Helen and I were in 2 minds about heading to Bharatpur or heading towards Varanessi and onto Nepal. India was hard work in driving and from the curiosity of local people. Unlike Pakistan where people came and asked friendly questions, here they came and stared blankly. The occasional one would speak only to ask how much the bikes cost. I met this with answers varying from realistic to 3 trillion rupees (and was shocked when they accepted this value). There really is no privacy to be found anywhere, even a closed toilet door seemingly offering no respite.
But since Bharatpur was only 50km away it seemed like a shame not to visit it before beating our retreat. Els and Merijn were going further into Rajasthan anyway so we joined along for the ride. Getting out of Agra was trickier than getting in, with poorly surfaced roads and nasty speed ramps taking their toll on my sump again but once we got out of the city the situation improved dramatically. Traffic evaporated as we entered Rajasthan and the road opened into a pleasant dual carriageway. Rajasthan has one third the population density of India on average and we felt it immediately.
We found a hotel close to the Keoladeo National Park. In fact there were several hotels though the one we went to was newly opened and pleasantly clean and quiet. The first price we were given was 1200 rupees per room but we thanked them and complimented the hotel but said we could not stay. As we went to leave they called the manager and the price became 600 rupees and when we said it was still too much it dropped to 500 rupees. Evidently there was fierce competition. The food was also excellent.
The following day we visited the Keoladeo bird park by rented bicycle. A curator of the park accompanied us as our guide and opened our eyes to the wildlife around us. Without him we would simply have cycled around the park wondering what the fuss was. We saw antelope, Deer and birds like Kingfishers, Treepies and huge Cranes. We learned there was also a Tiger in the park but that it kept to a certain area and we felt safe enough with the guide who was extremely knowledgeable.
It was just what we all needed. It was great to be out in fresh air again cycling on a flat path in the middle of nature without hoards of people all around. I wondered if the rest of Rajesthan would be like this and if we were missing out on the best of India to have only a blinkered impression. However, with such a huge country it would be impossible to see it all anyway.
The next day Els and Merijn left us again. We had intended to head south to Khujaro but Helen fell ill again. She felt tired and frustrated as it sapped the fun and her energy. We went to the local doctor who prescribed another class of antibiotic and an anti worm tablet. It seems the doctors here make a guess at the problem and try a scattergun batch of drugs since they lack diagnostic facilities. It does however mean they prescribe antibiotics very frequently which makes you wonder about reducing their effectiveness. The doctors surgery was dark, dirty and depressing. I closed and locked the door when we went in for the consultation. He told us most people go to private clinics nowadays which we resolved would be our next port of call if it continued.
When we got back to the hotel we had our first dose of rain since Turkey. Strangely I found this to be a welcome change. Not used to this wet stuff!