We had to be off the train before the sun was even warm the day we arrived in Sawai Madhopur. Jeeps came to the train station to take us to the Ranthambore National Park, where 50 Bengal tigers live. The jeeps were open top, so we bundled up because it was COLD and the drive was a good 20 minutes to the park. The area was more out in the country than we had seen before, and we passed lots of camel carts carrying farm supplies and women walking with bowls full of cow pies on their heads.
Right when we entered the park the guide showed us a tiger footprint. He told us we had a 50% chance of spotting a tiger, but that there would be lots of other wildlife too.
We saw these tiny spotted deer everywhere.
And monkeys. TONS of monkeys.
This was another type of deer and was bigger than the other spotted ones we saw.
There were lots of peacocks around and they are beautiful to look at, but LOUD.
We also saw a family of warthogs walking by. A mommy walked right by our jeep and then 7, yes 7 babies followed her. We were only quick enough to get a picture of the last baby.
Anytime we saw water there were crocodiles around. Here's a big one in the water, and then another big boy stretched out on the shore.
Guess what we didn't see? Yep, a tiger. After driving around for 2 hours in a bumpy open top jeep, we didn't care anymore. We just wanted to go back to the train, get warm, and have breakfast. Once we left I realized that those tiger prints in the dirt right by the entrance were totally fabricated. All the places the guides were looking were no where NEAR the entrance, and the guides were too sure of where those prints were-- and they were just a little too perfect.
Dinesh and Veru were a welcome sight when we got back to the train. They had the breakfast table set and brought us hot chocolate when we asked.
The day we arrived Veru asked if there was anything special we liked for breakfast. I asked if they could make pancakes, and they said yes. It's not that I was getting tired of Indian food, I just missed a few of my American favorites. That night Veru found a recipe, went to the market the next day to get supplies, and made us pancakes! He said he'd never made them before, and asked how he did. They were more like a crepe than a pancake, and of course there was no syrup, but with jam they were quite good. He was so sweet to try and make us happy that we assured him they were delicious and thanked him over and over.
We had a few hours to rest while the train traveled to Chittaurgarh, so for the first time we were able to watch the countryside go by as we traveled. Dinesh alerted us when the train was going around a bend so that we could look out and see the front of the train. He opened the door to our car and held onto Jason while Jason snapped a picture hanging out the door.
Dinesh also opened our curtains so we could see out the windows in our rooms. It was fun to lounge on the beds and just watch the farmland and villages go by as we rocked back and forth.
A little glimpse of the bathroom in this picture. By this time we were used to our tiny rooms and they just felt cozy.
My bed was right by the window, so I propped myself up on pillows and tried to read a book. It was hard to concentrate though-- I just wanted to look out the window in case I missed something. That was how I felt the whole time I was in India-- there was always something to look at. I have to say that just being on the train as it traveled is one of the things I loved the most.
After lunch on the train we arrived in Chittaurgarh-- famous for it's beautiful horses.
(Hmmm....not my type. I've seen better.)
The Chittaurgarh fort was my favorite fort. It was mostly ruins, but I don't know, it was just cool. There were monkeys EVERYWHRE, and they weren't shy. There were also a group of beggar girls waiting for our bus when we arrived. They were asking for chocolate so I reached in my bag and pulled out some godiva truffles my mom had sent with my dad for me. The girls starting grabbing at my hands so I just started tossing them over my shoulder. I also tossed some bars of hotel soap I had brought to give out.
The lookout tower:
An overly friendly monkey. The guide gave me some food to feed him.
He grabbed my hand and held on for dear life so that I couldn't move until he was all done. I wasn't planning on moving-- I was too afraid he would bite if I did.
We explored the ruins for the next few hours, and were served tea and biscuits. I'm telling you, we were never hungry and gained a few pounds on this trip.
This was a little lake house the Maharajah used for hot summer days.
At the center of the fort was a temple. They let us take pictures inside, but it was very small.
Her are the idols and all the offerings that people bring them.
There were people selling postcards inside, and a few others selling food just outside. This man is frying puris-- I love puris but would never eat them from somewhere like this. Let's just say their standards of cleanliness are not mine.
The ruins went on forever.....we explored them until sunset when we had to join our group for a sound and light show.
Looking down on the city.
Once it got dark we joined the group for a sound and light show. We didn't know what to expect, but it was LAME. Basically it was just a recording of people acting out the stories of the wars and sieges of the fort-- but it went on for 2 hours. During the recording lights would go on in different parts of the fort so it looked pretty, but that was the only good part of the whole thing.
Despite the fort being cool, this was probably our least favorite day due to the tiger no-shows and the lame night show. We started getting to know some cool people in our group though.......more about them later.