The research I did for day six is here. Once again the reality was far better than the itinerary suggested.
After an exciting post breakfast hour of having our photos taken with the visitors to the fort we were driven by jeep to a small village, again the prince accompanied us, where we saw the terracotta ornaments being made. It was a little chilly and rain was in the air but that didn’t stop the fun.
The clay is dug, allowed to dry then rehydrated to use on the wheel.
The wheel is operated by the potter placing a stick in a small hole on the bed then rotating it until a high speed is reached.
The clay is thrown in the usual manner.
Pit are used for the firings.
Cow pats are used for fuel
I saw piles of fired work, here are some oil burners.
Musicians amongst the animals
The figures were piled up everywhere in the village.
But also used to decorate their own houses.
Then time to say our fair-wells to the Prince and Pokaran. He gave each of us a gift of a small hand woven bag and a terracotta sun – the sight of which brightens my cold winter garden wall.
Back on the coach for a long drive which gave me time to digest my adventures so far as well as taking a snooze.
Another palatial hotel at Jaisalmer, Hotel Rang Mahal, where the view from my bedroom window of the desert and a small encampment was in stark contrast to the lush hotel grounds.
After a quick turn around we were back on the coach to see the puppets being made.
They are made out of the wood gathered from the desert.
The puppets are dressed in re-cycled fabrics
Everyone, children included, help with the making of the puppets.
I was disappointed with the quality, unfortunately they were jut cheap tourist tat. I was offered one for R800, eventually paid R500 only to see them on sale later in the day for R200. But at least my money went straight to the maker.
Where to next? Another emporium of textile goodies.
This lady was cutting fabric squares for cushions.
We were shown how the old clothes are cut up then re-worked into patchwork.
Depending on the age of the fabric and the amount of gold embroidery determines the price of the work. The older the more expensive. the story was told that the clothes used to be burnt in order to reclaim the gold in the threads.
The young man was beading a piece of cloth – very labour intensive.
Bundles of the quilts were waiting to be shipped all over the world. There seems to be a never ending supply of fabric to be used.
A walk through the town – puppets, puppets, puppets!
And the chance for one of our group members to be dressed in traditional costume.
The world and his wife wanted a photo of the lovely lady!
Then we had a guided tour around the area.
Gnesha was everywhere to be seen.
Our local guide explained the significance of the decoration. When a couple are married the image of Gnesha is painted on the house with the date of the wedding. This is an invitation to all to attend the celebration.
One of the icons of India – a Royal Enfield motorbike. I assumed that the English factory was in Enfield, Middlesex but it wasn’t. Redditch in Worcestershire was where they were produced.
A welcome swim in the hotel pool then an Old Monk (rum) with lime and soda before dinner. Took my tired body to bed for an early night.
Here is my research for day five. This is what really happened!
We had a long drive form Bikenar to Pokaran but the roads were good. The landscape was flat scrub-land – I saw trees decorated with scrapes of fabric and asked the guide what they were about. Simply……..where the thorny branches had ripped fragments of cloth off the people as they passed by on camels. However there was also an unexplained trail of old shoes along the carriageway.
Mile after mile of flat land then a stop for masala chai. Here I bought a few post cards to send home.
Beautiful sweet smelling jasmine.
Then we arrived at The Fort, Pokaran and what a welcome we had.
The piper played his shrill, bagpipe like music.
We were showed with rose petals from above.
The place is a tourist attraction as we were – everyone seemed to want to have their photo taken with us.
Other parts of the fort were tranquil.
Some had come to visit the Temple.People lived at the fort along side these small gerbil like creatures.Then I climbed the stairs to my room.
I was never sure what I’ve find behind the locked door to my bedrooms.
A huge suite with a four poster bed, an anti room, a shower room, a bath room and a grand elevated toilet in it’s own space.And this cushion on the ceiling.
A beautifully made fabric cover for all the necessary info.
I had my own private courtyards as well.
A couple of details.But it wouldn’t be India without the charming repairs!
In the afternoon we were introduced to the owner of the Fort – Prince Parama, a charming man, deeply committed to the local economy and especially the traditional pattu weaving. He invests money in the villagers as they learn the skills at the fort. It takes 15 days to warp the loom with many patterns and colours used to produce a very fine cloth. 2.5 metres or about 3 yards can be woven in a day.
Soon we were clambering into jeeps and another ride through the dessert to one of the Prince’s villages. Everywhere seems to have running water but their life is conducted in a very simple manner – an art I have lost! Few Westerns go to the village so we were just as much an interest to them. The presence of Prince Param didn’t phase them.
All the family appeared to be involved from the oldest lady in the village to the young boy who had just returned from school.
The men were gathered round a corner so we went to pay our respects to them, and especially the twinkly eyed elder who was very proud of his moustache!
Back into the jeeps but, of course, not to return back to our rooms but another treat.
We had arrived in the middle of nowhere – apart from a small mound.The drivers started to unload boxes.
And more boxes.
But the Prince’s dog was carefully carried to the ‘top’ by his dedicated handler whose sole job it was to look after him.
Soon we were being served chai and pakoras – I felt quiet the memsaab. The panoramic view faded as dusk settled around us.
The drivers had fun racing at top speed and soon we were back at the fort. Time to have a wander into the small town.
Every shop seemed to be selling shoes or handbags – I bought a pair of slippers for my daughter without much hope of them fitting as they were so narrow.
No time for a wash before dinner, it was either that or a beer and the beer won!
The garden was beautifully lit.
The dancing didn’t have such an effect on me as the previous evening
Then the finale of a firework display before going inside to eat.
Prince Param chatted with us during dinner, telling of his forthcoming wedding and a little about his life. His beer bottle was carefully concealed by a cloth as his man poured it out for him; he was kind enough to share it with us. Another wonderful, packed day of surprises.
A video of our stay captures the magic of the place – see it here!
My research for the day is here. By this time we had gone slightly off the programme order.
Up at seven o’clock with a determination to have a light breakfast. I had chance to wander round the hotel grounds to get my bearings. Soon after we were on the coach to be driven into Bikaner.
Heritage Resort, Bikaner
Checking of e mails in reception
Off the coach and into the tongas
Past the Red Fort
A usual street scene
But as we neared the gold district we saw the women panning for flecks of gold that had escaped the traps of the gold workers in the open drains .
Soon we arrived at the old part of town
As we waited for the rest of the group to join us I took a couple of images of the horse.
Nothing goes to waste in India – a recycled British Airways strap
Then a little excitement as a cart got stuck in a gulley. The horse was soon unhitched and the men pulled out the cart.
Ever present Gnasha reminding me of what I was learning on my trip.
And some offerings for him.
I didn’t see many decorated trucks or wagons so this one caught my eye.
Into the gold smiths’ workshop – as usual all very low key.
I’m unsure which of the many gods/goddesses these are as multi-handed ones are common. But wherever work is carried out they are to be seen blessing the artisans.
A welcome lunch at Gallops Restaurant overlooking Junagarh Fort then onto where the glorious patchworks are made. There was a wonderful display on the wall outside.
Then we met the ladies who make them.Out came some of the never-ending array of work – here is a silk and camel hair shawl with detail below.
At the end the floor was littered with small and large pieces, some woven, some patchwork pieces, some very old, some made yesterday. Much buying was done by members of our party – our guide joked that maybe we should spread our money around and not give it all to the middle man.
Onto the next place – no, we never stopped! We were driven to Raisar – a small village where camel wool rugs are made.
The looms are strung over pits so the weavers can sit at their work.
Some are so large it takes three people to throw the shuttle
Some of the yarn is coarse.
And seem to stored in a random fashion…but that’s to my uneducated eye!
A quicker way was to use this electric tool that punched the yarn into the backing fabric.
I’m unsure how these rugs were made but the men were cutting the design into the wool.
Other small artefacts – a water pot
and a charpoy (bed)
The children were charming and followed us around but didn’t ask for anything apart from to have their photo taken.
Feet were often used to work with
Whilst waiting for the bus I saw two beautifully coloured surfaces.
But our day’s adventure didn’t stop there. We drove through the dessert, catching a glimpse of one of the most hansom men I’ve ever seen – he was riding a camel – a scene out of my dreams! Then we informed we were lost – how the driver found his way around I often wondered. However, fortunately there were camel carts near by!
We were soon ensconced in the carts which were covered with bright textiles
And off we went into the sun-set! (Unfortunately it was too hazy to have a sun set that evening)
By the time it was dark we had arrived at a small oasis – the crickets were chirruping and the air warm. We were greeted by ladies wearing traditional costume; they presented us with sweet smelling rose garlands and led us to an outdoor arena.
There were two long tables with chairs along one side giving us a view of the stage. Soon the band started to play.
This experience was the best for me – the surprise of the event, the setting, the tasty pakora, the music and the dancing. I made a short recording here of our guide explaining how to play a mouth harp. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
Research for day 3 is here.
Our cases had been taken on the coach the night before (the driver and his helper made the journey by road on their own) so I had just my overnight bags to pack and eat another delicious breakfast. There was a little flurry of excitement as a mouse ran across the dinning room.
At 7 o’clock we were on another coach bound for Delhi train station to catch the Bikenar Intercity.
We arrived at the station in good time and were soon in our allocated seats but we had a shuffle round; I sat on a single seat next to the window.
Some of my companions opened up a map and set about tracking our journey of 278 miles.
Others unpacked the white sheets from the brown paper wrapping, spread them on the suspended bunk beds and took some rest.
During the journey people walked up and down the carriage for a bit of exercise.
Or to chat to fellow members of the group.
Others chatted to those they shared a compartment with,
Then there were the industrious ones who had brought some stitch work with them.
A packed lunch had been provided by the hotel – far too much for me to eat. Shebaka, our male guide collected up all the unwanted food to give to the poor when we alighted from the train. Unfortunately there was only one visit by the chai wallah – R10 for a small paper cup of masala chai.
The whole of life carried on as we were transported through the country. Everyone living cheek by jowl and bathing was done in full view.
And when you’re little and want to go you have to go!
The journey was entrancing – in spite of my reservations about feeling cut off from the world in the AC compartments I felt fully engaged. There was too much to see and listen to for me to want to sleep and before I knew it we arrived in Bikenar. Our driver was there to welcome us.
The Heritage Resort Bikenar had a less international feel to it than the previous hotel we’d stayed at in Delhi. I didn’t have time to explore my surroundings as a visit to see a painter of miniatures was on the agenda.
I admired the artist’s skill but miniatures are not to my taste.
The pigments are stored in highly decorated boxes.
Then mixed with various stabilisers.
One hair from the end of a squirrel’s tail and empty mussel shells are some of the tools used.
It was pitch dark when we emerged and I nearly walked into the wandering cow.
Thank you Swami Art for the demonstration.
My bedroom was decorated with miniature paintings on the wall.
As I walked over to the dining room I heard my first Rajasthani band of musicians but was embarrassed as the father pushed a small boy forward and harshly told him to dance and sing for us as we trooped into the room.
A long fulfilling day.
My research for day 2 is here.
For the first time in years I was woken by my alarm – usually I wake at least half an hour before it’s due to ring – a hearty breakfast then an hour’s coach ride to the market.
The coach parked by a muddle of rickshaws and soon we were being peddled away into the market area.
Narrow lanes filled with shops selling a wonderous array of embellishments; braids, beads, buttons, shiskas, appliques. But there was always room for the delivery bikes.
The guides did an excellent job of keeping track of us, thanks to mobile phones, so we were free to wander as we pleased, thankfully no need to keep up with each other as the whole group.
I splashed out and bought 20 metres of braid, 10 pearl drops and 4 filigree carved bone hearts for R500 – say about £5.00.
No time to have a snack as we soon we were back in the rickshaws to be taken to a local restaurant for lunch.
A delicious masala dosa and salted lime soda for R144. I was still on borrowed funds as I’d had no success withdrawing money from any ATM.
On the bus to the next market we had a ‘show and tell’ of what we’d spent our money on. Of course there was stuff I wished I’d seen and bought but the place was so vast it was impossible to visit every stall.
Our next stop was the government market but I found it soulless. The ethos is that the village people bring their work to sell but I was unsure how much had been produced in factories as there was stall after stall selling similar wares. I wanted to see what would be on offer later in the trip so took the opportunity to have a lime soda in the shade with a couple of my fellow travellers – there were eighteen of us on the trip and it was taking me a while to remember names and where people were from.
Outside the market those who bought goodies showed us the bedspreads, tops, trousers and other items they’d stuffed into their bulging bags.
We were then taken down a subway. I expected the journey back to the hotel would be by metro but the guides had discovered an exhibition of textiles from all over Indian. People rushed by on their way to and from work but it was a delight to study the cases.
On the coach back I had a quick glimpse of a couple of sewing machine shops.
Return to the hotel for more food. I could feel the pounds settling around my stomach but I had no willpower to resist. I borrowed a phone and managed, after a protracted call, to sort out my debit card. In spite of informing my bank I would be away In Rajasthan a block had been put on it. I know it was for my own protection but how come I felt I was in the wrong?
As we had an early start the next day I put in a request for a 5.30 am alarm call. I was woken at 10.30 pm asking if I wanted the call in the morning, thankfully I soon fell back to sleep.
My research for day 1 is here.
I woke about 9 o’clock and had time to assimilate where I was. The excitement of what was to come was enough to overcome any jet-lag I might have had.
The topic of conversation at breakfast was the glass fronted bathroom – this had caused some trouble with those who were sharing as all the facilities were on show!
The view from the bedroom was uninspiring though.
The selection for breakfast was overwhelming – food from every continent so I had a little feast of this and that then at noon we assembled in the foyer and taken to the bus. The first place of visit was a modern shopping mall – not my cup of tea – but I did have a coffee at a western coffee shop along with a humus dip for R241. At this point I had no cash as the ATM had declined my request but one of the ladies in the group kindly lent me some.
Onto the Sanskriti Museum. The first thing that greeted us was the banyan tree, we were invited to guess how old it was only to be disappointed as it’s a young one.
Diwali had just passed but there were still signs of decorations on the ground, a chalk drawing of Ganesha, my favoured deity as he is the remover of obstacles and the patron of learning.
The ceramics were displayed in outside galleries and were centred on the Hindu faith.
This photo of the beautiful Kamadhenu deity was taken by another member of the group. I was too busy gazing around me and forgot to take many photos.
The galleries inside were also a feast for the eyes. Part way through we were offered a cooling drink of lemonade – not to everyone’s taste as it was salted and the rock salt used was sulphurous – an acquired taste but one I grew to like.
A wall decorated in a traditional manner on a couple’s marriage.
I was interested to see the smoke fired pots – a reminder of my daughter’s work.
Once inside the textiles galleries we weren’t allowed to take any photos but I listened in awe to the guide explaining about the huge hangings on display. The stitching was so fine – these days of cheap machine embroidery meant it was difficult for me to comprehend the months such a piece would have taken to make.
After our visit we were offered a welcome cup of masala chai. Initially we were taken into a dining hall but must of us wanted to sit outside.
One of the ladies who was serving us had been to a wedding, her hands still decorated with a mendhi.
A delightful slideshow made by Jamie of Colouricious captures the atmosphere of the museum perfectly.
Back onto the bus for another shopping stop, again a modern shopping mall. I found just what I wanted – a kalidar salwar for R3500, about £35.00
It’s so comfortable to wear I wish I’d bought more but all is not lost as I’ve found the Biba website. I also bought a scarf from Anouka but I prefer the bag to the item.
Back onto the bus and, as usual, we were given fresh bottles of water and hand wipes.
By this time it was growing dark – I had lost all sense of my placement in Delhi as it’s so vast with few distinguishing landmarks. People were living wherever there was a speck of land to spread out their meagre possessions.
The traffic was nose to tale all the time. After an hour or so we were back in the hotel having another delicious feast. A welcome couple of bottles of Kingfisher beer at R250 each accompanied my meal. I carefully removed the label for my physical scrap book.
A few minutes before sleep to read the booklet I’d been given. It outlined the tour in more detail – a godsend for me in order to keep track of the days. Already I felt I’d had a great adventure and this was just the first day!