We are still in Ranthambhore because we took 2 days off the bikes. The main event today was visiting Ranthambhore Fort. This fort, along with 5 other forts of Rajasthan, are UNESCO World Heritage Site under the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan.
That includes Kumbhalgarh which we saw last week. Inside the fort there are three Hindu temples dedicated to Ganesh, Shiva and Ramlalaji constructed in 12th and 13th centuries from red Karauli stone. There is also a Jain temple of Lord Sumatinath (5th Jain Tirthankar) and Lord Sambhavanath.
The fort was about 12km from the hotel, so we cycled and I got another rear tyre puncture. I suspect the outer tyre is decaying so we swopped it for the front one and went on our way. The front has less pressure on it – but its only a temporary fix.
The route to the fort took us up a cobbled road – so not quite Paris-Roubaix but you get the idea. The road was full of jeeps, motor bikes, cars and the occasional minibus taking people up to the Fort. The vast, vast majority were Hindus coming to visit the temples; described to us by one chap we met as a “very holy place”. This made the whole thing intensely colourful and chaotic. There were also more monkeys in one site than we had ever seen in one place before – maybe intrinsic to the holiness of the site.
I could describe the fort – but the pictures do it better. However what struck us most was that all of India was represented in the car park. The road was steep and narrow. It flattened out at the top but was still really narrow. That was where the trouble started – because there was totally insufficient parking and so everyone was jockeying for position to try to get into the small area, to get out or to turn around. If there was a small gap between 2 cars, 15 motor bikes would try to get through. All engines were kept going all the time, so the air was heavy with diesel and horns were blown continually and at random. People got out, walked around in the road at chatting at random and so left even less space for traffic to pass.
Despite this scene, good humour prevailed, no one lost their temper, no one shouted and the traffic just about moved so that everyone got to see the fort – but goodness knows how. It looked total chaos but it was not.
However we got about 4km down, going very slowly because of the cobbles, before any four wheeled vehicle overtook us. There had been a total logjam at the top (which we wheeled our bikes around) and could not see how it could possible be solved. It felt like one of those children’s puzzles where each piece had to be moved before another could move – and who was going to move first. But obviously it was solved and eventually the traffic moved again.
Oh – and by the way – the fort was magnificent.