The following day (day 6), we took the bus to Ranthambore National Park. This was probably the highlight of the whole trip. Our hotel was a palace-like structure owned by Ghopal’s uncle. The food was excellent, the rooms were spacious and comfortable, and there were two courtyards: an outer courtyard surrounded by the dining hall, shops and administrative offices and a tranquil inner courtyard surrounded by guest rooms. I spent part of the first afternoon in the inner courtyard where I finally had some time to write in the journal while others were exploring the Ranthambore Fort.
We awoke early the next morning and drove to the game park. It had been a hunting park for the Maharajahs of Jaipur and was converted to a national park in 1973 by Indira Gandhi, largely in an effort to preserve the endangered Indian tiger. We were truly lucky! In addition to spotting deer, and the “blue bull” deer, and wild boars, and monkeys, and peacocks, and numerous other birds, we saw a marvelous female tiger! At first, she was coy and skittish, but after we went slowly around in the general direction the guide thought she had taken, she wandered out of the brush and sauntered across the road behind us, as nonchalant as you please. It was a marvelous sight, a stunning experience!
|Ranthambore National Park, tiger hiding|
|Tiger in full view, nonchalant|
I began to feel ill after returning from the park. I lay down and slept until lunch, then decided not to go out on the afternoon safari, preferring to sleep for another couple hours. By then, my sinuses were congested and my throat was scratchy, so I began wearing the mask in order not to contaminate others. As it turned out, the afternoon safari group didn’t see another tiger, so I was glad I stayed back, although I didn’t do any more journal writing - just slept.
We had an outside “barbecue” that evening. I didn't feel much like eating. However, I decided to try some soup. They ladled a delicious tomato soup from a large pot into my bowl. It tasted better than any tomato soup I’d ever had. I slurped two bowls of it, letting it run slowly down the sides of my dry throat. It tasted like a combination of Campbell’s tomato soup and Bloody Mary mix. I’ll have to try that when I get home.
From Jaipur, in the eighth day of the trip, we took the bus through agricultural countryside to a “camp” (individual rustic buildings surrounding a central garden). The farm land reminded me of that around Xian in China, with its loess-brown, sandy loam. It’s supposed to be very fertile. I wonder what high plain it blows off from - the Thar Desert, perhaps. Along the way were a few lone palm trees; camel carts carrying construction materials and wares plied the roadway in their nonchalant, sauntering clomp-clomp. At the camp, in the late afternoon, I had another chance to do some journal writing. I didn't go on a camel ride (had done that in Egypt and gotten saddle-sore) and took advantage of the free time.
|Indian traditional dance|
That evening before dinner, we had a “cooking lesson” – basically an eggplant dish and some “noon” (fried bread puffed up with air). The guys seemed to do a good job of frying the bread (better than the women)! Afterwards, we watched a couple of women dance to a drum and harmonium. One of them, a young, very pretty woman in a blue sari, danced with several pots balanced on her head. Then she performed some other activities with her feet while balancing the pots, including stepping on the edges of metal cups and on a spiked board (that one really upset me), as well as on some broken glass which, I think, was thick enough for her not to cut herself. I didn’t see any blood on the stage, so I assume she didn’t do any serious damage to her feet, but the idea of such apparently sadistic activity being part of a dance routine disturbed me.