Yes, says Aarohi Roy. Hop on to a rickshaw with her, and explore the enchanting woods.
Despite the potholes and thick winter fog, the taxi dropped me off at my destination in less than 45 minutes. Accommodation was easy to find in the town, which was well equipped with hotels and lodges. I left for the Keoladeo National Park as soon as I checked in.
The entry fee was a mere Rs 25 (check current rates here). I hired a cycle rickshaw and the driver offered to be my guide. And soon we were passing by marshlands. A few birds could be spotted here and there. I had expected more and was a little disappointed. But then we entered the woods and things began to get interesting.
We stopped at the first lake to see endless rafts of ducks. I couldn’t recognise the species, but they were definitely different. They had small webbed feet and were of different colours. Also, they were really strong as I’ve never seen ducks move so fast, even considering my well-spent time in front of the TV. They were silent and blended perfectly with the scenery.
We moved forward and came upon another lake. It was a large beautiful lake, but easy to miss, thanks to the thousands of beautiful birds perched on trees around it. I could identify most of these birds to be painted storks.
White and soft like thick mist, the storks flaunted their perfect figures at us. And their bright orange beaks, the reason they appear ‘painted’, contrasted with their bodies like morning sun against a white clear sky.
A little stunned with the experience, I couldn’t move. I dismissed my rickshaw driver cum guide and stayed there for what seemed like an eternity. Exactly at the strike of noon, a volcano of sound erupted. The baby birds were now awake, and squealing for food. Funny how we humans need clocks to figure out the time! Within five minutes the mother birds took off to find food. Oh, the heavenly sight—it gave me a tinge of homesickness…Fed and satisfied, the babies went silent; I left them for a nap and moved forward on foot.
I walked on and saw flocks of Sarus cranes staring back at me. The tall, upright and poised birds were an inspiration to correct my own posture! I kept walking, sighting new varieties of birds every 15 minutes or so. After a while, I decided to stop for rest.
I sat near another lake, and realised how tame this forest is. Squirrels came to sniff at my shoes and a bird landed on my head. The lake in front of me had a big white tree in the middle with more painted storks on it. I had started this journey in search of quiet and serenity in the midst of the woods, but ended up absorbing the most beautiful melody of nature.
The day ended there as the sanctuary closes by sunset for leopards and hyenas. But I was back next morning on a bike, pedaling across 29 kilometers of forest. I saw numerous species of birds. The forest was beautiful and the cold weather was warmed by the happy festive feel.
The trip was definitely worthwhile for me.
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