My last blog from Shimla seems to have been lost in cyberspace - never mind! We are now in Rajasthan after further adventures - I don't know where to start. Yesterday we set off from Kaithal on what we thought would be a straightforward drive but it was not to be so. To begin with when we tried to leave the town the main road was blocked and we tried to find a way through the town. After getting totally lost we ended up in a street that got narrower and narrower until we entered an alley and blocked the tide of humanity, scooters, bicycles and animals flowing towards us. Within minutes (I was the lead car with Jeremy) we were surrounded by a noisy crowd of friendly Indians all shouting different suggestions. On top of this our second vehicle was offering their own advice over the radio, and Jeremy and John were outside in the street also making loud and conflicting instructions. Finally we somehow managed to reverse and turn round and extricated ourseves before the whole town came to a standstill! We then stopped at a roundabout and a friendly man guided us on his motorbike through the maze in the right direction. He took us to his office and treated us to cold drinks and we met his family before we travelled on. Lush rural countryside slowly changed to a drier terain. We passed a terrible accident where a lorry was on its side having had a head on collision with a van. It must have happened some time before as there was no sign of anyone there.
We carried on and towards the end of the day crossed a railway line three times. Each time we had to wait for a train to pass, though it looked like the same train each time!
As we approached a town called Fatephur there was a monsoon storm ahead flashing with lightning. We were soon in the storm of torrential rain, and with night falling. The streets of Fatephur were like running rivers and again we got lost, only finding the way out when I dashed half a dozen steps to ask some men sheltering under an awning. I was totally soaked in just those few steps. We carried on to a bridge under the railway which was already 3 or 4 feet deep in water. Low ratio gears and we were through and crawling up a slight incline down which poured a stream of water. We still had 20 kms to Mandawa and if anything the storm ahead looked worse. It seemed truely biblical, gloomy, errie, and by no means certain that we would make it through. Upon entering Mandawa we peered through the windscreen (the wiper blades working at full speed barely clearing the rain) and wove our way through narrow streets to the main bazaar. Luckily we found the hotel near the city gate, the Mandawa Havelli Hotel. An old converted merchant's house the like of which I have never seen before. It is fantastic! Like something out of the Arabian Nights. Frescos, intricately carved doors, fabulous wall paintings, a galleried courtyard, and a warm welcome. We must build it into one of HK's itineraries. After a meal in their beautiful resteraunt we crashed.
Today we went for a walking tour of the town. Amazing! and one of the best cultural experiences of the trip. Lots of camels, donkeys (one which was painted in ocre dots) and women dressed in highly bright, colourful saris. The town is a maze of old merchant houses dominated by a fabulous old castle.
S'all for now - must go and do some shopping!!!!!
Aged and happy Hippie in another world here in Rajasthan, Indiaaaahhhhh