Travel Log Extracts continue...See photos from this day on our website HERE
This had to be one of the best days we’ve had in
The bus was off and away by 8:30. About a 3 hour ride – not too bad… and nice scenery. It is always nice here to go down a road lined with Eucalypts. Brings on some nostalgia! Most of the trip was “freeway” (divided road). Don’t for one minute think that it was a ‘free way’ though. At one point the driver stopped and abused a truck driver for driving on the wrong side.
After turning onto a smaller side road and travelling for another hour, we were in the middle of the bush when people started saying ‘Sariska’ to me and motioning us to get off. The bus hardly stopped and we jumped out at a place that seemed at first look, deserted. Except maybe for the Tigers watching us. But as the bus moved off, we noticed buildings on the other side of the road.
We walked up to the registration office and arranged a jeep (“Petrol or Diesel?” – Petrol is quieter apparently. Nice that they gave us the choice…), a guide, driver and tickets into the park. The nice guy said to be back at 12pm. We filled the 45mins we had to wait by heading over to the nice, and also deserted (Except for 3 or 4 staff) RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) guesthouse. We managed to convince the guy in the restaurant, who was tucking into a thali, to feed us. We only had a couple of options so each took one. Di – boiled eggs, me – veggie patties, and some chapatti each. And a Pepsi. After managing (with some difficulty) to find someone to pay, and attending to nature’s call, we headed back to the park office, paid 2000 rupees (about AUS$50) and got a driver and a jeep. Dunno what happened to the promised ‘guide’…
Our driver at first seemed silent and mean, but ended up being a nice guy – his name was ‘Omi’. We drove into the park along a narrow bitumen road and our first stop was a Park Ranger’s house, where a young antelope was lazing on the lawn. Its name was ‘Sonu’, and when called, it came over and nuzzled us and we could pat and hug it!! You can imagine Di’s delight! After not-enough-time, we headed off. A short drive to a small lake where we saw more antelope, peacocks and then, a crocodile lazing on the bank! I asked if we could walk closer, and we started to, but heard another jeep coming. Omi said “back in the jeep! – walking not allowed!”. The crocodile sped into the water and I into the jeep so Omi wouldn’t get into trouble.
We continued driving along rough dirt tracks seeing monkeys, spotted deer, antelope, wild boar, peacocks, some cows/buffalo and villagers. There are a lot of villages in the park - about 20. We got out at one point and walked to a beautiful pond with palms in it where Tigers/Leopards/panthers/jackals come to drink. Saw a BIG eagle and a kingfisher. A bit later we saw some spotted dear fighting and also some jackals (pretty small dogs) at another waterhole. We were loving it!
Sariska Tiger Reserve is about 640 square km, surrounded by small rugged mountains with dry, hardy small trees and occasional areas of palms and beautiful Dr Seuss-looking big trees. Lots of monkeys too.
Then we headed off to the ‘fort’ – mentioned to us at the park office as an ‘extra’ that we paid for, not really knowing whether it would be worth it. We drove up into the mountains, off the bitumen road, then unexpectedly through a MASSIVE, majestic stone ‘gate’ standing on it’s own in the bush. Very reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. We continued along a rough track along a narrow valley for 15 minutes until finally it opened out into a huge round valley with a hill in the middle, capped by the fort – beautiful and magnificent. We didn’t expect it to be SO spectacular! We had to weave around a fair bit to get there, passing a few villages with waving kids. Stopping in one for a chai (20 rupees – 60cents! (Chai normally costs about 5 rupees)) but it was worth it for all the fantastic photos of the kids that Di got. (Such shallow tourist types aren’t we….)
We continued on around the fort hill, through another village and up to the fort on a steep road. At the top we got out, and with Omi as our guide, explored the magical place. Apparently (someone explained later), this fort was used by a Mughal Emperor to incarcerate his older brother so his leadership wouldn’t be threatened. The views were fantastic, and the thought that a tiger or panther might be lurking inside was a bit exciting too. We walked around the walls, then into the small decaying palace. Omi yelled and stomped – too scare away any lurking creatures. On the way out, Omi said we could walk down the old walled passage, winding down the hill to the lake at the bottom, and he would meet us there – which was GREAT. It was cool to have 15 minutes alone to walk down the hill and see the beautiful sights – the lake, ducks, birds, palm trees… The precious minutes spent at that fort were some of the most special in all of
We stopped briefly in the village again and got more photos – there was one cute old lady smoking a pipe, but she laughed when we tried to photograph her with it and kept it hidden if we tried.
We drove back to the main park area, stopping at a park office where tame birds ate peanuts from Di’s hand.
Then a roundabout route, keeping an eye out for Tigers, with an extra passenger – some guy with a big stick that we picked up… he was a park guard I think - to the monkey temple – quite boring unless you’re a Hanuman (Monkey god) fan. Stopped there for a while (Omi had a Chai) then drove slowly back out of the park. We took one off-road route and Omi stopped silent for a while. As we left, he said “99 percent Tiger sleeping”.
Oh well – we didn’t see Tiger, but had a great day. He dropped us on the road at the office where we waited for a bus, chatting to a park guide called ‘Rohit’ while we waited. Learnt a lot more about the park, but were glad we didn’t have a guide talking to us ALL day. Omi’s occasional comments were all we needed.
When the bus arrived around 6pm, the doors opened and one guy got out (well, more came out briefly as intestines might spill out of an overfull, split belly). The bus was packed – but somehow we managed to squeeze on, and after a stop, Di scored a seat. Then I did – in the front section. It wasn’t a bad three hours. A guy next to me gave me some small deep fried spicy ball things that he bought at a stop. YUMMY. I saw them cooked in boiling oil, so they were safe (I hoped).
Back in Jaipur around 9pm we ate at Dasaprakash restaurant – same chain as the one at
I finished reading ‘Chasing the Monsoon’ too – a great read about a guys journey following the monsoon up through