Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Not on the map – part II, Sariska

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Tigerless tiger sanctuary

We had left for a Delhi-Jaipur road trip that morning. By the time we reached Sariska, it was already evening. I had spent my childhood in a town called Alwar, a small town then, not very far from Sariska. My memory of Aravali range were these undulating hills that sparkled in the noon sun due to the presence of trace amounts of mica. That evening, the Aravali hills surrounding Sariska had looked a dull greyish-brown in the setting sun.

Although the tigers at this tiger sanctuary are now all dead or departed, many wild animal species such as leopards, hyenas, jackals, spotted deer (cheetal), wild boars, sambars and four-horned deer are still there. A casual visitor these days is likely to see only monkeys. We didn’t encounter any that evening.

We saw an awfully expensive looking fancy resort on our way into the forest. The resort looked daunting but they were mentioned in our guidebook, so we called. If memory serves me right, they quoted USD 140+ for the night. Right opposite the resort, was a circuit house, a colonial era guest house. They were not in the guidebook but they were priced within our budget and welcoming. The rooms were large, although somewhat ill kept – dimly lit, moldy bedsheets, and dusty yellowing pictures. We had to ask for toilet paper, but the bathrooms had running water and the toilet flush worked. The fenced corridor, that ran along the whole length of the circuit house, had a strong smell of monkey pee. The dining room was last decorated at least a hundred years ago, same as the rooms. But the food was excellent, we had lentils, chappati, saag-paneer and assorted pickles. Night was uneventful – we had watched some old movie clips on the laptop and then retired early.

Rural area around Sariska

Rural area around Sariska

When I stepped out of my room the next morning, through the fenced corridor I saw a green lawn, a big tree in the middle of the lawn, the forest beyond the lawn, Aravali hills at the distance, a playful peacock couple running about the lawn, and dozens of monkeys swaying on the tree. It smelled of monkey pee still but I was distracted – anticipation of the day ahead mixed in with old memories of my childhood.

I had stayed in many circuit houses when I was a young girl of six or seven. I may even have stayed in this one. My father, a medical man, was posted at Alwar for three years. Sometimes we would tag along with him on his tours. I have memories of these long jeep drives. There were many peacocks then. Sometimes we would stop the jeep and watch them dancing in the middle of the road for what felt like hours. My mother remembers us driving through Sariska with dozens of monkeys clinging to our jeep. I don’t have any memory of that. My little brother and I would spend the day playing in the circuit house premises. There would always be something to amuse us – a forgotten household item rotting in the rain, or an anthill. We would play hide and seek or go about collecting peacock plumes. I remember an old white temple surrounded by a forest – it could have been here or it could have been somewhere else or maybe it was a dream.

When we came down for breakfast, we met the staff lounging in the common room. TV was on. It looked like a relaxed happy family atmosphere in there. We might have been the only guests or else, others had breakfasted earlier. The parathas were excellent and so was the tea. Our hotel manager had never even heard of Bhangarh. He asked his staff members and a few of them gave us directions – distinctly different ones! There aren’t too many roads out of Sariska, so after a hearty breakfast, we headed out.

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Written by Som

July 1, 2008 at 5:59 am

One Response

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  1. […] combine the trip with a longer trip to Jaipur via the ghost town of Bhangarh, the tiger sanctuary Sariska and Abhaneri – site of a 8th century […]


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