Sunday, December 28, 2008

From Delhi to Mandawa, not quite the silk route. Our second day in India.

The main street in Mandawa
Hi again

And here I am writing in Castle Mandawa, the former home of an Indian Maharaja. Mandawa is in the Shekawati region near the desert and belongs to Rajasthan. It was once a crossroads in the old silk route and the caravans on that route would stay at the old havalis (frescoed mansions) and do business there.

We left this morning at 9 am in the deserted Sunday streets of Delhi. The view from our room in the very heart of Delhi was desolate and here I have to include a photo. If you look hard you can see people on the roof in the open air showering and having breakfast.
The incredible view from our room in Delhi

Our trip took 6 hours for only 180 km as you cannot go faster than 50km a hour because of the state of the roads and the traffic. Traffic is mostly packed motorbikes with whole families seated on one bike, coloured lorries with enormous loads and people on top, as well as a lot of camel carts; yes camels carrying carts full of all sorts of produce. It is quite a spectacle.
A camel cart and colourful lorry on the road to Mandawa.
All along the roads you go through linear villages crowded with street vendors, cows, goats, donkeys and even pigs, although pork is never on the menu and outside barbers (there are a lot of them) as well as many women carrying loads on their heads. The further you go into the country the more the women are covered. In fact you see quite a lot who are completely covered without even a hole for one eye!!

Throughout the journey you are accompanied by dust and fog or probably smog. You cannot get away from it.

We arrived in Mandawa which is a bustling little town now full of tourists, although we heard there were fewer than usual because of the Bombay attacks. We settled into our hotel, which didn’t quite live up to our expectations as it was a bit run down, as most places we had seen so far.

We were left in the excellent hands of the guide Yusuf, a young Muslim who showed us the local sights. We heard from him that the population was about 20.000 of whom 80% were Hindus and 20% Muslim. He showed us the local Hindu temple and seemed to know all about the different Gods and who they had reincarnated into.

We were a bit disappointed with the havelis as they are in such a ruinous state and enjoyed the main street with the usual street vendors more as well as watching how the locals live. Yusuf told us we could take photos of anyone and that no one would be offended. So I stopped worrying and started snapping at everyone I saw, do diverse are the people.

After the tour Yusuf took us to his friends’ handicraft shops. It appears Mandawa is famous for miniature paintings and textiles. We bought some and Eladio put his excellent bargaining skills to practise for the first time.

After shopping, we returned to our hotel and went for a massage we had been recommended by our friends Julian and Merche. Eladio got an Indian man and I got an Indian woman, neither of whom spoke English. The massage was applied with lovely smelling Indian oil and did us a power of good although we needed a bar of soap each afterwards to get it off.

We had dinner at the hotel; tika masala for about the 4th time so far. The dining room was wonderful as was the food.

And tomorrow we will be up early to go to Pushkar, about 180km away, that holy city famous for its temple and gats. That will be another 6 hour car journey which ends up being quite exhausting but is the best way to see India.

But more about Incredible India tomorrow.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Masha, it all sounds very exotic and hectic and brings back memories of my trip there. Have just spent hours reading through it all when I just meant to take a quick look! Sounds wonderful. Pls email me your results tho'... A x