Extremely early start to catch a 5.30am train - and Chris had not been well all night (we don’t think it was the cooking class!) so it was a huge struggle to get packed up and out the door (I actually had to carry my own bags for once!), but we made it to the station with time to spare (and no accidents, but it was touch and go at one point!), and even managed to work out the train system and got on the right train! It was on time and all seemed like quite a smooth operation (compared to everything else at least), and we were pleased and relieved to find our seats were actually berths we could sleep in, with lots of space and aircon (a stark comparison to the other carriages packed full with people, with limbs and faces sticking up between iron bars on the sides). We arrived in Ranthambore in the early morning to a hotel with a pool, but we were too exhausted/ill to enjoy it so we slept until the afternoon until it was time for our safari ride into the jungle to hunt for tigers!
We got in a jeep with five other tourists and headed out into the wilderness, hoping for a bit of a miracle (this wasn’t really the season to spot them, as we’d just come out of the rainy season there was water all over the forest so the tigers don’t need to frequent their summer watering holes, which is where they are normally spotted)... we started strong with a sighting of a blue bull which is a massive male antelope, and a few pretty peacocks too. Then we saw in the distance a massive black lump moving stealthily through the bushes, which our guide told us was a bear he called Balu, and even rarer than a tiger! We saw the tail of a monitor lizard walking into some long grass and then a herd of deer and some more antelopes.
Then we reached a point in the jungle where the driver decided to wait to listen out for an antelope warning call. These calls are made when a tiger is close by, but alas nothing. It seems none of the other jeeps had any luck either so we drove around the forest for a while longer on the off chance but we only spotted some more antelopes and deer. However, as we approached the exit gate the jeep in front of us had stopped and the passengers were all taking photos… could it be...?! No, an Owl. Apparently an extremely rare Owl but once we got to it it decided to walk back inside to its hideaway.
On the jeep ride back to the hotel we probably saw more wildlife than in the park. Hogs laying in heaps of sewage, cows resting in the middle of the roads, goats chewing on garbage, monkeys climbing through trees, crows making a nuisance of themselves and if we’d looked close enough we’d have been able to see many a rodent! We went via a pharmacy where we stocked up on rehydration salts and antibiotics and we promptly collapsed into bed and passed out for the evening (and slept from 7pm to 6am!)