Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nainital and Vicinity

It was planned 2 weeks in advance and we booked rooms with KMVN. After much discussion, we decided on KMVN Bhimtal Rest House. It is easy to book as KMVN allows you to book over the net and the prices are reasonable with good facilities. is the place to go and book your rooms. We took a normal room, which was charged as Rs.800 per night.

Thursday, 25 December
We, my & my wife, started out at 5:15AM, woke up our poor car repairing guy at early Delhi morning, got our fan checked and started out by 5:30AM. We took NH24. As Delhi winter morning are it was very foggy and no car was ready to lead. Therefore, it was taken in turns as we drove through the fog. We were cruising at around 7:30AM at a comfortable speed. The journey was uneventful until we reached Garhmukteshwar. There was a huge traffic jam and we were stranded for around three hours moving barely half a kilometer. This was because of heavy traffic and narrow roads. However, there were rumors that a truck laden with goods had overturned but when we were able to move again we did not find a trace of that. We took a wrong turn at Moradabad and instead of getting on the Moradabad Bypass; we went through the city and lost more time. We nearly averted an accident in Moradabad with the front bumper of our car as casualty. Thing got worse at Haldwani were we had to go through SH37 which was at best can be called a road from the primitive ages and I would say we were lucky enough to get through that road without further damage to our car. Therefore, after driving for over thirteen hours we reached Bhimtal KMVN Rest House exhausted. The scenic beauty of the location lifted our spirits, as the Rest house was located on a sublime place just above a hill over looking Lake Bhimtal. The rooms were quite big and bathrooms clean. The only drawback was there was no arrangement of running water in the evening. So we requested a bucket of water freshened ourselves up took dinner and hit the bed early.

Friday, 26 December

After breakfast, we headed out to Nainital. Nainital is around 22KM from Bhimtal. It goes via Bhowali a small hill town. It is very congested. At Nainital to enter the Mall Road you have to pay Rs.25 per entry. Therefore, after paying the toll tax we entered Nainital.
The Lake looked serene with Bluish-green tinge. The forestry around the lake made the area look spell bounding. We drove through the Mall road and the parked our car in one of the public car parking areas that was available. 26th December is also my wife’s Birthday. Therefore, we headed to a bakery and ordered a small cake to celebrate. It was a private, brief but joyful.
Thereafter we headed for a trip via horseback to the few points that are there in Nainital. The deal was finalized at Rs.700 for two of us. After a small drive, we got on our horses (Rocky & Suraj). Rocky, the horse I was on was highly trained and understood whatever our guide was telling it; Suraj though was handled little more firmly. The road was made during British India time.The first stop was Land’s End point were the as you have guessed the road ends and a great view starts. From here, you can see the Lake Khurpatal which is much smaller than any of the lakes in the vicinity but has a great surroundings. The next or last stop was Tiffin Top from were you get a panoramic view of the city of Nainital & its vicinity with the entire natural splendor it has to offer. After this, we were dropped off near the lake and paid our guide. We trekked down to the Mall. Here as we were walking through the market we decided to take a boat ride on the lake. It ticket was Rs.125. The lake looked even better when you are on it and the scenery looked awesome. We sighted a few very colourful birds of which one I recognized as a kingfisher. We asked the boatman to drop us at the Naina Devi temple, where my wife wanted to offer her prayers. The story behind this temple as like lots of other Devi temples in India is that to stop Lord Shiva from destroying the Earth with his Tandav Nritya when Devi Sati died of insult from her father, Lord Vishnu cur her body into 78 pieces to cool Shiva down. It has been said that one of the eyes of Devi Sati fell in Nainital. Thus the name Naina when means Eye.
After the temple visit, we wanted to visit the Snow View top, which can be reached, via the ropeway. We found that all the tickets for the day were booked and only next days tickets were available; therefore, we decided to buy the next day’s ticket for a 1:00 PM.

After this we left Nainital and started our journey back to Bhimtal. On arriving at Bhimtal we strolled around the side of the Lake and marveled at its beauty till sunset (by the way the boat rids in Bhimtal is Rs.150). After this, we decided to call it a day and retired to our rooms after dinner.

Saturday, 27 December
We headed out for Nainital in the morning and decided to visit the Nainital Zoo. The road to the zoo was so steep and narrow I had a harrowing time driving and even got my car scratched. The zoo was worth it, especially the Snow Leopard. Its facial features looked exactly like the Tai Lung in the Hollywood Blockbuster movie Kung-fu Panda. We also saw a Siberian Tiger with its humongous torso. Leopards and the Himalayan Black Bear along with various Deers were other attractions. We also saw an owl; I cannot remember the exact name.
Thereafter we parked our car and went to make good use of the tickets we bought yesterday for the ropeway ride to Snow view Point. After a 15 minutes wait we got our chance to make the trip. The journey up was breathtakingly beautiful. The view made Nainital look really majestic and gorgeous. I clicked many pictures. At the top, we went up the hills and looked marveled at the snow-capped Himalayas; it brought to our mind
songs from the film Hirak Rajar Deshe by Satyajit Ray. It spent some time in silence looking at the view, but as normally in any tourist spots in India seeking silence is futile as everyone was chattering weather required or not. So after spending around 45 minutes at Snow Top we headed down again by the ropeway and was yet again fascinated by the view.
Once down we were hungry and looked for a restaurant named Machaan, it’s a very recommended restaurant in Nainital and there always seems to be a waiting time. We wanted Tibetan food but had to settle for Chinese. The food was delicious and reasonable. Lunch over we headed to market by the Cricket Ground and my wife bought a pair of gloves for Rs.40 which surprising was a great deal due to the quality of the material. Happy we headed back towards Bhimtal.
We were having a disagreement on weather to visit Nukuchiatal or Sattal. At the end I won and we visited Sattal and my wife later said it was a good decision as Sattal had a wild and unspoilt look and was hardly crowded. Sattal is made up of seven lakes; thus the name Sattal. Currently five lakes are joined and form a huge lake. They are Hanuman-tal, Ram-tal, Sita-tal, Lakshman-tal and Bharat-tal. The other two are a little off from the main area and they are Garuda-tal which can be seen while coming towards the main Sattal area and has a very ghostly look to it. The last and the smallest one is the Nal-Daimanti-Tal. 

We were fascinated by the scenery in front of us and decided to take a boat ride on the main lake (which actually is 5 lakes). It costs Rs.175. The boatman was very informative and answered all our questions and told us a lot of stories and events about the lakes. Here we also learned that at the Nal-Daimanti-Tal you can feed the fish there. So after alighting from the boat we purchased some biscuits and started for Nal-Daimanti-Tal which is about 3.5 KM from the main Lakes. This lake has lost its natural banks and now has man-made ones. It is very shallow with the maximum depth of about 10 feet. There were lots and lots of fish and they were eager to eat the biscuits we threw in the water. We enjoyed the feeding and as its we getting dark we decided to head back to our hotel.
We got our things packed for an early start tomorrow with our journey from Delhi still ripe in our memory & hit the bed.

Sunday, 28 December
In the morning we decided to have Maggie (actually it was Ching’s Secret) which we brought along with us. We asked the hotel cook to prepare it with eggs. After Breakfast and settlement of the bill we started our journey back to Delhi. It was 8:30AM then. This time though we decided to go through Nainital as we came to know from our visits there is another better road that has come up around two years ago. We found it was an extension of NH87. The road was far better and less congested. We reached the plains around 10AM and was immediately welcomed with a road through the Jim Corbett National Park. I put the car on cruise control and enjoyed the greenery. This time we came to know while coming we missed the Moradabad bypass and found that it would have made our journey much shorter and comfortable. We kept moving at a pretty brisk pace till we reached Garhmukteshwar again and was held up for around 20 minutes. After that it was pretty uneventful. We did miss the Hapur bypass and lost around 30 minutes in the fray. After Hapur it was pretty smooth and we were home by 4:30 PM; which we great taking into consideration the amount of time it took us for our journey to Bhimtal. Home felt nice and after quick dinner we hit the bed to wash away all our exhaustion.

You can see the full album here
Monday, May 26, 2008

Kasauli, Shimla

It was a hurried decision but we decided on the afternoon of 16th May 2008 that we want to headout of Delhi. We decided on Kasauli. We were advised on getting accomodation on the outskirts of Kasauli as the main hill station is pretty crowded. Looking around in the net I found a site It gave us two options One in Kasauli town, Hotel Anchal and one on the out skirts Hotel Shivalik. I searched around and found a site of Hotel Shivalik and liked what I saw. So I called them up as they had a booking office in Delhi, but strangely their charges were more than the one offered by So we booked through the latter. Rs.1500 per night.

Saturday, May 17

We started at around 4:30AM in the morning and took Outer ring road from Nizzamuddin. Followed it until we reach GT Karnal and after that we were on NH1. The quality of the roads was great. We were cruising at a good speed and by 8:00AM were at Ambala. Then we turned towards Kalka. Had our breakfast in the way. At Panchkula we experienced some traffic. Once we negotiated that we were on the mountainous. The roads and the View turned green and gorgeous.
Around 10:30AM we reached our destination at Hotel Shivalik. After setting into our room with a lovely view and birds chirping. We took a nap. At around 4:30PM we got up and got ready. After some light refreshments we headed out for Kasauli. It was around 10 km away and the mountainous road was not very broad. The speed limit was kept at not more than 30-35 km/hr. We reached Kasauli around 5:15 PM. There were a lot of shops set up by probably Nepalese or Bhutani people selling good garments at low cost. A saw a few of them but decided to take a trip of the area before doing any purchasing. The view was great but nothing to write home about the small hill station in general. We also saw hotel Anchal and we relieved we choose hotel Shivalik. After take a full trekking trip of the area we came back to the Mall area and sat down in a restaurant (again run by the Nepali/Bhutani people). We had momos and fruit juice. After this we did some shopping I bought two T-shirts and my wife some dresses. Once we were over with our shopping we proceeded back to our hotel. After a light dinner and a little walk in the “gardens” we hit the bed. 

Sunday, May 18

We got up early next day and decided to go to Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It was around 65 kms from our hotel. After breakfast we hit the road, which was again good and we reached in one & a half hour’s time. Once there we tried to park our car as there quite a few multi storied parking lots in Shimla. In one of these we met our guide for our tour of Shimla and the outskirts, Mr. Ishwar. He was not only a fantastic person and a good guide but also an excellent driver for the hilly region. His charges for his services was Rs.200. Pretty decent I would say. Firstly we went to the Jakhoo Temple for Lord Hanuman. It is said when Hanuman came for the Sanjivanee herb he rested on this mountain and his foot print can be seen in the temple. Well be sure to carry a stick along with you when you go up to the temple as the monkeys there a notorious for snatching away prasads and other items from unarmed persons. While going up & down the temple road I allowed our guide to drive as it’s a regular  affair for him. The incline of the road is steep and its narrow as well. Actually from now on our guide was the person who was driving. Here we crossed the Green Valley. It’s a place on the way to Kufri where the whole view of the mountains is covered with pine like trees. It’s an amazing sight.

From here we went to Kufri, it’s a place which around 11000 ft from sea level and the highest point around the Shimla area. You can either go walking or in a pony. We decided to take the pony and left the car with our guide. The charges were Rs.250/person. The initial road was very dirty and muddy mixed with horse droppings (because of rain in the last few days). There were a few girls behind us who were constantly shrieking and it was getting irritating after a point. Thankfully we lost them and reached the top. Here our pony man, or should I say boy because I presume he was not much older than 10-12 years told us he would leave now and would be back by 2:30 PM. That  time it was around 11:30 AM. There are a few points on Kufri, one where they let you see through a telescope showing the China border which I thought was a waste of time. The other attractions were your pictures taken on a Yak. This picture you can also be taken dressed as a native. The ride on a Yak is Rs.10. It’s not exactly a ride but they just allow you to sit on it for a few minutes without the creature moving. But the animals themselves are pretty magnificent. Both of us got on the Yaks and got our pictures taken. The thing  which got my wife all excited was a man with a python, who was allowing peoples to hold it on their shoulders and be snapped. My Wife is always curious about snakes (what’s with snakes and women?) had her picture taken the python on her shoulder. I was not interested as I felt it was an exploitation of the poor creature, but I put my hand on the underbelly to feel the skin. It’s so different from all I had felt till date. Very flexible and scaly. There was an entertainment park at Kufri with high  entry prices as it should be in a tourist spot. We decided to skip it.  Being tired  by now we got something to eat and then proceeded to the Apple Garden which I just couldn’t find. But there was a nice area near a temple where there was lots of flowers, white ones. We took a lot of photographs. We walked back to our pickup point and then began a long wait of about 30 minutes for our ponies to arrive and pick us up. After that happened we proceeded and made our way back to Shimla stopping at various points for photographic opportunity. I took a lot of photos at the Green Valley as I wanted to make a Panoramic Picture. At around 4:45 PM we reached Shimla and parked our car and headed for the Mall. There is a lift that allows takes you to the Mall, one way ticket is Rs.7/person.
The Mall in Shimla is huge and pretty clean. We visited a Church in the Mall and then just strolled around for some time. We heard that there is a restaurant which served great sizzlers but alas when we reached it we were told that its only snack time now, heavy duty stuff starts after 7:00 PM. Disappointed we went to a Barrista and got a sizzling brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce. After this we headed back for our car. Our guide was still there and helped us to get our car out of the maze like parking lot and even drove us to the out skirts of Shimla driving through the heavy traffic. If you want to contact him if you are at Shimla, his number is 09805297638. We were very satisfied with his service and attitude; I hope you will be too. Again his name is Mr. Ishwar.
At around 6:15 PM we made our way back to the hotel. In the way experienced heavy downpour and it was pretty tough driving in the mountains with those weather conditions. I drove slowly and it took us around a good park of over two hours to reach the hotel. Once there we had our dinner and spening some time in our verandah with a spectacular view we hit the bed and fell fast asleep. 

Monday, May 19

Next morning we got up at around 7:00 AM and got ready to leave for Delhi by 8:00 AM. After paying the bills and the goodbyes we headed out. One thing while travelling is keep your car’s papers with you, we got into a lot of harassment from the Haryana police for a minor disagreement. There was heavy downpour while we were driving back and found our car roof leaking, which made us decide to give the car for repairs once we reach home. I drove extremely fast and actually reached from Panchkula to Delhi within 4 hours. This was after over one & a half hour of harassment by the Haryana police. We reached Delhi by 4:00 PM and at home by 5:00 PM. After freshening up and a warm bath we headed out to Sector 18 Noida and had a great lunch (more like an early dinner) at Karim’s. We rounded off the day watching the new movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
You can view my full album here.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rajaji National Park –Kaudiyala – Devprayag

12th April 2008: Rajaji National Park

It was 12th of April 2008; we (Me, my wife and my sister-in-law) started from Vasundhara Enclave, Delhi for Rajaji National Park, Chilla at around 4:00 AM. The Road to take is NH58 which will cross Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, and Haridwar. Actually once you reach Haridwar you need to take a turn for Chilla. It took us around 5:30 hours to reach the GMVN Guest house, Chilla at Rajaji National Park. So we were there by round 9:30 AM.
If you are going to Rajaji the best place to stay is the GMVN guest house at Chilla. They have Gujjar Huts or Normal Rooms (A/C also available). We stayed in one of the huts. There are 6 of them. The area is great, there is a Hydro-electric plant nearby with is also a dam. The river Ganga also suppose to flowing pass the guest house but it has dried up, (this means chances of wildlife visiting the area is less). The Hut was pretty nice. I would surely recommend it. But don’t expect the world.
You can book rooms of GMVN guest house through net. Web site:
Once we checked in we asked about the safari. We were told we have missed the morning safari so we can only go in the evening safari. So we took a leisurely drive by the dam. It was also the road that leads to Rishikesh. We took a dirt road going pass our guest house to survey the area. It was a pretty beautiful sight. Pristine environment and water flowing by. This refreshes your body and mind.
About Rajaji National Park: Three sanctuaries in the Uttaranchal, Shivaliks - Rajaji, Motichur and Chila were amalgamated into a large protected area and named Rajaji National Park in the year 1983 after the famous freedom fighter Late Sri C. Rajgopalachari; popularly known as "Rajaji".
After taking our lunch and some rest we got ready for our safari around 4:00 PM. Bad news is that as one of the safari elephants had died so elephant safari is discontinued for the time being currently at Rajaji National Park. So we took the jeep safari. Jeep safari costs Rs.700 per jeep, around 6 persons can be accommodated. You have to pay a vehicle charge of Rs.100 for jeep, Rs.100 for guide and Rs.40 per head. So our total cost was Rs.920. (A little information here; if you have a jeep type vehicle you can use that for your safari and you will only need a guide and entry fees. You have to pay Rs.100 for your vehicle anyway if you are using the road from Haridwar to Chilla.)
We anticipation we entered the park and in a minutes’ time we saw a man on foot running towards the jeep, he said there were elephants there and surely there was a herd of elephants there going about its natural duties; EATING . After observing them for about 5-10 minutes we entered the forest and we able to spot the usual suspects the peacocks, the spotted deers, the sambar deers. We also spotted a few wild fowls. It was strange to hear a cock crowing in the forest. We were unlucky not to spot any barking deer or a marlet or other animals. What is worth mentioning is unlike other National Parks that I have visited; in Rajaji they don’t confine the safari within a stipulated area. You are given a tour of the whole park. It takes around 3 hours to go around the park without much stoppage. Once a river (Ganga) used to flow through the forest; but now its all dry and the safari passes through the dry river bed and you can have a 360 degree view of the park. It’s a spectacular sight.
After the safari we decided to go to the Ghat at Har-ki-Pairi so we can catch the evening Arati which is a great affair. Sadly we missed it as we were late. We just strolled around in the ghat and saw people taking a dip in the Ganges. Then we headed back to our car as we were advised to reach the Guest House before 8:30 PM. Me and my driving, I backed up and car tyre got stuck on a tree that was cut. We had to get some local help to get it out. After this we got further delayed due to traffic. It was around 8:45 when we enter the stretch for Chilla. 2 policemen asked us to be careful and said that we were taking a risk. It was then I remembered I read that elephants are seen at night on that road. I am not sure if I wanted to see them or not. I guess I didn’t want to encounter them but deep inside I was thrilled about the prospect.
We crossed the line and entered the 8 km stretch. There is a saying in Bengali “Jekane Baagher bhoi, sekhanei sonday hoi” which means where there is a possibility of encountering the tiger, dusk sets there. I hoped our car does not give up on us on that stretch. Firstly we saw a hare running confused seeing the light. The next five kilometers were uneventful. Around this time I noticed that there was a creature which looked like a tiger but was smaller. I had spots instead of stripes and seeing the light entered the bushes by the road. It was a leopard. My wife and sister-in-law actually saw it a few moments earlier. So they had a better view. I even though about taking a turn and point the headlight to on the bushes but decided against it; as it was satisfying enough to see such an elusive creature. We were thrilled and excited, and were looking even more intently. The rest of the journey to the GMVN guest house was uneventful. We ordered our dinner near out hut and spent nearly an hour discussing our luck. We were thrilled. 

13th April 2008: Kaudiyala & Devprayag

In the morning we again took the dirt road beside our guest house and enjoyed a little more by the river. Then, after breakfast we headed out for our next destination Kaudiyala at around 8:00 AM. We took the same road for the one we took for our leisure drive but only this time it was for a purpose. It was a pleasant drive by the channel and we reach Rishikesh in an hour’s time. We filled our car with gas (or petrol as we say in India) before we headed for the mountainous roads. This was my first mountain driving so I was pretty excited but also cautious. We took the liberty to stop at different points for photographic opportunity. On the way we saw an Italian Contingent with Ferraris. It was my first Ferrari sighting, was mightily impressed I must add. Due to landslides some of the stretch of roads were not in the best of shape so we had to go pretty slowly.
At around 11:00 AM we reached the Kaudiyala GMVN Guest House. It was situated in a fantastic place. There was a rapids just below the Guest House with a beach just about 200 meters away. On the opposite there was a camp for waiting for people who wanted to enjoy the thrill of nature. With mountains on all sides it was a spectacular view. We were told that for the day rafting was booked to the full so we can’t go today. So after checking in and lunch we decided to head for Devprayag, It was around 33 km away. The road was in fine shape on this stretch, and after an hour’s drive we reached out destination the meeting point of Bhagirathi and Alakananda rivers to form the mighty Ganges. This is one of the holiest of Hindu places. It’s a great site as the light green waters of Bhagirathi and the brownish green waters of Alakananda meet to form a mixture for the Ganges. My wife and sister-in-law went down near the river edge to have a feel of the flow of the mighty Bhagirathi. After spending around an hour and a half there we went at the point where the rivers meet known as “Sangam”. My wife collected Ganga water from that point for herself. We also enjoyed area and dipped your feet and hands in the icy waters for thrill and experience. After around half an hour we headed back to Kaudiyala. Reaching there we went to spend some time in the white sand beach near the guest house. Having had our fill we rested, had dinner and were very tired for anything else. We fell asleep.

14th April 2008
We were up early, got ready and were all excited for our Rafting adventure. After breakfast we checked out. We paid for Rafting. GMVN charges Rs.400 per person for tourist for one stretch. Let me assure you they have the best of guides.
We proceeded to Marine Drive which was our starting point. Its about 12 km from Kaudiyala. We gave the keys of our car to the GMVN driver who for a small fee agreed to drive the car to our ending point. That taken care of we got ready for our Rafting experience. We were fitted with life jackets, helmets and were given paddles. One of my biggest mistake was not to take the camera along as I thought that it will get wet. But it turned out that they have a waterproof bag with them in each raft for keeping of the valuables.
After the instructions our journey began. There were 7 of us on the raft, 3 of us and another family from Bombay. In the first 30-40 meters we put in use our training and after that to our surprise we were all asked to jump off the boat or will be pushed out. I jumped out and it was GREAT. We floated with the raft holding on to the life line. I tried to move away and was around 15-20 feet from the raft. I was thrown a line and came back to the raft. This was quite an experience but the best was yet to come. We then encountered our first rapids. We also got off the raft on the rapids itself. WOW. This took our fear away from the water and rapids completely and we started to enjoy the experience. We encounter more challenging rapids on our way to Shivpuri. Time to time we also got off and dipped ourselves in the Ganges. On reaching Shivpuri were preparing to get off. Our co-rafters prodded us to go upto Rishikesh though we were more than willing we were concerned about our car. We requested the GMVN driver if he can drive it up to the new ending point. Once that was settled we jumped in and headed for our next stretch. It was a thrilling experience. Some of the rapids we encountered were 3 blind mice, golf course, black money, club house, terminator, double trouble. One of them I presume the golf course was a scale 4 rapid. The 2nd most dangerous rapid in the Ganges. At a point we floated along with the raft for about 2 kilometers. At the end we were exhausted but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We waved goodbye to our co rafters and guide and headed for our drive back home to Delhi, all thrilled and lots of memories in this short trip.
Please note Rs.400 is for one stretch of rafting.
You can see the full album of our tour here.


At end of December 2007 we (me & my wife) decided to take a trip to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. It is about 175 kms from Delhi. We started early around 4:30 AM. This was my first highway driving so I was cautious at first but was pleasantly surprised by the standard of roads. Initially going at 100km/hr; I then speeded up to around 120-130km/hr.
The journey was enjoyable, my wife was my navigator. After driving for around 4 hours we reached Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. My cursed forgetfulness nature, I mistakenly left the car key in the car itself. So we got about to get help to open the door. People were very helpful and one of them got the car opened with another car key.
After all unwanted false start we entered the Sanctuary. The charges were Rs.75 per person, if I remember correctly. The transport within the sanctuary was cycle rickshaws. Our guide was the rickshaw driver himself.
The main attractions other than the different birds, local and migratory in the sanctuary are the Sambar Deer, the spotted deer and the python.
Our guide took us to an area where the pythons are generally seen but no luck. The pythons seemed to be having fun elsewhere. So we restarted again and began to enjoy the various birds that the Sanctuary had to offer.
We spotted a Blue Kingfisher as it was trying do, what else, but fish. Then we were pointed out a few Sambars in the fields. There was also a wild bore. We also spotted some migratory geese and herons. Surprising we found a lot of cows & buffalos. We were told that those belonged to the local villagers who break the boundary walls and get their cattle into the sanctuary for feeding. This gets the sanctuary wild life into unnecessary competition for food (grazing grass) with the cattle. We came to know that there were far more birds that used to populated the sanctuary at this time of the year earlier but due to climatic changes and interference from the villagers in the sanctuary their numbers have dwindled. The steps taken by the authorities were clearly not having the desired results. Nonetheless the numbers are still staggering.
As we moved along we saw a few turtles. Further down we spotted a Male Sambar deer with well grown antlers. I would say in the absence of any big predator these fellows would be the King of sanctuary. He was a handsome fellow.
There were quite a few lanes leading off from the main road in the Sanctuary. We got off and took a walk in one of these small lanes that went deep into the sanctuary (these were narrow not exactly fit for the rickshaws). Here we came across a fox (maybe it was jackal), I presume it was a young one. It was walking on the pathway itself. As we approached it, it lay down and just observed us. I clicked a few pictures, it got a little conscious initially, after that it just put its head down and ignored us. We also left it alone and walked further where we found a few more Sambars. both male & female.
We continued with our journey deep into the sanctuary and saw a few more residents namely a Kite (it was photographed by a lot foreigners with huge lens). We came across an owl. The poor chap was trying to get some sleep but was not having much luck with the commotion going on down under, we decided not to add to it and moved on. Here we saw a robin; it was of the Bangladeshi variety. It was pretty active and also a looker.

We were looking intently for a python, so we were taken deep into the sanctuary, were we walked in the woods but still the master predator of Bharatpur remained elusive. But the walk and the thrill alone was worth it. After walking for around one hour we trekked back to our rickshaw. We asked our guide to head back as we were also feeling hungry by now. As we were about to come out the oldest and the most experienced guide in the sanctuary told that he has spotted a python hiding (actually hibernating) behind the sanctuary office. We hurriedly went there and yes it was there all coiled up and comfortable, taking a nice nap. It was worth the wait. It was a beautiful creature.
After paying our guide his fees, Rs.450, we headed out for food, and reached Mathura after an hours’ drive. We tried our luck at the Mathura Pizza Hut but unfortunately we landed up in one of those rare all Vegetarian Pizza Hut. We decided to give it a miss and took another eatery that was serving non vegetarian stuff as well. After having our full we headed out for Delhi and after around 3 hours of driving reached our home, with a great day of enjoyment.

My full album is available here
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

RANTHAMBOR, March 2008


On the weekend of 21st March 2008 we (me & my wife) decided to make use of the long weekend and visit Ranthambor National Park in Rajasthan.

The train to take is Dehradun Express from New Delhi. The train leaves New Delhi at a comfortable time of 10:40 PM, (this allows to go through the full office time & still reach the station with plenty of time). The train reaches Sawai Madhopur (which is the station you should alight to get to Ranthambor) at around 5:10 AM in the morning. Sawai Madhopur is the place where all the hotels and tourist lodges are situated. It about 11-13 Kms from Ranthambor Santuary.
After getting off the train we took an auto to our hotel Ankur Resort. The fare was rupees 30. Once we checked in we immediately got ready for our first safari. Safari in Ranthambor National Park can be done in either 20 seat Canters or 6 seat Gypsys. We did not have prior booking so had to pay some extra to get two seats. The best way to book seats in Canters is to go to the Rajasthan Tourism site. It’s cheaper and you are sure to get a seat. (Site:
The official Safari rates are (Rates are in INR):

Canters (Diesel)

Digital cameras are Free but video cameras will cost you Rs.200 per visit.
The park is divided into 5 zones. At the entrance it’s a lottery system on which vehicle will get which zone. On our first trip 21.03.2008 we got Zone 1.
Entering the Park area we saw a breathtaking view of the Aravalli Range. Most of the vegetation was of Golden colour. Our first wildlife sighting was the ubiquitous langurs. At the entry of the park we were greeted by a huge Banyan tree which is the 2nd oldest in India (the first being in the botanical garden in Kolkata) . We were requested by our guide to be as silent as possible in the park. In the park we saw the various types of deers that inhabit it. We also saw a lot of birds and the Indian National Bird the Peacocks. But no sight of the mighty predators either the Tiger or the Leopard. After a lot of searching we failed to see any of the big cats and returned back to our hotel.
In the afternoon we again took the safari and this time we got zone 5. Zone 5 was more dense jungle and had a few watering holes for the animals and so the chances are brighter to spot the tiger we were told. We entered with lot of anticipation. But after moving around for 45 minutes we were getting demoralized; it was then near a small lake we saw something different than the views we had seen so far. There was a huge crocodile sunbathing. It was around 10-11 feet long. In the vicinity there were a lot of deers as well. Since they were on land the deers were pretty confident of themselves. We also spotted 2 more crocs, their body colours blended the surrounding making it hard to spot them. But still no tiger (or leopard). We searched around the park in vain but no luck. We returned to our hotel disappointed. My wife was starting to get agitated.
That evening we decided to change our hotel to Raj Palace which was just beside our current hotel Ankur Resort. So the arrangements were made by Raj Palace this time. It was also the day on which the festival of colours Holi fell.
We got zone 2 this time. Our driver & guide said it a very good zone. We took a deep breath and entered the forest through the gates of the fort. After looking around for 15 minutes we were taken to an open area and saw 2 canters crowed an area. We quickly reached it and Yes there it was in all its glory and splendor. Sitting majestically and letting the morning sun glow on its magnificent skin. But little did we to know that the show had just started. Suddenly we saw it was not alone there was another one there. Our excitement knew no bounds and already a huge crowd of canters & gypsys were gathering for the show. One of the tigers started walking and another came within 100 feet of us and sat as if it was posing to give the photo hunters all they can click. This went around for around 20 minutes. Then we saw the other tiger on the move; immediately our driver started the canter. We were tracking the tiger. While going we spotted another one in the bushes.
We waited for a few minutes and surely we saw one of the tigers came ambling out and started to put on a show. It was trying to climb a tree, and taking its cue, and then the other one came out and started to claw a tree. This was blockbuster as this was happening just within 15-20 feet from us. All the vehicles were jostling for the best position.
As the tigers moved we followed them and suddenly we saw one of the tigers' tcame on to the path of the safari vehicles and then we understood that we will be party to its stalking & hunting a herd of deers.
It took cover in front of one of the gypsys and lied in wait looking at the deers. The lagurs were up on the tree making all kinds of noise.
As the deers moved it leapt into action and missed catching one by a whisker. As we were watching its next move we found the third tiger came from behind us and passed us by at almost handshaking distance. It took its position. Suddenly the second tiger was also there and then we understood they were trying to circle the deers. It was so amazing almost lion like. But time was up so we had to leave. However we were more than satisfied with what we saw. Think of if we saw a tiger in action in its own environment. How many of us see that other than Discovery or Net Geo.
Our driver then took us to show the view of the lakes of zone 3 and it was a beautiful sight, especially the Padam talau.

Content we returned to our hotel. In the afternoon we took a break from safari and went to visit the Balasar Wildlife Sanctuary. It was around 20 km from Sawai Madhopur. We were taken in a Gypsy which cost us Rs.1000. Actually it was said that it doesn’t matter whether there is one person or six the cost is the same. The route to Balasar looks almost African Savannah like with its golden grass. The Aravallis range formed the background . This was the abode of the leopards. At the entry we found that the Sanctuary personnel's had a baby leopard which they rescued when it was abandoned by its mother.
The forest department officials found it, they nursed it and are now trying to get it ready for its life ahead. It was very playful and even was fed a live mouse in front of us which it “hunted”. It’s a playful one.
The entry fees into the Sanctuary are Rs.100 for Guide, Rs.10 per person and Rs.65 for conservation. The Sanctuary has few points like the sunset point, we were enjoying our leisurely drive and spotted a few bald headed vultures nesting. We also saw a hare ran away as it saw us approach. The scenic beauty was great and we thoroughly enjoyed it coming down the hills while the sun was setting.
On our last day we again took a morning safari and got zone 2 again. But alas this time the action was on zone 3 where the 3 tigers we saw yesterday were joined by their mother to kill a deer which we missed. Nonetheless we enjoyed the areas within the zone 2 that we missed because of the tiger action the day before. We were able to spot 2 mongooses.
At the hotel we hired a gypsy after lunch and headed for the fort. The Ranthambore fort is situated at the meeting point of the Aravalli & Vindhya ranges. Its approx area is 7 sq km. Its best known ruler was Rao Hammir. It has 25 Temples, 5 Mosques or Darga and 1 Jain temple within it. It has great craftsmanship but can do with some conservation efforts and my earnest request to the visitors not to declare information about their  love on these hoistorical  momuments (Use Facebook or Orkut its the internet age you know). Overall it was great. Happy we returned to our hotel packed our things and got ready to depart with a weekend full of great memories to savior for a long time to come.
You can view my full Ranthambor album here.
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