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Published: March 6th 2013
Fatehpur Sikri I
View of one of the courts.
On Monday morning, we were picked up by our driver and started off for the 250 km from Agra to Sawai Mandhopur, the city close to Ranthambore National Park, where we were going to go on a safari and hopefully see some tigers. The journey would take us six hours altogether. Driving in a car in India usually takes really long, you do an average of 50 km/h because many roads are in a really bad condition with huge potholes, but also because of traffic jams and because it takes you forever to go through the towns and villages on your way.
Luckily, we had a little stopover in Fatehpur Sikri, another Mughal Fort that is very impressive. It is built of red sandstone and simply huge. It lies on top of a hill and offers a beautiful view of the surrounding country. And it is very well maintained.
After visiting this place, we continued to Sawai Mandhopur. When we got there, we were kind of surprised. We were expecting to get to a little village in the centre of the park, where it would be quiet and where we could walk right into the forest. However, our driver
Fatehpur Sikri II
Wonderful garden with impressive buildings in the background.
dropped us off in a hotel in the outskirts of an ugly, extremely dirty and noisy city. The hotel itself was nice, Mizzi and I stayed in a big tent that even had its own bathroom with shower, toilet and sink, nice beds and a veranda. There was a nice park surrounding the hotel. But once you got out of it, you were in that dirty city again, and even when we tried to walk out of the city, we did not manage to get out of it.
So we had a nice dinner in the park of the hotel, with candles lit on the whole terrace and some traditional Indian dance and music. Once more we told ourselves that things are simply different here in India and that we would let ourselves surprise by the next day.
We got up at 5:30 and were picked up by a canter (a large jeep with about 20 seats) and taken into the park. Sitting in the cantercan be called anything but comfortable. The roads in the park are extremely bumpy so that all your inner organs are thrown up and about, and there are many twigs that hit you
Fatehpur Sikri III
Pool in which the king used to bathe in perfumed water.
in the face if you do not pay attention. Plus, it was simply freeying cold, and we were glad the guy at the reception had given us a blanket and that we had taken warm clothes. Once the sun was up, it got warmer.
We were rewarded by seeing quite a few animals. The highlight of the morning was seeing a hyena. They are usually nocturnal, so it was good to see it standing in the middle of the road. Later on, we also saw various kinds of deer, crocodiles, beautiful birds, and of course lots of crazy monkeys jumping from tree to tree. We did not see a tiger, but we knew the probability of seeing one was really low. The park is 400 square kilometres big, and there are 50 tigers in it. There are five routes that run through the park, and each jeep is assigned to one route when it comes to the park.
We got back to the hotel around 10 and had a late breakfast, then just relaxed until 2 pm, when we were picked up for our afternoon safari. It was again uncomfortable, this time for me even more so as
... taking a dip in a waterhole, not even 10 metres from us. Most beautiful animal!
Mizzi was sitting on the seat close to the aisle now and I was sitting on the seat close to the railing. But the incredible thing happened: in the late afternoon, we saw a tiger, taking a dip in a pond just off the road we were on. He was not even ten metres away, totally unimpressed that three jeeps full of excited tourists were there. What an incredibly beautiful animal, and I think it is the only cat on the planet that loves water. They often lie in waterholes to cool off. We were super happy when we got back to the hotel!
The next morning, we got up at 5:30 once more and were picked up for a trip to the beautiful and huge Ranthambore Fort, located in the park. A guide took us up to the Fort and explained a lot of its history to us. And we even learned that the leopards in the park use the Fort as a refuge from the tigers. The gate of the fort is closed during the night, so the leopards can get in by climbing the walls, which the tigers can't. The Fort offers a most beautiful view
... sitting on a tree in the park.
of the park and you can see many birds up there and get really close to the monkeys. Mizzi and I even got into the temple that is in the Fort that is dedicated to the Hindu Elephant God Ganesh and that is still in use. We even went in and were pretty impressed about how unimpressive the temple is (only a statue of Ganesh with some blinking lights around it and some kitschy decoration). But we received the red mark on our foreheads that signals that you have been to a temple.
What a nice morning trip! After it, we had another late breakfast and a shower, then we packed our backpacks and were picked up by our driver. He took us to Jaipur, 180 km from Sawai Mandhopur - and a 3.5 hour drive!
We are looking forward to an interesting day here tomorrow. More stories will follow soon!
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