Oh, my gosh!! You miss out on 1.5 days of strong internet connection and it’s hard to remember all that we’ve seen and experienced as each day is packed full.
My last one line post was that we had entered Rajasthan. Indeed. Here we are. At the moment I am sitting on the floor of a large alcove off of the interior courtyard of a haveli (literally windy or air house) in a small town just west of Delhi. Indian music is playing and birds are screeching; staff is quietly going about various tasks; true to the name of the house, the gentlest of breezes is blowing. It is 6:45 a.m. And it is lovely. But before I get too carried away, I really should touch upon the first day of our trip.
After our group met up in the morning on March 1st, we boarded our small bus and headed west towards Rajasthan. Our first overnight was at the Neemrana Fort Palace, a photo of which I attached to my last brief post.
As you might have guessed, it was a pretty spectacular place perched up on the hillside over its tiny village. The fort originated around 1464 and was, as its name suggests, a defensive place. The palace part came when two gentlemen bought the ruin a number of years ago and undertook a complete renovation. I can’t even conceive of the vision and passion that such an undertaking requires. I have a hard time thinking about redoing one of our tiny bathrooms!
To get to the fort, it took incredible skill and composure by our young driver to get up the narrow and twisting lanes.* Our progress was closely monitored by villagers:
Some onlookers were more discrete than others.
We took a stroll through the village to watch life unfold and ended up at an old step well. The royalty realized sometime early on that the wells were places of coolness in an otherwise very warm desert environment. The took to creating palaces that stepped down into the ground with the well at the center. The one we visited had nine levels, 170 steps to the well itself.
On our way back to the hotel, we encounter a goat herd with his small flock of goats. NOTE: At the buffets here, if you see “mutton” something or other, it does not mean old sheep. Mutton means old goat! So, even if you don’t like old sheep, you should give it a try. We were told that goat and sheep herders are nomadic and come from hundreds of kilometers to pasture their herds here in fields that have been harvested. The farmers are happy to have them because of the clearing that the herds do and the fertilizer left behind. Some of these relationships have continued for hundreds of years flowing from one generation to the next.
One of the things we saw on our walk was a street food cart selling “gol gappa,” or what is called “pani puri” in Mumbai. These are small puffs of fried wheat dough that, when you order one, is punctured, a filling inserted (potato or cream of wheat), and the whole thing is then plunged into a large kettle of, frankly, rather vile looking, very spicy water. You then pop the whole mess into your mouth and cry with delight. Maybe another time.
*When we left the next morning, one right angle turn proved impossible and the large forward protruding mirror had to be removed in order to negotiate the turn