Delhi to Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary)
March 11, 2013
This morning we awoke before the alarm at 5:30 AM – guess we still aren’t quite on this time zone. We finished packing then made our way to the lobby to deliver our bags and also to eat breakfast. Soon we were all packed into the same bus we used yesterday and on our way at 7:30 AM. I was glad to leave the city since it was quite hazy and polluted this morning with a very poor visibility. The streets were clogged as usual with the masses of people commuting to work and other destinations.
After a two-hour drive we arrived at our destination, Sultanpur National Park. Much to our our Rajveer’s (our lead local guide) surprise, it was closed. He said they must have changed the opening times of the park. We continued on our way south toward Bharatpur. There was still a lot of traffic even though we left the city center some of it due to a demonstration by thousands of people protesting the pollution of the sacred Ganges River. They marched down one side of the highway from Agra to Delhi, closing that side to traffic. We continued our drive leaving Delhi behind and passing through many typical towns – passing masses of people, bad traffic, cows and dogs wandering freely, tangles of wires and run-down and patched-up buildings.
Our drive took us by crops of wheat and mustard – both being harvested by manual labor, most of them women. I didn’t see any farm houses, only meager make-shift buildings here and there. The cow patties are collected by the women who then spread them in fields and even in the median of the road to dry, then they pulverize the patties and mold them into cubes about six foot on each side. A thatch roof protects it from the monsoon rains and they are intricately decorated with patterns of “finger pokes.” They are quite a work of art – in spite of of their building material! The dried dung will be used as cooking fuel during the rainy season.
We made three stops along our route to look for birds near the highway. It was not very pleasant to stop along the roads with crazy drivers passing us, but at times we were able to escape into roadside fields. We identified some beautiful birds during these stops, notably the endangered Sarus Crane, Red-naped Ibis, Black-necked Stork, Egyptian Vulture, Pied Avocet, and many more. We even found some mammals – a Five-striped Palm Squirrel, the ever present Assamese Macaques, and a tree full of roosting large Fruit-eating Bats. At a few stops, local people stopped to watch us watching the birds, incredulous that we would travel so far to look at birds! We let them look through our scopes and binoculars, bringing smiles to their faces and giving rare close-up looks at their beautiful birds.
We made it to our hotel, The Bagh, in Bharatpur at 6 PM. This lodge is owned by our tour operator here in India, Exoctic Journeys. Doug and Gail have known him for a while and I previously met him at the Cheesemans’ office when he was visiting the USA. The hotel has quite extensive grounds with lots of trees and bushes. The several buildings are distributed around the property and joined by walkways; the pretty architecture is typically Indian with fluted archways. The floors and bathrooms inside the rooms are marble. Steve and I took quick showers since we sweat quite a bit during the hot day. We all met in the dining hall for dinner at 7 PM when Steve and I enjoyed our daily Indian beer. The food was good – typical Indian curries. I usually error on the conservative side when traveling, avoiding raw food in hopes of preventing food poisoning, even though it is probably fine to eat. After dinner we tiredly made our way to bed.