This morning we leave the Park Regis at 8a and head back to the Amber Palace. Unni has arranged for elephant rides for those who are interested. The elephants carry paying tourists from the base of the mountain up to the main square inside the Amber Palace. It’s hard work and the elephants are limited to a certain number of trips per day. This life of labor can’t be good for the elephants, but about half of us decide to ride up. Phylis and I make the trip together, taking in the view of the valley below while the hawkers shout from all sides trying the sell their wares. By now we are getting used to this chaos in India.

The bus leaves Jaipur heading northeast on the road to Ranthambore. Horn blaring, our bus driver skillfully weaves his way through the traffic. There are a surprising number of farm vehicles and motorcycles traveling the wrong way on the shoulder on our side of the road. As we move away from the mountains of Jaipur the terrain changes to flat farmlands, but we are on the way to the jungle. We leave the main highway onto the bumpiest stretch of road I’ve ever been on. Getting bounced around too much to type, so I’ll pick this up later today.

On the caravan in Ranthambore …

We’re speeding down the rocky and dusty roads though Ranthambore National Park. There’s a kill ahead and that means there are tigers to be seen. A tiger and her cubs are feasting on a deer and all vehicles in the park are rushing to see them.

We arrived in Ranthambore at 1:30p, were greeted with cool towel, a traditional marigold lei, and a glass of lemonade. We had lunch in our hotel and checked in at the Ranthambore Regency. At 3p we boarded our safari vehicle, met our driver and naturalist, and headed directly to the park.

Ranthambore National Park has been designated by the Indian government as a sanctuary for tigers and other wildlife. Although this is a jungle area of India, at this time of year the park is hot, dry, and parched. An hours drive into the park and we get to a mother, her two cubs, and remains of a very striped down deer carcass. We know the location because when we get to the area there are already 10 safari vehicles parked and observing the tigers. We spend about two hours rotating to the front of the cramped safari vehicle to get in the prime picture taking location. Mostly the tigers are at rest in the heat of the day, but eventually the mother moves towards a nearby creek for a drink of water and a cooling dip. This produces the days best pictures. Even though this is a tiger sanctuary, seeing tigers during a visit can be difficult and rare. Credit to our guides for making sure today was a success.

Back at the hotel we spend some refreshing time at the pool, have dinner, and meet in the bar to watch a video about tigers in the park. Tomorrow we have an early morning safari followed by a visit to a local home for children with disabilities.

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