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Thelma & Louise go to Rajasthan


Sangeeta

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Kitsafari

@@TonyQ thank you for bumping this up! i thought @@Sangeeta was writing up about her most recent trip to India until i came to your comment, then realised it was a 2012 report.....

 

brilliant splashes of colours, Sangeeta and what a wonderful way to spend time with your mum.

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Sangeeta

Now that Lynn has cracked the whip so hard, I thought I'd better get this old thing all done quickly :P

 

Next stop after Chandelao was Bera in the Aravali Range, a full day's drive from Jodhpur.

 

Before going to Rajasthan, I had done a lot of research on the best places for leopard sightings and the name that cropped up again and again was Bera, a small village not too far from Udaipur. There aren't any national parks or reserves here, but the largest private landowners of Bera are wildlife enthusiasts and have ensured that the local shepherds and farmers do not retaliate against the resident leopard population, even if they lose some livestock to these animals. Sounded all good and so I booked us into Castle Bera, the home of Thakur Baljeet Singh Bera, one of the two brothers from the landowning family of the area. The elder brother runs a resort called Leopard's Lair (also in Bera), but I hear from @@Shreyas that the property is quite run down. I did not visit. The elder brother was also adding a hideous extension to the old house when I was there - full of Indo-Saracenic whorls and cupolas in cement - perhaps that has now been completed and quite ruined the charm of the old house...

 

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Bera Dawn

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Lion Rock - a natural outcrop

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Sloth bear droppings

 

The house itself, though in a somewhat dilapidated condition, has lovely views over the hamlet and the Thakur Sahib himself is a very interesting character. I spent some convivial evenings chatting with him over drinks about the wildlife and princely families of Rajasthan (he seems to be related to everyone). A very gracious host, he has very loyal staff and trackers, which means excellent hot home made meals and great guiding. Their wildlife safaris are conducted in nice open jeeps in mixed use areas that I believe were once chocca with large mammals, including a good population of tigers, but they are all long gone now. You can still find sloth bear (I did not), striped hyena (saw the den but no hyena) and of course the leopards. I did not see much in terms of prey animals so I think these leopards survive on the ubiquitous Rajasthani goat and feral dogs. The guides told me that the area supports chinkara - perhaps so, but I doubt there are enough to sustainably feed these leopards. The wilderness area also has train tracks running through it that has proven to be quite deadly to the resident wildlife, though I checked and the railways had built animal underpasses at several places.

 

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Guide and tracker (so sorry I've forgotten their names after all this time)

 

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A wild kopje ride in search of striped hyena

Castle Bera does not bait, but all the other operations in this area live-bait the leopards. It is a horrible practice and I hope that in the two years since I was there they have stopped it. As a result of all this baiting, the leopards have become extremely habituated and sightings are both plentiful and close. I have described the live-baiting incident elsewhere on ST so won't repeat it again here, but it left a very bad taste in my mouth and I doubt I will go back to Bera again. Which is a real pity because the Castle Bera guides are excellent and took me on a most exhilerating 'kopje ride' at dawn to get to the hyena den in time to catch the animals leaving the den site. Baljeet Singh is a wildlife lover and a very keen birder himself. He was as excited as I was to see flocks of peacocks sailing down the steep hillsides - though he must have seen that sight many times before. We also visited Jawai Dam just outside of Bera. A place of unearthly beauty, it looks like something out of a science fiction movie with barren hills surrounding a dam of the deepest azure blue waters and large crocs arranged at artful intervals along the shoreline.

 

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The other-worldy Jawai Dam

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Combed ducks

 

Even with the close-up sightings, photography can be a challenge for non-photographers who are ill-equipped to deal with very low light situations. Here are a few cropped and blurry leopard photos that were taken just for memory.

 

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Blurry Leopard - 1

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Blurry 2, 3 and 4

Next stop, Udaipur.

 

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graceland

Thank you @@Sangeeta for the advice on the camp "baiting" the leopards.

 

I would NEVER want to go for that reason, and in a dream like state I used to constantly think about going to India for wildlife. Now, instead I imagine I'd go for culture.

 

And I like your pics~ blurry or not. It is your memory afterall.

The Kopje ride looked fun!

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Atravelynn

Very sci-fi indeed. I bet with your newly honed photo skills those leopards would not be blurry!

 

After getting Sangeeta back on task, I am now assigning @@graceland reading material in the India trip report section. Lots of unbaited wildlife potential in India, along with culture.

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graceland

Very sci-fi indeed. I bet with your newly honed photo skills those leopards would not be blurry!

 

After getting Sangeeta back on task, I am now assigning @@graceland reading material in the India trip report section. Lots of unbaited wildlife potential in India, along with culture.

@@Sangeeta got me first...reading up on Zambia.

But I did read YOUR India report years back..which started the India wildlife idea rummaging around in my head.

 

And just lately some fine pics of a tiger made my heart leap out!. Oh my I want it all :D

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Sangeeta

I did beat you to Graceland, Lynn :P Though must confess, some of the reading material she's been assigned is based on your Liuwa trip so it's all circular here as well as on your report.

 

@@graceland and @@Kitsafari - thanks for reading along!

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Sangeeta

Udaipur, to my mind, is one of the most beautiful cities of India. Not over-populated, not over-built (yet) - an oasis of tranquil beauty and exquisite architecture set around a series of lakes with the Aravalis brooding on the horizon. For me, though, Udaipur will always remain inextricably linked to ST, because it is also the home of fellow STer, @@Shreyas.

 

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Morning in Udaipur

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View from the hotel

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Views

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At the time, I had not met Shreyas in person, but after having introduced ourselves on ST, we had chatted on the phone occasionally about being bitten and smitten by Africa. When he heard that I was heading towards his hometown, he immediately sprung into action (or rather made his parents spring into action :D) and before we knew it, we were being whisked away to their lovely home for the BEST meal of our trip to Rajasthan. Now that I look back on it, it was all quite amazing. Here were the parents of someone I had never met, inviting my mum and I to their home not just for a meal, but after the meal, his mother then showed us the sights of Udaipur, took us to tea at a lovely rooftop restaurant and as if that were not enough, when they heard that we were catching a late night train to Sawai Madhopur, his dad sent his people to make sure we boarded the train safely and his mother sent us yet another delicious home-cooked meal to keep us properly fed and watered en route to the tigers of Ranthambhore! So my advice to all STers heading to Rajasthan - make sure you're friends with Shreyas before you leave :P

 

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Exquisite architecture

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Mum doing what she loves best!

 

Seriously though, I am not sure how long I will remember the sights and sounds of Udaipur, but I will always have a vivid recollection of a long and leisurely afternoon spent in the company of Neeruji & Sureshji, discussing African and Indian wildlife, photography, families, politics, work - it was as if we had known one another for many years and not merely a couple of hours. (I even got to see where Shreyas was married before I had ever laid eyes on him!)

 

So thank you so much, Shreyas, for introducing me to your lovely family. I hope we can all spend more such afternoons together in the years to come - both in Rajasthan and right here in the US. And thank you so much, Neeruji & Sureshji, for your warmth, thoughtfulness and gracious Rajasthani hospitality.

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Kitsafari

sangeeta, your pix really do Udaipur justice - it looks like a beautiful place.

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Atravelynn

Enchanting photos of Udaipur.

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Phew...... @ Sangeeta, you're too kind :)

 

Nice pictures.....who cares if blurry or not - it's a Leopard!! No crocs at Jawai Dam, I guess!?

Wish you had better luck with the Hyena (Jarakh).

 

Again, thanks for kind words and glad you enjoyed Udaipur!

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