Can You Really See Tigers In Ranthambore? The Tiger Trail

Is that a question you have had? Ranthambore remains the best safari for tiger tracking. However if you are someone who goes to a national park and insists that they see animals then please watch Animal Planet at home. Ranthambore doesn’t disappoint as our three-day sojourn into the dry arid forest which had shed its leaves got us up close and real with the rulers of the land, the majestic Indian tigers. These stripped beasts rule the land they own and protect it furiously. It is amazing to see the daily dance of nature as the other animals move around in circles to avoid the tiger’s path.

The Ranthambore forest has many hues and has forts and hunting palaces inside the national park where the Tigers have now taken up residence. We saw close to 6 tigers on this trip but it was hard work. We started our day at dawn break and stayed inside the forest and covered different quadrants that are opened to tourists depending on various factors and the most important being the well being of the tiger. We went on this trip in March and most of the leaves had been shed and hence the tigers where more susceptible to be spotted and then there were the stars like Arrow who did not care who was in her path as she knew she ruled the forest and no other tiger was a match to her.

The stories are so many as the animals danced their daily routine as we continued as mere spectators. We even witnessed Arrow’s hunting routine as she hid in the kush grass and spelled the end of a deer’s life. I am mesmerized for life, here is a photo essay from Ranthambore.

The Forest

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Driving through the dusty forest
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A Sambar drinks water as a tiger sleeps nearby
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The oasis in Ranthambore where life revolves central to this lake. The area is controlled by the strongest tiger currently the area belongs to Arrow.
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Watering holes created by the forest officials to tide over the hot and dry summer months
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A parrot sips water from a tap
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The forest is ablaze with Palash flowers also known as the Flame of the forest
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A greedy Tree Pie begs for food
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The beautiful and vibrant Palash flowers. These flowers were the original ingredients of gulal made during the festival of Holi.

The Tiger

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Arrow saunters towards her favorite hunting grounds
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Arrow walks out of her hiding place
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Pugmarks of a tiger
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Watching the tiger mesmerized

The Stay at Machili

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Machili Resort or Home stay
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Some bonfire and stories about tigers kept us company all night

The Fort

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The fort with so many stories of Rajputana valour
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A shrine in the fort
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The climb to the fort
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A masjid inside the fort
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One of the gates to the national park
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Monkey business at the fort
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Passages and fortification of Indian history.

This tour was organized by One Life To Travel.

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Here Is How To Be Miserable During The Monsoon! Go For A Trek

So? You have a comfortable life and you are happy? But you can’t recognize that you lead a happy life? Might I suggest a monsoon trek to whichever place is experiencing the highest rainfall in the western ghats?

You can start by boarding a bus which has been stripped off every last bit of comfort imaginable for buses. Get your oversized backpack and put it in the front and your leaky bottle on your lap. Get the absolute last corner seat of the bus so that all the potholes and speed bumps on the way get acquainted with your tailbone and an occasional speed breaker sends you flying.

You reach your destination which is a forest outpost at 3:30 in the night and it’s raining outside. You possibly slept fitfully and cried in your sleep. You are asked to deboard and are handed a wet sleeping bag which someone assures is dry inside and you take their word for it.

You board a jeep which rattles the beejesus out of you and you hang on to dear life. You reach a home stay which is a fancy word for a room with a bathroom for nine girls and a similar one for boys. You stake claim to the area near the only piece of furnishing in the room which is a mirror so that when you sleep in your sleeping bag at night you will be surrounded by the fallen hair of your roommates.

You drink tea and change into trekking clothes. Wear a trekking pant, a jacket so you don’t feel cold, put on a poncho because it continues to rain and your trekking boots. You consider yourself smart and apply salt on your feet and put your pants inside the pair of socks to deter leeches. (HAHA, you fool!)

You carry power bars for the trek and someone hands you a packet of rice flavored with tamarind and asks you not to eat it yet as this is lunch. You reach the forest checkpoint and realize that plastic is banned hence your power bars have to be said bye to. You hand over your power bars and pray they let you carry your pack of peanuts because it’s in a ziplock bag and who throws a zip lock bag, surely they will know that. But they take it.

You are happy that you have contributed to the hills not being littered and your eco self feels proud. You then start walking up the mountain and realize your knees haven’t woken up yet after the bus ride. So you snatch the trekking pole from your husband because he claims to be the better trekker. Also, he bounds off in the general direction of up, if at certain points in the trek you catch up with him he switches on his turbo boots and blasts off least he misses being the first on the summit.

By now your knees have learned that they have to be in motion for the next 22 kms so they start cooperating. So you start your climb up in the rain which stops for a minute and then restarts in all fury. You cross the first river and some other trekkers remove shoes and socks. But you are wiser you know that after the fourth river crossing any enthusiasm for taking off shoes will be curbed so you don’t bother. But your laces come off so you think you will sit on a boulder and remove the swimming pool collected inside your trekking shoes and retie your laces.

That’s when you see the first leech that has been your buddy for some time now as he is nice and plump. You give a little squeal and do a song and dance, then find a stone and scrape it off. The leech is smarter than you of course, so he is sucking blood through the socks. Because you can run you can hide but you can’t escape my love.

Then it hits you, sitting on boulders is probably not that great an idea because if this leech could get up your socks; you sitting makes your torso fair game. You vow never to sit for the remainder of the trek and you won’t find place to sit as well as it continues to pour. The rain infact treats your jacket and poncho as a joke. You are after all wading through waist deep water during the river crossing and the rest of your body gets wet from the rain.

You have the second leech attached to you but now you are pro. Take stone scrape and leech goes off. You then feel something squishy on your stomach as you adjust your pants. You let it go as it is too many layers of clothing to navigate to look at your stomach.

You are now thirsty but your bottle is inside your bag inside your poncho and it is a pain balancing and stopping in the wet slopes and removing your poncho then your bag so you decide to drink from the stream. After a while you realize you are walking alone there is no one in front and no one behind. So you stop and shout hello anyone there as you are at a fork in the path. No one responds so you continue walking and reach yet another river and again there are three paths.

You hope you are taking the right one and wonder if anyone will send a search party for you also how long will the packet of rice last for. After about an hour you find some of the earlier party and the bounding husband. He bounds off again when he sees you have caught up with him. He is determined to make this a solo trekking experience for both of you.

Now that you are at a clearing and the rain has slowed down you investigate your stomach area because of the squishy feeling and see a leech which wants to be intimate with you. You wonder if you should let it stay on as he has definitely shown lot of initiative to get close to third base with you. But you are bewildered and wonder how to scrape your stomach with a dirty stone so you try plucking it with your hand it refuses to budge and continues sucking blood.

You look around and the trek guide who is a local villager is near you so you call out to him. He deftly plucks the leech off and also finds a few more who were on their trek up your trekking pants. You decide that you are eternally grateful to this trek guide. You have also realized that the purpose of your trek was to be lunch for the leeches. Maybe your blood is the chicken biriyani of all blood and that’s why the leeches go to great lengths to get to you.

The trek lead catches up with you and remarks that you are quite fast and it gives purpose to your miserable life and you beam from ear to ear as you pluck one more leech off your hand this time without breaking a sweat. You have become one with the mountain now, if you are not careful moss will start growing on you soon.

You start seeing the rolling green hills below. The forests you have crossed, the rivers and the boulders it meanders over. The bamboo groves you crouched under as the path went through it and the fallen tree and shurbs you wiggled under and which finally tore your rain poncho which you bought years ago from the Singapore zoo.

This time when you are thirsty you ask the new friend you made on the trek to remove the bottle for you and you do the same for her. You reach a really steep climb up with slushy rocks and slippery mud. You now know how to use your trekking pole effectively and climb up. You reach before others and find yourself in the mist with seemingly nothing in front of you and path that goes to nothing. You don’t want to walk ahead and hope that probably this is the summit. So you wait for the other trekkers to catch and they ask you to shuffle along so you do.

After another hour in the mist you reach the summit which is marked by a board that says Kudremukh Peak and lists the other peaks in the area. The rain here is relentless and the wind threatens to carry you off the peak and for a moment you are tempted to let go because then you will reach down faster maybe your torn poncho will become a para glider?

 

You have to eat now so you sit on a rock open your rice packet and reach in with your cold hands and start eating while the rain and the wind gush all around you. You have at this point forgotten the years of training your mother gave you on table manners. You need to eat fast because

a. It is raining and windy and

b. A leech might crawl on your bum if you sit long enough.

You manage to take a picture and return the favor for your friend. You now have to return down and the rain has just made the way more difficult. The rocks are more slippery and there is more slush around.

You are unsure how to use the trekking pole downhill so you contemplate throwing it down the mountain. But it belongs to the husband who has mountain goat genes in him so you can’t. The way down is now worse because the rain has made the entire way slippery and slushy also it is still raining with good force. Most of the streams you crossed have swelled up and the water hits you with full force.

You know just want to go back to a dry place so you increase your speed and also consider sliding down. Your trek guide keeps saying only 4 kms left every time you ask him and you know you haven’t even reached the halfway point where you took pictures on your way up.

Finally, you successfully finish the trek and reach the room which you are going to share with nine girls. You remove your pants, shoes and jacket at the door so that you don’t carry any leeches inside the room. You gulp down tea in the attempt to feel human again and thaw yourself.

Ofcourse now you have the distinction of proclaiming that you survived this and are super human. You have photos of rolling hills and untouched vistas that your mountain goat of a husband took which you can proudly post. There is now new meaning to the quote, ‘ Travel is glamorous in retrospect.’

This post should be read with the understanding that it is based on a real trek which I immensely enjoyed and there is bit of exaggeration thrown in to make it humorous. The trek was to Kudremukh Peak near Chikmaglur in Karnataka.

A Small Step By You Can Help Our Mountains Breathe Again

Our majestic mountains are in trouble as tourism is picking up. Tourism is important for the local economy but sustainable tourism is the need of the hour. As more people troop into the hills with the idea of having a good time and enjoying the weather the important thing they forget is to respect the place that has welcomed them to their home.

Parts of North Sikkim especially Lachung has a no plastic bottle policy, they strictly enforce it with regular checks in vehicles. They also have a no open defecation policy in place and I actually witnessed a local person pull up a tourist who was urinating near a waterfall with a toilet accessible right there. Change happens only when people own it and this was especially noticeable in North Sikkim.

However, they need the support of everyone who visits Lachung as there are still plastic wrappers and other plastic bottles that are negligently thrown out and mar the beautiful and spectacular mountains. This holds true for other mountain areas as well as hill stations that are currently groaning with the influx of tourists and their limited resources.

Organisations that closely work with the mountains such as India Hikes have instituted programs such as Green Trails wherein trekkers go with the mandate to collect trash on their way and bring it back to base where it is then sent for recycling. Companies that believe in sustainable tourism such as F5Escapes encourage their travelers to use their own bottles and refill them at intervals instead of buying water bottles on the way which is then discarded.

Same goes for chips and other such snacks that are junk foods in anycase. A better alternative would be to carry nuts from home or eat healthier snacks such as fruits they are much better for the environment as well as for your health. It is not possible to completely eliminate your footprint but it is definitely possible to reduce it and give back to the people who open up their homes and businesses to you each year as people from the cities flock to the hills every summer.

Another small change all of us can routinely do is to carry a small trash bag when traveling so that we are not littering. At the end of the day, it can be emptied in a trash can. Sikkim like many Northeast states has bamboo trash receptacles at intervals which can be used. If you think that a small plastic wrapper is not going to make a difference or that one more bottle being thrown on the way does not matter take a look around. In the same way every wrapper you pick up or don’t litter and every plastic bottle you don’t use, helps.

The hills need you to come and explore but they also need you to respect them and ensure that you don’t harm them. Sustainable tourism is the answer and we all have to do our part in it.

Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe nowFor every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.

5 Sunday Brunch Options In Bangalore To Try With The Family

Sunday’s are my no cooking day mainly because I don’t want to spend Sunday washing dishes.  But Sunday meals have to be special as the whole family is at home and Sunday brunches are a good way to spend quality time with each other while having fun.

I am listing here my top 5 favorite Sunday brunch nonveg dishes which have recently blown me away and made me want to go for more.

 

Teriyaki Chicken in Panipuri 

Teriyaki chicken in panipuri is a dish born at the Fusion union festival that Flechazo is hosting. I went to Flechazo with some good friends recently and had an absolutely brilliant time. Flechazo Whitefield had a food shot counter complete with a conveyer belt with bite-sized options. Of these, I tried the teriyaki chicken in pani puri shells, the momos and mocktails.

 

Eggs Benedict

I love an eggs benedict as much as the next guy. The runny yolk on the bread sloshed with hollandaise sauce is absolute yum. Pair it up with some cold coffee and my Sunday is made. Lazy Suzy in Indira Nagar is a good option to go to for eggs benedict.

Biriyani

Biriyani and Sunday could almost be synonyms in India. Biriyani’s are perfect for that lazy Sunday as long as you don’t have to make it and it is available in the buffet. Biriyani, a good raita with maybe a papad is heaven. I usually like the Kerala or Thalassery biriyani because well my roots lie there but I also liked the dum biriyani at Flechazo.

Cheesecake

Mango cheesecake or blueberry cheesecake is bae and if it comes in bite-sized portions then nothing like it. In a Sunday buffet, I would like to try different desserts without having to end up over indulging. Some restaurants do this well I like Onesta and Flechazo for this.

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Rissoto

I am partial to rice so give me well made risotto anyday. Many restaurants in Bangalore are perfecting the risotto my personal favorites are Toscano or Smoke House Deli. I could also go for Dhansak at Red Fork in Indira Nagar.

Images taken at Flechazo Whitefield during the Food Union festival.