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Friday, 13 March 2009

Ranthambore National Park

12-13th March
Leg 2 – Agra to Ranthambore
Distance - 300kms

Time – 7 Hours

Average Speed -42.8km/h
Road – 4 lane highway, part under construction, then single lane in poor condition, then unmapped brand new 2 lane road!

This time, deciding to follow the advice of Chris (from Bullet Wallas) we aimed for an early start. Okay, so we didn’t quite leave at 4am but we think 6:30 was a pretty good effort and the sun hadn’t quite risen! After about half an hour we were both completely frozen anyway, lacking luxuries such as bike leathers. We tried slowing down but that didn’t help and eventually had to pull over by the roadside to try and warm up. After a long few hours the sun was properly shining but by then we were so chilled the warm rays were having little effect. On a positive note, we made a nice getaway from Agra as the streets were completely deserted – we suspect this being the morning after the night of Holi; there were many sore heads abound!

Our next destination was the Ranthambore National Park where we hoped to see wild tigers. The road was superb, newly resurfaced for the most part and practically empty - a far cry from the journey out of Delhi. We plugged in our ipods, and with Ady feeling a little more relaxed about the bike, cruised along enjoying the scenery. This time we managed to cover 300km in 7 hours, so an improvement on our first journey, with a whopping average speed of 43kph! Ok, so we stopped a few times to stretch our legs and also there are wandering cows, goats, donkeys and camels to contend with. You also have to bear in mind these just aren’t English roads where the speeds we ride in kph here are easily achieved in mph!

We arrived feeling fairly exhausted and absolutely
starving. We haven’t really talked about the food in India yet, the reason being that it’s been pretty poor and resembles sloppy baby food. Desperate for something with some substance, we didn’t expect to find it at the roadside eatery we stopped at. The owner saw us dithering and called us in, so we parked up and went to join him, immediately regretting our actions as we saw swarms of flies all over the tables outside! Thankfully inside was spotless and the food was absolutely delicious; fluffy garlic naan, a spicy Panner Korma and a very creamy Palak Aloo. As we were now in Rajasthan, we figured that maybe all the food would now be this good!

The following morning we were up at 5am sharp – we’d been advised to get to the ticket office to organise our sunrise tour around the park. It seems we weren’t the only mugs to follow this advise – two other travellers were already waiting but it seems that no one had turned up to work yet. After a frustrating hour and a lot of petty bureaucracy – the one guy that eventually turned up wouldn’t serve us because we wanted a jeep and not a canter and only his boss could sort it out etc. etc…. we were eventually assigned a guide and a vehicle (we had to change vehicles twice). Not wanting to get caught out two days running, we’d both piled on as many clothes as we had in order to beat the dawn frosts. It was pretty pointless as the open top jeep wasn’t any warmer than the bike and yet again we spent the next 2 hours freezing!

The scenery inside the park was stunning and it was fun being driven through rocky trails in the 4x4
. Our driver and guide were both quite animated and for the most part we didn’t know whether to take them seriously, or whether the telltale “signs” of tigers afoot were just for our benefit! Up to now all we’d spotted were a few pretty birds and lots of Bambi – not so different to Richmond Park really! Anyway, we had to eat our words as our driver eventually pointed out a track of extremely large paw prints – we set off in immediate pursuit, engines revving (isn’t this exactly what you’re not supposed to do?!). We stopped to listen a few times and our guides were definitely putting on a show – this time we didn’t care and we were waiting with baited breath for a sighting. At one point we rather naughtily left the track and set off into the undergrowth, driving with abandon across the shrubbery. Unfortunately a small part of the National Park had been needlessly destroyed (and they weren’t going to get a tip) as we didn’t spot anything from there. Finally, back on the main track our driver (who was way more useful than our guide) heard a warning call between the deer, made when a predator is at large. We stopped again…and waited…and waited. Suddenly, about 300 yards away through the undergrowth something very large was moving very quickly. Yes, it was a tiger…surely?!

Actually it wasn’t, but we did manage to spot a leopard which
our guide hastily assured us was even rarer than sighting tigers (did he just want a bigger tip?) – then again this is a “tiger” reserve so he probably wasn’t wrong! We pursued it from a distance and the leopard eventually and so perfectly came to rest on a large rock – maybe he wanted to see us as much as we him? The cameras went mad as we all suddenly became the next Richard Attenborough. Ady’s 18x optical zoom came up trumps though and we managed to get some cool photos.

We saw more leopards on the opposite rocky outcrop, but a much further distance away though and we were straining our eyes to see properly this time. Still, no tigers though. Have the leopards driven them away?! On our return we also saw a small “wild cat” – almost as cute as your average kitty but about twice the size and probably many times more vicious! Amazingly it didn’t take off when we pulled up just a short way away. It was still sitting posing when a canter pulled up alongside (a horrible noisy open topped vehicle for 20 even noisier passengers). Satisfied with our lot and glad to have made the effort in getting out of bed we set off for our next stop – Bundi.

1 comment:

Nathan and Aki said...

Hey Guys.
Hows the weather up there?
Its hot down here in Pondicherry.

Would love to see more pics of your setup.
Hope to see you on the road somewhere soon.

Nathan and Aki

Visitors Since 19th May 2009...