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A journey in India

Having flown out from a snowy Glasgow the previous evening, we left London early on 23rd December and flew to India's capital, New Delhi, staying in the city overnight. The next morning, we visited Okla Island, a small strip of land in the Yamuna River where we would get a good introduction to Indian birdlife, and see a few of the Gangetic specialities. In the afternoon, we visited Okla Barrage, again hoping to see a good number and variety of waterbirds.

On Christmas day we left Delhi on the four-hour drive to Keoladeo Ghana reserve, usually known by the name of the city nearby - Bharatpur. We stayed in Forest Lodge - right inside the reserve. In the reserve itself, we walked and took cycle rickshaw and electric bus rides, and on one day we took a punt ride under the trees which held the breeding birds.

Keoladeo badge
Fatepur Sikri

After three nights at Bharatpur, we drove on to Fatepur Sikri, (left) the famous deserted city near Agra for a guided tour of the ruins, then on to Agra.

Taj Mahal

In the morning, we visited the Taj Mahal - every bit as beautiful as the hype suggests.

As this was our 'culture day', we also visited Akbar's tomb at Sikandra (right) and the Red Fort in the afternoon - not ignoring any birds we saw on the way!

Akmar's Tomb
Very early the next morning, we caught the train from Agra Fort Station to Sawai Madhopur - a five-hour journey by 'second-class, air-conditioned' carriage, which, bizarrely, had windows you couldn't see through. I thought it was just a heavy coating of dust, and heartily amused some local people when I jumped out at a station to try to clean the outside of the window where we were sitting.
Our bus had gone ahead of us with our main luggage, and was waiting for us at Sawai Madhopur to take us up to Castle Joomer Bawari Hotel, a former shooting lodge, with a flat roof providing great views of the surrounding countryside. However the main point of choosing this hotel was the fact that it is situated only 8km from the entrance to Ranthambhor reserve. We stayed for four nights. The routine here was an early breakfast before going out, warmly dressed, in open jeeps with reserve spotters and guides. We were returned to our hotel around 10.30, then could rest at our hotel, or walk in various habitats in the area. One day, we went out to the Chambal river and a reservoir nearby. Some of the reserve guides who had a day off came with us, to gain more experience of some of the birds which occur near, but not so often in, the reserve.
On 4th January, we left the Ranthambore area and travelled on to Junia, our base for visiting the specialised Indian Bustard Reserve at Sokhalia the following morning. The original plan for our trip was to spend the afternoon seeing the cultural sights of Jaipur, but that was before the group, or our leader, had experienced the pleasures of Junia, and its hotel built on a lake, where we saw 70 species of birds either in the gardens or from the large, comfortable veranda. However, the following morning's drive through the city enabled us some time to see such famous buildings as the Palace of Wind and the Amber Fort before our long drive back to Delhi. We had time, however, for a late-afternoon walk and birdwatch at Sultanpur Jheel, a pleasant bird sanctuary about 25 miles outside Delhi. This rounded off our trip nicely, because we had to leave our hotel shortly after midnight for our flight back to the UK.
Except of course things didn't go according to plan! The flight was heavily overbooked, and we were 'bumped', necessitating us to stay another 24 hours in Delhi. Not really a hardship, although we were a day late in getting back to work.
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