2012 was half-way through and our vacation was long overdue. As my husband had changed jobs and had relocated earlier in the year, planning vacations from two different locations was just not working out. So when my daughter’s school closed for the summer vacations we packed our bags and headed for my husband’s new home, Gurgaon.
Since he was new in the organization, a weekend was all he could spare. Temperatures had shot above 40deg in Gurgaon. The heat was killing. The options were limited. It would either have to be Agra(2.5-3 hrs) or Sariska ( 3-3.5 hrs). Finally we answered to the call of the wild.
Situated in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, Sariska was famed as the hunting preserve of
the Maharajah of Alwar. A watch tower that was used by the Maharajah in his hunting expeditions is still present as a symbol of the past glories. It was only later in around 1955, when Sariska was declared a National Reserve Forest and was opened to the general public.
As we stepped into the main hall of the Tiger’s Den , the RTDC hotel where we had planned to stay, we realized the challenge we had before us. It was intolerably hot. Nevertheless, we vowed to live upto it.
The hotel located at the threshold of the reserve, was full of potential. However, for whatever reason, we felt it lacked maintenance. Nevertheless, once we started sharing our evening and morning tea with the national bird, we forgot everything else. That’s right! Sariska is reputed to be the most popular destinations for peacocks. The beautiful blue necked birds, also gave us a royal treatment by breaking out into a dance. That made up for everything else.
The park is opened to tourists twice in the day. The morning timings being from 6 am-10 am and the afternoon timings being from 2.00 pm-7.00 pm. We opted for both. Surprisingly, my 5 year old daughter was game for both too. Gearing ourselves with water bottles, sun glasses, caps and having soaked ourselves in few litres of sunscreen , we set out for the safari.
Sariska is home to a whole host of wild life that includes the Bengal tiger (5 of them have been brought in from Ranthambore), leopard, striped hyena, golden jackal, spotted deer, nilgai, sambhar, wild boar, chinkara, hare, hanuman langur, Rhesus monkeys. It also hosts a huge variety of birds and reptiles.
The sun scorched our backs as we started out in the open Gypsy. We ignored all that as we took in the breathtaking beauty of this dry arid forest. The water holes were artificially being filled up to quench the parched throats of the wild beasts and birds. The trees had shed all their leaves and were waiting to be bathed in the monsoon rains before they
started to put on their new clothes. The lack of greenery was however, compensated by the vibrant blues, yellows and reds of the Sariska birds.The fiery yellow of the tiger birds and the sparkling blue of the peacocks gave a whole new dimension to the otherwise colorless land.
My husband had his eyes open for the big cat. Luck came to me once in Bandhavgarh, when I had seen the king in all his regal grandeur; but he was yet to savor that thrill. However, the big cat refused to oblige. It was probably the heat which made him moody and reclusive. We consoled ourselves with the other joys.
With hope in our hearts, we set out for the morning safari the next day. Being early in the morning, the heat was slightly bearable. Unfortunately, the tiger did not think so and refused to step out and grace us with his revered sight. As we were on our last lap of the forest, our jeep trailed a golden jackal. It was a unique experience as we had never seen one before. Soon we found two more in the bushes. As the sun started moving up in the sky our time bound safari had to be concluded.
The weekend at Sariska will remain unforgettable. As we stepped into our car and took a last look at the forest gates, I could well imagine, somewhere in those hills, a whiskered face smirking at us humans. I could read his thoughts which said “Juveniles! you think I am that easy to get? Try again and catch me if you can.”
“Challenge accepted” I say to myself. We will continue the chase till we meet.