Discovering Bikaner and Mandawa, India
We set off in the morning for Bikaner, there was a nervous feel to the air, "Babu, when do we go to the rat temple", "First we check in, have rest, then rat temple then camel breeding, OK, if not, no problem for me", the car seemed to relax as we knew hotel and rest were first.
After settling in to the hotel we set out to visit the rat temple it was 30 min drive south of Bikaner, along the 30km road people where setting up tents with sound systems and prepare food to hand out for free, they were preparing for a festival Navratri starting tomorrow, there would be large numbers of people over the next 9 days walking the route to the rat temple which was a Durga temple
When we arrived at "Karni Mata Temple" Babu parked up and guided us around, the story goes that a lady "Karni Mata" lost her son and she decreed that members of her family would no longer die but be reincarnated as rats in the 14th century, there is now rumoured to be 20,000 rats in the temple. This gave some comfort to Edwina as she would just imagine the rats as family members.
First we had to hand in our shoes obligatory in all temples in India, me and Luca decided to go barefoot but the girls all choose to wear socks. I had imagined some scene out of India Jones where thousands of rats would be pouring out of the walls but the reality was somewhat disappointing, the rats were smaller than we imagined and initially only 1 or 2 rats ran across our paths, once we reached the place of worship you had to go into a narrow corridor full of around 20 to 40 rats it was at this point where I accidentally kicked one of the rats across the corridor as it crossed my path when I was walking. Luca who initially didn't want to go love the experience and was jovial when seeing the rats, Arabella was anxious but could wander round the temple, Maddalena had a few moments and some tears especially in the narrow corridor, but I guess I was most impressed with Edwina, she just calmly walked around repeating "there just family" to herself and taking photos.
Next on the agenda was the camel breeding farm and a chance to sample the milk, we started with camel milk ice cream made with pistachios which got a thumbs up all round. Luca and Arabella wanted to sample the milk and had Pineapple Camel Milkshake, I noticed an espresso machine in the shop and order 2 coffees with camel milk, not only where these the nicest coffees in India we had but also the cheapest at 10p.
Babu informed us that his mother was ill and asking for him, he had phoned up his company and asked if another driver could replace him as he wanted to go home, he would drive us to Mandawa but then change for the last 2 days. So we were all keen to get off early the next day Babu to go home and the kids as the next hotel had a swimming pool which we spent the afternoon at.
Mandawa was as small town, it made a nice change to be walking round a town with little traffic, I still keep thinking back to Udaipur with narrow streets and the constant stream of motorbikes whizzing passed us centimetres from the children. After the visiting a few havelies with their frescos the kids look hot, bothered and bored. So we ended the tour there and headed into the town for ice cream. It was now time to complete the camel safari we couldn't in Jaisalmer, in wasn't quite a Lawrence of Arabia experience as we were paraded around the town on camels looking into people's houses as we past. At one point we passed through one of the tents setup for the festival and on exit got clothes lined and nearly came off the camel, later Edwina couldn't stop laughing as captured the moment on her camera and was reviewing in the car back.
The next day we head for Delhi where we repack in preparation for Nepal, India has been a fantastic experience for us although we are ready and happy to leave. The infrastructure is a lot better than we perceived and large construction sites are sprouting up everywhere.
Our conversations are starting to talk about foods and what we are missing, the kids and I are missing pasta and both, me and Edwina are missing chops, steak, spinach and mash potatoes. The curry has been amazing but none of the family have had a solid poo for some time and looking forward to at some point having a kitchen so we can have some home cooked food.
It should also be said that we always felt safe in India with the kids, so many people only think western countries are safe and the third world is full of poverty and crime, but in our experience nothing can be further from this. I have been reading a book about a guy travelling around the world and wanted to share a quote from his book "the world is a big place and sometimes dangerous, but you can either hide from it or explore it"
Nepal next, both excited as mountains are one of our favourite landscapes