A cool breeze, clouds playing hide and seek with the sun, the sound of waves to one side, and the interiors of a palace on the other, a panoramic view of palaces and havelis and the backdrop of Aravalli hills – perfect, no?
On our return from Sariska, we decided to pay a visit to one of the forts in Alwar. We skipped breakfast to beat the sun and reached the Bala Quila, only to find out that the only way to get to the fort in the morning was by trekking up a few kilometers. We’d have to wait for another hour before the gates at the foot of the hill would be opened for vehicles. Since we had to return soon, we changed our plans and decided to visit the other fort nearby.
For something which was supposed to be nearby, it seemed like we had been travelling forever. We couldn’t see anything but the hills. The long winding path had good and terrible roads in equal measure. The network connectivity was terrible – online maps were not really helpful. There were few houses, and fewer people. The signboards along the roads were the only indication that we were on the right track.
We climbed one hill after another, with each turn slowly revealing the beauty of the misty Arvalli. The fort though, was still nowhere to be seen.
We approached a crossroad where even the signboard seemed confused. As we took a turn, an old man standing nearby waved at us. He must have known where we were headed and pointed us towards the right direction.
After several more minutes, we finally laid our eyes on the thousand year old Dadhikar Fort – now a heritage hotel.
I don’t know how it looks on the inside, but with the amazing hills, little ‘modern civilization’ around and poor network access, it seems like the perfect weekend getaway 😉
Well concealed behind the trees, this is about the best view we could get of the Fort.
The Sariska Wildlife Reserve was, at one point of time home to over 40 tigers. During our safari, our guide informed us that wildlife enthusiasts preferred Sariska over Ranthambore. Unfortunately, poachers felt likewise. Due to poor monitoring and rampant poaching, by 2004 there was not one tiger left in the Reserve.
The lack of tigers led to an increase in deer with the population of over 25,000 Sambar deer alone.
In 2005, three tigers were relocated from Ranthambore and the number of tigers in the 800 sq km forest has now risen to 13 (with less than half the area allocated to it, Ranthambore boasts over 50 tigers)
This gorgeous creature is one of thousands of deer at the Sariska Wildlife Reserve.
It’s November. Regular bloggers may be familiar with the Nanos. This year, I’m also going to try to post something every single day. So I’ll see you tomorrow 🙂
This is post #2 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano
NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging
Thanks a bunch to all the cheering peppers who have been tweeting and liking posts across WordPress 🙂
As it happens, I misinterpreted this week’s photo challenge. Let’s set things right. Would you like a cup of tea?
Just before our last safari in Sariska, we decided to eat lunch at a dhaba. There was a row of small houses with thatched roofs along either side of the road running along the perimeter of the Wildlife Reserve. Two or three large aluminium vessels kept along a short wall were the only indication that they were eateries. Seeing the number of safari Gypsies* parked around them, we skipped the first few.
We got off the car and walked towards an empty house. Outside the porch was an open shed with a thatched roof supported by logs. Beneath the shed were a few plastic tables and chairs and charpoy. A man appeared from behind the porch and we enquired if food was available. It wouldn’t take long to prepare, he said.
We settled around one of the cots and made ourselves at home. A little while later, our host laid out the platter on the table next to us. Hot dal and sabzi with pickle; thick rotis, freshly baked in a tandoor, served with a generous amount of ghee; and on our request, curd from his own house right behind the restaurant.
Though simple, the food was delicious. He asked us if we needed another serving. When we said we were full, he asked if we would like to have some tea. Of course we did! As we waited for the tea, we pulled out our cameras.
A little while later, our host announced that the tea was ready. We noticed two little girls and their mother sitting beside the porch, near the entrance of the house — our host’s family. We sat near them on a makeshift bench made with a stone slab and sipped on the cardamom-flavoured tea. The elder daughter opened up easily and seemed to enjoy our attention. She told us her name and that she had just returned from her school. The younger one remained close to her mother. We learnt that they were farmers, and that they had finished harvesting their crop of corn. They said they didn’t sell the corn. Instead, they made flour to prepare rotis. A little later, we heard a baby’s cry. Our hostess left to attend to her youngest child inside the house.
We told our host that we had got a glimpse of a tiger earlier that day. He confirmed that there indeed was one nearby last night. In a very matter-of-fact way, he said it was most likely out hunting for prey, and that he had heard the call of a deer near his house. We wondered how it would be to live there. Growing a crop with whatever little income came from feeding a few highway passersby and stray wildlife enthusiasts, to live in a secluded part of the state without a proper address and wild tigers for neighbours.
We thanked our hosts for their hospitality and paid the very modest bill. Our hostess returned as we prepared to leave, and presented us some farm fresh corn to take home. And no, she clarified, they weren’t selling it.
* Gypsy – a four-wheel-drive off-road vehicle
dhaba – a roadside food stall charpoy – wooden cot dal – split lentils sabzi – a vegetable cooked in gravy roti – Indian flat bread tandoor – clay oven that uses fire (from wood or charcoal) for heat ghee – clarified butter
We took to the roads early morning and checked into our hotel just before lunch. While our rooms were being readied, we confirmed our safari booking. We then picked up the keys and headed towards the rooms.
Our rooms were towards the back of the property in a separate compound. On entering, we were greeted by a small lawn with a cluster of bamboo plants in the centre.
Near the edge of the lawn stood a Sambar deer with the most majestic set of horns. What a welcome!
We rushed to our room, dumped our belongings and went to meet our host.
Not wanting to frighten him away, we maintained a fair distance. Having clicked away to our heart’s content, we moved closer. The deer didn’t seem to mind. We walked further ahead until we were less than 2 metres away.
He humoured us for a while, patiently posing for portraits for a good fifteen minutes. He probably got bored and slowly began turning back. He scratched his horns against some bushes and then disappeared into the thickness.
That thickness was an opening into the Sariska Wildlife Reserve.
Being at the edge of the forest, we were told it was not advisable to go out alone at night. And for good reason. The next morning, our safari guide confirmed that pug marks were found just outside the hotel. One of just 13 tigers in the 800 square km forest had paid us visit while we were asleep.
This wooden stick is a crude fence built by a farmer to protect his crop of corn. Sitting at the edge of the Sariska Wildlife Reserve, the family of five has no need to be afraid of robbers. The odd tiger that pays them a visit every now and then, is quite a good security system.