Birds of a feather

We arrived in Bharatpur on Friday after touring Fatehpur Sikri. Our trip originated in Agra and our driver had a tough time finding our accommodations. With some trial and error he prevailed. The Jungle Lodge was a welcomed respite from the frenic pace of the bigger centers. Lush, with a spacious courtyard and a significant green canopy, not necessarily good for the host  that on our first day we had the place to ourselves. We settled in before checking out the home cooking. The dining area also gave Chelle and I the chance to get online as the chai was heating.

The benefit of the Jungle Lodge other than the tranquility was it’s proximity to Keoladeo National Park (KNP), the easternmost edge of Rajasthan. A World Heritage Site that is the home of thousands of migratory birds. It also protects Bharatpur from frequent floods, and provides grazing grounds for village cattle. It is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps and wetlands. The diverse habitat is home to over 300 bird species, nearly 400 floral species, 13 species of snakes, 5 species of lizards, 7 amphibian species, 7 turtle varieties, and a big cat or two is known to roam the grounds. Ashok, the host of the Jungle Lodge, is a naturalist and former guide in the park. He was a joy to while away some time chatting about his experiences. 

We set off on the short walk to KNP. It must be unusual to have tourists opt to hoof it on foot as many of the rickshaw riders were dismayed at our insistence to walk. Once inside we rented bicycles to roam around. Chelle fell in love with the steel framed Atlas bikes that I may just have to get one home. We erroneously chose not to take a guide as we discovered relatively quickly but far too late.

The Painted Stork colony provided the most interesting viewing for us. From a conservation angle KNP is vital to ensuring the continuation of these birds as the species is on a “nearly threatened” list. The long legged birds reminded me of something out of the Jurassic Park movies almost avian dinosaurs. We darted along various strips of land along the park. An avid cyclist I am definitely out of biking shape but I build up a hearty appetite after several hours of trekking around.

My day ended unceremoniously however. We secured a rickshaw for the quick jaunt home. I made a rookie mistake of taking the riders initial fare but when paying I included a small tip. He gave it back to me, undeterred I strongly insisted that he take the 10 Rupees. In talking with Ashok he informed me that it’s considered an insult to pay with a dirty looking or discolored bills (which is routinely passed off to unsuspecting foreigners). This explains why the ticket agent at KNP insisted I exchange my Rupee note as I was paying the entrance fee.

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