[NOVEMBER 25, 2012] OCTOBER GAVE US TWO BACK TO BACK LONG WEEKENDS. FOR THE FIRST, WE HEADED TO SEE SOME WILD ASS in Gujarat (at the Wild Ass Sanctuary, not kidding) and the second took us to Chambal Reserve, near Agra.
We flew to Ahmedabad, traveling with Cristi, LIz, Chris and Therese. It's always a trip to visit cities that I have not previously heard of, but have over 5 million people. Inevtiably they have some nice surprises, and Ahmedabad was no exception. The main surprise was our hotel - the House of MG was a destination in itself. Ahmedabad and Gujarat (the state) are know for textiles, and hte house of MG was the former mansion of a former textile barron. It was one of the sweetest hotels we have ever stayed in, with tonss of character.We were upgraded to the princpal luxury sweet, which was almost as big as our apartment and sported huge mirrors all over the master bedroom, including a massive one right over the bed!
The restaurant on the roof of the hotel was a fun, shnitzy open air thali restaurant. Everyone (but me - I napped) visited Ghandi's principal Ashram. The first morning, we (except for Robyn - she slept! See how this works?) went on a walking tour of the old part of the city. It was an interesting tour. The main mosque was impressive and the old city had a lot of character. It is still diviided into neighborhoods called "pole's", which form independant communities, each with it's own civic structures including a meeting place and bulletin board to post important events. For some reason, the city also had lots of colorful birdhouses.
After a couple nights in Ahmedabad, we drove to Rannriders Ecolodge near the Little Rann of Kutch, a large area of salt flats that is home to "Wild Ass Sanctuary". As the name suggests, this sanctuary has a large population of wild donkeys. The particular beed of donkeys used to be wide spread across asia, but now survives only in the Little Rann of Kutch. Another wildlife highlight is a large concentraion of flamencoes. The ecoresort we stayed at was very cute. Our group had 4 charming mud huts that surrouned a small pond and lawn that was great for hanging out on.
A week later, we spent our Thanksgiving weekend at Chambal Reserve, about an hour outside of Agra. It was a very pleasant surprise! The Chambal Safari Hotel is a fun heritage property. It's a large property with lots of trees and wildlife. We were assigned a naturalist who took us on a couple walks and two longer safaris. We saw a couple jungle cats, lots of Blue Bull antelope and of course lots of birds. Our first safari was a boat safari on the River Chambal. It was unbelievably (for India) peaceful and untouched. We saw tons of crocodiles, cool birds (including the Indian Skimmer) and the very rare Ganges Dolphon (only 80 left in the world!). The ravines around the river are famous for bandits, and have only become safe in the last couple of decades.
Our second safari took us through lots of farmer fields to find the Black Buck Antelope, which were in surprising abundance. The black buck is a beautiful antelop, withe long straight horns.
The best part of this weekend, however, was just hanging out in the garden of the lodge, chatting with the Caputos and Rosenfields while keeping a very loose eye on the kids, who had a great time climbing trees, and investigating bugs and animals around the property. Each night there is a big campfire and fantastic stars. We intend to return soon!