One final safari for us before we headed back to city life.
We were up bright and early once again and surprisingly raring to go even before 6am in the morning.
It was another cold start but we had wrapped up warm in preparation. This time we headed to Zone 2 and out guide told us we would head straight for the best known tiger spotting areas first and then work our way back. We drove for some time without any sightings but then we started to hear alarm calls and the driver sprang into action and began darting across the park. This was certainly the most exciting safari that we had done as there was a lot more energy to the experience. Our guide was able to smell fresh tiger droppings (not a pleasant smell!) And could emulate a tiger’s call.
We saw a bunch of deer, some wild boar, peacocks and birds buy nothing new despite our best tracking attempts. As we neared the end of the drive a car up front alerted us to a sighting and we sped forward a few feet to join them. As the had been several calls and signs of tigers the cars had all bunched up a little, we estimate that there are around 6 cars in each zone at once. There are large 20 seater ones but they seem very invasive and don’t have access to many of the routes.
The call from the car infront turned out to be a valid one and I watched as the big cat made it’s way into the dense shrubbery. However, it was not the elusive tiger that we had discovered, but the even rarer appearance of a leopard. It was a brief sighting of no more than a minute but it is considered a true privilege to spot one of these shy creatures. I don’t think anyone was fast enough to grab a photo but the memory itself is always more important. I’ve got a jumpy blurry video but it’s mostly me just making an excited noise!
We topped off our visit with sightings of an eagle that eats snakes and a couple of mongeese. Some travellers didn’t see any wildlife at all away from the deer so we were really,really lucky.
Breakfast back at the hotel was a paneer paratha for me and several cups of tea to warm up before starting the 4 hour drive to Jaipur.
Returning to the city after a few days of relative wilderness is a bit of an assault on the senses but a good one nonetheless. Jaipur is a happy medium between the chaos of Delhi and the more low-key feel of Agra. We turned up on election day again so there was a heavy police presence and locals took to the street to pray,celebrate and generally just await the result. It’s a big deal here, we had the same experience when we arrived at Ranthambhore but it was far more intimidating there.
We stayed at Dera Mandawa which is an old heritage building that used to be a grand house. If you have seen the film, The Great Exotic Marigold Hotel then it’s like a well maintained version of that.
Our hosts once had political status in the past and now run a ‘home-stay’ as a means to retain the traditional site. It’s a magnificent building with modern facilities but all of the traditional features protected.
We lounged around for a while, it’s hard to do this place justice really but it feels like an oasis of calm amidst the busy city.
Given the election, it was suggested that we might not want to go out in the evening but as we had a driver it turned out fine. We also got to see the pink city at night which is certainly an experience.
I’d found somewhere on trip advisor that promised city views and rooftop dining so we were keen to go despite knowing it could be a more lively journey. When we arrived, we discovered it was part of a hotel. The view was indeed good, with a wedding taking place just below us but it was cold and not really the weather for sitting outside. We watched the fireworks from inside and ate dinner instead.
This is the catch really, you get a good view in the right circumstances but if you are sitting indoors it feels a bit more like a casual cafe and certainly wasn’t as nice as I had expected. There are a handful of tables and the menu is fairly standard. Nothing on the menu jumped out at me, for want of a better description it was ‘fine’
Food came and my thoughts were the same really, it was ‘nice’ but nothing that exciting. We ordered things we would eat at home, the service was fast but with the doors opening and closing we got a bit chilly.
The restaurant was Hawk View, it came highly commended on Trip Advisor and it was after dinner that we discovered why. A laminated card was thrust upon us with the Wi-fi code on one side and links to their pages on the other, they wanted us to review them and hovered above us asking us to do it several times. I was uncomfortable, I always mean to put a comment on Trip Advisor but I rarely do, even though I read the reviews. I hate being asked to do it, it feels false and forceful. They were a bit pushy but in a nice enough way but it made me totally reevaluate the reviews I’d read and looking back on them again now I just don’t buy it. maybe I should review it after all just for that reason.
Fine, Good, Ok, ‘Meh’- Not the best the city has to offer in my opinion.