A trip thanks to the fine Bhopal hospitality of the Royal Nawab Begums (a legacy which included their woman to be fine horseman, swordsman and progressive leaders over men, keen advocates of peace and culture, who promoted the arts and literature, were great poets in both Persian and Urdu and importantly founded hospitals and waterworks within their municipality). Today their 3 sons, charming hosts, run their 3 properties.
Arriving once again in amongst the hustle and bustle of Delhi, the ancient city. Quite an onslaught for the senses and one can’t resist a gentle stroll in the old quarters – getting whiff and sight of those spices. An apartment run by ‘street connections’ a organisation housing and rehabilitating children http://stay.streetconnections.co.uk – join one of their walks and see what they are up to. Very special indeed. Of course the lure of Khadi cloth for some fine purchases.
Old Delhi, after some hours meandering a chance meeting with ‘rice street’ below and above the familiar dried spices in the atmospheric chandi chowk. *Little culinary tip – we should be eating ‘un’ polished rice.
Cycle rickshaw to New Delhi rail station for the early express train to Bhopal.
A chance encounter with Mexicans who were being escorted to Khajaraho.
The train reaches its destination late afternoon. The usual confusion and search for a good three wheel chariot and likeable driver. Speedy journey across the city in the wonderful afternoon light.
Delightful stay at the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel http://www.jehannuma.com. Exploring the sights – Sanchi, Tribal Museums, the Siva temples, ancient cave dwellings – from this charming old residence.
Below is Bhojesvar Temple 1100 AD, an unfinished Jain temple, housing India’s largest lingam. 28kms from Bhopal.
The extraordinary Bhimbteka ancient cave paintings. The beginning of South Asian stone age. Some of these caves were inhabited 100,000 years ago, and of the most part 30,000 years old. Not a great pic, but not got quite got the lense or lighting for this kind of subject.
And the buddhists established themselves in the region much later – below – the tranquil 2nd BC Sanchi Stupa. A buddhist stupa built in the Bhopal region of Madhya Pradesh, built under Emperor Ashoka and his thriving buddhist civilisation.
Onward to Madhai and the fabulous Reni Pani Lodge
The region is divided up into ‘buffer’ and core zone. The buffer zone allows some traditional villages to continue farming, but in equilibrium with the protected big cats and other wild life. The core zone is a controlled nature reserve.
Life in the buffer zone. Actually Reni Pani do night game drives – firstly one sees a surprising amount of wildlife in close proximity to the lodge, and one can see why there is a rule of accompanying back to their cabins in the evening – but also it is an obvious poacher deterent.
Local village 2 km from the lodge. A 15 year old girl got taken and eaten by a tiger in buffer zone village a month prior to these photos. The tiger was located very close to this photo, tranquillised with a shot and re located to a confined wildlife compound. It was collared and repeatedly crossed the huge river preferring the buffer zone region to the core of the park.
Crossing the Narmada river (which flows East to West and is India’s 5th largest river) – here it is the natural boundary when going into the core of the reserve – crocodiles and huge variety of bird life reside here- we are going for a stroll with our guide and naturalist from Reni Pani.
Arriving in the core zone by foot, about to embark on a walking safari.
We don’t have the lenses for wildlife photography. So we just keep our eyes peeled and senses alert as a rule of thumb, sort of key to the old balance of things to know when to leave the camera out of the mix! You can look at books and other websites for those pictures! We did see and track sloth bear, had an extraordinary experience with following a leopard, and spotted the giant squirrel, had a glimpse of wild dog, wild boar nosing around, ruddy mongoose scarpering along a river bank, blue bull, sambar …
Sightings board …
Wild cat footprint in the core of the park
Satpura National Park is the only park in India where one can go on safari on foot, sleep under canvas. Plus it is not over run with jeep traffic. Ali, owner of Reni Pani Lodge, facilitates this experience for one to feel the magic of India.
It would be a wonderful place to have horses and ride! Sandy tracks in the forest, beautiful scenery, sounds and light and abundant with wildlife.
Leopard print in the core of the park.
Dhatura – a plant, of which its seeds and flowers are very poisonous, used in ancient siva worship and ayurvedic medicine.
Off again – car, train, rickshaw and then foot for another explore – this time looking out for cave temples in another area of the Satpura hill range.
Jatashanka caves – (jata, hair or matted hair; Shankar, another name for siva). Hidden deepen in a ravine there is a shrine in the mountain with a cold and hot water spring inside. Good spot.
Entrance to the Mahadeo rock temple in the same Pachmari region.
Strolling in the faithful gobis from http://www.vivobarefoot.co.uk
Great little addition cultural excursion – to horse riding ‘The Desert Safari’ – if you want to be doing something a bit different.
Many thanks to the generous and absolutely wonderful hospitality of Jehan Numa Palace Hotel. Jean Numa Retreat and Reni Pani Lodge. To their charming family and friends who made the trip possible.
What an amazing couple. More wilderness protected, yet another national park created. Their legacy in their previous companies Patagonia and Northface are still leading by example. In conservation, hats off they are just the best. Still flying!
Bagual teams up with their highly respected conservationist friends to offer clients a unique oppportunity to ride and swim horses from a secluded lodge and home in the Esteros de Ibera in Argentina. Home to the Tomkins, managed by the Cooks – an integral working project in The World Conservation Land Trust.