Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night.
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

– William Blake

The early morning phone call shattered the silence once again at 05:45am and we tiredly rose and went about our business, getting washed and dressed and along to reception in time for coffee and biscuits.  The hotel had lots of magnificent professional photos of some of the Ranthambhore tigers and, whilst we couldn’t hope to get photos like that with our little Samsung Digimax, we hoped at least to see these majestic animals, if only once.   🙂

At 06:30am off we went again, into the cool morning air and early traffic.  Our safari wouldn’t last as long this morning, as we had to be back and have breakfast as well as pack up all our stuff for the next leg of this amazing tour – this time to Jaipur.  But we’d still have a couple of hours to see whatever we were going to see.   🙂

On arrival at Ranthambhore we were advised we’d be doing a different route today; this was to maximise the possibility of a tiger sighting as well as not to have too much traffic going along the same route.  As we bumped and rattled along, I found that my right arm was decidedly tender and bruised looking, probably due to being bashed off the side of the vehicle yesterday.

We made our way into the forest and saw lots of monkeys and deer, as well as birds, wild boar and crocodiles in the lake.  Each time our canter passed another vehicle, there’d be a discussion between the drivers as to whether any tigers had been seen.  Apparently one had been, so off we went in the general direction, and eventually parked up with a couple of other vehicles, and the driver switched off the engine.

We waited with baited breath until a cry of “There he is!” went up.  Standing on my seat and craning my neck, I managed to see – oh, how I saw!   🙂

There, just crossing the road in front of us and going into the trees, was a beautiful tiger in all its magnificent splendour.  We were advised it was a female about 18 months old.  She was perfect in every way, and I suddenly felt small, insignificant and humble in her presence.  She wasn’t in a circus; she wasn’t in a cage – she was where she should be, in her natural habitat, born free.  I had a huge lump in my throat and felt so amazingly privileged to see this; it is something I will remember forever.

After the tiger had ventured out of sight, we continued on our way again, completely content.  We’d seen what we came to see.   🙂

We arrived back at the hotel around 9.00am and had our breakfasts, before returning to room 118 and packing up all our stuff, leaving the cases outside the door to be collected and loaded onto the bus.  The hotel would provide us with a packed lunch to eat at some point during the journey, and when we boarded the bus we each saw an interesting-looking box on our seats.

Fighting our way through the endless traffic, we couldn’t help comparing the peace and beauty of Ranthambhore and its inhabitants with the dirt and squalor of the bustling streets.  I suppose it is these stark contrasts that makes India such an interesting country to visit as it is completely different from what we’re used to in Britain.  In its own way, it was pretty entertaining looking out of our bus window at what passed for everyday life here.   🙂

We had a few hours on the bus and Vikram said we’d be stopping at a restaurant for lunch.  In the meantime, the bus made its way to the main road (dual carriageway) and a lot of us took the opportunity to catch up on lost sleep, read, chat or just pass the time.  Harry punctuated the journey by coming round with his basket of chilled drinks, from which we purchased a Kingfisher each.   🙂

Eventually we pulled up at a service stop for our lunch break.  Grabbing our packed lunches we made our way into the restaurant which involved walking through the souvenir shop before reaching our tables.  We took our seats and the waiter came around offering cold drinks, tea or coffee.  With trepidation we opened our lunch boxes to see what we had, but it was OK really; there was a foil-wrapped cheese sandwich that was a bit dry, a bag of Lay’s crisps, a couple of small bananas and a couple of hard-boiled eggs, as well as a carton of juice.  We washed it all down with the inevitable Kingfisher beer.   🙂

Afterwards we had some time left to browse the souvenir shop.  It had some fantastic stuff on offer; hand-embroidered scarves, wraps, clothing and bags, as well as hand-made jewellery and carved items such as trinket boxes and candle holders.  I ended up buying a rainbow-coloured chiffon scarf and a fridge magnet of the Taj Mahal, which I will give to my aunt.

Once we were all rounded up again, we got back on the bus and continued on our way again, everyone looking at what each other had bought and commenting on what bargains they were.   🙂

We arrived at the Trident Hotel, Jaipur at about 4.30pm.  Some of our party (who are braver than I!) wanted to go for a ride in a tuk-tuk, so Peter asked for a show of hands and said he’d arrange it.  In the meantime, we’d already spotted the welcoming looking swimming pool at the hotel and, as our cossies had not yet been out of the suitcase, we decided to wash off the day’s grime with a nice refreshing swim.

We dumped our bags in our room and got changed into our swimming gear, which we wore under our clothes.  When we got to the poolside we couldn’t find a vacant lounger, but the pool guy who dished out the towels said we could leave our shoes and other stuff with him.  Hardly anyone was in the pool and, when we ventured down the steps into the water we found out why – it was pretty cold!

Once we were in, however, it wasn’t too bad.  We enjoyed a swim of about 25 minutes during which time the pool attendant kindly moved our stuff to some loungers that had become vacant.  We then climbed out of the pool, wrapped ourselves in over-sized thick towels, and sat on the loungers, enjoying the relaxation and taking in our surroundings.  As it was Happy Hour between 5.00 – 7.00pm, we enjoyed a couple of Kingfishers each.   🙂

Then we returned to our room to get dried off and changed, ready for dinner.  We were allocated room 209 which appeared to be on the ground floor, but in actual fact had a small Juliet-style balcony at the back overlooking pleasant gardens; it must have been a split-level room.

When we went along to the massive dining room it was very busy, as there were quite a few tour parties other than ours there.  As ever, the food was an Indian buffet, and there was a good selection of dishes and accompaniments, as well as a tempting array of desserts.  Once we were fed and watered, we had a nightcap in the bar before returning to our room; we were quite tired after our early start.  What a day it had been!    🙂

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