November 2006: As part of a two-week trip that also included Iran and Belarus, I spent a week in Rajasthan, India with the main goal of seeing a tiger in the wild in Ranthambore national park and the desert walled city of Jaisalmer. Rajasthan was my 2nd trip to India and the region seemed like visiting a completely different country from the other regions of India I had previously been to in the Himalayas and Gange plains. This is the itinerary of my trip in Rajasthan:

Day 1
Arrive Delhi at 03:30AM.
Train Taj Express (3 hours) to Agra.
Arrive at Agra, Taj Mahal, Red Fort. and visit the city  
Private car to Ranthambhore National Park hotel

Day 2
Ranthambhore National Park: -Morning/ afternoon jeep safari -Overnight stay in the hotel.

Day 3
Ranthambhore National park: Morning/afternoon jeep safari -Overnight stay in the hotel.

Day 4
Morning safari in Ranthambhore National Park
Car to Jaipur
Overnight train to Jaisalmer

Day 5
Car to Samm San Dunes/Khaba’. Overnight stay in tent in Thar Desert

Day 6
Jaisalmer including Jaisalmer fort, Jain temples, Patwon ki Haveli and other places of tourist attractions.
Drive to Bikaner and visit Karni Mata temple.
Junagarh fort,
Overnight stay in the Maharajah’s palace hotel.

Day 7
From Bikaner early in the morning drive to Delhi.
Depart to London

My route

Taj Mahal

 

I started my trip in new Delhi and immediately departed by train to Afra to see the Taj mahal, the world’s most famous tomb for the wife of a Moghul prince built in the early 1600’s..

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

 Ranthambhore National Park

 

To see a tiger in the wild and I decided to visit one of the world’s most reliable national parks to see a tiger-Ranthambhore National Park which protects a large area of dry Sal forests around the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort. The park is home to leopards, bears, crocodile, and tigers. I made sure to have multiple days in the park to increase my chances of seeing a tiger and I also ensured that I had at least two jeep safaris into the core part of the park, where tigers are most prevalent. I ended up seeing all of the wildlife that the park has to offer a leopard and tiger with the exception of a sloth bear.

Rangers and a monkey having a team meeting

Sambar deer

Mugger crocodile

10th-century Ranthambore Fort

An Indian family exploring the park via tractor

Antelope

Owl

Seeing a Tiger in the Wild

 

I spent years traveling to national parks in various countries of south and southeastern Asia searching for tigers and my efforts finally paid off in Ranthambhore when I saw a tigress only about 10′ away from my open top jeep as she walked across the road and right by me making eye contact with me as she passed. It was a beautiful sight to see such a majestic animal in the wild and an experience that I will never forget and one that left me misty eyed.

Tigress

Tigress

Rajhput Customs-Purdah-Head Veils for Hindu Women & Turbans and Giant Handle Bar Mustaches for Men

 

A big reason for why I wanted to visit Rajasthan was the people and their culture. The Rajput people are fiercely proud of their culture and the to distinguish themselves from others in India, the men wear really large turbans and really large handlebar mustaches to curl. Hindu women are very conservative and wear a veil that covers their faces if they are married. The women believe in purdah, which means to remove themselves once they are married so that other non-related men cannot see their faces. This is a custom similar to conservative Muslim women but for the Hindu women it only applies to married women vs all women as is the case with Islam. Another unique observation common across Rajasthan is the sight of camel carts. Camels are used to haul carts full of all kinds of goods ranging from electronics to produce, and the camels wear elaborate decorations and are painted.

Hindu women with covered face

Hindu women with covered face

Rajput Man

Rajput Man

Kids from a musical caste waiting to perform for tourists

Rajput Man

Camel cart

Thar Desert and Gypsy Nomads

From Jaipur I took an all-day long train to the old walled desert city of Jaisalmer in the largest desert in India, the Thar desert that also forms the border with Pakistan. From Jaisalmer, I went directly into the desert where I met groups of wandering nomads along the side of the road. I camped in the sand dunes and explored them by camel for a few hours. After the sunset, the temperature plummeted, and I had a bonfire to keep warm in the sand dunes. A group of nomads from a musical caste I was told happened to be traveling nearby and with their camels and when I discovered this I asked if they could perform for me and they agreed to do so for a small fee and I had a family of nomads singing, dancing and playing Indian drums and flutes on lt for me.

Thar desert

Me in the Thar desert

Thar desert Sunset

Desert nomads

Desert nomads

Jaisalmar

I spent one night in Jaisalmer, a small walled desert city built in the 11th century with only about 40,000 people. I visited ornate Jade temples, markets full of nomads selling their handmade crafts, and walked the streets that have changed little in centuries.

Jaistalmar

Jaistalmar

Jaistalmar

Jaistalmar view from top of the old walls

Jain Nuns who believe that they cannot harm any living creatures including organisms so they wear masks to avoid breathing in any organisms and they walk barefeet to avoid stepping on any.

Desert nomad and her colorful clothes and jewelry

Rat Temple

From Jaisalmer I drove via a hired car to Bikanar another town in the Thar desert. I chose Bikanar because of the 500-year-old Karni Mata temple or the rat temple where thousands of rat’s scurry about the ground in a temple while worshippers feed them milk and walk among them. The rats are believed to be reborn family members and devotees of the temple tend to them and feed them. No shoes are allowed inside, and you have to walk barefoot among thousands of rats that will and do crawl over your bare feet. In one hallway it was pitch dark and as I walked through, I could hear and feel the rats, but I couldn’t see them. Giant bowls with milk are laid out throughout the temple for rats to drink and if you see a white rat, it is considered good luck.

Karni Mata Temple

Karni Mata Temple

Karni Mata Temple

Staying in a Palace of a Maharaja

One of the historical places I stayed was in a room inside this old Maharaja palace, which belongs to royalty. When India stripped the royalty of their power, much of their wealth began to fade so one way for them to make an income is to allow guests to stay in their posh palaces for a fee. 

Maharaja palace where I slept one night

From new Delhi, I flew back home via India Airway and amazingly after one week in India, I did not get sick unlike my previous visit.

 

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