>Travel Pictures


Current stop: Bharatpur
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We drove on to Bharatpur, where a hotel was waiting for us for the next three days.We stayed at the lovely Birder’s Inn, right next door to the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary. We had a great hotel room – huge bed, dressing room, clean bathroom, spotless floors, quaint restaurant, garden, and sitting area. The kids were in heaven after the cramped places we had stayed in Agra and Delhi. They immediately unloaded all their toys and spread out for a few days. 
We went to Keoladeo Park (another UNESCO site!) the next day after a great sleep-in and late breakfast. It had been our plan to rent four bikes there and cruise around and enjoy clean air, greenery and exercise. Unfortunately, the bikes were all huge 1950’s style affairs (like the Wicked Witch of the West rode in Wizard of Oz), so Breck couldn’t manage one. He mangled his heels in the spokes trying to ride and fell three times in thorny bushes.

We hired a one who, very slowly and very quietly, took us through the park. Dave and Alea had gone on ahead (with Alea stretching her toes as far as she could to read the pedals) to enjoy the park at their own pace. Breck felt like a King being hauled in the rickshaw while Mom pedaled alongside.

To his credit, our rickshaw wallah was very knowledgeable and stopped to show us lots of birds we would never had spotted on our own.

Battered and bruised, we threw in the towel. Luckily, the other way of getting around the park was by bicycle rickshaw. 

It was a lovely cool day and we ended up enjoying it a great deal.
Koleadeo is famed for providing a winter watering refuge for migratory birds. The numbers of birds coming through the park have dropped dramatically in the past 3 years, but we still had fun looking for them. We saw cranes and egrets and other funky stuff (that the birders riding around with their books and binoculars immediately identified). Susan even found a huge softshell turtle swimming around!

Sadly, the park has had a significant drop in migratory birds given the draining of its waters for agricultural purposes. 

So even though we saw a number of kingfishers, the sad truth of the matter is that the water level decline is resulting in most of the birds finding other places to winter.

The rumor is that its status under UNESCO will be withdrawn soon; the only water we saw was being pumped up artificially from a reservoir. 

The reasons behind the desertification of the park were pretty clear. First of all, it is not a natural wetland; it was created more than a hundred years ago as a private hunting reserve. Secondly, farmers in the area have protested - and gotten politicians to listen - against the diverting of water from the rivers to the park. Third, the monsoons have not been 'significant' in the last few years, exacerbating the water shortage. And fourth, local villagers are using the park as a cattle grazing and wood gathering center. As the vegetation gets eaten and cut down, the birds and other animals look elsewhere for habitat. A very sad, disturbing and all too common statement about the environment, politics, and corruption in India. 

Regardless of the broader implications of what was happening in the area, we had a fantastic stay. Breck's mangled heels caused him to hobble a bit, but didn't stop him from meeting and greeting the tame deer that waited at the park rest area. We were a genuine attraction for some of the other visitors, and that night, our hotel had a campfire. It was so cold we could see our breath. We gathered around with about 15 other bird watchers from all over the world. The stars were lovely – we never see them in Mumbai given the lights and pollution. 

And most importantly, Dad found his favorite sign of the entire trip!! Ahh, India.
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Next: Deeg
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