We first learnt about Bharatpur while waiting in the Indian embassy in Istanbul, it was mentioned in an Incredible India brochure. What spiked our interest was the mention of Asia's biggest bird sanctuary - Keoladeo National Park. We've both developed an interest for birds over the last year so we thought it would be good to see the birds there, a bit more exotic than our usual haunt of Leeds Liverpool canal.
We had booked the train from Agra to Bharatpur which is only a 45 minute journey. It was a shame it was only 45 minutes. We had 2AC class tickets which is the 2nd best class you can be in. The train was really nice, better than trains at home. As we were sat in our really comfortable air conditioned compartment we noticed that the trains going past us weren't as luxurious as the one we were on. They were exactly how you image Indian trains to be. So packed people were spilling out of the doors. The windows were covered in bars and people had their arms hanging out of them. Quite frankly it looked like hell. We tried to take pictures but didn't do too well. I got 1 of this sweet little girl when her train had stopped to let more (yes more) people on.
As we left Agra station we went past areas where people lived, in houses and in tents and other makeshift habitats. There was a lot to look at, we didn't need mp3 players or books for entertainment but we weren't that happy to see 3 men crouched down having a number 2, where's my book?!
After only a few minutes the train attendants brought round big cold bottles of water which we were impressed with, after that they brought everyone a tray of food. We had no idea we would get any of this. There was a sandwich which wasn't great but there was also the best samosa of all time. Crispy, spicy, tasty. Yum!
The train ride was over all too soon and we went back to reality with a bang. We exited the train station and I saw about 6 men sprinting (not running, sprinting) to get to us first to offer us a rickshaw ride to the hotel. It was a little intimidating, we needed to go to the cash machine but didn't, we just felt we had no option but to get in 1 of the rickshaws.
Our hotel was pretty nice with a pool area, the room was lovely and the floor spotlessly clean. The only issue was the wildlife, we had come to Bharatpur for wildlife but we didn't really want it in our room. The room was covered in bugs, a cricket and a really fat gecko we called Gregory. There was nothing going on in the hotel that night so we ended up having a few Kingfisher's and some room service which was delicious.
We got up at 5.35am to go to the bird sanctuary, this is the best time for bird watching. We walked the 10 minute journey there on the hard shoulder of a dual carriageway (that's normal in India) and we were followed by a family of monkeys. When we got there we paid the £4 entrance fee and found a cycle rickshaw guy to take us around. It's not like us to do that as we like to be independent and set our own pace but we had read on trip advisor that the rickshaw drivers doubled up as guides and point out all the birds so it sounded like a good idea as we are pretty new to bird watching so we wouldn't see as much on our own or even know what a lot of the birds are.
We had a really good time in the park and saw lots of different birds. My favourite was the Painted Stork - there was loads of them sat in the trees, it looked like a Disney cartoon. Russell's favourite was a colourful little bird called the Indian Roller. We also saw rare birds such as Water Rail, Golden Oriole & Egyptian Vulture. Other birds of note were Peacocks, Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, Owls, Nightingale, Partridge and lots of Parakeets. We also saw monkeys, deer, chipmunks, jackals, mongoose & monitor lizards. In total we saw 44 different species of birds.
|Chipmunk enjoying cheese crisps out of my hand|
Keoladeo National Park flooded 250 years go turning it into marsh land, this resulted in a lot of aquatic vegetation and attracted a lot of migratory birds. This soon developed into a duck shooting range where important people from all over the world came to shoot ducks. The record was 4273 birds in 1 day. There is a stone pillar noting everyone who visited and how many birds they shot. The park was made a bird sanctuary in 1956 and is now a UNESCO site so there are no more maharaja's killing innocent animals for 'sport'.
The great thing about getting up so early is we were round the pool by 11.30. We spent all day round the pool drinking beer and I got a very red face. As we were sunbathing a Welsh couple called Chris & Vicki asked if we had been to the bird sanctuary and asked it's worth them going. We told them it was good so they went at about 1pm. When they came back we got chatting about anything and everything and drank Kingfishers with them until about midnight, we also ordered some great Indian food. Turns out we were right to go to the sanctuary so early as Chris & Vicki didn't seem to see nearly as much as we did.
The town of Bharatpur leaves a lot to be desired. It is the most run down town we have seen yet. There are barely any roads, there are men crapping & peeing everywhere and at the station we got really uncomfortable with the people stood around staring at us but we are glad we went. We could have dealt with all the stares for a little while, if the train had not been an hour late it wouldn't have been such a big deal. The sanctuary was really good with an amazing sunrise and it was nice to spend the day sunbathing & swimming, we haven't done that since Croatia. Also, it didn't cost us much as we were right next door in Agra. All in all it was a positive experience thanks to the incredibleness of India.