Once again, we had an early start to our day. Bags packed and downstairs for 6:15 breakfast and then in the car heading to our first stop, Fatehpur Sikri.
It’s always an adventure driving here, we’ve discovered. The flow of traffic is very organic; lanes are meaningless as is the direction that one should drive on them. Cows are in the middle of not only the road, but the highway! And there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as load limits on trucks or motorcycles for that matter! Today’s most interesting motorcycle packing challenge was a toss up between a family of 5 riding on a small bike, or the new washing machine still in it’s box, being held by the passenger on a small bike!
After an eventful ride with our driver mischoosing a shortcut, we finally made it to the fortified ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri. Emperor Akbar chose this site after having visited a resident Sufi saint who predicted the birth of an heir for Akbar. When the prophecy came true, Akbar built his new capital here. An amazing feat of engineering and artistry, this city was built in 10 years out of local sandstone. The tragedy is that it was only occupied for 14 years before water shortages forced the capital to be moved back to Agra!
Many stunning sites remain of this fusion of Indo-Islamic architecture and encompassed 3 palaces each for his three favoured wives, a Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu.
After an hour or so of almost no one else at the sight, we have seen and photographed our fill and began the long drive to Ranthambore National Park. This once was the hunting ground for maharajahs, and is now a conservation area to preserve the Bengal Tiger. The park is a little over 1,700 sq Km’s and contains 65-70 tigers. Our chances of seeing one are slim and so our tour includes 3 safaris!
Directions were pretty good, lots of road construction so the sharing of 4 lanes turned into a free for all in 2 lanes with pedestrians, bicycles, motor cycles, cars and trucks all trying to maneuver the poor road conditions! (Oh yes, and a few tutus thrown in there for good measure! Definitely not a drive for them faint of heart!). Unfortunately the last 15 km proved to be a challenge with smaller and smaller roads and very little in the way of signage….but we made it here in time for our 1st safari.
We got into a semi private jeep with one other couple and headed out into the park with our park guide and driver. Today we would be doing route 2.
We started off by seeing the majestic Ranthambore Fort, built high above the valley over 1,000 years ago. It is said by the guides that they often see Leopards lounging on the fort walls!
Our guides explained that we might have some difficulty seeing a tiger as the rainy season had just started, and therefore there were plenty of watering places for them throughout the park. Sigh. But there were lots of other fun animals to see, so onward we went.
We first saw some monkeys on a stone wall, right out of Raiders of the Lost Ark!
Next we saw many spotted deer grazing along the river banks, keeping watchful eyes on the crocodiles lurking around the banks!
We also saw two miniature looking owls peering out of a hole in a tree. So cute!
The views and the grounds of the park were amazing! We would often see another jeeps on the hunt for Tigers. Some sat as many as 20 or so passengers, but no one had seen anything that day. Then all of a sudden while we are sitting in the jeep listening for signs of distress calls from the monkeys a jeep came ruching towards us and told us that a tiger was approaching. Sure enough, she entered stage left and put on quite a show for us all!
Three jeeps in total were watching her as she finally went into a shaded area and began to preen herself. Absolutely amazing!
We decided to leave to give someone else a look, and as we headed out of the park we sent several jeeps back to where we had last seen the tiger.
As an added bonus, we saw a wild boar while advising an oncoming jeep of the tiger’s whereabouts. As our guide said, it is the first day of Diwali, a major Hindu celebration here, and gifts and good fortune arrive on this day!
We were all elated when we got back to our hotel! You know you have seen something very special when the guides are jumping up and down and high giving all of us! Truly a celebration!!
Once back in the hotel, Dan and I settled into our room, and then went of to the bar area for a drink and a National Geographic movie on tigers in this park…. Surreal!
Well everyone, it is once again time to say goodnight! With 2 more safaris on the books for tomorrow, we’ll happily update you on our new sightings. Also, we discovered they have nightly Star Gazing and Deep Sky observation. We might see if we can find another Tiger in the sky!!! Until tomorrow!