|Percy on Safari|
Ranthambore was definitely one of the stranger experiences.
It's a national park a few hours south of Jaipur, and a good stopping point as the drive from Agra to Jaipur takes a full day.
Just before I continue this story, I'd like to take a moment to appreciate camel carts. Camel carts, ladies and gentlemen. They rule.
Anyway, we pulled into Tiger Machan after dark. Ranthambore itself is tiger country, and we were here to do a safari the next day. Our accommodation was in large, luxury tents - glamping.
Bathroom with hot shower - the lot. Very nice accommodation, if somewhat on the chilly side. They had air conditioning, but in the wilds in December a heater would have come in handy. And, although the tents were very impressive, the service left a little to be desired. Had to go in search of toilet paper, and trying to ascertain when, and where, food would be served turned into a game of charades. We managed to rustle up some pakora and a sweet lassie before bed.
The next morning, we were up super early. The safari was apparently leaving 'between six and seven.' Some said we should be there at 6:15, other at 6:30. So as not to be late, we were at reception by 6 a.m. The night guard took pity on us and seated us around his own fire, which he built up with twigs and leaves. We huddled around it until the jeep arrived.
Never having been on a tiger safari before, we weren't all that prepared for just how bloomin' cold it was going to be. It must have been around seven or eight degrees. Five, counting wind-chill factor from the car. For me, coming from a country that never dips below 15c, my teeth were clenched so tight I thought I'd never speak again.
We stopped at another hotel to pick up three more, who were all wearing summer T-shirts and skirts. When I mentioned how cold it was, they shrugged and said they were Swedish.
When we stopped to pick up our guide, I bought a Ranthambore beanie hat and attempted to crawl inside it. We spent the next four hours searching for tigers.
Ranthambore National Park is almost 400 square kilometres of jungle. It's split up into zones, each measuring many, many kilometres, and each zone holding only around two tigers. Despite finding footprints along the way, we didn't catch sight of one.
|Tiger prints, just below top tyre track.|
Our guide got rather defensive when I asked how he knew how old the tracks were. He kept saying we were going in the right direction, because we were following the paw prints, but I was wondering how he knew they were fresh. I decided not to ask any more questions after that. To be honest, I couldn't anyway - my jaw had frozen shut. But the drive through the park was extremely picturesque.
There was a valley full of spindly trees. Some of them had turned bright white, perhaps hit by lightning or having died of natural causes. Unfortunately, they didn't come out well in the photos, but it gave the impression, looking down the valley, of lots of little cobwebs. Or as though the trees were the hair of the valley and some of it was greying.
In amongst all those trees, very, very high up on a mountaintop, we spotted a leopard. It was busy munching on something, and we had to look through binoculars to see its spots. Although it was hard to see, it has brought me one step closer to the Big Five. I can now claim to have seen a lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo in the wild, which just leaves the rhino, which I've only seen in a zoo.
|Leopard with Kill|
We also saw lots of cute little four-legged beasties, including an extremely adorable family unit of Sambar deer, where the mummy led her baby to the water to drink. It kept almost falling in because its little front legs were too short and slid into the pool.
We drove back through the streets of Ranthambore to pack our things and jump back in the car, Jipaur-bound.