Wandering around Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, India
Taking a year out to travel as family was always going to be more than having a holiday with the kids. It was about spending time with them and trying to develop them. What I'm not quite sure about at the moment is how to go about that.
The kids seem quite unfazed by the amazing things they are seeing, especially in India and Nepal. Maybe my expectations are too high. Or am I expecting too much so soon? Do I just let nature runs its course and see how the kids have developed in six months time? Or do I constantly point out everything to them and make sure they are taking it all in?
Like most things in life I guess the answer lies somewhere inbetween. But finding where that line is exactly seems hard at the moment. I take solace in the thought that it is probably sinking in more than I presume.
As we leave Udaipur our driver starts looking out for a rural school for us to visit and around 1 hour into the journey we find a suitable candidate a small primary school set in a rural surroundings, Babu (our driver) heads up too see if they will welcome us. Within a couple of minutes we are being gestured up the hill to the school. As we get to the school the teacher starts shouting at the kids "take of your shoes", "sit down at the back of the line", she then turns to us and smiles "Do you mind", "not at all, we replied". The children were in the middle of morning pray and our children listen on as the children continue mantra-ing in Hindi. Once prays cease the teacher starts telling us about the school, it was fantastic to hear but I think the excitement of a white family turning up on her doorstep was too much and the rambling went on. A few days earlier we had bought some pencils, sharpener and rubbers to hand out along with a globe for the teacher. Arabella showed the most confidence and recited "A Sailor went to Sea, Sea, Sea" Maddalena went quite shy and could only stand at the front with a back turned to Arabella, once completed the children handed out our gifts the classroom was full of smiles and gratitude. It was time to move on with a long drive ahead but the teacher insisted we had 1 drink with here before going as we were guests in her school, which we complied.
Our driver Babu picked up the pace on the drive to Jodhpur, it was close to his home and you could tell he was keen to get a home cooked meal and quality time with his family who wouldn't be after 2 weeks on the road with the Cagol's……..
Up early and to the Mehrangah Fort and for a change we were left to ourselves with an audio guide each, it was brilliant the kids really go into it, even finding the next number to listen too turned into a game. Not having a guide allowed us more freedom to explore and go at our own pace. All of us loved the Fort it was peaceful and really interesting. As we were exiting a dog came out of the shadows and startled Maddalena, it was great to hear Luca voice for the behind "Maddalena, Maddalena it's a Hindu dog, very peaceful".
Jodphur is a small city with 3 million people yes seems a lot but it felt really spacious compared with other places we had been. We ventured to the Clock Tower, lunch, spice markets, Lassis and the most amazing five story textile shop was a great place to sit and just admire all the craft and hand work local to the area, there were no pushy sales guys but we felt a compulsion to buy since the work was so beautiful and left with a table runner. It was at lunch were we discovered Masala Papad, basically a bruschetta on a poppadum, something we kept looking out for as it was yummy. Again Edwina started looking for her cow but again went home without one.
The next day we had another early start as we again had a long drive to Sam Sand Dunes just past Jaisalmer, we were planning on take a camel ride into the desert and sleeping in a canvas tent but the camel handlers were on strike due to a disagreement over erecting a fence, the local agent told us he would book a camel ride in Mandawa and we could take a car and then walk into the dune area. We arrived at the tented resort in the desert to find we were the only guests staying, the resort has nightly entertainment in form of singing and dancing and the guy who checked us in stated tonight would be no exception, hmmm we felt this could be awarded. As sunset was approaching we drove down to the dune area and set off into the dunes, although there seem to be a few tourists there we seemed to be the only white tourists and again seemed to turn into our own tourist attraction with locals running over to take photos of themselves with our children, it started off in a good manner but when Arabella had enough and started to walk away one of the guys grabbed Arabella and tried to force her to stay for a photo, at this point I felt it was too much and stepped in repeatedly shouting "No", to be fair from this point onwards we were left alone. The children had a wonderful time rolling down the dunes but it was difficult for us to fully appreciate it due to the amount of rubbish and broke glass laying around, once the sun had set we headed back.
Entering the resort we were met with a drummer and a desert gypsy placing yellow dots in the middle of our heads. The band had start and we headed back to the tent to remove the copious amounts sand encrusted on the kids bodies. Refreshed we headed back to the dining area where we got our own private show of singing and desert dancing. When the second dancer turned up I looked at Edwina "I think they couldn't find another woman", we couldn't be 100% but we were fairly sure they had dressed up a man into a ladies dancing costume. Then the moment we dreaded the most happen, we were asked to join them on the dance floor, the children were too shy to join them and I felt maybe I could encourage them if I stood up. Luca also now got up and danced with the pretty gypsy girl leaving me to dance with the tranny, I could see Edwina in stitches on the side lines but carried on regardless.
The next day as we were waiting for our prearranged departure time, we started to play cricket with a set we bought some days before. Luca really wanted to play with the Indian staff and they were all too happy to participate, one by one they joined the game until Luca was batting with 6 fielders.
We headed into town and met up with our guide, first stop was visiting the town lake, and the guide mentioned that the kids would enjoy feeding the catfish so off we went. When we arrived the lake look very tranquil with a couple of temples coming out of the water where the royal family would picnic. Every so often a catfish would pop out of the water, then the guide gave us some bread and the children proceeded with throwing it into the lake, suddenly the water vanished and tens of very large catfish came into view, they were all intertwined and rolling over each other gasping for food, it looked like a horror film "Attack of the catfish", both me and Edwina felt very uncomfortable at the thought of falling in and were quite grossed out by the experience.
Next was visiting the impressive habitable fort, in remained me of some medieval walled city with today 4000 people living inside. On the way in we passed the "Special" Lassi shop mentioned in the Lonely Planet, basically a yoghurt drink mixed with something you would find in the coffee shops of Amsterdam and totally legal. Maybe 20 years ago when we were backpacking but certainly not on this family trip.
In the afternoon with headed into the old city with the guide and made the obligatory commission stop, it seems all guides seem to have a stop on the tour where we browse some local product and he gets a kickback from any payment we make, In Agra it was a marble factory, in Jaipur a Gem stone factory and today it was a textile factory.
Both the fort and the old town contained a high number of cows wandering the streets initially allowing a number of photo opportunities for Edwina, but this soon tired as she was fed up of constantly trying to avoid the cow s*** in the streets.
We headed up to a restaurant recommended by our guide to view a sunset over the fort, Luca grumbled "Do we have to see every sunset?", I guess even special moments can take a toll on the kids.
Next stop Bikaner and the infamous rat temple that the children have obsessed about since arriving in India.