Our second stop in Agra was the Agra Fort a more opulent version of the Red Fort in Dehli. Agra Fort was finished in about 1638 and was the seat of Mughal emperors. The famous Shah Jahan (the builders grandson) is said to have spent this last years here in prison after being deposed by one of his his own sons. The Fort was also the site of a significant battle in 1857 in the Indian rebellion which ended the reign of the east India company in India and brought the British to power. We had an excellent local guide whose vast knowledge of the fort added immensely to the experience. One interesting fact was that water from the moat was carried up to the roof of the fort and drained down through the walls to create a cooling function in the hot summers. The water was then collected in a huge central drain and fed back to the moat. As the moat was full of crocodiles, the speculation of what the fort smelt like in the summer is an interesting one. A big thumbs up for modern AC! Once we had finished out tour of the fort we left for Ranthombore NP in Rasjathan province.
Driving and walking through rural and urban areas these last few days has slowly revealed the complexities of fully functioning societies operating within societies. What first appeared as chaos to my uneducated western eye has now begun to make sense. Human, canine, bovine and porcine societies operating both within and in compliment to each other. (Rats just make my trigger finger itch, so will omit them). India is young, the energy pulses wherever you go. Life often is short and brutal for both people and animals, however it is also vibrant and filled with a sense of the future. Our evening forays take us past a multitude of cooking fires surrounded by family groups, compounds with children and animals, definite groups with a sense of belonging and inclusion.
India is a land of contrasts, rich and poor, urban and rural, Hindu and Sikh – the list goes on and on. There is a huge amount of wealth in this country, it is by no means a third world country as often portrayed by the media, but an economic power house. It is also a land of youth – young people are everywhere – many disenfranchised, and herein lies the problem. A problem shared by all other countries in the world as populations explode and the limits of economic growth are reached.
We have now passed from Central India into the Province of Rajasthan. The contrast in the rural areas (particularly in the current dry season) is startling – due to mainly to a higher water table. A greater level of prosperity is everywhere, larger groups of animals, bustling produce markets, fields of wheat, chick peas and mustard everywhere. Community wells are common.
Our journey to Ranthambore National Park was long but interesting, including stops for roasted peanuts by the roadside,
the usual traffic jams and a lot of bumpy roads…. Our last hour or so to our destination was lined with cooking fires and families settling in for the night. Our hotel is lovely located just outside the park boundary with all rooms facing inwards to a garden area and the requisite huge hotel vegetable garden behind.
Ranthambore National Park.
The park is a wildlife reserve that covers approximately 400 sq km and is home to two species of deer, crocodiles, leopard and the animal I was most hoping to see – the Tiger. It was the hunting area of the British and elite in the past during which time the large population of tigers in India was reduced to a handful of survivors. Some of the old rock hunting blinds used during the driven shoots still exist. Due to their protected status tigers are making a comeback and 64 currently live within the park boarders. The park also contains Ranthambore Fort and on the ridge line overlooking the park and the temple of the elephant God Manesh Gandir. A site of worship for local people.
Two game drives today completed a wonderful day. My lucky hat didn’t generate a tiger in the morning drive which started before sunrise in very cold temperatures. fortunately the hotel staff were kind enough to give us blankets before we set off in our open safari Vehicle. We did see spotted deer and sambhar deer, as well as many birds and a very large tiger footprint the size of a small dinner plate in the dust beside the road.
The absolute prize was the sunrise turning the lakes and valleys gold and red as it cut through the morning mist. Our trip back to the hotel after safari was a slow process navigating roads choked with pilgrims on their way to the temple of Manesh. Lots of happy faces, smiles and waves exchanged between temple goers and the safari vehicle occupants.
We set again after an excellent lunch. More stunning beauty, sambhar deer feeding on water lilies (they seem to fill the moose niche here), birds, spotted deer, monkeys….
And then -YES – two tiger cubs on a far ridge in the long dried grass waiting for their mother to return from the hunt. They were about 500 yds away but our lenses could just pick them out as they sat up waiting for the mother. My lucky hat is batting 100%!
Wonderful wonderful day! Topped off with a stunning sunset as we travelled home to the lodge. Tomorrow we leave for Jaipur the Pink City.