Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Rajasthan Jaipur and Tigers

Travel to Rajasthan had never really been something I'd thought about when considering trips in India. Places like Goa, Taj Mahal and the various temple have been what came to mind. During my trip in 2001 I was quite attracted to the southern temple architecture. However this time we were starting from New Delhi and my partner had a wish to see Tigers.

We started the trip to Rajasthan from Agra, but due to a number of reasons, we needed to wind our way back almost to New Delhi through some beautiful country before getting on the main road from New Delhi to Jaipur (like road blocks by local protesters called the Gujjars, who to my eyes at least, seem to have quite a few things to protest about). The image below is typical of the scenery outside of towns, which are commonly filthy as only a medieval township with no sewerage, garbage disposal and modern plastics and other non-degradable things can be. If ever you feel like we need to go back to the past, just visit a village in India to cure you of that notion.

As you can see, the road is quite narrow. But we met trucks loaded (over loaded) with stuff on tight corners as well as cows and people walking along on these roads.

Motorcycles in Australia complain when cars don't leave them enough room on the roads, man I'd love to see how they'd react here where everyone big pushes everyone smaller off the road.

There are some horrific twisted wreckages on the sides of the road to testify to the fact that despite the low speeds forced by the roads bad things do happen here!

Still ... the lovely scenery out the window made up for it!

Even when you make it out onto the new national highway ("the very good road" says our driver) speeds are limited by the various obstacles making their way across the roads. Take a closer look to see the details in this image. As well as the cows and the 125cc motorbikes you can also just make out an "auto rickshaw" up there in the distance. All these things are speed limited to 35Km/H here ... so nope it ain't fast traveling here.

All along the way to Jaipur you can find evidence on the sides of the road of the historical forts and "maharaja nature of government" in the area. These ranged in size from smaller to the very beautiful and impressive "Amber Fort" and over looked the passages through the countryside. Prior to gunpowder these impressive forts would be (and were) undefeatable.

Just before you get to Jaipur we stopped on the Delhi side of the Amber fort for our hotel.

Amber fort essentially marks the boundary of old Jaipur and so the village we stayed in was probably not (or is not) considered part of Jaipur (I' not sure).

Either way I was much happier staying there than in Jaipur itself. For one, the views to Amber fort were spectacular.

(Aside: you know, I like wide angle lenses. but I hate the distortion they create when angled back. Just about every time I take a shot like this I regret that I sold my shift lens. But that's another blog page). By the standards of some of the budget hotels I stayed in on my trip the Amer view was just perfect. Not such a "artificial luxury" hotel (seemingly favored by wealthy and annoying American Tourists), but being comfortable and beautifully decorated. See my pages on the hotel itself.

From here (sadly we just stayed overnight) we traveled out to our hotel near Ranthambore national park. The hotel there was a classic case of "over promise and under deliver" (as well as over charge for the food to make up for the (management perception of) "under charging". The pool was not quite like the brochure...

but then that seems to be India ... over promise (and over charge the stupid tourists) and under deliver on quality and or services. Personally I'd be happier if they kept the expectations lower and surprised us with what they had ... but then, perhaps no one would go then?

Once in the Ranthambore park it all became worth it

... well for us at least. The beauty of the landscape was just breath taking (more so after the deforestation and devastation wrought upon the land by the human habitation just outside).

The park is not quite "lush" but certainly there was much greater amounts of available water. The area had once been the hunting grounds of the "Maharaja" and its clear why. The area is packed with beautiful "game animals". Hunting these was forbidden (well, except the Maharaja ;-) which seems to have been good for everyone (the animals included).
In the middle of the park is actually a famous fort called Ranthambore fort. The remains of outposts can be seen everywhere, as well as some nice hunting lodges along the way.

The fort is up on the top of that left ridge in this pano.

but the entire park is just a beautiful place ... the terrain is dry, with arid tolerant plants.

and lots of animals ...

fish in the ponds (with crocodiles as well as birds ... enjoying that too)

more interesting (and rare) birds such as this fish owl

and plenty of peacocks ..

black faced monkeys ..

and of course (the reason we came here in the first place) we actually got to see a tiger.

We just had a flat tyre on the jeep while heading for where the animal calls indicated something large and carnivorous was wandering about, when this guy just strolled out of the brush. Its amazing to first see them through the foliage. They're camouflage is perfect! He just strolled past us ... and headed for a small water hole.

where he hung out for about 10 minutes while we took some pictures! He was seemingly content to let the jeep drive within 15 meters of him (so I was able to get some nice images).

Just beautiful ...

So if you're thinking of a trip to India, and you're not terribly interested in being pestered by annoying beggars, hanging out with tourists on the second grade beaches of Goa (hey, I come from Queensland, we have stunning beaches there) or getting pestered for a guide or just to buy some trash at a monument (like in Agra) then come here. Not only is the forest and fauna wonderful but the Ranthambore fort itself is well worth a look (now that I know that its the only reason I'd have for coming back to India).

Hope you like it as much as I did.

No comments: