THE PALACE AT RANTHAMBORE

Before we went on our first hunt in the National Park,  I forgot to mention we stayed in a palace. We drove on this dusty road with the palace shimmering in the background. Is that believable or what?

We drove up to the entrance of a walled citadel.

Once we passed through the gated wall, no sword wielding guard, we walked to the lobby.

The first pool was being meticulously cleaned by workman. This is what is so cool about travel with OAT. In Peru, my grandson Alec and I stayed in a 17th century monastery. In Turkey, Owen and I lived on an old historic sailing ship for a week. In Thailand Mason and I cavorted across streams and through the woods on the back of an elephant whose baby followed along for fun. In Costa Rica Stewart and I milked a cow, made cheese and visited a water slide where you could hustle up to an underwater bar stool and order a drink.

You know you’re not in Kansas anymore.

We enter. Notice the bowl of flowers on the floor.

At each tier of the rooms sections, is a bowl of flower petals in water.

Massive doors lead to the dining room, lobby, bar, and so on.

The lobby itself is like a small office to change money, pick up your keys, which were unique. I didn’t get a picture of the keys.

We dined each day in this beautiful room. Some days on long shared tables, other times on individual round tables in another part of the room.  Everything sparkling and beautiful.

The rooms are in sections. We stayed three flights of up and down marble stairs to our quarters. And each area has it’s own terrazzo to take the sun, or enjoy a coffee. Looking back toward the entrance, the open areas serve as an outdoor lobby.

The evening before the hunt,  a film about the Bengal Tiger, that we hope to see, is shown. Magnificent animals.

This is, as you can imagine, just a small part of the palace. The cricket courts, swimming pool and barbecue area, where we ate by candlelight our last night, is also spectacular. You see the steps that lead up and then down the other side. Makes for strong legs.

Our doors are locked and bolted. Ranvir teased about the age of the place. It was built in 1961 to replicate a 17th century palace.

Our bathroom has a window onto the terrazzo and the same bolt type locks on the doors.

The shower could accommodate a family of six. Well, enough of this awe-inspiring place and on to the hunt.

The next morning, our guide looks at his territory. The area you get is chosen by lottery. You may not wander into another territory. The guides cannot use a walkie-talkie or a device of any kind to speak with other territorial guides.  If one area spots a tiger, everyone would rush to it. The only way to check is to return to the ranger station. Our guide was pleased because a tiger was spotted in his section yesterday.

We spot another deer that stared at us curiously and kept posing for us.

A bird flew onto the guides head in our canter.

We pulled into a widened area with a garbage can and stopped. The birds were everywhere looking for treats.

Soon everyone had a bird or several on his head or shoulders.

This deer was close to the road drinking from a puddle.

He got very comfortable and decided to pose for us.

Oh, yeah. This mud feels too good.

A huge croc warmed itself on the bank near the water.

Birds spend time near the lakes. The reserve has 450 species of birds from crested eagles to painted storks.

There are only 26 tigers in the reserve and it is easy to see why they stay in this protected environment.  Food is plentiful and hunting is done with a camera. The tourist business helps pay expenses for the reserve. We spot two deer in a standard pose. They each check for enemies from both directions. Giraffes, horses, zebras, all use this instinctive protection. We are situated close to a watering hole and our guide suggests this is a good place to wait. And, we wait, driving around the same area over and over again.

He finally races back to the station to find out if anyone has spotted the tiger in our area. Yes, is the answer. We race back only to learn we had just missed it. Every vehicle in our area saw the tiger. And, there was a kill sighted in a bordering section.  It was still fun. And, it was disappointing. The drive back was one hellava ride, but too late. The guide was despondent and more disappointed than we were.

Tomorrow we visit a school.

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