Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Incredible India Part 6:Drive to and in Ranthambhore National Tiger Park, in Rajasthan

Today, we started the fourth day of traveling with our marvelous group. Each day, with our travel companion, we changed seats according to a plan our main guide posted as we got on the bus. That was so each of us had a chance to sit on a different side in a different part of the bus. The front two seats were reserved for people who wanted to sit in the front for 30 minutes at a time.

We passed a number of fresh produce markets in towns along the road. Indian people prefer fresh local produce when possible. Here are some of the scenes along the road, including a street sweeper, produce vendors and cattle awaiting to be fed.
Goats walking along the road next to our bus

We often saw street sweepers near markets and at historic sites

What a wonderful smile we bus passengers got from this young man

Unpacking radishes at the vegetable market in a small town

Cattle waiting patiently for imperfect vegetables

We spent most of the day driving with rest stops every hour and a half. At each stop, we had opportunities to buy souvenirs.I felt relaxed when looking at this carving for sale at one, so I took a picture of it.

We entered Rajasthan where the women dress in very colorful clothing. Here is a picture of women in Azizpur, Rajasthan in a special vehicle for transporting women. 

Women in villages in this region wear orange for purity and yellow and other bright colors to bring joy to their homes. Thanks to Blanca for the pictures below, especially the close up of this very joyous woman. Notice that the woman in front of her has her face covered. 

 Rajasthan is a a large state where people are more traditional. Many women cover their faces, a tradition that began centuries ago. The women favor bright clothing, especially orange for purity and yellow. 

We saw a fair amount of green too

 An interesting juxtaposition below--with the man in jeans and the woman with all but her eyes covered. White is much less common for women and is considered a sign of mourning. Red is usually worn by brides at weddings. Men wear white often to stay cool.

Before lunch we stopped at an amazing step well that was 1200 years old and an astounding work of construction. The well is 64’ deep (19.5 m). It was built to store water in this arid area and also has a small local palace in it.  

The Chand Baori is in the village of Abhaneri, Rajasthan. It was constructed in 800 CE. It has 3,500 narrow steps and the whole structure is 13 stories high. it is 5-6 degrees (centigrade?) cooler at the bottom. In hot weatherhistorically it was used as a gathering place to cool off. Step wells were common places throughout the area to get water but the practice has mostly fallen out of use though the constructions still exist. I was astounded that such an amazing piece of architecture was created so many years ago!!

The first two pictures below were from the web as I could not take as good a picture.

A number of damaged religious statues were collected on the sides of this step well. Before we arrived, Bhanu had told us the story of poison women, women that were given tiny amounts of poison since they were very young and then used as weapons against enemies as they matured as their body fluids were poisonous. (The only thing I could find on the web about them was The Visha Kanya.) Several of the damaged statues had carvings of these women.

Bhanu pointing out the carving of a poison woman 

The step well is located opposite 
Harshat Mata Temple.    There were beautiful carvings on this temple too.

Across the street from the step well and the temple was a small fruit and crafts market.
I was fascinated by this man who made colored decorations on bracelets and bought two, one just the right size for my granddaughter.

We had lunch at a lovely palace with an organic restaurant and walked by the gardens where vegetables used i the restaurant are grown.  A drummer greeted us as we entered.  The buffet lunch had a greater variety than some of the buffets we had had--the food was delicious!

A shrine near the entrance by the drummer

A small shrine inside

Unripe gooseberries growing about 15 feet high up in a tree
We continued driving through rural areas.
Dry, arid area

Boys getting water from a well

Men gathering for a snack

A woman gathering wood

In early evening we arrived at the Tigress Ranthampore Hotel, near the Ranthambore National Tiger Park. 

This hotel was gorgeous--a beautiful oasis in the arid area
 The park was the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur until it became a national tiger park.  It was painful to see photos of the past on a wall in the hotel and to see how big these magnificent creatures were.  

We were greeted by a musician playing Yankee Doodle!
 We also were greeted with dots on our foreheads and marigolds leis.
 The lobby was beautifully appointed.

 The popular local beer of India--at least northern India:
 A cake for dessert for our one-week anniversary of traveling (including plane trip):

Nava, Blanca and I ordered silk kurtas made to order just before we had dinner.

The next morning we were up at 5 and headed out at 6:15 on safari for 3.5 hours, looking for one of the tigers in the park.    Tigers are severely endangered,   Of the original nine subspecies, three are extinct and four of the remaining six are critically endangered, with less than 4,000 remaining in the world.  Poaching and loss of environment has reduced their numbers from over 100,000 to the few remaining.

Our group headed out in two canters (open 14-passenger, all-terrain trucks) to the 1400 square kilometer Ranthambore National Park and tiger sanctuary. 

There are ten zones in the park, and we went into zone 4 where a mother and cubs were sighted yesterday. 

 Male tigers are solitary. There are 71 tigers now in the park including cubs with a preponderance of males cubs.  Some males will be moved to another preserve as this one can only support 55 maximum before males start fighting to the death. 

 Most live up to 15 years in the wild. When they start losing their canine teeth around 12 or do, their future is limited. Females are of mating age at 3 or so. In zone four there were two females, one with one almost grown cub close to age 2 (another died) and another with three seven month old cubs—another also died.

As we drove out, we saw the sun rise. 

The road was very bumpy, and it was colder than we had expected (thank goodness for the blankets that were provided) but the seats were comfortable.

  Each canter had a naturalist provided by the park.  

Entering the reserve:

Our guide looked for tiger scat and listened to the sound of other animals.    If tigers approached, the sounds of other animals changed dramatically as some were startled, like the animal who quickly turned around when he heard an unusual sound.  A tiger was near but went away from the watering hole, in another direction.

. There were also cameras that took pictures of animals that passed by.  That was another way the park employees could know the location of animals in the park.
We had to be out of the park by ten a.m., and even though our guide worked diligently, the tigers eluded us.  

We did see quite a few animals, especially deer:

We did see black faced lemur (?) monkeys,

 a crocodile (lower center right below)

many different birds,   When we stopped to use the bathroom, several of the birds checked out our vehicles.

sambar and spotted deer,

 peacocks (the national bird of India), 

 and insect hills with small tunnels underneath going from one hill to another.

Sambar deer are the largest variety of deer in Asia. The deer lose their antlers annually and later eat them.

They was less rain the past monsoon season than usual so the lake we passed by which was created privately before this became a national park about 40 years ago was not as high as usual. We also saw cacti.

A spotted deer almost camouflaged by its surroundings

Nava Gazitt and I had low expectations of seeing a tiger this afternoon when we returned to Ranthambore National Park but we were looking forward to being surprised. 16 of the 28 of our group that participated this morning braved the bumpy path to return. We went in zone 1, and the landscape was a bit different--drier and also with some rocky area and some banyan trees.

There was a pond where this sambar deer chose to rest.

We never did see a tiger, but we were rewarded by the sight of a much more elusive animal, a leopard! First he appeared in the road in front of us, but when he saw us, he turned around, and then rested, semi-hidden, off the path.
Our naturalist guide Bitu had not seen a leopard in over two weeks whereas he tends to see tigers at least 50% of the time that he takes people out, , so we were very lucky.

Bhanu , our guide, said, we hoped for silver (the tiger) and we got gold (the leopard)!!!

The bumpy ride in the trucks really confused the health app on my Iphone, which said that I had walked 16,000 steps and climbed 195 flights!  I've done 16,000 steps on plenty of days but not on this one!

Local people appreciate the work in the park and the tourists that come in, stay at local hotels, and eat locally. It gives employment to many people in the area.

Others in our group stayed back for a massage, to rest, and/or to take a camel cart ride to the small town nearby. They had a lovely time interacting with the children of the village.
 I also watched a man paint, who worked by the clothing shop.
That night we had dinner on the hotel roof (wearing our coats as it was chilly) and also saw a music, puppet and dancing show. Nava joined the group for some good exercise!!   We also saw the special stove on which na'an was made and had a choice of garlic or plain.

Delicious food with some new additions

As we left the next morning, the musician bade us farewell from the rooftop!