The drive to Ranthambhore was long, quickly changing from highway to country road but it was entertaining as wedding processions could regularly be seen, men on white horse back and huge parades and carts of guests. Wheat was transported in satchels on a truck making the truck double in size and look like an elephant or overinflated pumpkin. Each truck was painted, personalised with lots of colour and personalised patterns, the back featuring instructions such as ‘blow horn’ ‘keep distance’ or ‘dip lights.’ Unfortunately we saw the aftermath of a fatal motorbike accident. Arriving on the scene maybe 10 minutes after, the local people and passers by had stopped to help and had put down a row of bricks around the motorbike and body but made no attempt to cover the man or spilled goods, and the remaining traffic just weaved round and on with their journey.
Our accommodation was Wilderness tents just outside of the small town of Ranthambhore, close to the national park. Afternoon night of glamping we were up early to go on safari and in complete contrast to forts and temples, were taken through the town to dusty jungle. It is amazing in such a densely populated country to find such a large area of bush land and quiet. Their was so much wildlife to be seen, two types of deer, the white spotted and the large horse like Samba dear. We quickly saw monkeys, blue bull and throngs of bird life. It wasn’t long before we hit jackpot and came across a leopard just lying in the track. We had spent hours of safari in Africa looking for this elusive animal and here it was displaying itself in all its regality in front of us. As we pulled closed it got up and slowly paraded across the road and up into the hillside, it’s markings giving it camouflage surprisingly quickly.
Further on we came across a large lake where someone spotted crocodile moving along the banks. The area was teeming with kingfisher of several kinds, Eagles and Hawks circled overhead and cheeky tree pykes, nicknamed the Tigers dentist, came in for a closer look. It was amazing to hear the calls of the jungle and the patterns of the animals going about their daily lives, aware of each other, some friends and some foes.
The main goal appeared to be a sighting of the tiger and before long we were lucky in that too. We came across a tiger set back in the bush in the shade with her cub. Again the camouflage was so perfectly in tune with the oranges and browns of the jungle floor, she was best visible with the flick of a tail of a stretch of the limbs. They were so large and majestic.
The midday was a long drawn out pool session to keep cool before our afternoons safari. We entered a different part of the park through Ganesh’s temple which was set back into jungle backdrop. The amazing Banyan trees sprawled over the crumbled bricks of the 10th century Ranthambhore fort making for a very jungle book like feel. In the midst of the vegetation, tombs and tumbledown structures clawed for sunlight. In the afternoon heat the animals searched for cover. We did spot a tiger prowling the banks of a lake, it’s great size apparent with every movement. We saw snakes moving through long grass and peacocks displaying grandly. And in one day we had seen a whole different side to India, one I had not even considered. The natural beauty of this country rivalled its long historic tapestry. The three symbols of India hiding in one special area, the national tree, the Banyan, bird, the peacock and animal, the majestic tiger.