We’re once again up for an early morning since tigers find it too hot for comfort during the day. So if we’re to see any we need to leave at sunrise. Börje and I start the day with a swim in the pool under the stars.
The safari vehicle is a small bus with no roof that seats exactly 20 people, that is, exactly all of us minus our tour leaders Maria and Fredrik who get to take another bus. We have a very likable guide with understandable English and some of the girls confess to looking at him when not looking at the scenery =P The scenery which is magnificent by the way! This is the actual place that served as inspiration for Kipling when he wrote that book with Baloo in it and it shows! The nature is more of what I would call forest than jungle though but immensely beautiful all the same.
We enter area 3 (there are 5 safari areas in the park) and race around while the guide points out spotted deer, wild boars, herons and other rare birds that I’ve forgotten the names of. We soon learn that both spotted deer and the boars are a dime a dozen as are the black-faced long-tail monkeys.
But tiger is obviously the main attraction and excitement rises when the guide spots some female tiger tracks on the road. He says they are fresh from this morning at least and that they’ve heard warning calls from other animals in this section. We turn off on a small road where normally only small jeeps drive, but as our driver is a competent one we do okay even there. Still no tiger in sight though and we start to resign our hopes.
Down by one of the three lakes in the area we’re lucky enough to spot a kingfisher. We’re also told that there are lots of sweet water crocs in the lakes but that they don’t come out this time of year. Not long after that though we happen upon a young crocodile basking in the sun on the beach. Suddenly a warning call is heard from a spotted deer and both guide and driver get really excited! Apparently it’s close and we go down the road to a patch of tiger grass. And there it is! Running along a dried out river bed and disappearing into the grass to fell what probably is a deer!
The guide is very excited, fist pumping and going on about how rare it actually is to see a tiger this time of year. If I were to be cynical I would think he’s more excited about the sizable tip he’ll be getting now that we’ve seen the king of the forest. He tells us that the name of the tiger is “Lady of the Lake” and we go back and forth a few times in case she comes back. She doesn’t however and the guide says she’s probably eating now and is unlikely to leave for a good while.
Our time is more or less up now but on the way back we also get to see a couple of spotted owls and a large lizard being picked on by a couple of birds from which it probably just had stolen eggs. Back at the hotel both guide and driver get obscene amounts of tips, but I guess they earned it, and besides they actually were really nice!
Back at the hotel it’s just a quick stop before going off to see Ranthambhore fort as well. This was also a large inspiration for Kipling and you can see why when you get there. It’s as if taken right out of the Disney version in the scene where King Louie sings with all his monkeys. First it’s a long zig-zag staircase going up the mountain side through several gates with various defensive features, the fort must’ve been virtually impenetrable in its time! Up top is a very impressive view of the reservation and you can see most of the places we were in the morning. The beauty of the scenery is somewhat ruined by the abundant trash however. The guide explains that each month throngs of pilgrims travel here since it’s a very holy place and that they are the ones littering. We ask why there aren’t any trash bins anywhere and he just says they get kicked over, apparently Indians don’t like to be told what to do… The guide says the solution would be armed guards, but that it’s too expensive. India is a weird country.
Our guide is curious about the tiger we saw this morning and wants to know which area we went to. We tell him that the name of the tiger was “Lady of the Lake” and he replies that it’s impossible since the one called “Lady of the Lake” is a very old tiger that has moved to another territory. The one we saw likely was T17 (not as poetic maybe, but a bit cool if you consider 17 terminator tigers roaming around) which is the daughter of the “Lady of the Lake”.
We walk past something that looks like gooseberries (krusbär) and we ask the guide about them. He cautions us that many of the plants here are poisonous and that we shouldn’t touch them but that the one we pointed at is delicious. So I take one of the gooseberry things and eat it. The taste is awfully bitter and I’m forced to spit it out, it probably wasn’t ripe yet.
Moving on we come to a courtyard overlooking a gorge where lots of monkeys live. A couple of cows also come walking and I photograph one of them who decides he doesn’t like me and charges! A quick sidestep is all it takes though and moments later he seems to have forgotten that he’s angry. The monkeys are also aggressive and hiss towards us if we get too close. When we reach the end of the turnaround point we see why the monkeys are so aggressive, the pilgrims feed the monkeys who I suppose are holy as well. So the monkeys are after the flower necklaces and sugar which you can buy in the many shops surrounding the temple. Håkan buys a necklace, only to have it instantly ripped off and eaten by one of the monkeys. I buy a headband adorned with the words “Ya Ganesh” and a couple of swastikas for good measure before we head back down for lunch.
At lunch we meet this nice brit who has been backpacking around India with his girlfriend, he not to keen on the Indian salesmen who he claims to be the worst con-men he’s ever encountered. He works for SAAB and has spent a lot of time in Jönköping so he knows a fair bit about Sweden. They’re also off on the safari this afternoon and they’re excited to hear that we’ve seen a tiger today. Let’s hope we have more of that kind of luck!
Our second safari doesn’t have as nice a guide as the first one, but we have our hopes up to see some sloth bears or maybe a leopard this time! This time we go into area 5 where Maria and Fredrik were this morning and also got to see a tiger. The scenery here is somewhat less inspiring and more or less looks like regular European leaf forest, that and the fact that we just had lunch makes me nod off a bit. Elin finds it great fun to take pictures of me sleeping so I eventually get my act together. We don’t see many animals this time and I spend some time contemplating the fact that driving on a crappy forest road is actually faster than highway driving in India – the mind boggles…
We hear some warning calls but no tiger, the guide thinks it has already made it’s kill and isn’t likely to move much, just like this morning. So we move on in hopes of seeing the other tiger that’s in this area. We don’t have much luck though and don’t see much animals at all actually. The scenery improves though though and we get some more breathtaking views instead of tigers.
On the way back I keep an eye out for the barber shop we saw earlier, only to see that it’s closed. Ricard and I resolve to get up early next morning in order to squeeze in a shave before we leave for Agra, gotta keep my increasingly ursine appearance in check!
Ricard, Sara and me go out for an evening stroll later to see what Ranthambhore has to offer, it isn’t much though but I manage to find a great cola knockoff called “Thums Up Cola” which actually is really good! I need to bring some back with me. Oddly enough the bottle says it’s brewed under license from Coca-Cola Company, I’m not sure how that works really (it turns out that it’s originally an Indian cola acquired by Coca-Cola in 1993, which explains the hilarious spelling)…
Later that evening a guy sits down at our table, opening with the line “Gäss which kanntri ajj äm from!”. Not too hard for us swedes to figure out that he’s Norwegian and we end up chatting about Opera (the browser) of course.
P.S. The title references a somewhat famous poem, look it up! D.S.