“So, what are your planning to do in Kota?” asked Mahijit ji, my host in Jhalawar, over dinner on the eve of our departure for Kota.
Nothing,” I replied. “We (my friend fellow traveller Niti & I) and reach Kota in the evening and leave for Bundi the next morning.”
“Oh, but you can’t leave Kota without going for a Chambal River Safari. It’s a morning safari, and I know just the person who can take you on it. Surely you can leave for Bundi after that?”
We said that we didn’t even know that there was something like a river safari being conducted from Kota. That’s when we heard about Ravinder Singh Tomar, nature and wildlife photographer, and the man behind the Chambal River Safari. A phone call to him later, we were booked on a 2-hour Chambal River Safari with instructions to meet him at the boating pier of Chambal Gardens in Kota from where the safari commenced.
When we reached the pier, the first thing I saw noticed was not the broad expanse of the river, but this industrial unit belching out smoke — not a very encouraging introduction to the Chambal River Safari! Our motor boat was waiting and after boarding and settling down, which hardly took a few minutes, we set off with our guide, Ravinder Singh Tomar, telling us all about the river, its history and its ecosystem.
Have you been to Kota before, asks Manoj, our driver, as he is dropping us off at our hotel there. It is late in the afternoon and we have just arrived in Kota, the second leg of our Hadoti trip.
Not me, I say. Not me either, says, Niti, my friend and fellow traveller.
Then you wouldn’t be knowing anything about the city, I guess he says. We shake our heads in unison.
Then allow me to take you to a very special place in Kota later in the evening. I’m sure you wouldn’t have seen anything like that before. We happily agree to this suggestion. When we leave, it is past sunset and it is turning dark rapidly. There’s a delicious chill in the air and I’m looking forward to the evening.
A short drive later we are at a vast lake shimmering in the light reflected on the opposite bank. Manoj asks us to look around and tell him if we can guess what is it that we have come to see. I take a good look around and can’t see anything except for an unlit structure that seems to be floating in the lake.
This is the Kishore Sagar Lake and that unlit building is the Jagmandir Palace, says Manoj. But what you are going to see is across the lake. Take a guess.
Initially I can’t make out anything, till my eyes lock in on a pyramidal structure and then a tall tower. I can’t believe my eyes. Is that an Egyptian pyramid and that tall thing the Eiffel Tower?
Manoj beams in answer and says that there are more at the 7 Wonders Park of Kota and that is where we were headed to. 10 minutes later we were inside the 7 Wonders Park and getting our first sight of scaled down replicas of seven modern wonders.
When One Life to Travel (OLTT) announced a trip to Bundi sometime in August/September last year, I signed up for it immediately and crossed my fingers, toes and eyes for luck. This was because my plans for visiting Bundi hadn’t worked out in the past — not once, but twice — and I didn’t want to take any chances this time around.
As it happened, I got third time lucky with the Bundi trip. Not only that, in the period between signing up and actually leaving, the trip had evolved into something bigger. It was no longer a 3-day trip; it had become an 8-day trip instead. Part of the trip was to be done with OLTT, and part of it with a friend. And most importantly, it was no longer only a Bundi trip; it had expanded to become a Hadoti trip that would take me to Jhalawar, Jhalarapatan, Ramgarh, Kolvi, Bijoliya, Baroli, Kota and Bundi.
When I got off the train at Bhawani Mandi railway station on that nippy November morning, it was with a heightened sense of anticipation. While I wasn’t sure what exactly you had in store for me, I was sure that you wouldn’t disappoint. That last bit turned out to be quite an understatement for not only did you manage to surprise, delight and wow me, you also brought up the unexpected, even in the expected, regularly. 🙂