Day 11 THE TAJ – last but certainly not least!

Morning came early (again 0500) but we were excited.  We know we were lucky to see the tigers.  But this is the “sure thing” that’s the anchor of the trip. 

We must stop several blocks from the Taj and transfer into the three-wheel motorbike vehicles.  The Indians are trying to reduce pollution around the Taj…it was turning the extremely hard marble yellow.  Busses and camel carts also fill the parking lot.

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Our first sight is a beautiful pink building—not unlike the Taj but we thought it was white.  Well, this is only the outer gate.  They sure didn’t skimp on effort. 

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Walking on to the main ground, the Taj Mahal really was breath taking. 

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The white marble mausoleum, our last World Heritage Site, was relatively cool and there were no crowds at this hour.  Time for more Kodak Moments.

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Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16-17th centuries.  Emperor Shah Jahan built this as a memorial to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth.  One of the seven wonders of the modern world, it is an example of Islamic architecture—everything is symmetrical and precise.  What is on the left is on the right.  Her tomb in in the center of the building with a carved marble window facing Mecca and overlooking the Riverv Yamuna.  

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Unlike most other buildings, this was carved out of white marble, unique to India. 

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It is so hard (more on the carving later) it is virtually impenetrable—close to the hardness of a diamond.

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The marble of the Taj has the unique ability to glow differently depending of the light.  In the morning—part of the reason we came so early—it is bathed in a pink glow.  Midday, the white hot sun envelopes the structure.  We will come back in the evening to catch the warm gold glow from the setting sun.

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A bit of history…The Taj mixes traditional Persian and Hindustani decorative elements.  It took 22 years to build—12 of those were spent on the inlay of the ornate semi-precious jewel decoration, including orange carnelian, multi-colored agates and chalcedonies, blue lapis lazuli, bloodstone, garnet and jasper.  The carnelian has the unique ability to glow when light travels through it.

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The Taj was built with the four minarets at the corners leaning slightly outward.  They were designed this way for safety.  In case of ground tremor, they would collapse away from the building.  

The minaret was striking, silhouetted by the rising sun. 

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The Taj was built in “perfect” symmetry and some thought of it as an affront to the gods because of its perfection. 

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When the emperor’s son deposed his father, the son had the old man imprisoned in the nearby Red Fort.  From the back of the Taj, you can see the Red Fort and the city in the diistance.

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When the old emperor died, the son placed his tomb off to the side of his wife in the Taj.  This made a notable break in the symmetry of the tomb and was said to appease the gods.

 A view of the entrance from the Taj steps.

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Visitors relaxed on the grounds.

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As we left, this billboard gave us a laugh.

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After breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to tour the Red Fort. 

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Another World Heritage Site, the Red Fort was originally a Hindu fort. It is an example of Mughal architecture. The entrance was large enough to admit riders on elephants.

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The fortress was protected by a drawbridge and two moats, one was a jungle moat with lions and tigers and the other contained crocodiles.  They were effective barriers against invasion.

Amazing architecture.

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The fort was the site of a battle during the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company‘s rule in India.

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We also visited some local artisans practicing ancient art forms.

Our first stop was a factory with craftsmen creating intricate silk embroidery using ancient patterns.

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Next we visited a fascinating factory creating semi-precious stone marble inlays using the same hard marble and designs we had seen at the Taj.  We saw the men create the tiny pieces of flower designs with ancient grinding wheels—smaller replicas of the huge designs we had seen that morning.

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The pieces were then moved to a man who carved the shapes out of the diamond-hard marble with a hand-held spike.  How did they do this to the huge inlays all over the Taj?

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After gluing each piece in place, using a secret process, the full surface is evened out with sandstone.  These pieces are as large as dining tables and as small as figurines.  And most amazing, the guide took a small marble table and hit it on a piece of wood hard enough to shatter most slabs of stone.  The piece remained in tact, underscoring why the Taj remains in its original glory after all these years.

On the way back to the hotel, we saw bamboo scaffolding at a building site…just like we saw in China. The country is a real mix of the old and new.

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 That evening we went back to the Taj to see it in the evening glow.  We passed a neighborhood with the Taj in the background.

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The sun hit it from the opposite side and some of the tiles actually glistened in the gentle evening light.

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The entrance was jammed looking from the Taj steps.

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And there were some interesting faces in the crowd.

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And one last sunset photo op for us.

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The moon was rising as we left the park.

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Day 12-   The next day we drove back to Delhi and stayed in a day room at the fantastic Trident Hotel.  A gorgeous place and a perfect site for our 11 PM airport pick up—apparently most flights east leave Delhi in the wee hours of the morning. 

Leaving at 1 AM we hit Frankfort for an 8-hour layover.  Another day room at the attached Sheraton hotel made the flight home easy.  After the daily 4:30 AM tour wake ups and the intense Indian heat, we were beat.  The final trip back to the US left us exhausted but pleased.  India and the Taj were amazing and we SAW TIGERS!

Join us later this summer as we report back from Kenya and Tanzania, following the Great Nigration.


  

 

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Day 10 OFF TO AGRA AND THE TAJ MAHAL

We left Des Villas Lodge at 5 AM for the three-hour train ride to Agra. 

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Families lived in this station, also.  We saw a man washing his son in the water fawcet on the platform.

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We boarded a more typical commuter train—large, individual seats, two facing forward, two back.  Very pleasant with more great sights out our window.  After 130 ° F heat for 4 days, we were fried, and happy to “chill” in the AC and watch India fly by.  We get off in Bharatpur, the closest stop to Agra.

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KK, our local guide, met us with porters for our luggage. (How did our suitcases get so heavy? Answer—somefun finds.  And why did we pack all that stuff we never used?  Answer—we try to get better but just never learn!)

We make a way stop at the Laxmi Vilas Heritage Hotel, a magnificent place in the Taj Mahal motif.  It was also completely empty.  (This is not tourist season).

 

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KK stops to give us a brief tour at another UNESCO World Heritage Site– Fatehpur Sikri, City of Victory.   This was the capital of the Mughal empire in the 16th century.

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I loved the intricate hand-carved red sandstone architecture.

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And the Hall of Private Audience of the Emperor Akbar.

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Groups of children, dressed up in their finest for vacation, crowd us begging to take our pictures.  We took theirs, too.

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Back in the van, we head to our next stop at the Gateway Hotel.   Namaste. 

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A great place and we have the afternoon off!   It’s still very hot here so no one is interested in the hand-manicured (men clipping grass with scissors) pool area.  We sleep until dinner. 

Tomorrow will be another 0500 morning, to beat the heat and crowds plus get the sunrise glow at the Taj Mahal. 

 

Day 9. OUR LAST DAY IN RANTHAMBHORE

Following the same morning schedule, our group heads for the ancient fort overlooking the entire part.  Many of the fortress ruins are centuries old. We walk up the hill to the old palace and shrines to tour the ruins in the (relative) cool of e morning.  

At the top of the steps we come to a Hindu god.  Pilgrims have placed food in his mouth–part of the Wednesday activities.

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Entering the palace…more steps.

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 At the top we finally reach the entry gate.

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Inside, the ancient buildings, some dating to 1000 AD, are remarkable.  The fort overlooks the whole park with a beautiful lake immediately before it.

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We went out on a rubble ledge to get a view “outside” the fortress.

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All the stone for the fort was quarried at the site.  This left a lake in the middle of the palace grounds.

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We could still find markings from the stone cutters.

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Walking around the lake we had a better view of the Pillar Shrine.

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The back of the palace also had fantastic buildings.  Our guide told us th decorated frangipani tree was a more recent addition.

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Leaving, we met visitors coming and going.  Many stopped and were delighted to have us take their pictures.   

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After lunch (and our middy siesta) we headed out for our last game drive.  We won’t be sorry to leave the heat, but we will miss this place.  The tigers are majestic and on the brink of extinction.  There are only 40 in this park and only around 1500 total left in the wild.  As the story of Broken Tail showed, more habitat needs to be reserved and education stepped up to assure our kids will be able to see tigers–and all the other big cats–in the wild.

Swinging back by the lake, we find samba cooling off in the water in front of  great backdrop, munching on water plants.

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We can see the fort from below.  A flock of birds, possibly rose-ring parakeets, fly over.  A sweet good bye.

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A brilliant beautiful pink building sits below the fort.  Our guide tells us visiting dignitaries sometimes stay here.  He mentions Clinton, but who knows.

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Still hoping to see one last tiger we spend a few hours in the sun.  UGH.  I think I’m going to melt.  High on a hill, we stumble across a euphorbia bush in bloom.  This ornamental “cactus” is actually a succulent that grows all over the park.  We’re told blossoms are rare.

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An Indian mongoose skitters across the rocks on our way down.

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Heading back, we stop at a quiet lake, a peaceful last memory.

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We go through the fortress “tiger-gate” one last time.

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Back at the Des Villas lodge we pack and meet for a final dinner.

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Our guides have been terrific.  We met several other couples at the lodge who came on their own and hired random drivers and guides.  They had yet to see a tiger.  We feel very fortunate.

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Tomorrow we leave for Agra and the TAJ MAHAL.

 

Day 8 FACES OF RANTHAMBHORE- People, places and things

Today, as we set out to the higher area of the park, our big treat is the people.  On Wednesdays, Pilgrims from all over the area come to the park to visit old shrines.  Many villages had to move from the park over the last few years to give the tigers a protected area.  Many walk the long road into the park most Wednesdays–women in their finest dress, men and children, to worship at their old family temples.  Others cram into covered jeep-like cars.  Often the jeeps carry 15 people!  Others ride motorcycles…some with children on the handlebars and two more people behind the driver’s seat. And these roads are no easy ride–they are full of potholes.  The government has found if the roads aren’t kept up, traffic slows and the animals are more protected than using speed humps.  So…between the animals and the road, driving becomes an adventure.

The Ranthambhore Park gate was a mass of brilliant color on this religious day.

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Driving down the road we captured some wonderful faces of India.  

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Women carrying food and pots for the day’s meals…

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And some were just as interested getting our picture, too.

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And we loved the children—

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While the adults enjoyed having  their pictures taken, the babies almost always seemed scared as their parents pushed them toward the camera.

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Because we had such great luck finding tigers previously, others in our group went to the prime tiger regions today.  So we concentrated on people watching.

I’d love to know the stories these people hold….

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Inside the park we saw more Ranthambhore sights.

Like the Ghost Tree.  The Kullu gum tree is a stark, white tree totally devoid of leaves when Ranthambhore is dry.  As you can imagine, this is most of the year.  So how does it make food without leaves?  Researchers finally determined this unique tree has chlorophyll in its bark, allowing it to make food—to survive—even when it has no leaves.

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The banyan tree, puts out air roots and can grow into mega-trees, so big they can cover both sides of a road.  One tree can look like a whole ‘grove.” 

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We also saw how a tree will grow a maze of roots down a rock cliff to support itself on the barren rock above.  Supreme adaptation.

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We had a great view of the fort at the top of the park.  This belonged to the Maharajas of Jaipur and the park was his personal hunting ground until Indian Independence.  We hope to tour this area tomorrow.

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And we saw more animals.

A 6-point Spotted Deer buck.

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The horse-like Neelgai Antelope, aka the Indian Blue Bull

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And more langurs.

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After our game drive, our guide took us to a NGO, Dastkar Ranthambhore, where women learn to make and sell local crafts.  We watched the women sewing.

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They are keeping old-fashioned block printing alive.  Our guide explained the owner runs the only store in Ranthambhore where all the  profits go back to the women. 

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No cuts for tour guides, etc.  This was a great gift shop–and to be honest, not everything we bought was for someone else.

Heading back for lunch, camel carts joined us on the road back to the lodge. 

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We loved the juxtaposition of the cart and motorcycle…the evolving rural India.

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After lunch it’s tiger hunting again.  Our guide, Salim, knows this park like the back of his hand.  His father actually was in charge of the drivers years ago.  He continues the tradition as president of the local tour guides.  We head to an area where two 18 mo. old males joined their mother on her kill yesterday. Today, we find one male in the brush.  He’s hot so he finally walks toward the waterhole near the road and– you guessed it–backs in to get a drink.

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The road by watering hole provides a small viewing area, and all the cars and trucks jostling for position bothers the tiger.

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It’s just not quiet.  

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He gets up and urinates in the pool before moving back into the brush.

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(Salim explains this is a safety mechanism.  Urine dissipates in the water, keeping young tigers safe from adult males who might try to find and kill them.)  And what to our wondering eyes should appear?  His brother is also waaay back in the brush.  Two (large) tiger cubs. These look huge to us, but in the Tiger-world, they are still babes.  The noisy viewers have obviously intruded on these tigers, so we leave hoping others will give them some quiet, too.

We head to the huge lake area now dominated by Mach Li’s (the oldest tiger in the park) daughter.  The daughter challenged her mother when she came of age and Mach Li had to leave.  It’s cooler here, and there’s an amazing variety of wildlife.  Samba deer wade in the Padem Talao (lake) before the Raj Bagh ruins.

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Crocodiles bask on the shore and cruise the lake.  

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We see squadrons of fruit bats, some carrying babies, do touch-and-goes in the water before perching on a nearby flame tree.  

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Egrets, and a flock of rose-ringed parakeets land in front of the Jogl Mahal ruin.

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A mother Ticknee watches over her baby at the shore.  

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We relax with a golden sunset over the lake and enjoy the sounds and sights.  If you could record this, it would be more peaceful than a rippling brookll!

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Day 7 TIGERS, ELEPHANTS, and MACH LI, OH MY!

It is a bit cooler in the morning.  The best reason to start out at 5:45.  We’ve been assigned to Section 2 today.  As we start into Ranthambhore, the langur monkeys cover the road and, with an air of contempt, barely move their long rope tails as we drive by.

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In the cool morning, we finally see a male peacock in a dancing display for the rather drab females.  Their sharp cries resonate throughout the park and sound like a hurt baby.

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We are told they shed and regrow their tail feathers each year; the weight of these feathers makes flight difficult and and makes them an easier dinner target.

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But they do fly, making it up to the trees and spectacular high perches.

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All the animals like the cool mornings.  We came across these spotted deer feeding by the side of the road.

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Every day we pass through an ancient gate entwined in an huge old banyan tree.  This is a beautiful scene.  But even more fun, our guide, Salim, has seen tigers looking out from the top.  We’ve named this Tiger Gate–optomistic wishful thinking.  I’ll write more on the tigers Brokentail and Mach Li later.

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We check in at the foot of the cliff where a temple and the old fort is perched.  Beautiful view.  

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In the morning they throw seed for the birds.  The large Alexandrine rose-ringed parakeets pack the place. 

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We drive to a large lake toward the back of the park.  Our Nat Hab photo expert and our tracker-guide immediately find wet tiger prints crossing the road.  

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We must have just missed the cat.  The car leaps forward as our driver takes off in hot pursuit.  Our guide smells a kill nearby–these guys are amazing.  A good sign, we’re off on a roller coaster ride…park roads can be a bit rough.  We suddenly hear a tiger growl on the dirt road ahead.  A beautiful female begins walking toward us.  

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When I read accounts of tiger encounters on-line, I thought this kind of close-up meeting might be a frightening.  I didn’t give it much thought then because I never imagined I would be so fortunate.  When it happened to us we didn’t feel the least bit threatened.  Let me start by saying we were quiet and respectful of the tiger’s space and our guides knew the animals–“Warning: Don’t try this at home.”  But it was obvious the tiger was queen of her domain and she paid little attention to us as she ambled along.  We were the proverbial fly on the wall.

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We backed up as she got about 30 feet away and continue backing to give her space.  She finally tired of us and began walking through the brush. Even though they are bright orange, she practically disappeared. 

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We turned to follow.  

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She led us to a large pool where ahe backed in from the edge, placing her tummy just below the water.  Our guide explains this is the way animals help digestion in this hot area.  She has just filled her stomach from the fresh kill and now she must cool the meat in her gut before it putrefies at 130 °, making her sick.  

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Our guide now recognizes the tiger…he thinks she had a litter about a month ago. The babies probably are just now opening their eyes and are still wobbly.  She won’t bring them out for another two months.  

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We sit mesmerized about 20 feet away.  We are perfectly comfortable watching this close—there is so much game, the tigers aren’t hungry, and we respect their space.  Plus, no one is dumb enough to get out of their cars.

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We watch her for two hours.  

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Word gets out and other park visitors come but all the animals here seem very used to the cars. It’s as if we have been transported into a NatGeo movie. She looks up occasionally, but is totally unconcerned by the parade of vehicles and the continuous clicking of cameras. 

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As she sleeps, we see the white spots behind  her ears.  Our guide tell us they use these to  “tiger-talk” and as a marker when following each other–guess camaflage works for them, too.

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ALL THIS BEFORE BREAKFAST!  

Back at the lodge, we have a treat after eating.  We give Pawan, the resident 70-year-old female Indian elephant, a bath.  

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She was a wedding give to the lodge owner’s wife 30 years ago and has lived at the back of the lodge with the same mahout  all this time.  She is on her last set of teeth, with only one molar remaining.  They are feeding her soft food to help put off the inevitable.  When elephants loose their last tooth, they can no longer digest their food.  We place bread in her mouth and can feel her tongue as she gums it.

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They treasure her and will help make her end easier than it would be in the wild.

After a lunch siesta—the heat saps us and no animals are out mid-day—we again head out at 3:30.  Now the temperature is serious stuff.  Some in our group have seen sloth bears…some have not yet seen a tiger. 

This afternoon our driver blasts through the park to an area where a big male Bengal Tiger is known to rest midday in a high cave.  We get there with minimal stops and only our guide can see him on the ledge-just barely- waiting out the heat.  

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So we take off on a side adventure where the monkeys are going nuts- our guide thinks there’s a leopard in the area- but we see nothing.  We head back to the tiger, just as he starts moving.  

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We watch him come down from his cliff, walk about 10 feet from the car, look at us, where mark his territory in obvious distain,

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He turns and snarls at us–not happy being followed.

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Then walks into the brush toward a pond.  We drive around and wait, and wait, and wait.  Great birds, a mongoose, etc., but no tiger.  He decides to sit in the brush and wait us out.  I swear these guys have watches.  

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A peacock shows off, reflecting in the water .

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We’re supposed to be out of the park by 7, but our driver hangs in for a bit.

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 At 7:05 the big guy saunters down to the water, backs in (as they all do) then relaxes, finally cooling off.  

We charge back to the gate and then, thanks to our guides, jam on the breaks. There, 20 feet from the road, out in the open, is Mach li, the oldest tiger in the park.  

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She gets up and saunters toward the nearby watering hole.  Right behind the car, she turns full face and shows her teeth, then she backs into the pond and gets a drink as we take off.  

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The great guides know where critters hang out and ours found this owl as we exited the park at dusk.

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Back at the lodge we learn Mach li is the mother of the tiger we watched all morning – AND she was the mother of Broken Tail, a young tiger made famous in a Nat Geo production.  Our lead guide, Salim Ali, was the local guide who got producers interested in the story and is featured in the movie. This was what we watched on TV over a year ago, our inspiration to visit the tigers of Ranthambhore.  We had no idea we’d get to know Salim as well!  Our group sat under the stars and watched the movie again that night.   (It’s wonderful. You can rent it on Netflix or buy it on Amazon) 

Wow! We’re spoiled now! This was one magical day!

 

 

Day 6 LOOKING FOR TIGERS; Finding a Leopard!

Today we have an early start to get to Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve by train.  The  plan is to arrive in time for an afternoon game drive.  We begin at O-Dark-Thirty (0500 actually) to catch our train.  The Delhi station is very sad.  Families live here–it is under cover–looking for handouts to survive.

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The little ones sent to beg broke our hearts.

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We ‘re in the first class pullman “sleeping” compartments, with AC.

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 It ‘s quite fun, but we’re sure not in Kansas anymore.  Our section has an upper and lower pull-down bed on each side.  Our group put our suitcases in the top bunk and used the bottom as a seat.

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An Indian family already was fully ensconced  on one side.   The grandmother was sleeping under a sheet on the bottom bed (I just couldn’t take her picture) and the father meditated (for almost an hour) on the top bunk.  “OhhMmmm, why won’t these people stop jabbering.”  That’s just a joke.  They were very nice to the cazy tourists.

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We made friends (a bit) with the grandmother, mother and daughter.  This was a slow process during our 5-hour trip.  We shared some candy from our box lunch with the young girl, and we all waved and took pictures when we left. 

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The trip itself was fascinating.  General passenger areas were stuffed.  

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And trains stopped at stations for 5 minutes.  You had to have all your things ready at the door so you could jump off with your luggage before it left.  This was obviously a bigger deal for us.   Indians traveled much lighter.

The countryside became more hilly and much more arid…it reminded us of New Mexico.   And each stop gave a new close up on some villages.  They seemed a step up from the shanties in the city.  

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There were families with houses between the tracks.  

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Some even had running water and they went on with their morning washing as we passed.

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 A meager existence to say the least.  Harsha, our Indian Nat Hab guide explained those in the lowest caste remain there their whole lives.  Even if they are lucky enough to get a scholarship and an education, they only have a chance to make more money.  They will always remain in their caste.  There is no upward mobility.  Later, we learned more about this from our guide in Agra.

Heading south, the women’s clothes became brighter as the countryside became drier.  Women wore more rich reds, pinks, oranges, and blues.  

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We got off QUICKLY and drove 20 minutes to our lodge, the Des Villas, just outside the game park gates.

After a quick lunch (including onions, said to stave off the heat) and some organization, we headed out for 4 hours in the park hunting for tigers.  Mad dogs and Englishman….It is a whopping 130°.  Oh, and did I mention our game cars have no tops?  Lots of sun block, hats and long-sleeve shirts.  And water.

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The park is divided into 5 quadrants with limited access to each, so wildlife isn’t overwhelmed.  Rangers are everywhere, protecting the animals. This was a fortress for centuries, most recently the Maharishi of Jaipur, and some of the walls remain. 

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The land became an animal sanctuary in 1959 and Indira Ghandi made it a protected tiger reserve in 1991.  

The park is full of wildlife. These sambar, in the deer family, cool off by a river while the cormorant fishes.

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 Indian peafowl are everywhere.   Hopefully we’ll get close to a male “dancing” at some point.

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And langur monkeys, many carrying babies, are all over.  They have tails that must be over 3 feet long.

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This is a dry deciduous forest and it is parched right now.  Most water comes during the summer monsoons that deluge–and close–the park from July-September. 

 Now watering holes are packed with game–a tiger buffet.

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Salim, our head Ranthambhore guide explained this is why we’re here now in the intense heat–so we have a better chance of sighting the elusive tigers as they are drawn to the pools. 

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As it turns our, Salim was involved in a project that first sparked our interest in coming here.   More on that later.    

We saw huge numbers of small Spotted Deer like this one in the green euphorbia.

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And the larger Sambar deer, some looking for tender new leaves.

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Stork and egrets waded in the water.

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We’ll have to keep watching for the large horse-like Neel gha antelope that also is native to the area.  

It was blast-furnace hot.  Our game cars carried two guests, a driver, a tracker and a local guide.  Nat Hab set this up well.  Some other groups had one driver and eight guests jammed in.   Other tours ran open trucks seating with at least 20.   And our park guides were fantastic.

We spent over three hours searching for a tiger that had been seen with a fresh kill in area 5– our assigned area.  Apparently it had eaten  its fill and decided to rest in the shade.  No tiger today.  But while we were waiting we did see a rare stork-billed kingfisher make a catch and then proceed to beat the fish on a tree.

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At sunset, as the park started to cool and we headed out the gate, we were treated to a leopard encounter.  

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The light wasn’t great, but you could see its Paul Newman ice-blue eyes as it stayed at a watering hole for several minutes before heading off.

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 That was AMAZING!  We have now seen the Big Five!

Tomorrow we start before 6 to hunt for tigers.  There are only 40 in the park and dawn and dusk are the best times to find them, because they too rest in the heat.

 

Day 5. TOURING DELHI

Namaste. 

We begin our introduction to India and use this as we greet and part with Indians we meet.  This is the traditional salutation, a slight bow with hands together, fingers up.

Today begin our city tour early–It’s hot, around 110 ° F.  We didn’t see a thermometer and agreed sometimes it’s just better not knowing.  Our guide, Seema, is a college professor with a real love of the history of the area.  Her enthusiasm is infectious.   

Indian auto-rickshaws, the Tuk-tuk are everywhere.

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Our first stop is the Qutb Complex of Monuments, a UNESCO  world heritage site.

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With the tallest minaret in India.  It was constructed with red sandstone and marble. 

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The Qutab Minar, with a 73M tower, was built in 1193.    It was the site of a large Hindu shrine which was torn down so the stone could be used to make the first Moslem mosque in India.

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The detail in the carving of this huge monolith was amazing. 

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All the way to the top.

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The comple was a popular site where visitors also can enjoy the gardens and the Mughal Quwwat-ul-Islam-Mosque, or the Great Mosque of Delhi.

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The mosque was built with intricately carved columns. 

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Some women in bright garb highlighted the Qutb Mosque Arch Ruin.

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Nearby, the incomplete Alai Minar was planned to be twice as large as Qutab Minar.  Work was abandoned after the death of the sultan.

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We took advantage of the photo ops at Alauddin Khilji’s tomb.

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The gardens were spectacular, with the Gulmohur (Red Flame) trees,

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 And the Amaitas (Yellow Bliss) trees.

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Some of the children at the site had their faces painted with kohl (lead sulfide) to keep them from being cursed by the evil eye…shades of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Along with our UNESCO sites, we saw some of the abject poverty during our sightseeing.  People living in tent cities.

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And women begging by having their children “perform” by the roadside. 

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We visited the Tomb of Humayun next.  and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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Built for Mughal Emperor Humayun, this was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent.  It inspired several major architectural innovations and was the prototype for the Taj Mahal.  The sandstone and white marble introduced Central Asian and Persian styles of Islamic architecture.

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A snake charmer, complete with cobra in a basket, charms us as he sits outside the Bu-Halma Garden.

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The garden was filled with the brilliant Golden Bliss trees.

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Heading back to the hotel, we passes the India Gate in heart of Delhi. 

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This was inspired by the Arc de Triophr in Paris.  Originally known as the All India War Memorial, it is a prominent landmark in Delhi and commemorates the 90,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who lost their lives while fighting for the Indian Empire or more correctly the British Raj in World War I and the Thrid Anglo-Afghan War.   

From there we took a quick look at the modern government complex before heading back to the air conditioned hotel.  

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That afternoon, I took a tuk-tuk by myself to a local craft market–it was the weekend so the usual haunts weren’t opened.  OK, but not great.  Oh ell, I had to try. 

We had dinner at the hotel with our Natural Habitat guide.  He gave us the low down on what to expect tomorrow as we travel to the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. 

We have another amazing day in store!