Bharatpur, India

December 27, 2002

Weather: high of about 75ºF and hazy

We set out on our much delayed motorcycle trial run. The delay was all in the acquiring of the motorcycle, not my fear of Delhi traffic, really! Anyway, on the morning of our departure, Delhi was socked in by a thick fog. By the time visibility began to clear up, it was 10am instead of 7:30am as we had planned to depart. We rolled out into thick fog at the height of Delhi rush hour and our trip had finally begun.

We are told that the trip should take less than 3 hours, but it takes us about 6 hours of driving time. The traffic around Delhi is the most exciting, but the herds of goats, sheep, camel, and cattle on the freeway have their own charm. After about 4 hours we go a few kilometers out of our way to visit this McDonalds. The bathrooms are western. Enough said.
The remainder of the trip is over pretty rough roads and we arrive at our hotel just before sunset. In the morning we get up and visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park. It is a bird sanctuary that was once a royal hunting ground. There aren't as many birds as usual this year because of the drought the area is experiencing, but there is still plenty of wildlife and peace. This picture has a remarkable yellow woodpecker in the center.
There is a sign at the entrance to the park that says a tiger has recently taken up residence here so be careful. If there is a tiger here, it is well fed because there are a lot of cows and antelope. This is a Nilgai, the largest of all Asiatic antelopes.
We spend most of our time in the park walking through the middle of what look like fields, but are actually what is left of the wetlands. Here is a section that has water pumped in, but it should reach out to where I am standing.
We learn from a conservationist who is studying eagles in the park that the tiger here is actually a tigress and he has had some close calls with her. We look for tooth and claw marks on this skeleton, but we don't really know what we're looking for.
The many paths and roads in this park were probably built by the prince so he could hunt tigers without getting his slippers too dirty.
I walked right by this parrot without noticing him until he cooed at me.
The villages around Bharatpur won me over right away. I can tell I'd be right at home here.
Just in case you feel sorry for us alone in the middle of primitive India, here is a picture of our accomodations in Bharatpur: the Laxmi Vilas Palace Heritage Hotel. For $50 a night. It was once the home of the prince's brother.

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