Luxury Camping plus a night in a Castle!!

Trip Start Jan 28, 2007
Trip End Mar 31, 2007

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Flag of India  ,
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

We all left Bundi reluctantly at 6.45am in autorickshaws to the local station to catch the 7.30am train, only to find of course that it was delayed.  The bonus of travelling with a nice group in India is we can easily pass the time if the travelling gets boring chatting to each other.  It is a locat train and was an hour late (not bad I guess)  When we arrive at whatever station we were picked up by jeeps to take us onto Bijaipur village.  It was situated on a lovely lake with "luxury tent" accommodation.  It was fantastic.

Each tent was carpeted, king size bed and ensuite.  Each one had a small verandah deck with chairs to sit on and read, relax and look at the lake. A real Indian Oasis. (no one was missing Bundi now!)  All the tents were set up right on the lake and the view was wonderful.  There were marquees set up with tables and chairs for our meals with candles for lighting and lovely linen and crockery. (also overlooking the lake)  I think maybe the set up must be similar to the luxury tents Ive seen set up next to Ayres Rock in travel brochures.

After settlong in a few of the group went out on the lake in a little dug out thing(?) while Rob mike and Javen had rock skimming competitions on the water.  The 3 of them were so competitive is was sad.  Great effort was put into choosing the perfect rock by all 3 of them, and then the concetrationa dn arm tequnique could almost turn rock skimming into an olympic sport. ha ha.. must admit oncey they got their eye in (or is it arm?) they had the rocks skimming huge distances across the lake.
Unfortunately for the 4 who had gone out for a cruise in the dugouts - their little pole pusher mad brought them back in too close for the boys to resist with the result of them being 'bombed" from the shore.
Now the men were in boy mode the obvious request to Javed followed - Do you have a ball so we could play cricket?  here we are in the middle of nowhere with no solid structures (even the meals are prepared outside in a tent) and after 2 minutes Javed was back not only with a ball but a cricket bat too! (the boys had expected to find a hunk of wood for a bat) - India sure is cricket made.. we were told it but its unbelivable that 100 times a day someone says 'which country?" and on hearing Australia the next words ALWAYS are... Ricky Ponting!  All work throughout the campsite came to a halt al all the workers came from everywhere.  A great fun game followed. (fun but very serious....sigh...)

It was then late afternoon so a group of us with Javed walked up to some old ruins overlooking the lake to enjoy the sunset (and see the camp set up from a different perspective)   Dinner that night was great - served under the stars next to the lake and then everyone moving to sit around the campfire that the staff had built for us.  A couple of muscians played while a girl/boy danced with the group joining in and Mike doing the most ridiculous bend your leg backwards and hold it bent then shake it as if spasimming while hoping on one leg..... - very unbecoming for a doctor - maybe worth blackmail money in the future.(?)  Then a guy appeared with a fire torch in one hand and a bottle of metho in the other and proceeded to take a mouthful of metho and spit it to make a flame - the staff said it was vodka but it wure smelt like metho.    Before bed we all voted for lated 10am departure cos it was so great here and we wanted to stretch our time.

Next morning Rob and I woke at daybreak, about 6am looked our the tent to find a fantastic sunrise coming up directly over the lake.  We quickly got dressed and decided to work to a little village that we could see across the lake.  it was a lovely walk.  Everyone in the little  village was just starting to move.  Although it was a small village with basic mudbrick houses there was cows and goats at most houses and a nice little school room.  later when we asked Javed if this village was as well off as it appeared.  he said yes as most of the village also had marijuana crops that they supplement their farming with on the black market.

We got back in time for a shower before breaky by the lake and then at 10am we all made our way to the jeeps wishing that we could spend one more day here. The place is brand new and only started operating in December. We're all sure it will be hugely popular - if they maintain it which does not appear to happen much in India.  Fingers crossed for this one as it really is a beautiful oasis in India.

We travelled only for about 1/2 hour before stopping and getting out to walk through a farmer's wheat crop before coming to a poppy field (as in opium).  The farmer's contract to the government to grow the poppies for harvesting for medicinal use only.  It is guaded but it is possible (if the farmer wants to risk jail) to syphoon small amounts off to sell on the blackmarket.  The goverment buys the heroin (which is drained from the poppy by making slits in the pods) The give the farmer A$57 per kilo with the blackmarket price of course being many time sthis amount (the farmer told us how much but I cant remember - sorry)

The catch for the farmer is that in the 1 1/2 acres (government allocated license size), the farmer must produce 7 kilos of heroin or he will not have his license renewed for the following season.  So it is difficult to get excess of the 7 kilos from the one and half acres anyway. Very interesting.
Back in the jeeps to go onto a tiny village where we walked through and saw a handful of children sittiang in the sun doing their scoolwork with their 2 teachers.  This is a village with a particular case who are renowned for their night vision (of all things??!)  They are referred to as blue eyes so we of course thought that an unusual hair colour was their claim to fame - but no these "blue eyes" have brown eyes but great night vision - go figure.... 
We were allowed into one of the village houses to see how they arrange the cooking area, sleeping and livestock within the building.  All very efficiently.  As we left a brand new baby goat tottied around the corner - so cute!.

Finally we arrived at Castle Bijaipur, our accomodation for the night.  The castle was built in early 16th century and it was built due to it's strategic location for defending the frontiers against the invading mughal and marantha armies.  The present Rao who is a descendent of the 16th century Rao who built the castle has renovated and converted the castle into the first heritage hotel in this region.  He is also the owner of the land surounding the lake where we stayed and is developing the camping resort..  Great idea if he can get people to do one night in each - fantastic experience as the castle was out of this world.

Each time the 12 of us arrive at a new hotel we wait for Javed to sort out the rooms and then he calls our name and tells us our room numbers.  The we all run around like 10 year olds to check out each of the 6 rooms to see who scored the best at each place.  Well this time it was us!!!!   Our room was amazing - must have been the marahaja's room in the olden days we think.  Eventually I'll put some photos of the castle  on the site as there were too many beautiful features around the castle to describe. (including a great pool area definitely not 16th century! ha ha)

When we arrived we were given the usual lei (I know that's hawaiian but ive never thought to ask what the indians call them) - followed by the red dot on the head.  Sometimes the leis are marigold but often they are roses which are my favourite as the perfume then goes thru the room.
Anyway.... on receiving the welcome lei and drink we were also given a menu for optional beauty treatments - Im in!!  I booked a manicure, pedicure and body scrub as the water here is so hard and the dirt and pollution needs to be experienced to believe. (resulting in skin as dry as a prune...sigh).... but first a dip in the beautiful pool - then off to my beautification!  Well what an experience - truly Indian!!!!!!!  Where to start!??  I must remind you that the castle decor was 5 star - so i head dow to reception at my appointment time to be met by "the beautician" (from the village?)  a sari dressed women of 25.  She leads me into a room which was obviously a very standard 2 bed  hotel room similar to any basic hotel room you find in Australia (dont know what it was doing in the castle... she tells me to strip off and then we go thru to the tiny ensuite (image a crumby 3 star hotel ensuite) where she tells me to sit on the toilet!!! (lid down of course - or is it of course in this bizarre situation)  She then fills a bucket with hot water and hitches up her sari between her legs so she doesnt get wet  and then the 'piece de resistance' the scrub product.... some french of american top end beauty product you ask? (or I asked myself) or some exotic Indian brand?..... well yes, sort of... It was a bowel of mashe up banana with other secret ingredients  - not really - mashed banana was the base with lots of other fruits added and then I think a little moisturiser thrown in for good luck.  She proceeded to rub the banana into my skin and throw some water on now and then before moving to the next limb....... as to my pedicure... still sitting on the toilet lid with her squating at my feet she got a non scratch pad (that we use for our frying pans at home) and gave my feet a good scrub alternating with the all powerful banana concotion.  So yes, a truly hilarious experience and one that all our 6 girls in our group had enjoyed laughing about for days following...ha ha...And if anyone is interested - the next day my skin actually was 100% imporved...hahahahaha ....

Before dinner most of us met in the beautiful garden courtyard for a game of cards with everyone going back to their rooms first to get the chips, our matches (used to light the candles when  power fails which occurs all over indian at regular intervals and usually when on the computer...groan.  Then after dinner Rob and Mike played table tennis in a room with dim lighting and an orange ball - good lucky seeing the ball...Mike killed Rob so Rob lost interest... ha...only joking..not.  Then Rob and i retired to our Marahaja room.  Rob told the group he was going to order up concubines for his room here... ha.

Tomorrow 5 hours drive to our final destination Pushkar
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