Monday, 29 November 2010

End of Trip

This wasn't in the script but we are now back in Warwick having returned home 5 days ago. In an incident between our bus and a speed hump Cath suffered a compression fracture of the L1 vertebra. She was successfully operated on in Delhi so now she is recovering from the concussion and soft tissue damage and hopefully will be back to full fitness in a few weeks time. Sorry if we could not let you know personally but I'm sure you understand that we have a lot on our minds at the moment. If we get round to it we will post some pictures of the camels and the fair at Pushkar to round everything off. We hope to return to complete the rest of our trip but who knows when.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Leaving Pushkar

The chaos that is India at its best and worst was evident at the camel fair. Events that had their schedule changed at the last minute, events that ran but you could not watch them because they only used a part of their stadium and men on camel back got closer than the pedestrians and formed an impenetrable barrier BUT it was fun.

Thankfully we left our tented village just as it started to rain and then it poured! Amazingly I am not being seen as the weather gremlin but we left the Thar Desert under flood. The farmers have so little and to see their hay crop getting drenched was very sad.

The views of the fair are on Cath's camera so I'll leave you with some typical fauna of the desert, Blackbuck and Drongo

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Jodhpur and Pushkar

We are now in Pushkar in a tented camp. The tent even has a bathroom with flushing loo and shower !!

We had a great time in Jodhpur...the fort there is magnificent and stands high overlooking the town. It is still run by the descendants of the Maharaja of Jodhpur although they now live in a palace in the town which is part luxury hotel.

Friday, 12 November 2010

A non breeding Pheasant tailed Jacana flying away from the intrepid photographer who failed once again to get close

This White backed Vulture flew into the tree next to our first picnic spot, obviously hopeful that one of the party was not going to make into the next session. On board and as happy as Lawrence as she starts off on the trek, by the end the smile had gone!

Desert Birds

The desert was far scrubbier than we imagined and so the bird watching was easier than I expected. Stopped at the first waterhole to be met with the trilling of Little Grebes! and then later at the camp with the familiar 'gronk' of Ravens. Had I travelled abroad I hear you ask, well in the scrub were loads of White cheeked Bulbuls and Common Babblers and the grassier areas had Short Toed Larks and Tawny Pipits. The stars were the Chestnut bellied Sandgrouse which we flushed in groups at many places, too high to photograph but their bubbling calls were lovely.
The camel riding was great, the last session trotting towards the Fort was especially rewarding. It must have looked magnificent and a welcome site to the caravans of the past.

Camel safari

We are back in Jaisalmer after our trip into the desert. Unbelievably it rained as we set up camp...we just managed to eat supper before retiring to our tents so no sitting around the campfire under the stars !
Also the tents are not geared up for heavy rain, understandably, so they leaked and we spent the night on damp mattresses with damp duvet cover !
Fortunately it was a warm night so we did manage a reasonable sleep and British and Canadian grit won through.
One of the chaps had had hailstorms in the desert in Wadi Rum so we blamed him for the jinx !
It was rocky scrub desert and there are a lot of windfarms here now paid for by business men with a reward from the govt. over the next 25 yrs.
Jaisalmer must be the only town in India that has benefitted from the two wars with Pakistan as it is the last frontier settlement and previously were quite isolated but now have a huge military base and the bonuses that it brings to the community with jobs,electricity and other services.
After two days on the camels we now all walk like John Wayne and are really looking forward to the bus again tomorrow (not)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Cath at the Rat temple,Deshnok.

carving on pillar in Jain temple Bikaner

detail of painted outside wall of Haveli

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Mandawa and Bikaner

I (cath) am now recovered from a 24hr blip spent mostly asleep.

we arrived in the Shekhawati region of eastern Rajasthan after the usual bumpy ride in the bus...we are learning to adopt the brace position especially if sitting at the back !!

This region became rich on the back of the Silk Route trade in opium and Mandawa has many painted havelis (merchant's house) now in a state of neglect. The owners now live in Kolkata or Mumbai making their money in other business. The houses are amazing ...painted all over inside and out with scenes from Hindu stotries or from the lives of the merchants and their families, beautiful miniature friezes. Most were at their peak in the late 19th century.
The next day we visited Nawalgarh with more examples of the same. The locals are trying to keep the buildings going but wish the owners would send some money back to maintain them before they are beyond restoration. A few have been turned into hotels as tourism is becoming more prevalent in this area.
we then drove to Bikaner, an old trading centre situated on the camelcaraven route between Africa and West Asia with great bazaars etc. The town now makes its wealth from the wool trade and some tourism.
We visited the Junagarh fort, built in 1571 of red sandstone with various palaces added on over the years up to the early 20th century. The rooms inside the fort are beautifully painted and with mirrored walls and gold leaf ceilings for the Maharajahs accomodation.
we then visited a Jain temple and then some of the more adventurous of us visited the Karni Mata temple which must be the craziest place we have been to. Otherwise known as the Rat temple for reasons evident as soon as you pass the threshold....the little creatures are scampering all over the place !! Apparently the locals believe when someone dies they come back as a rat at te temple so they go in and feed them ! It was a bit disconcerting to start with but they were nice little rats and more interested in getting to the piles of food and having a scrap with each other than bothering the people. It was just so mad ...full of families on a day out as if it was quite normal. I think we are begining to fall in with the craziness as we now no longer worry about the animals on the streets and just walk around them...this now includes camels. It all seems to work and no-one gets road rage!!
We are now in Jaisalmer after a long drive through the semi-arid landscape. We have been for a lovely evening thali on a rooftop on the fort walls. It is lovely here full of little alleyways and shops. We are to do a tour of the fort area tomorrow and then on to the camel safari for two days into the Thar desert the day after.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Detail of Ganesh and the coutyard from the palace, followed by the entrance hall of the hotel and one cheest shot from the Taj


It was bound to happen eventually and Cath is laid low with the Delly Belly and I am just getting over it(touch wood). So we missed the delights of this chaotic and fascinating city. I'm sitting on the roof terrrace of the hotel watching and hearing the maddest firework extravaganza you are likely to witness as each area of the city tries to outdo each other with the loudest and brightest. We will probably come back to Jaipur at the end to see what the rest of the group was stunning if we can get it organised.
So I will shift back to Karauli, a town very few will have heard about.Talking about stepping back in time, the hotel was the old residence of the Marahajah and it was complete with a 1930s Buick, stuffed animals and amazing pictures and furniture of the age. He had to leave his palace in 1947 due to Government decree so he downsized to the building which is now the hotel, he has now downsized even further but don't worry he is still famously rich. The palace, which we visited in the afternoon' was just fabulous and hopefully the photos will do it justice when I download them

The Sarus Crane and a Swamp Deer

Thursday, 4 November 2010


We've been struggling with getting access to the internet so we are way behind with the news and photos. The connection today is so slow that again no pictures, but those of you who have been to India will not be too surprised. We are now in Jaipur the largest and most important city in Rajastan and it is chaos it makes Delhi look well organised. Thankfully the hotel is a haven of serenity and the kid's kites are competing for air space with their bird namesakes.
Talking of birds we spent a wonderful afternoon at Bharatpur; birdwatching by cycle rickshaw with a 60 year old Sikh guide was excellent, perhaps the RSPB could copy the scheme for Minsmere! It was a bit early for most of the northern migrants to have got this far south, except for a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, but the resident Painted and Open Billed Storks, Herons, Anhingas and owls made up for their lack. The stars of the show were the mammmals, Jackals, Swamp Deer and Blue Bull Antelope alongside the Peacocks and a stunning Sarus Crane. Movement around the reserve on foot has been restricted since a Tiger took up residence a month ago, nevertheless it was such a relief to hear birdsong rather than car horns!