It's hot, it's dusty and it's rugged..... but unforgettable....
Our small jeep of two passengers, a driver and a guide, raced down the rocky narrow dirt roads of Ranthambore National Park in search of the famous and rare Royal Bengal Tiger. We crawled up and down steep rocky terrain, covering miles and miles of mountainous dirts roads wide enough for only one jeep. It's like a endless roller coaster where a firm grip is required to keep your seat while squeezing your camera tightly between your legs ready at any moment to grab and click.
Patience and persistence..... and a bit of luck is required. For four days we explored this amazing park. Up each morning at 5am to catch the sunrise and morning water routes of the wildlife and then returning again in the late afternoon.
Singing birds and vocal peacocks serenaded us as we scouted miles after miles of terrain. Watching animal behavior and listening for warning calls helped direct us to tiger activity. Some say the mongoose sightings mean a tiger is nearby. On one of the drives, we saw the mongoose, follow by the group of monkey's screaming and scattering. We then spotted a tiger.
I could not help but think why the bears or the tigers would choose to venture near any jeeps. It's chaotic as the drivers holler with each other juggling for the best position. At one point this sloth bear was trapped between our jeep and a group of jeeps several feet away. The bear seemed a bit nervous as he tried to find his path out of the mess. I held my breath hoping he would not get angry as he passed by our jeep. I recalled my trip to Africa and the peaceful safari drives in the Kalahari desert. Sitting with a pride of lions, a herd of elephants or a family of hungry wild dogs was enlightening. However, at one point I recalled in another area of Botswana, encountering angry elephants who charged at us. That too was scary knowing that wildlife can attack and there is nothing you can do about it!
Departing India is bittersweet. Dropping in on a country, to visit is truly a privilege. To witness a culture that is so different, so complex and yet so gentle is hard to describe. Reading "In Spite of the Gods" while in India helped me understand a bit more as I experienced the people, the government, natural resources, poverty, low crime and capitalism. Will the country be able to bridge the wide gap between prosperity and poverty? What about corruption? This issue only continues to widen the gap. Yet the people of India seem happy. Their focus is family and everything they do revolves around their family units. Villages still play an important role in the culture and structure. These extremities and diversity of beliefs and faith contribute to a rich people.
I can not end this blog without commenting on the drivers. This is the one area that seems to contradict my comments of kind, gentle and quiet people. The slogan goes like this: to drive in India one needs a good horn, good brakes and good luck. Lines on the road are suggestions only. Delhi has 18 million people. Getting around by car or rickshaw was a white knuckle adventure but all part of experiencing life in India!
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