From a few days in the wilderness of JAWAI, Simona travels across to Jaipur and SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace on her next leg of the Rajasthan Tour. Follow her diary as she comes back to love a city she previously had no love lost for and find out the reason for her change of heart, in this week’s blog.
Simona Quaglia is a veteran of the ‘Safari Life’. Having spent years in the African bush work alongside some of the best in the business, Simona travelled to India, a country she has had a long-running romance for, earlier this year. A natural linguist with an uncommon flair for understanding nuances, Simona travelled across Rajasthan, staying with SUJÁN. Her first sojourn, at JAWAI saw her keep a travel diary, which she kindly shares with us for all our readers. In the first of a three part series, follow Simona as she travels between Camps and Palaces, on a journey of discovery and exploration.
“In the mid-1950s the so-called ‘Blue’ train from Paris’ Gare de Lyon lead passengers along the route from Paris to the Côte d’Azur. A road was built in parallel to the train, and outposts of fine French taste started to flourish along this route. As the owners of one of these establishments, Marcel and Nelly Tilloy saw an opportunity to band together with other locales sharing the same unflagging passion for hospitality and excellent cuisine. They offered an enticing culinary itinerary, encouraging travellers to explore all the spots. Soon this itinerary acquired the moniker “La Route du Bonheur” or “Road of Happiness”.”
Relais & Châteaux
Last week, Ranthambhore National Park closed for the season. Our blog this week shares some snapshots of the end of the summer. The last week was an exciting one, in terms of sightings and images, and the incredible interactions we witnessed. Days before the annual closing – for the monsoon – we received news that Brat, (T19) had been spotted with a new litter of four cubs (her third litter). We cannot wait to see her and her brood once the rains have abated and Ranthambhore is ready to receive visitors again, come October. The residents of the Park now await the monsoons and the dry foliage is almost creaking for rain. We leave you with a few images of some of the resident tigers, taken on our last drives into the Park.
“We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”
– Wallace Stegner, 1980
When John Proudfoot Stratton was not laying down roads, putting down belligerent banditry in the arid moors of Bundelkhand and instituting the practise of vaccination into Central India, he also found time to become the Political Resident of Jaipur State, his period of Residency coinciding with the ascension of the progressive Maharaja Madho Singh II as the ruler of Jaipur State in 1882.
His home in Jaipur – and that of other Residents’ before and after him – was, what is now SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace. But the palace did not start-off as the home for venerated and very able Political Resident’s of Rajputana and Jaipur. Originally, and with the founding of Jaipur, Rajmahal Palace was in fact a walled garden, built by Maharaja Jai Singh for his queen Chandra Kanwar Ranawatji, a princess of Mewar.
The Serai, Jaisalmer sits on desert scrubland with a rolling as-far-as-the-eye-can-see-view of the horizon, where pink skies bid farewell to blazing, fiery sunsets and cranes flying overhead to their nesting grounds signal the end of the day in wintertime. This is a timeless landscape, a roundabout of history that has witnessed the arrival (and departure) of armies and caravans, of princes, priests and mendicants each of whom settled down or passed through in the rise and ebb of medieval dynamics. Not far from The Serai, in about as much time as it would take you to enjoy the on-board picnic, you can drive to the centre of this historic landscape, Jaisalmer Fort.
Summer Visitors and Some Residents
In the second part of our series on birds, our blog this week looks high and low amongst the canopies and undergrowth of Ranthambhore’s forests in the peak of summer. May and June are invariably the hottest periods of the year in Ranthambhore and as many trees lose their leaves and the grasses shrivel and retreat in the heat, few creatures of the forest bother to stir unless they absolutely must. Not so with our feathered friends. Summertime sees an influx of some migratory birds to Ranthambhore who are currently here to escape the chill of the hills, from as far away as Central Asia. Other, residents – such as our male peafowl – develop such outrageously brilliant plumages, they forced Charles Darwin to splutter, “the sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me feel sick.”
Tracker Academy Blog
We head out with Bright (one of our trainers at Tracker Academy) in a Land Rover. Scanning for tracks we were going pick up Renias Mhlongo (one of South Africa’s renowned trackers and a trainer at the academy). En route, a leopard leaps out of a bush and seizes an impala from its herd, literally fifteen feet away from our vehicle. By the time we realise what just happened, the leopard (a female) had successfully killed and dragged the impala to the base of a tree. Bright, also stunned with the suddenness of the sighting drives us into the thicket to try and get a closer view of the leopard. In the middle of all this, two hyenas stroll by, possibly attracted by the commotion the impalas created as they witnessed one of their herd snatched by the subtle predator. Relying on their highly acute sense of smell, the hyenas manage to locate immediately the trench in which the carcass and leopard lay under the shade of an acacia. As soon as the leopard hears the hyenas approaching, she bolts, disappearing into the bush and leaving her hard-earned food behind. Within seconds the two hyenas had mangled the impala and erratically tore off its lifeless limbs in a savage frenzy. I will not and cannot for all of our sakes describe the sound of the joints popping out of their sockets or the crack of the bones as they manically devoured the corpse. They laughed in their characteristic way as they competed for the last ounce of flesh and after a mere 20 minutes, the impala was gone.