A train for 2-3 hours from Jaipur and we were supposed to reach Sawai Madhopur well in time for dinner. However, considering all our trains were on time till now, chance had to catch up and this was significantly delayed- so we had to make do with oranges, biscuits, and some really bad chilly bajjis from the railway station eateries for dinner. Once in Sawai Madhopur, we were just glad to crash to sleep barely registering that we were finally at the home of the Ranthambore National Park, the Bengal tiger reserve.
However, we were aware we had to wake up early the next morning for the safari. In the chilly morning, our hotel caretaker was sweet enough to stay up with us as we scanned every passing safari truck in semi-panic since the person we’d booked from wasn’t reachable to confirm we’d be picked up!
After quite a wait, we finally got to our truck and after picking folks from a few more hotels, reached the Ranthambore National Park. While one can always cross ones’ fingers to see a tiger when in Ranathambore or any other Tiger Sanctuary. However, in my opinion, it ruins the experience if you don’t enjoy all the other creatures around that, thanks to human overpopulation and general nastiness ,are seen less and less frequently today. So we enjoyed each one- the graceful deer running across the dry overgrowth, the peacock gang assembly, the langurs making warning calls to each other of the tiger in the distance, the interesting looking nilgai and a very fluffy eagle.
Back from the bone-chilling cold of the open truck we were grateful for hot alu parathas for breakfast before we managed a short nap and rushed to the train at noon back to Jaipur. We left out luggage in the railway station’s cloak room and tried to hire a bike. A delay by the time the rental guy arrived, then further delay since the bike ran out of fuel just as we were far away from the rental space and the with fuel that dried up just as the rental guy left the place and we trudged along with the bike to the not-so-near fuel pump and refuelling finally got to Bapu Bazaar for our last bit of quick souvenir shopping for those at home and a street food dinner. We then got back to the station for our luggage and made our way to a hotel closer to the airport so we could take our flight back to our home, and the weather that had spoilt us silly- back in good old Bangalore.
Here are our tips for your own adventure in Rajasthan:
- Rajasthan is vast and has scores of tourist places. Prioritise how you’d like to spend your time based on your interests of you’ll end up rushing from one place to another anxious about missing out.
- December end is horrible in terms of tourist crowds and expensive(in terms of stay and of course flights). We landed there then since we had an event to attend that brought us to Rajasthan anyway. It is also very cold at night – check the weather and dress/pack accordingly.
- Tourist season in Rajasthan is relatively short due to the extreme weather. Though winter can get severely cold , summer is unbearable- in the words of a car driver in the Sand dunes – the searing hot, oppressive winds will not allow for you to even open your eyelids- so take care before jumping at the incredible deals then.
- Food is primarily vegetarian in most places we landed up in Rajasthan. You may have other options in larger cities/more upscale hotels but I wouldn’t count on it. If you have a sweet tooth however, it more than makes up- the sweets are amazing -, especially milk-sweets. This is your place to indulge.
- Hire a bike Vs a car if you’d like to spend more time exploring “old cities” in Rajasthan. The streets are very narrow and even the rickshaws in those parts are made extra narrow to be able to navigate through them. Rickshaws/taxis are however were quite expensive on an average- it maybe since we were there in December too- but budget accordingly. They, however, do not need to be booked in advance/online.
- Plan your commute between cities with care even if you’re on a relatively spontaneous trip- inter-city taxis are very expensive in some places because there are simply no public transport options like trains/buses.
- A rule that applies to all travel but especially here- carry drinking water everywhere, cover your head with a cap to avoid heating up during the day and wear good walking footwear- the palaces and forts are very expansive.
- Wrt shopping, be aware of rough prices if possible, alternately decide what you’d like to pay – like any place highly dependent on tourism prices vary based on where you come from, how you speak, how you’re dressed and what you look like.
All the tips and stories aside, we hope you get to make your own memories of Rajasthan and share them with us too!