Kalakho Days 1 and 2: camels and a stepwell

Trip Start Jan 10, 2012
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kalakho Day 1

It was very foggy and cold as we set out this morning. I have seriously underestimated how cold northern India can be and am grateful I decided to take transit to the airport. That's the only reason I have my fleece sweater - as opposed to a lightweight sweater - with me.  By now it badly needs laundering but I can't take it off for long enough to wash and dry it.  ;)

Fog makes for interesting driving.  On a two-lane highway we came upon a tractor-drawn cart being overtaken by a produce truck which our driver, who is very skilled at his trade, then decided to skirt around as well.  When our three vehicles all heading in the same direction on this two-lane road were perfectly aligned, a large truck appeared out of the fog barreling toward us.  I held my breath and closed my eyes and vowed in future to sit further back in the bus!

I am now in Rajasthan, land of camels and fields of mustard, fennel and and winter wheat.  Signs of poverty are disappearing; the people, while perhaps not wealthy do not seem to be poor.  Our bus proceeded along increasingly rural and rough roads until it could go no further.  We were loaded into jeeps and land rovers and driven over rough dirt roads to the Dera Lake View Resort though the lake has long since dried up.  We are housed in comfortable cabins that we never lock; it is only our group staying here and we are too isolated for intruders.

Camel rides are fun!  The unnerving part was getting set to go: once we were seated and holding tightly to the teeny tiny saddle handles, the camel rose half way on his front legs, then all the way on his rear legs, then straightened his front legs.  We suddenly found ourselves towering over everyone else!  As soon as I became acclimated to the thin air of extreme altitudes, I realized that I was probably only eight or ten feet off the ground.

We cameled for about half an hour to a small Meenu village of ten families comprising around 100 people.  There we witnessed the traditional ceremony of the marriage of Holy Basil and Vishnu.  Initially only men and boys were in evidence.  Eventually some women appeared but they kept their distance; shy and modest, they held shawls over their faces. 

Dinner and dancing girls around a bonfire ended another fascinating day in India.

Kalakho Day 2

I have been blown away!  No matter how hackneyed that may sound, I can't think of a better way to express myself.

Today we visited Chand Baori, the stepwell at Abaneri.  Stepwells were built to make underground water accessible to villagers in both dry (low water levels) and monsoon (high water levels) seasons.  The Abaneri stepwell was built in the 9th century.  It is a very large square at ground level which decreases in size to a depth of 19.5 metres.  Flights of six steps with platforms for collecting water at the foot of each flight line the walls in a regular geometric pattern.  Chand Baori is as much a piece of art as it is an mind-boggling relic of history.

We also visited the primary school of the children of the village we visited yesterday.  Shagzil told us this is Road Scholar's way of giving back to the community - he delivered a package of books and other supplies, something he does on each trip through Kalakho.  The children recited the English alphabet for us though the language of instruction is Hindi.  It was very cold at the school but we seemed to be suffering more than the children.

These two days at the Dera Lake View Resort have been such fun.  Straying from the  beaten track has let us experience the "real India" (Shagzil's term).  We have found people who are not wealthy to be sure but are not poor either.  By and large they appear happy and healthy and most welcoming/curious - depends where we are - when we are around.
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Tracey on

This tour is taking you to amazing places and I'm so glad I get to experience it with you through your blog! Thanks for posting the picture of you on the camel...love it!

Terry on

The stepwell is extraordinary. Remarkable to see what other cultures have achieved thorugh time.

Genni on

Great reading your blog, Nancy. A fascinating place. The Abaneri stepwell is magnificent.

Lance on

I am enjoying travelling vicariously. Must say that I had never considered India on my travel agenda but now I might. But, can I fit it into 42 days? Hmmmm.

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