27th Feb 2018. It has just been 2 days since Nirvaan's 'annoprashon' or rice ceremony. We were on our early morning flight to Jaipur. My friend and colleague Suvadip and his wife Madhushree joined us too this time. The trip was pre planned, tickets and reservations were made almost 4 months back. Plan was mainly to visit Ranthambore National park, through Jaipur and Bhangarh. Total trip duration was 5 days.
We landed at Jaipur Airport at 8.30 am. We had hired a car for the whole day. As our check in time at the hotel was at 2pm, we first visited our friend Dr. Manvendra Gehlot's apartment and freshened up. Nirvaan still did not learn to crawl and was on his mother's lap for most of the time. Manvendra or Mannu as we affectionately call him, arranged for the famous Jaipuri pyaaz kachoris and jalebis for breakfast. After a heavy breakfast, we left for a tour of the Jaipur city, and after visiting Hawa mahal, Jantar Mantar and the famous City palace, we finally checked into our resort K K Royal which was located at Amer with the Amer fort at its backdrop. If you want to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city in a beautiful location, this is a great choice with huge rooms with a view of the Amer fort, a clean swimming pool, good food and impeccable service. We were too tired, and Nirvaan was delighted that he could spend some time rolling over on the huge king bed.
Next day, we took a self drive car with Zoomcar for the rest of the trip. We first visited the famous Amer palace and fort. It is better you yourself read up the history about the place because taking a guide is an absolute waste of money and time. They hardly tell you the history of the place and are mostly interested in taking you to shops from where they would get a commission. You can drive your vehicle to the top of the Amer fort where parking is a hassle though. The view from the top of Amer fort is breathtaking as is the Rajput architecture. Do try the kulfi just outside the main gate of the Amer fort which was by far the best kulfi I ever had.
Our next destination was Jaigarh fort Jaigarh was more rustic than Amer fort and the drive to the fort is very scenic through the curvy roads of the Aravali hills. It takes around half an hour from Amer fort to reach Jaigarh which also boasts of the biggest cannon in India, Jaivana. The view of the Maota lake from the top is just mesmerizing. While on our way back to the hotel, we visited Nahargarh for a short while which was not far from Jaigarh. One gets a panoramic view of the Jaipur city from here.
The evening was well spent at Chowki Dhani, the famous cultural destination in the outskirts of Jaipur which serves lipsmacking rajasthani delicacies amongst other cuisines. Nirvaan had the best time of his trip here watching the puppet show, the ghoomar dance, the village magic show etc. It easily takes 3-4 hours to experience what Chowki Dhani has to offer.
Pictures from Amer fort:
Pictures from Chowki Dhaani:
We got ready early next morning to leave for Ranthambore, one of the famous tiger reserves of India. It was Holi. The drive to Ranthambore was mostly uneventful barring an isolated incident which I am sure does not reflect the true nature of the Rajasthani youth. Our car was stopped on the way by some 12-14 year old children who demanded money for celebrating holi. While I offered them 20 rupees, they demanded a Rs.200 and threatened to break the windowpanes of the car on denial. That a 6 month old infant was in the car absolutely evoked no compassion in them rather a few of them said they would damage the car more because the baby was there. I was dumbfounded by their attitude , however after a lot of rationalizing and despite not giving in to their demands, we were let go unscathed. A full 20 minutes were wasted. We were deeply disturbed by the attitude of such young children.
We reached Ranthambore at 12 noon and checked in to Ranthambore villa which had spacious rooms along with a garden and a swimming pool. We had booked our safaris online 3 months before our trip and thought we were extremely lucky to get the few permits available online. One needs to show the permit to the safari department in Ranthambore run by Rajasthan Government for allotment of a open jeep and a driver ( one has to pay extra for the same ). This system was again a total sham and a scam. There was a lot of chaos at the venue and it was filled with touts and agents who were charging people wthout previous bookings 5-10 times the government rates. Those who had online bookings were not given much priority as they do not fetch them much money. after a long wait and confusion, we were allotted a jeep and a driver who was supposed to pick us up from our hotel at 2.30pm. Though we first decided to take Nirvaan along with us to the safari, Priyasha decided to stay back with the baby as the ride was supposed to be very sunny and dusty.
There are 10 zones in Ranthambore national park. It was impossible to visit all if them and I could manage permits of only 3 zones, Zone 2,3 and 5. Apparently zones 1-6 are the best for tiger sighting. However on arrival, we were told presently zone 10 was also very popular for sightings. We were on our way to Zone 2 on the first day. We were very lucky to spot a tiger on our very first safari though from a distance. It was an exhilarating experience to get to watch the royal animal free in the wild. The ride was bumpy and dusty no doubt but was definitely worth it. We came back tired after a 3 hour safari.
Next day it was the mother's turn for the safari while the responsibility of looking after the baby was on the father. They went to zone 5 this time and I do not know how lucky we were that even they got to spot a tiger, that too from very near. Two back to back sightings in two safaris...phew! Meanwhile the father had a tough time at the hotel managing the baby but at least the guilt of getting to watch a tiger alone the previous day without your better half was gone now! The evenings were relaxing at the pool, though it was shortlived as a huge group of 20-25 young people made a mess of the tranquil atmosphere of the jungle on the pretext of celebrating holi.
Next morning, we hiked to the Ranthambore fort carrying Nirvaan in a baby carrier. The fort, mostly in ruins was eerie even in the morning and the mesmerizing view of the surrounding jungles and valleys just added to the atmosphere. We could spot crocodiles in the nearby water bodies from the top of the fort with the help of our binocular. Many such flora and fauna are visible from above if one waits patiently at the top with the binocular. The area of the fort was huge and it was impossible for us to cover the whole under such a short time.
We had to take our last safari to Zone 3 as well. Although , the landscape of Zone 3 was much more picteresque than the others with many waterbodies, we were not third time lucky. However, we spotted some diverse and rare species of birds which were in abundance in zone 3. We checked out from our hotel at 1 pm and left for Bhangarh, the fort infamous for paranormal activities.
It took us roughly 3 hours to reach Bhangarh, once an entire township inside a fort. The place, again mostly in ruins could make the backdrop of any horror/thriller movies as the mysterious charm of the place could only be felt by those who visit Bhangarh. However, we did not encounter any sinister experience though we left Bhangarh for Jaipur airport just at the onset of dusk. Perhaps, even they were driven away by the amusing antics of baby Nirvaan who was still energetic after a tiring day's journey.
Pictures from zone 3:
Pictures from Bhangarh:
Points to note regarding the baby:
Nirvaan was 6 months old when we went to Rajasthan. The trip to Rajasthan involves a lot of walking specially uphill to the forts and palaces. Make sure you have a good quality baby carrier especially the ones with hip seats to roam around with the baby. Cerelac is a good choice for food while travelling with a 6 month old apart from formula milk and breast feeding. Keep your transit times and sight seeing times short within 4-5 hours a day as the baby and the mother both may get tired. Make sure the baby is hydrated and gets enough rest while on such a tour which involves a lot of walking and roaming in the sun. Definitely carry an umbrella along. It is better not to take the baby to a safari in the jungle as it may get dusty and bumpy during the ride and may be too uncomfortable for the baby. So it is better to travel in a group and one parent should stay with the baby while the other goes to the safari.
Travel safe. Travel well.