We did a quick trip to Sariska Rajasthan over the extended weekend. This was the first time in 2014 that all three of us traveled together! I took Chhavi out and Seshadri took Chhavi out, I went out and Seshadri went out but somehow the dates never coincided for the three of us. And more often than not I was the guilty party! But we finally managed to go to Sariska for a peaceful vacation.
In all our visits to Sariska we have stayed at the RTDC’s Tiger Den. It is a simple hotel but right at the edge of the forest. The best part of the deal is their huge lawn from where I do my armchair birding. Sometimes I manage to catch butterflies too, on my cell phone!
It goes like this. I usually sit in a chair in the lawn, basking in the sun. Then a bird will come close by and I click a picture, usually without getting up from the chair. Sometimes they do force me to move a bit to get a better angle. By the way, did you notice the blue sky?
The best part of this vacation was the sunshine. There was no fog at Sariska. Chhavi could sit in the lawn and play with mud and other kids, while Seshadri and I were just too happy to laze around reading books.
All the pictures up to now have been clicked in the hotel premises. Now what a luxury it was to click so many birds simply by sitting in a hotel lawn!
And it is not that the birds come for a fleeting second and then go away. They keep coming back, looking for food. Having said that, no one can sit in the lawn and eat anything because of the monkeys. There are just too many monkeys around. They don’t come nearby unless you have something to eat. So all the food items have to be consumed indoors, unless you wish to share it with the monkeys.
Then I took a short walk out of the premises of the hotel and found this Shrike in a tree close to the road. It gave me only one opportunity to click the pictures! And then it vanished protesting further inside the overgrowth.
There were a great many yellow toed green pigeons by the road but they took a thorough dislike to my presence. They flew in droves to far away trees. So, managed to get this one picture on my puny 75-300 mm zoom by cropping ruthlessly.
Chhavi and I did a safari in the national park. This was the send visit to the jungle for Chhavi. She was having a conversation with other girls (working professionals) in the canter and in some context she told them, “I know because I have been here before!” Seshadri refused to budge from the hotel. He anyway has seen a tiger in Sariska on his first attempt, a trip he did solo. We didn’t see any tigers on this trip. But there was this group of painted storks with rudy shelducks for company!
Then there was this lonely black winged stilt going around in the lake in search of food. The lake is a very scenic spot in the middle of the forest.
And I sign off the travels of 2014 (only theoretically because some of the tales are going to spill in 2015 as well) with Chhavi trying to feed a jungle babbler at Sariska.
December is here and unlike the other years, I am in a full on reminiscences mode. So I asked myself- which picture would I pick if I had to pick only one picture from each of my trips! Now there was a problem with this concept. If I picked even just one picture from each of my trips, there would be 20 pictures in all! I decided to go easy and do it in batches of 5. So here I go, these were the first 5 trips in 2014.
Kutch, Gujarat (Personal Solo Trip)
It was very difficult to pick just one picture from the trip to Kutch because I have 963 pictures in all. I visited the Great Rann of Kutch on this trip with its white salt fields. Yet I went with this picture of the Mandavi Beach because in a way this is how I wish my vacations to be, golden sunlight on the beach with me lazing around! Only I always end up chasing pictures instead of lazing around.
Sariska (Personal Trip)
Sariska was one of the trips where I didn’t get many pictures worth showcasing. However, I did got the closest ever I could, to a peacock. It was easy picking up this picture as there were no serious rivals in this folder. The trip was special because I traveled with Chhavi.
Narkanda (Personal Solo Trip)
I went to Narkanda at the end of February all alone. It was one snow filled affair. With every passing day though, I wonder if it is wise to travel solo in India? And when I say solo, I mean traveling alone on my own, not when I am invited. On invited trips I have never ever felt unsafe. Let us see how I tackle solo traveling in 2015.
This was another trip where I feel I had only a few decent pictures, so it was not really difficult to pick this one.
Finland (with Nokia)
Levi in the Lapland region of Finland was a snow filled wonder beyond compare. The house you see was the Levi Spirit Villa where I stayed. I consider it to be the most luxurious accommodation I have ever stayed in, till date. It had its own Jacuzzi, Sauna and Home Theater among other things! It was not easy to pick just one picture from this trip as I had a crazy snowmobile experience as well but in the end I picked this one for the sheer luxury.
Udaipur (with Justa Resorts)
If you ever find yourself at Udaipur, do go to the Monsoon Palace at sunset. I was lucky that the sky put some extra drama but even without that, the view of the city is just gorgeous. Once again this was a trip that gave me many happy pictures but I absolutely adore the sunset ones and specially the one above.
So, which one did you like best?
Tiger Den Sariska is a Rajashtan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) hotel at Sariska, Rajasthan. Chhavi and I stayed there on our trip to Sariska Tiger Reserve. It is a budget hotel. The non AC room cost us 1700 Indian rupees per night. It is reasonably clean. The staff was entirely helpful throughout our stay.
If you watch this video, I have attached a small clip of Chhavi making a video at the end. She saw me talking to the phone while making a video and it became her favorite game for quite sometime. And as to her, “I am a photographer …” amen to that!
The hotel is right next door to the ticket window of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. From the backyard of the hotel, there is a shortcut to the ticket window, which the hotel staff will gladly show to you. So, location wise this is one of the best places to stay.
The Room: My room was not fancy at all. It had an old TV (Reliance cable connection) with a barely functional remote. But Chhavi and I have no complains as she could watch her cartoons and I could watch some old Hindi movie songs when she would fall asleep. The room and the linen were clean, so was the bathroom. They only gave a small soap but I had anticipated it. The towel in the bathroom was clean too. It was just quite basic. If you expect anything fancy in your room, you would be disappointed. If you are looking for a clean and a basic hotel, this is the place for you.
Open Spaces: The hotel has plenty of open spaces. It is ideal for kids to run around. It has a few swings as well, though they are rickety and old. I spotted many birds within the hotel compound, peacocks roam around as well. It worked for Chhavi and I as she could run around unhampered.
As Chhavi managed to color a white towel during our trip to Pushkar, so I was extra careful this time. One of the instructions to her was no food on the bed! She started eating her chips on the windowsill! On the last day I took her colors to the bathroom when I went to take a bath. I didn’t want the bed sheet to become multicolored this time!
The Food: The food was according to a set menu. Most of the times I did not know what would I get for my meal. But they served it in generous portions, a variety of vegetables, daal and both roti and rice. Breakfast one day was puri bhaaji and the other day paratha on demand. However, I wish the dining room covers were cleaner. They were full of stains and are in a need of wash seriously. Other than the hotel, there is only that small canteen where you can get things to eat. There is nothing around for miles otherwise. The canteen stores all the usual junk, from chips to Maggi and everything in-between. As the hotel is almost in the middle of the jungle, there are a lot of monkeys around. So the hotel will not serve any food in the lawn. It makes sense, otherwise the monkeys could become a complete nuisance. or the other way round, we could be a complete nuisance for the monkeys.
Overall, I will stay with them again for their location and safe feeling I had with them. After all it was only Chhavi and I who were staying with them and it is not so common in India. The entire staff never showed any undue curiosity and when we were walking off they told us, “do come again ma’am and stay with us.”
I was happy Chhavi didn’t color any linen or bed sheets this time! When I would ask her not to do something in the park the staff would always side with her. They would tell me to relax and let her run free. The hotel has the highest occupancy rate on Saturday and by Monday there were only three other people than us! I didn’t get the Sunday Shatabdi tickets, so I had to stay till Monday. With Hindsight it was good, I could happily stay one more day at Sariska!