How’s it going?! After two weeks away I’m now back in Delhi and back to blogging! As some of you may already know this short break was due to the fact that Ali and I were granted two weeks off work whilst the kids are taking their exams to travel around and see a bit of India, our trip took us from the forests of Ranthambore to the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur and onto the beaches of Goa and was, as all trips are of course, started with a single journey. In our case this journey was a five and a half hour hop from New Delhi to Sawai Modhopur train station in Ranthambore on the world-famous Indian railway network. Being used to the South-Eastern service from London to Canterbury it’s safe to say I was pretty shocked by the sheer size of our train when it pulled into the station, a feeling which continued after we entered our carriage and were immediately surrounded by bags and bunk beds all over the place! However after I got over this initial shock I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and soon decided that every form of transport should come with a ‘sleeper’ option! After a cheeky nap and a spot of breakfast the journey, which I know from experience would have been a boring, drag of an experience on British trains, was pretty much at an end, great stuff.
After checking into our hotel we were soon off on the first of three safaris we had booked during our stay. Immediately after entering the park on our canter (basically a truck with 16 seats on the back) we encountered a troop of monkeys, although cute it soon became apparent that these monkeys had turned to a life of crime as one guy in our group, who had clearly decided that if we saw a tiger that magical moment could only be improved by crunching down a packet of salt and vinegar, was mugged for his crisps by one of these rogue monkeys, who then had the audacity the crack open the pack and eat his prize about two metres from the victim whilst (possibly)* giving out ‘wanker’ hand signals. After escaping these pilfering primates we entered ‘zone three’ of the park which reminded me more of Epping Forest than the tropical jungle I had expected, despite this we did manage to see some wildlife, including crocodiles, mongoose, various birds and a lot of deer but, crucially, no tigers! Unfortunately this trip set the pattern followed by our next two safaris in which we encountered a lot of deer but, despite the desperation to spot them displayed by guides and tourists alike, no tigers! This desperation resulted in a number of false alarms from over-eager members of our group trying to convince themselves they had seen one of nature’s great hunters; one American lady on our second safari getting very excited after spotting a ‘tiger’ which was actually, of course, a deer. Even Ali was not immune to this tiger-hysteria, for a couple of minutes on our last safari he was convinced he had seen a tiger before realising that it was actually a (in all fairness, stripy) rock.
Despite not spotting a tiger the trip was by no means a complete disappointment, after the hustle and bustle of Delhi it was nice just to be in the park and see (apart from in zone three) some pretty spectacular scenery. We also got to encounter some very interesting characters on our various safaris including the woman who, after five fruitless efforts, fancied herself as a bit of an expert on (not seeing) tigers, confidently telling anyone who would listen there were no tigers in the vicinity every time we stopped and the gentleman sitting next to me on our last safari who I would like to describe in his native tongue but unfortunately I don’t know the Hindi for ‘massive bellend’, this language barrier didn’t seem to prevent him doing the old ‘yawnandputyourarmacrossthechair’ trick employed by countless teenagers in cinemas across the world for the majority of the journey whilst arguing with the guide over pretty much everything. The major positive however was, of course, that we saw loads and loads of deer, the reason we were at the park, without any tigers interrupting these (many) magical moments.
Finally, although this obviously isn’t a travel blog, if anyone is actually intending to go to Ranthambore, which I would definitely recommend, definitely make sure you get a Jeep rather than a Canter as we had a number of close encounters in which we were only prevented from seeing a tiger due to the size of our vehicles whilst the Jeeps were able to go into the thicker undergrowth, frustrating to say the least!
After leaving Ranthambore and a quick train journey we arrived in Jaipur and were immediately greeted by Ali Hossan, a taxi driver/tour guide who, after dropping us at our hotel, offered to come back that afternoon to take us around some of the sights. As we were only in Jaipur for a day and a half this tour was a pretty intense one, taking us to the City Fort, the amazing Water Palace and another fort which offered a spectacular view of the city before taking us to a textiles factory which produces some of the clothing, shawls, and carpets which Jaipur is known for throughout India. We also visited the attached shop/tailor where I selected the fabric for two tailor made shirts for 30 quid, bargain! Our busy day was topped off by Ali taking us to a popular local restaurant where I had easily the best Tandoori chicken of my life, after this we had an early night, tired but very impressed with Jaipur.
The next day we were greeted bright and early by Ali as we would be heading slightly out of the city to visit Jaipur’s most famous attraction, the Amber Fort. The Fort is a truly spectacular which gave pretty spectacular views of the surrounding areas. After the fort and a quick bite to eat we were taken to another spot where Ali assured us you could get a better Elephant ride than at The Fort for less money, as Ali (P) had already ridden one I was left to go alone. Now, obviously riding an Elephant is an amazing experience but in my mind I’d always pictured any ride to involve some sort of trek through a rainforest or across the plains surrounding by lions and whatnot, not, as this one was, through a small village in India surrounded by people going about their daily lives, nodding a greeting to someone popping to the shop whilst on top of an elephant is a pretty surreal experience and, as such, as sense of awkwardness almost overshadowed my ride.
After the ride we headed back into central Jaipur to visit the Hawa Mahal another of Jaipur’s more famous sights due to its fantastic architecture. After the Mahal Ali dropped us off in a park before setting off home and leaving us to explore the area, it was at this park I got my second experience of cricket in India, being invited to join in a game being played by some locals. After one pretty nifty piece of fielding early on they clearly thought it was time to give me a bat, partnering someone who may well have been Sachin Tendulkar in disguise I strode bravely to the crease only to completely miss the first 6 or 7 balls bowled at me as the bounced up off the concrete/dirt wicket, with Sachin getting restless at the other end the guys clearly took pity on me and proceeded to put on the slowest bowler there, finding him more to my pace I immediately despatched him for a majestic four before milking the applause of the 3 or 4 person crowd like I’d just won the ashes. My glory was, however, short lived as they brought back on the good bowler for what I assume was the proper game after my short mess around, needless to say I missed the first 3 balls before being so happy I finally hit one on the 4th I proceeded to charge down the wicket despite the ball going about 3 yards and was comprehensively run out. After this we decided it was time to go home and left the park to the sound of Sachin punishing the bowling to all parts.
The next day we had to say goodbye to Ali and Jaipur to move on for Goa, although excited to hit the beach we were definitely sad to be leaving what we both agreed was an awesome city and the best place I’d been in India up until that point (not that that’s saying a lot). Anyway, I caught the plane with a lot of memories and pictures of Jaipur, two new tailored shirts, and couple of bruises to give evidence to my poor batting performance!
P.S. After a couple of months it seems my blog has received it’s very first ‘superfan’ and so I mus dedicate this post to my most avid reader, Mr Drew Blinch esq, who also has experienced my batting ineptitude first hand.