Elephants, camels, the desert, and more

India 7You can’t go to India and not ride elephants. With that in mind, we found a place in Jaipur that would take us on a brief half-hour ride through the city. We rode four people to an elephant, not including the driver, and created quite a spectacle as we explored the city in a single file line. It is safe to say that we all got a unique perspective of the city from the backs of our respective elephants. The ride ended all too soon but (the only way I can end this paragraph is with a cliché) the memories will last forever!

The next day we left Jaipur in search of a smaller, more elusive animal. Ranthambhore National Park and Tiger Reserve is sadly the last place where you can see wild tigers in the state of Rajasthan. Their numbers have dwindled down to less than twenty, but we remained optimistic that perhaps we would be fortunate enough to see one. In the end we did not get to see a tiger but that did not stop us from enjoying the wide variety of other wildlife. We got to see peacocks, monkeys, several different types of deer, numerous birds, including a rare brown fish owl, and two crocodiles. No one did much talking on the safari as we tried to remain as quiet as possible so as not to scare off the wild animals. But in the end we left without seeing the camera-shy cats.

Rajasthani Garb When not out on the tiger safari, we passed the time back at the hotel cooling off in the pool and relaxing in general. We were also treated by some of the locals to an evening of traditional Rajasthani music and dance. Near the end of the performance, we were all encouraged to join in on the dancing. Many did so willingly but I must admit that I took a little persuading before I left my chair to join the others. It was all in good fun and so our stay in Ranthambhore ended on a good note.

-Will Stutzman

Jodhpur (The Blue City) After the “tiger” safaris in Ranthambhore, we arrived in Jodhpur, the “blue City.” Here, we saw another giant fort, the location where Jodhpurian maharajahs are cremated and the current maharajah’s palace, the third largest residence in the world. Jodhpur is called the “Blue City” because of the large number of buildings that are painted a sky blue in honor of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, whose color is blue. It was beautiful seeing how true this was while looking down from the giant Mehrangarh Fort! India just continues to astound us with its beauty.

After one night in Jodhpur, we drove two hours to the Manvar Desert Resort for two days and nights of peace and relaxation, our own little Spring Break. After spending the first afternoon out at the resort pool, we drove for Jeep Safarififteen minutes to reach our destination for the night, a tented camp in the Thar Desert. That evening, we walked up a sand mountain (putting a lot of us out of breath) to watch the sunset. In my opinion, it was the best Indian sunset yet, was beautiful arrangement of yellows, reds, oranges and blues. I’ll remember that sunset for a long time!

From there, we trekked back to the camp, where we experienced a typical Rajasthani night. A bunch of kingly pillow-sheet things were laid out for us, we laid down on them and a music/dance troupe performed for us as we received multiple incredibly tasty appetizers. I truly did feel like a maharajah. All I needed was someone fanning me and someone else feeding me grapes. It was fantastic! Then, after a great dinner, we went to bed eagerly awaiting the next day.

Camel Riders 3 We awoke at 6 the next morning for our sunrise camel ride. The camel ride was great fun! We rode in groups of two (I was with Braydon Hoover) and made our way to another sand hill, where we witnessed a beautiful, but horribly bright sunrise. Eventually, we rode thirty minutes back to the tent camp, had breakfast, and drove the fifteen minutes back to the 5-star resort.

After a lot more pool hangout time (I’m burned again!), we had a desert safari ride. The only animals we saw were adorable gazelle. However, the highlight of the ride came when we would drive down each sand dune. It was like a real-life rollercoaster, and I was sure death was on the other side of the hill after a four-wheel tumble. But no! All the vehicles got down safely. We stopped at a particularly dune-y area and dune-hopped for a little bit, having an absolute ball! We then watched the sunset, not nearly as memorable as the night before, but beautiful nonetheless.

After the ride, we came back to the resort for the night and then returned to Jodhpur for one free day, and have now arrived in Ajmer, where we will stay for two nights before returning to Delhi. It’s hard to imagine that it’s March already and that we can actually say that we’re returning next month. The two months have flown by, but at the same time, it feels like we’ve fit a year’s worth of activities in so far. It’s been a truly amazing, unforgettable, life-changing trip so far, and I can only pray that these last two months continue to be as memorable as the first two.

-Steve Kniss