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Treepol
Posted (edited)

Day 18

 

Bundi-Udaipur

 

Breakfast this morning is at the rooftop restaurant gazing across the blue houses to the palace. Hotel tuk-tuks then take us to a gate on the edge of the old town where Shankar is waiting for the drive to Chittorgarh and on to Udaipur. During the 3 hour drive we pass through rural areas where opium poppies are a lucrative crop grown government permit.

 

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Chittor Fort, or Chittorgarh dates from the 7th century and has been occupied by many clans including the Mewar family before it was captured by Akbar in 1567. Rana Udai Singh, the Mewar chief escaped Akbar and moved south to establish a new base on the shores of Lake Pichola at Udaipur. A peace treaty signed in 1616 between Emperor Jehangir (Akbar’s son) and the Mewars returned Chitor to the former owners on the proviso that the fort would not be repaired. The present day site contains the remains of 13 palaces and more than 100 temples as well as 2 commemorative towers over an area of almost 700 acres.  5000 people live within the fort and the village situated on the zig-zag access road inside the precinct. Shankar drove through 7 (narrow) ornate gates to our first walk within the fort.  Sadly, we were short of time here, driving between the major landmarks and around the perimeter of the fort before leaving for Udaipur.

 

Some of the main landmarks are:

 

The Kumbha Palace

 

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Victory Tower (Vijay Stambh). This 15th century landmark was built by Rana Kumbha to celebrate a victory over the Malwa clan. 157 steps take visitors to the 9th floor for views over the fort.  

 

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The Jal Mahal (water palace) within Padmini’s Palace.

 

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The Sultan of Delhi viewed Queen Padmini’s reflection in the pool and was so besotted by her beauty that he declared war on her husband in order to abduct her. After Rao Raja Ratan Singh (who commissioned the palace at Bundi) was killed, Padmini and the other royal women committed suicide to avoid capture. There are so many stories…


Gardens within the palace.

 

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The Kirti Stambh (Tower of Fame) is a 7 storey tower, 22 m tower dedicated to the Jain Lord Adinath.

 

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Fareh Pratak Palace is a modern building that now houses a museum.

 

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We stopped for a quick lunch before arriving in Udaipur where the streets are too narrow for vehicles so hotel tuk-tuks ferried us to the Jagat Niwas Hotel. This hotel is a lakeside white marble confection where our lake-facing rooms have a view of the Lake or Summer Palace, a much grander confection that appears to float on the lake.

 

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Lake or Summer Palace

 

Dinner tonight is at the next door Rainbow Restaurant where we have a birds-eye view of floodlit hotels and restaurants across the water.

 

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Tomorrow we are visiting the City Palace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol

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AfricIan
48 minutes ago, Treepol said:

lake-facing rooms have a view of the Lake or Summer Palace, a much grander confection that appears to float on the lake.

Now that is a view to wake-up to :)

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Earthian

WOW! Enjoying seeing India through your eyes. Been to all these places, and some of them multiple times- but still what a great pleasure reading about it and seeing those lovely photographs. Great writing and photographs. Thank you for sharing.

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Treepol
Posted (edited)

@Earthian @AfricIan thanks

 

Day 19

 

Udaipur

 

This morning we have breakfast in the rooftop restaurant, truly a rom with a view before heading out with our guide into the Old City.

 

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We walk through cobbled streets to a temple where the clamour of bells, triangles, drums and chanting draws us up the stone steps into this holy place. After a visit to the temple we make the short walk to the City Palace past all sorts of market stalls - leather, textile and miniature painting as well as chai wallahs, food vendors and tailors. The Udaipur Palace Museum is second only to Mysore in southern India for the richness of the exhibits which include unimaginable wealth in art, gold, silver, emeralds and other precious stones.

 

The main entrance is through the Tripolia Gate, an impressive triple gate into the Manek Chowk then through the Toran Gate into a large courtyard.

 

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Elephant murals adorn the walls outside a modest entrance to the actual palace where the first sight is the Ganesha Deodhi that features magnificent glass inlay.

 

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The chamber of military memorabilia features a statue of Maharana Pratap’s favourite horse Chetak. The elephant trunk mask was intended to confuse the battle elephants of the rival Mughal army.

 

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Climbing up, up inside the palace we arrive at the Badi Mahal (Big palace) or Garden Palace which is built on the highest level and is flanked by 104 carved pillars and topped with marble ceiling tiles.

 

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The focal point of this palace is a large pool and ornamental fountain.

 

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Mor Chowk (Peacock Courtyard] is an ornate inner courtyard that features three peacocks (representing summer, winter, and monsoon) made of coloured glass. 

 

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The balcony is also highly ornamental.

 

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The nearby Zenana is decorated in shades of cool blue and features decorative alcoves, balconies and coloured windows.

 

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The Badi Chatur Chowk is a private courtyard with great views over the city.

 

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Overwhelmed by so many Alice-in-India moments I abandoned plans for the afternoon in favour of a late lunch with views over the old city streets and a few hours relaxing in my window seat.

 

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Tomorrow we have a 5 hour drive to Jodhpur via the Jain temples at Ranakpur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol

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Treepol

Day 20

 

Udaipur-Jodhpur


The Lake Palace looks delicate in the pale morning light.

 

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I’m very sorry to leave this hotel and the white city of Udaipur, however Jodhpur awaits. Hotel tuk-tuks take us to Amber Pol on the edge of the Old City to meet Shankar for the journey north. We skirt the lake and have good views of the hilltop Monsoon Palace through the haze. Locals are swimming in the lake, delivery vehicles pick carefully between pedestrians, school children and cows as the shops open and the working day begins.

 

Shankar turns onto another ‘small’ road that winds through lush, rural India. Saree-clad ladies are doing laundry at a low bridge, a splash of colour among the wheat is a woman carrying water, washing or wood. This bullock-powered irrigation system or araghatta is known as a traditional Persian Wheel, a water-lifting device that increased both the area of irrigated crops and food production after its development over 800 years ago.

 

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Further along the road the Hanuman Temple is home to a large and insistent troupe of Common Langurs with many young. These monkeys were snoozing nearby.

 

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Ranakpur is located on a side road between Udaipur and Jodhpur and is known for the 15th century Jain temple complex.

 

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The temple is supported by over 1,400 individually patterned and intricately carved pillars.  The filtered light and pillared temple creates a maze-like atmosphere inside the temple.  

 

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The steep descent through the Aravalli Hills is narrow with many sharp corners. The dry rocky hills are perfect leopard habitat and just yesterday there was a report in the Times of India of a rogue leopard stalking villagers in the nearby Beawar Region. Once we re-join the National Highway system the interesting countryside is replaced by trucks, roadside garbage and toll gates. Wandering cows, local vendors, over-crowded public buses add local colour to the road trip.

 

Tonight we are staying at the Ratan Vilas, a hotel with royal connections. Our accommodation has a homely atmosphere possibly because the owners live onsite - they were sitting on the terrace when we arrived. The property is quiet, unhurried and stylish. 

 

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Tomorrow we are visiting the mighty Mehrengarh Fort before our flight to Delhi and the start of the next part of the trip.

 

 

Cows and goats

 

Domestic animals are assimilated in all levels of Indian life and not just in rural areas. We saw domestic animals in towns, amongst traffic and hoping for hand-outs in markets.

 

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This one gives new meaning to phrase "house cow".

 

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Cattle Egrets surround 2 cow carcasses, waiting for a breakfast of insects.

 

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Treepol

Day 21

 

Jodhpur - Delhi

 

The manicured gardens at Ratan Vilas attract White-eared bulbul and a female Indian Robin this morning, whilst outside Jodhpur is starting work.

 

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Bicycles laden with flowers, tractors with passengers and fruit and veg handcarts all pass the hotel gate.

 

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Our guide Veere arrives and Shankar drives us to Jaswant Thada, a white marble marvel built in the 19th century to commemorate Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. 

 

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Several bird species occupy Devkund Lake between Jaswant Thada and the mighty Mehrengarh Fort - Spot-billed Ducks, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Ruff, Intermediate and Cattle Egrets.

 

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Little Grebe

 

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Ruff

 

A Purple Sunbird plays hard to get.

 

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The Umaid Bhawan Palace is silhouetted in the early smog.

 

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The Mehrengarh Fort is amongst the largest and best-preserved forts in India and towers 400 feet above Jodhpur.

 

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The fort was founded in 1459 by Rajput leader Rao Jodha and is still owned by the Jodhpur royal family. Entry is through the creamy, carved Jai Pol or Victory Gate beside which is a detailed frieze depicting events from Hindu history and mythology.

 

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Inside a lift slowly transports us to the fort’s upper levels.  Ruins of the old city wall and the famous blue houses of Jodhpur are visible from the ramparts.

 

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The Shringar Chowk contains the diminutive throne of Marwar where new rulers were crowned.

 

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Above, the screens of the Jhanki Mahal (or the Palace of Glimpses) allowed royal ladies a screened view of events in the Chowk below. 

 

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The fort contains a pre-eminent collection of howdahs and palanquins which provide a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the Maharajahs.

 

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The glitzy Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace included the Maharaja’s bedroom whilst the Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) was used by the royal menfolk for private celebrations. 

 

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The ornate gold, vibrant reds and blues, dazzling ceilings, stained glass windows and rich carpets are glamour on a grand scale.  

The Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) or Diwan-i-Am (hall of public audience) is bathed in filtered light through individually patterned stained glass windows. The room has 5 doors, which allowed the 5 wives of a former Maharajah to eaves drop on the business of state. This minimalist white room contrasts sharply with the glitz and glamour of the Sheesh and Phool Mahals. 

 

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The Zenana Deodhi or Women’s Palace is a warren of narrow corridors, doorways and pierced screens.

 

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We slowly make our way down steep staircases and ramps to exit via the Loha Gate to meet Shankar. Today, the last day of our road trip he and Tarun are our guests at a farewell lunch at On the rocks, a local restaurant owned by the present Maharajah.

 

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Shankar drops us at the airport where the lounge is soon jam-packed with passengers due to flight delays. Corona Virus was on all our minds! Our flight is delayed 40 minutes, however Abhishek is waiting in Delhi and transfers us to the Maidens.

 

Tomorrow Jo is flying home and Jane and I have time to check out Humayun's tomb before flying to Bhopal en route to Satpura NP.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Treepol

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Treepol

Day 22

 

Delhi-Bhopal

 

This morning Jane and I are going to Humayun’s tomb followed by shopping at the State Emporiums and later a flight to Bhopal en route to Satpura NP. Jo is transferring to an airport hotel before her journey home begins.

 

Humayun’s tomb is a magnificent red sandstone Moghul structure with a classic dome and a row of decorative alcoves.
 

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Humayun's tomb

 

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This simple marble marker is the Emperor’s final resting place.

 

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The site is quite large, and there are other tombs nearby. This is the tomb of the Queen’s dresser.

 

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The State Emporiums showcase the traditional arts and crafts of each state. We visited 5 or 6 shops followed by a snack lunch of masala dosa at Bikanervala, a fast food chain before transferring to the airport. Checkin and security go smoothly and we have some time to kill before our Indigo flight to Bhopal. Tonight is at the Ivy Suites in Bhopal, I can’t recommend this place due to a manky bathroom and the unchecked, unruly behaviour of another guest party that lasted until 5 a.m.

 

Tomorrow we have a morning transfer to Forsyth Lodge in Satpura NP and an evening drive in the buffer zone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Treepol

Day 23

 

Bhopal-Satpura NP

 

This morning we have an interesting drive through village India en route to Forsyth Lodge in Satpura NP. 

 

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Pilgrims

 

We arrive in time to check into our beautiful rooms and enjoy a lunch cooked by local village women.

 

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Indian Robins and Black Redstarts hop around the front of the den.

 

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Saee is our guide and we really enjoy her company and guiding style. She has a great knowledge of Satpura NP and its wildlife and was extremely good company and good fun throughout our stay.

 

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Our first excursion is an evening drive in the buffer zone which is through a local village where we see Plum-headed Parakeets, Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, an Indian Roller and a Paddyfield Pipit in the fading light.

 

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Male

 

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Female

 

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The village is fascinating - women herding cows and goats home for the night, others carrying firewood on their heads and some doing a late shift on the farm.

 

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Machans are raised shelters in the wheat fields where local farmers spend many nights this time of year to protect the crop from marauding boar and deer by making an unholy din!

 

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Three new mammals seen tonight are Black-naped Hare, Indian Gerbil and Jungle Cat. A Jungle Night-jar sits quietly.

 

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We return to the Lodge at 2115 in time for a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soukous

I love Forsyth Lodge, I reckon they have the best naturalists in Satpura. 

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Treepol

@Soukous that is a ringing endorsement for Forsyth and they deserve the praise.

 

Day 23

 

Satpura NP

 

Masala chai is delivered at 0530 before our full day in the core area with lunch at Churna Rest Camp. All trips into Satpura NP begin with a short drive and boat ride across the Denwa River to the Gypsys at the park gate. The first sightings are a juvenile Crested Serpent eagle and gaur in the mist.

 

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 A pair of Common Kingfishers has a nest in a riverbank and an Indian Hoopoe demolishes a malwa flower.

 

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A Jungle Owlet frowns down at us.

 

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 Scarlet mini vets are engaged in a territorial dispute while green bee-eaters perch nearby. Leopard tracks appear on the road and lead to a pair of 2 year old siblings recently separated from their mother.

 

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Nearby Jeherghat is our breakfast stop where Green Bee-eaters perch around the perimeter fence.

 

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We drive deeper in to the park and find nilgai and chital.

 

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Nilgai is the largest Asian antelope, and amongst the shyest making them difficult to photograph. A Crested Serpent Eagle finds a comfortable perch to sit out the heat of the day.

 

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We reach Churna Forest Camp at 11 am and take a quick walk around with Saee.

 

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This Indian Roller has found a high perch.

 

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Dhole are seen outside the camp and we have a quick view of 2 dogs as they cross the road. A Malabar Giant Squirrel doesn’t mind the heat.

 

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We enjoy lunch and afterwards sitting on the wide, cool veranda chatting to other guests. Around 3 pm we start on the way back to Forsyth Lodge and stop at this waterhole where sambar and langur alarm calls alert us to a possible tiger, however it’s actually a pack of dhole including a dozen pups with a sambar kill.

 

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A Brown Fish Owl peers out from a shady branch and then we hear about a male leopard resting at a nearby waterhole. He is so full and lazy and can only muster the energy to flick his tail at the flies.

 

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A perfectly camouflaged Orange-headed Thrush is the last sighting before sunset and dinner at Forsyth Lodge.

Edited by Treepol

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Soukous
19 minutes ago, Treepol said:

Scarlet mini vets

 

Wow! what terrific sightings. 3 leopards and dholes. Lucky you. You even had water in the river. It was bone dry when I was there and we could walk across, no need for boats.

 

:D it's a Scarlet Minivet rather than a diminutive medical practitioner for animals.

 

 

Edited by Soukous

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Zim Girl

Really cool Dhole sighting and the picture of the 2 leopards sat together is lovely.

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janzin

Every time I see a report on Satpura I want to go there...and this one just reaffirms that! I never even considered that there was a good population of leopard there.  Love the two siblings! and Dhole are so beautiful. Next trip :)

 

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elefromoz

@TreepolEnjoying this so much, after we left Jaipur we did wonder what it would have been like to move on to the other great cities, (as it turned out we left India not a day too soon anyway).The  history and architecture is staggering, funnily though, Im always underwhelmed by the "gardens", often just a few straggly rose bushes and not much else.  All your Hotels look fabulous. I love the photo of the Zenana Deodhi with the gorgeous 'insta' girls posing. As Im reading this Im thinking that you must keep very comprehensive notes! Oh beautiful Arrowhead, how many people have felt that excitement and joy at the sight of her. Her and Noor really are superstars. Fancy that, you got a pair of Leopard siblings in Satpura too, just as we did in '16. Exciting to see such a big pack of Dhole. 

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