The tour begins: 6:30 breakfast, hotel departure 7:30. We are nine participants, two guides (Terry Stevenson who we had in Africa, and Tom Johnson), plus Rakesh our local guide. We wove our way through morning traffic to Okhla Bird Sanctuary, a marshland bordering the Yamuna River. An embankment provides pedestrian access. There’s plenty of trash along the embankment, background sounds of call to prayer and traffic hardly make for a “sanctuary“ setting. Remarkably there are significant quantities of waterfowl in the patches of water vying for food sources with the occasional dog and cow. A cold wind necessitates down vests/jackets.
By noon we’re at Delhi's new train station, though it looks far from new. Red-shirted porters await, ready to carry our luggage atop their heads. We trail behind up stairs over at least six rail lines, down onto the platform and then a long walk to our car with reserved seats and normal windows. Other cars have tiny jalousie windows with bars. “Paanee Paanee” (water) “Masala chai, coffee“ “Chocolate” “Pizza” - vendors yell in English and Hindi as they continually walk down the aisle.
Five hours on the train, it’s not long until we fall asleep (jetlag). Heading south of Delhi through rice fields, cows, dogs, macaques and people sleeping along the railway tracks. Sareed women carry kindling atop their heads.
Rakesh mobilizes train staff to get our luggage positioned by the doors for an efficient quick debarkation from the train at Sawai Madhopur, the stop for Ranthambhore. It stops for such a short time; people and baggage have to make a speedy exit. More red-shirted porters piling bags on their heads. This station is newer, cleaner, still 6-8 sets of tracks. A caravan of four taxis finally delivers us to Jungle Vilas, near the park. We are in a modern villa with the largest bathroom we’ve ever had: a large tub in the center and an indoor and outdoor shower. And it’s quiet!