DAY ONE: Delhi to Mandawa
Discovering the difference between 'a beef' and a cow is a good way to pass the time on a 360km drive from Delhi to the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. Our Suzuki Maruti made slow progress through the swarming traffic of the city, then all of a sudden we were cruising through mustard and wheat fields, swerving camel carts and donkeys on route to the desert beyond. We were headed to 'Real India'.
The boundary between the metropolis and desert landscape of The Land of the Kings is seemingly marked by a drive-thru McDonalds; our stop for McVeggies prompting a lengthy debate about beef, which involved Rama (our driver) stopping beside every buffalo (beef) to show us how it was unlike a cow. Bemused by our lack of bovine knowledge, he is now generally concerned that we have a problem recognising basic animals and notifies us of the name of each beast we pass just in case we end up riding ducks instead of camels in the desert.
Our first destiation was Mandawa, a rural village in eastern Rajasthan famed for its numerous havelis. These square buildings with grand arched entrances and open courtyards were built by local affluent tradesmen from the 18th Century and are covered in elaborate frescos. Our hotel was a renovated haveli; before bed that evening we sat by the courtyard fire trying to avoid the titty freezing cold.
Hello, I'm Clive the Camel. Whilst Victoria and Thomas sleep peacefully (even though Victoria is convinced that the bindi the hotel staff thumbed onto her forehead caused her headache) I'll explain how our intrepid duo ended up touring Rajasthan in a hatchback with a chap from Uttar Pradesh who wears snappy tank-tops.
Ghandi once urged his followers to 'live each day as if it were your last' - he probably came up with that after walking the streets of the capital and almost getting twatted by a scooter. If the auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles and cars don't get you, the cows, crowds, waste and smells all conspire to have you prematurely reincarnated....those who are particularly naughty, such as Phil Mitchell, will get to come back as Delhi Council road sweepers.
As Barnes and Carter made thier way from Arambol to Anjuna and Candolim in Goa, they had ample opportunity to relax in the sunshine but, importantly, plan their travels through northern India. As their Spicejet flight landed in Delhi on the 21st they were untterly clueless; heading to the Paharganj area and an over-priced hotel turned out to be a smart move. A visit the next morning to a back street travel agent run by Shafi, an Adam Sandler look-alike who offered Tom 500 camels to buy Victoria, secured them a 14 day tour that would take them from the deserts of Rajasthan to Agra.
Cheers, Clive xxx
DAY TWO: Mandawa to Bikaner
After a weird dream about Clive, a talking duck, we prepared ourselves for a day where our socks would take a battering and have to be chucked out. The bird crap on the floor of the Bikaner Royal Family Cenotaph was our first bit of mess. We then headed to Jungargh Fort - incidentally most Rajasthani cities are built in and around forts...it's the fort that counts - built by Raja Rai Singh in the 16th Century if you're even bothered. Nothing to interesting, unless you're the kind of bore that likes elephant mounted guns and things - I loved it.
The real excitement around Bikaner, and our second sock mess of the day, is at the Karni Mata temple at Deshnok, where 20,000 holy rates are worshipped. The rodents squirm around the floor and doorframes of this small but suprisingly ornate marble building. Thousands of pidgeons fly and peck around, attracted by pilgrim's prasad offerings of milk and grain for the rats. As we bravely tiptoed around, we were filmed by a National Geographic documentary crew who had been tracking us since our stint on Bolivian News. We were subsequently interviewed and recorded with disgusted looking faces as we observed a holy man take a drink of milk from a bowl shared by the rats. We were also really lucky to see an auspicious white rat, of which there are only 5 in the entire temple. When we returned to the car, Rama helpfully pointed out that there were rats inside the temple.
DAY 3: Bikaner to Jaisalmer
We reached the Golden City of Jaisalmer in the evening after the long ride from Bikaner, where Rama listened to the cricket on the radio and Victoria and I dozed, waking up every now and again to stare at the ducks outside the window. We watched the Sunset over the city with its impressive fort on Trikuta hill and simple sandstone houses. We ended the day eating traditional Rajasthani cuisine...lasagne and garlic bread in an Italian inside one of the fort's bastions.
DAY 4: Jaisalmer to Khuri
A short journey to the village of Khuri, 50km from Jaisalmer, saw us take a camel safari into the Thar desert. Our drivers, a couple of elder men from another small village, broke protocol by jumping on the camels behind us - more annoying than camel farts was the sound of my driver coughing up greenies behind me before spitting over my shoulder. Halfway into our trek, we stopped under the shade of some trees (God knows why as it was cloudy and minus 2 degrees) and Victoria played with four little village girls and taught them to sing some basic English nursery songs, such as 'Indie Rock and Roll' by The Killers. Later on the Thar dunes, we induldged in a spot of dune jumping...a rather complex sport that involves jumping on the dunes. That evening we spent a night in a small thatched hut after sharing a laugh with Rama and the other drivers.
DAY 5: Day in Jaisalmer
Taught a woman how to cook cheese in a microwave. I got scared by a pig.
More to come soon.
In case you were wondering; we're currently in Udaipur, where some losers might remember that parts of Octop.ussy were filmed.*
*Full stop used because the word p.u.s.s.y is censored; which also ends my plan for an x-rated late night version of the blog.
Love Victoria and Tom xxx