|Mumbai-Dehli in three months |
Wednesday 3 1 2007; Netherlands - India
It is ten o'clock in the morning and we are about to leave for our 90 days trip to India. We are Jan and Wies from the Netherlands born in 1943 and it is our third trip to India. In 1982 we went with our children for three weeks and in 2005 the two of us were there for 6 weeks.
We fly to Mumbai and rent a car at the airport to Pune, we have train tickets for Bijapur. From there our plan is to go by Hampi and Tirupati to Visakhapatnam. We have booked a tour through Orissa which starts there and ends in Bhubaneswar. Next we go to the other side of the country until we reach Jodhpur and then to Delhi from where we fly back to home.
From the north of the Netherlands we go by train to Amsterdam and fly with BA to London and further on to Mumbai.
Thursday 4 1; Mumbai - Pune
With a little delay we arrive in Mumbai after a quiet flight, it is about noon as we pass the custom. In 1982 we also arrived at this airport and of course it is totally changed. During that trip we have seen enough of Mumbai so now we go directly to Pune. We know there is a good bus connection but to avoid all problems we have decided to rent a car at the airport. We find this services on the airport and they have fixed prizes. Wies starts to negotiate and gets a 500 rs. discount, so the price becomes 3300 rs.
We go at once and after s short ride through the outskirts we leave Mumbai. There is a real high-way to Pune and after a stop for chai and the first of an innumerable number of water bottles, we arrive there about 5 o'clock. We go to Homeland, on their internet-side it looks as a nice hotel but it is disappointing. Since we are tired after a trip of 26 hours we don't want to look further and stay their for the night, it costs 900 rs.
near the station
We walk around in the neighbourhood and go to a restaurant for dinner. They don't have a beer-permit so we buy some bottles in a shop and drink it in our room. This will become a nearly daily routine.
Friday 5 - 1; Pune.
In the hotel hot water is only available until nine so we have to wake up in time. Then we go looking for another hotel. After a few minutes we find National where they have a three person cottage for 625 rs. It is very basic but we can sit in the garden and that is a wonderful idea. So we go back, check out and walk to our new shelter.
The railway station is nearby and there is also an Internet connection. The tickets for the first trips we have bought at home and here I buy the train-guide. We are still tired, look around a little and stay with a book and plenty of water in the garden.
When we are going out for diner I'm not hungry an when the meal arrives I get sick and can leave the restaurant just in time. I walk back to the hotel and afterwards as Wies has finished her meal I have already gone to bed.
Saturday 6 1; Pune
After a bad night I feel better but sleep a lot during the day, the rest of the time we sit in the garden. We have bought a sandwich bread and jam and while we make our own coffee it is just like a picknick.
To-morrow we will really start with our trip, the first destination is Bijapur. Since we want to travel by daylight and don't want to start early we have split this journey in two legs and stay one night in Solapur.
Sunday 7 1; Pune - Solapur
We have all the time since our train leaves about noon. The station is nearby so we can walk to it with our two back-packs, a day-pack and a flight bag. Everyone at the station is very helpful and so we are soon at the spot where our sleeper-class wagon must stop. The hotel-manager comes after us because I have taken the key with me.
The train is just a little late and together with us a school class we go on board. We have our own seats but the boys sit around us with two or three in one seat. And just as on a school trip at home they start with eating and offer us food to.
They hardly speak English but after they have found their English teacher he can act as an interpreter and we can talk together, they go for four days to Mysore and Ooty.
In the corridor it is busy with vendors of fruit, chai and water, there are also beggars and some of them perform a trick before they ask for money.
At four we arrive in Solapur and for 1200 rs we get a suite at hotel Pastham. We walk around a little and have a nice diner in the garden.
Monday 8 1; Solapur - Bijapur
This night Wies gets the Delhi belly but fortunately she is able to travel on and at 8.30 we are at the station. The train has more than a hour delay and is somewhat older than yesterday. But we have plenty of room with just an Indian couple with us, she is constant sleeping, he doesn't say a word. There are just a few vendors and a boy who is earning money by sweeping the train. The land around us becomes dryer and dryer, in the wells you can see how low the soil water is.
The train speeds up and by noon we are in Bijapur where we take a rickshaw to hotel Samnat. For 350 rs we have a fair room and stay just opposite the Gol Gumbaz.
In the afternoon we make a walk in the neighbourhood around the hotel. The schools are finished and we have a lot of children walking with us asking what's your name, where are you from without waiting for an answer.
Before the Gol Gumbaz
We have dinner on the roof terrace of our hotel, it is so dark that we need to go a lamp to read the menu. It is cheerless and the food is not very tasteful but that is also due to our condition.
Tuesday 9 1; Bijapur
I have slept well and I'm healthy again but Wies is still tired. The breakfast in the restuarant consists of idli's and wadi's not our favourites, I take some and Wies drinks only coffee. Fortunately we have still some bread and jam and eat that in our room.
I take a rickshaw and go to the city, it is very lively and there are no foreign tourists. As a result there are no touts so you can wander around quietly. I go the markets and climb a few fortresses with big cannons, by noon it is getting hot and I go back to the hotel.
It is situated on the main road. From our room we have a view on a smaller road, the people there are busy by manufacturing brooms from palm-leaves.
Wies still does not want to go out and so when it cools down I go for a walk to the station and in the streets around the hotel. There is nothing special to see but I love to see how the people live here. The schools are finished and all the kids ask me for my name, it is the only English sentence they know.
For our dinner we go to a hotel , a few minutes walking down the road, here we can eat in the garden.
Wednesday 10 1; Bijapur
After a good night sleep we leave our laundry at the hotel-desk and walk again to the next hotel for our breakfast because there they have toast with jam.
Then we go across the street to the Gol Gumbar, an enormous mausoleum. As foreigners we have to register with our name, address etc. Through one of the towers you can climb to a gallery at 33 meter hight. It is a narrow stairs with high steps. Halfway I go back and Wies hasn't even tried it.
Next we take a rickshaw to the market, we wander around, everyone is friendly and asks from which country we are. From a merchant I get some peanuts.
By nightfall we go again to the market area. It is nice but not as colourful as we expected.
We eat on the terrace of our own hotel. In the dark a bus stops by the now closed Gol Gumbar. Everyone comes out and looks through the gate, many are peeing against the wall around the monument.
Thursday 11 1; Bijapur
This morning we make a city tour with a horse and carriage for 250 rs. It is a bumpy ride along the many impressive monuments of the sultan period but a wonderful way to explore the city.
To-morrow we leave for Badami and we go to the tourist-offices to find out which is the best way to get there. There is an early bus but that can be very crowded so the easiest way is to hire a car. The taxi-stand is opposite the office and Wies negotiates with a group of ten drivers and after some arguing she reaches a fair price of 1200 rs.
After a walk through another part of the city we return to our hotel. We diner again in the hotel garden. In a store we buy some beer and drink it as usual on our room.
Friday 12 - 1; Bijapur - Badami
The driver is early, he needs money to buy fuel. In the meantime we have breakfast and by ten we are leaving for Badami.
The roads are in good condition and there is not much traffic. In the beginning the surroundings are barren but later on there is a big artificial lake so there is much agriculture. After a cup of chai in one of the villages we are passing it is one o'clock when we arrive in Badmi. It is a little difficult to find the hotel of KTDC, and then there is no room available, but after some talking with the manager we can get one with a defect shower.
During the lunch a group of about fifty children arrive. They are very disciplined and in half an hour they have finished their meal and cleaned the dishes. Then they have time to make contact with us, it is difficult because no one speaks English. Afterwards the cook asks us if the meal was good, it was all-right, and by him we arrange a car for to-morrow so we can make a trip to Aihole and Pattaddakal.
When there is a power-cut we leave the hotel and go to the town. Badami is a small place build against a rock-face with a main street, a few side roads and a small centre.
Before the caves
It is a busy but nice town. Our hotel is at the end of the city and from there you can easily walk on the country-side which I do, alongside the road there are farms and the people are doing their daily routines. By six o'clock it is dark and by a candle-light we drink our evening beer.
Saturday 13 1; Badami
We have to pay separate for the breakfast and since the waiter has no change we get a free bottle of water.
We leave at eight, the car before the hotel is not ours but the driver brings us to to taxi-stand. There waits our driver, a nice man with an old Ambassador. We go by small roads through the country side and little villages. The trip on its own is very lovely, it is a green fertile environment. After an hour we arrive at Aihole. The remainings of the old seventh century capital are scattered al over the village.
There are so many of them that some of the ruins are used by the locals as a living. The important temple groups have a fence around them and for the biggest one you have to pay for the visit. It is early and there are few visitors.
The next stop is Pattadakal an enormous temple complex, a young man makes drawings from the statues and Wies gets one from him.
The last visit is to the temple of Mahakoota, to be honest we have seen enough for one day so we don't stay to long there.
One o'clock we are back and in the afternoon I go to the caves of Badami. In contrast with the places we visited this morning it is very crowded with many buses with tourists and I restrict myself to looking to the crowds. Around the nearby lake it is more quiet.
Our plan is to leave here on Monday to go to Hampi. Since we are not sure if we will like it to stay in the small guest houses in the village we have decided to take a hotel in Kamalapur. The manager of our hotels has phoned them but the KTDC hotel there is full and so we stay another day in Badami.
At evening we go to the town for dinner and end up in a busy restaurant where they have a separate room for women and white tourists. The waiters are surprised that we don't want to eat in there. In the other dining room there are only men, and everyone is looking at us. It is noisy and you can notice that they sell liquor here but we have a fine dinner.
Sunday 14 1; Badimi
This morning we transfer to a room with a working shower, in the first one we had to wash ourselves with a bucket above the Indian style toilet. After we have installed ourselves we walk to the town for some e-mailing. Then we go the lake and sit there just looking at the people. Many women are washing the clothes and children are bathing together with their dogs. There are water-bikes to hire but no one uses them.
Against the hills that surround the lake are statues of people and scenes in the different stages of the evolution of mankind, they are nice and so realistic that later on our video it looks like you see living people. We start to walk around the lake but halfway there is a rocky part so we go back to the centre of Badami. There we have the lunch and go to the hotel for a lazy afternoon.
Monday 15 1; Badami
I'm awake early and go to the cave temples. It is quiet on the street before the hotel and people are sleeping near their shops. In the centre the water from the lake is flushing through the open drains and everyone use it for cleaning and fills buckets with water.
By the caves there are a few visitors. There is a sign warning against the monkeys and that is necessary. Two men leave their shoes before entering a temple, a monkey takes one of the shoes and sits with it on a nearby rock. The man looks for his shoe, discovers it and goes to the animal. You can see at his gestures that he politely asks the monkey for his shoe, he even makes a bow, but no luck. Some times later the shoe is thrown to a group of scholars.
On the outside of the temples there are all kind of statues, on the inside there is not so much to see but from the terraces you have a fantastic view over the city and its surroundings.
After a late breakfast we go to the market together. We always thought that the farmers are selling their own products there but here we watch that wholesalers sell the vegetables to the market vendors. Porters carry huge sacks of onions and other products. They empty them partly so the market women can inspect the contents. The woman start to bid and there is a market master who records the transactions. If the wholesaler has sold all his merchandise the whole group goes to the next one, except the women who succeeded to buy. They hire other porters to carry away the sacks which are as big as these men.
It is warm, about 30Ί C. and in a stall we buy a cup of chai and some snacks. Then we walk further on through the back-streets of this lovely village. A young family asks if we want to take a picture if their baby, we get their address so we can send it to them after our trip.
For the lunch we go to a busy family restaurant. A little girl is peeing between the tables, her family is so busy that they don't notice it.
By two o'clock we are back in the hotel, by nightfall the driver for tomorrow shows up and we agree a price of 5 rs. for a km, so the trip will cost us 1600 rs.
Tuesday 16 -1; Badami Hampi (Kamalapur)
It is nine o'clock when we leave. At first he roads are small but later on we take the bigger roads, they are in good condition. Everywhere around us are big rocks, so to see the remainders of old mountains. By the restaurant where we stop for a chai is a nursery for tomatoes and peppers, they are protected by foils against the dust. The last part of the trip we drive on the busy road to Bangalore and arrive so in Hospet. From there it is not far and about one o'clock we arrive in Kamalapur.
For those who are not familiar with this place a short explanation. The reason people come here are the ruins of Vijayanagara. Hampi is a small village with many guest houses that is situated in the centre of it and Kamalapur lies next to the site. After a walk of ten minutes you reach the first ruins.
Apart from the KTDC hotel there is not much to do here. The first night we have a 1200 rs. AC room, later we will move to another room. Our room is good, the dining room is cheerless, but the waiters are nice.
Wednesday 17 - 1; Hampi
We leave our luggage at the desk so they can transfer it to the new room and of course at first nobody knows anything about this arrangement.
Then we go the village and rent two bikes for 5 rs. an hour. The one that I get is reasonable but Wies has one with big bolts and nuts to fix the saddle. It is difficult to ride on them and the terrain is hilly so when it climbs we often have to walk.
From the main-road we turn off into the first country-road and soon we are in the middle of the impressive remainders, the whole scenery is overwhelming. But our path disappears after a while and so we have to walk and arrive after a while in the middle of a banana plantation. As we leave it we are at the back of the elephant stables and want to take a rest under a tree. Alas this is a part off one of the sites for which you have to pay an entry-fee. We are here illegal and a guard sends us away. He walks after us until we are outside the gate. Since we already had decided to visit this places in a more comfortable way, we go further on our bikes.
We visit many but not all off the ruins and after a while we are back on the main road. From there we go in the direction of Hampi but the entrance road to the village is to steep for us and the bikes so we drive back and at one o'clock the trip is over. Wies her bottom hurts from the big screws in the saddle.
The luggage is in our new room. The hotel consists of apartments which each consists off two rooms and in front of it you can sit. And that's what we do for the rest of the day apart from some shopping for beer and water.
Thursday 18 - 1; Hampi
We have decided to leave from here on Sunday, the next stop will be Tirupati and we have to buy train-tickets. Since we also need cash we take the bus and go to Hospet. The bus stand is a few minutes away from the hotel and the bus arrives soon. At first there are not many passengers but that alters soon, the guard whistles when the driver must stop and when he can start again. Then he sells the tickets, for us that is 14 rs each.
At the train station we find the reservation desk and buy the tickets. Since we take an overnight-train we want to travel 2-AC, with our old-age discount we pay about 1000 rs. We are number 3 / 4 on the waiting list so we are not sure if we can leave.
We wander through the city, it is untidy and not very attractive. After the lunch with a delightful dhosa we go back to to bus station. It is half past two and this time there are not many passengers.
It is sugar cane harvest time and on the road there all kind of trucks and ox wagons overfilled with cane this because there is a sugar factory nearby. On a rail-road crossing this causes a traffic jam but after a while our bus can go further.
Friday 19 - 1; Hampi
Today we go for an extended visit to the remainders of Vijayanagara and hire a rickshaw. After a negotiation with a good English speaking driver we agree to pay 400 rs. for the whole day. It is a pity but it turns out that he is not our driver, he made this agreement for the driver witch is in front of the row and our new man speaks hardly a word English.
The first place we visit is the Vitalla temple, to go inside there is fee of 500 rs. This ticket is also valid for the Lotus Mahal, for the rest it is a free visit.
This is a wonderful temple complex which lays somewhat apart from the other monuments, after we have looked at it we drive back and go to the terrain that we visited earlier on out bike.
What you see is impossible to describe everywhere are remainders of palaces and temples in a barren and rough landscape. It is unrealistic with hills and large boulders which look if they could tumble down at any time. There are smaller hills of stones in which we recognizes the remainings of sculptures. This is one of those places you never forget.
We drive from monument to monument leave the rickshaw visit the place and go further. After some hours we arrive in Hampi, the rickshaw has to stay on the parking place outside the village.
The driver goes with us and guides us to the big Virupaksha temple we stay a while on the inner-court. We don't go inside, it is two o'clock and we want to lunch. I guess the driver is afraid that we will disappear without paying and he stays close to us. As we promise to be on the parking place at half past three he goes away reluctantly.
There are a lot of restaurant and we go to one with a rooftop. It is a nice place to sit, the preparation of our food takes some time but it is very tasteful.
After this long lunch we do have less then an hour to wander around and that is to short. As we walk to the car the driver is waiting on the street.
At four we are back in the hotel, there we meet some quit old archaeologist from Gujarat. This is their first visit and I wonder how they cope with the rough terrain.
Saturday 20 - 1; Hampi
Since we had so little time in Hampi yesterday we are going back to-day. At half past nine we are at the bus stop. Many buses are passing by but we have to wait an hour for one that goes to Hampi.
On the way to the river-crossing, our first goal, we are passing a shop where they sell rings. Wies is looking for a snake-ring since a long time and here they have them. The one she likes is 800 rs. but as first customer etc. she gets it at last for 500.
I want to cross the river with a cornacle but they are replaced by a motor ship, that is the modern improvement, so we skip the ferry. We wander around the small streets, drink a chai and walk along the large main road to the end of the village. I climb to steps and go further over a rocky path and then below me lays a big temple.
Together we go to the river another majestic place. Here we find the cornacles, now you can hire one for a trip up and down the river, we don't do it and keep walking.
In the Mango tree restaurant we take the lunch, it is a fantastic place to sit and relax and afterwards we take the bus again and go back.
Sunday 21 1; Kamalapur Hospet
Our train leaves at 22.00 hour so we have a lot of spare time today. We take a long breakfast in the garden of the hotel, pay the bill and order a rickshaw which brings us to the station. There we put our luggage in the cloak room. On the IRTC internet site we have seen that we are now on top of the waiting list. We go to the reservation office and ask them if they know more but there is no new information, they tell us to come back at two.
So again we walk around in Hospet, visit the market, have a lunch and as we are back on the station the reservation counter is closed because it is Sunday.
On the station the ticket collector assures us that it will be all-right but that he knows it for sure by nine o'clock. We stay some time on the platform, there are many people with a lot of luggage and it is amazing how everyone gets into the train, of course the second class is overcrowded.
After a while we are going back to the city and stay a while at the bus station. On the roof off one the buses, apart from the standard luggage, they load some bikes, an car for a disabled person and a lot of passengers. The bus is apparently so over-crowded that some of the passengers leave it.
We have dinner and return to the station. Happily our tickets are confirmed. There is a German teacher who takes the same train and he and Wies go regular outside the station to smoke a cigarette. Half past ten the train arrives, we get our bedding-rolls, talk a while with our fellow-passengers and then we try to sleep on our lower berths.
Monday 22 1; Hospet - Tirupati
Our companions wake up at three and and leave an hour later so we don't sleep very much. At seven it is light outside and we can get a cup of chai. The breakfast consists of wadi's and idli's wrapped in a banana leaf.
At nine we arrive in Tirupati and walk to hotel Bhimas which is close to the station. The clean room has a reasonable size, is situated at a dark corridor and and we cannot see anything from the window but what else can one expect for 325 rs. We always drink black coffee but they don't have it, that is our biggest problem.
Tirupati itself is an ordinary India town but crowded with pilgrims on their way to Tirumala. At the station there is an office from the APTDC. Of course it is lunchtime when we arrive there but at three it is open and we book a bus trip for tomorrow For 300 rs. each we shall visit five temples around Tirupati but not the one in Tirumala. While we are at the station we also purchase train-tickets to Nellore for Friday.
We have a fantastic diner in a small restaurant opposite the station. For beer you have to go to special wine shops where they sell all kinds of liquor.
Tuesday 23 1; Tirupati
Since they don't have toast for breakfast we bought bread and jam yesterday. As for the coffee, for situations like this we have our own powder coffee and a water-boiler with us. But bad luck, the plug does not fit so no coffee, just water.
At half pas eight we go to the APTDC office and together with a Nepalese couple they put us in a rickshaw which brings us to a travel-agency at the other end of the town. The bus arrives and we leave with a group of about twenty persons. We are the only westerners and the nice guide takes ample time to explain everything to us. For most of the temples we have to pay some extra so we don't have to wait in the long queues.
The first temple we visit is the Kapliewara in the outskirts of the town. We leave our shoes in the bus, that saves time and money but our feet are burning after the walk on the hot asphalt. There is a large crowd of pilgrims, they have to wait between fences while we are directly guided to the sanctuaries. Everywhere there is music and there is much light in this temple. In one of the buildings that we pass the priests are counting large stocks of money, it may be disrespectful but it reminds me of Dagobert Duck. The idols of the gods are deep in the temple covered with flowers and everywhere are fires. The priests perform the rituals in a fast way and we are just looking, more or less overwhelmed. On the way out everyone gets some rice, it don't like the taste of it.
Next we drive to the temple in Kanipakam, I want to be smart and keep my socks on. But alas you must enter here through a water basin so now my socks are wet. In total we visit five temples and although we write down our impressions as soon as we are back in the hotel even then the details were not clear to us.
We drive through a very varying scenery from one place to another. For us this is also a part of the trip, while our fellow-travellers are sleeping. On a restaurant with a terrace alongside the road we stop for the lunch and then we go on, the most remote temple is 70 km from Tirupati.
The last temple that we visit is at Srikalahasti and for me the most impressive one. We walk through narrow corridors and that gives the impression that we walk in a cave. I can imagine that in the old days this is the way the temples of Hampi looked like. In this temple they worship various goddess and for everyone there are different ceremonies. On the fore-court the temple elephant gives his blessings, here we are allowed to film.
At six we are back in the town, tired but with a head full of impressions. Groups of pilgrims walk singing through the streets.
We have diner, take a beer and go to sleep early.
Wednesday 24 1; Tirupati
Today we don't have any special plans and take our time. About eleven we go an internet-cafι opposite the station. It is at the back off a small shop and and a girl of about ten years old turns the computers on. There are no letters left on the keyboard but happily Wies can type blindly. It is a very slow connection so I cannot go to the IRTC-railway site.
Afterwards we wander through the city and do some shopping in a super-market. Tomorrow we go to Tirumula, the men at the APTDC office tells us that the buses leave before the station, of course you can walk up the hill but we are not that fanatic.
The best thing of the day is that we find a restaurant where they serve black coffee. Tonight we have dinner in another large restaurant where the rats walk along the wall but no one pays any attention to this. While we walk back the personnel of the wine-shops wave as if we are old friends. The same applies for the people of the restaurant that we visited yesterday. It is logical that everyone recognise us since we have not seen any other westerner these days.
Thursday 25 1; Tirupati - Tirumula
We have discovered that by day-time mice are using our bed, in the evening they sit behind the window fence and by night we just hear them squeaking.
Today we go to Tirumula by bus, the ticket counter is next to the station and the bus stands opposite the road and leaves as we take the last seats. After a ride through the town we stop on a enormous parking-place and there again is a ticket-seller and a security-officer. He examines our day-pack but we don't have any contraband. Then we drive for half an hour up hill on a winding road and it is a good thing that this is a one-way road. Our bus is not that fast and is continuously overtaken by other vehicles. As so often the views are wonderful. Our bus stops in a neighbourhood of hostels and as everyone leaves we follow the crowd but they disappear in taxis and we are left behind.
We hear the sound of music, walk towards it and soon we arrive at the shops and market around the temple. Of course they sell many caps for the protection of the clean shaven heads.
By the stairs we walk down to the terrain around the temple, it is crowded and there is the constant sound of holy hymns. Big canvasses are erected under which people are sitting, praying or sleeping. The temple elephants are coming followed by a deity on a throne surrounded by priests. It all stands on a platform carried by a large number of men. Professional crews are making pictures and we shoot them, bystanders tell us that we have luck because today this is a special ceremonial day.
Around the temple is a wide path with steps which we use as a stand and sit down on it. Before us there is a constant procession of groups of pilgrims. Each group has his own singers, musicians and flags, it feels as if we are part of a fairy-tale. We sit and walk there for some hours and enjoy everything we see. In the afternoon the deity is carried again around the temple.
The rows for the darshan is extremely long and we have no need to join them. It is incredible how quit the people are waiting behind the fences.
Later when we go back, by a road with many hairpins, we see the pilgrims footpath, it is nearly empty now.
When we started our India trip we had a general idea of the route but for the Orissa part we made an arrangement with a travel agent and therefore we must be in Visakhapatnam on the fifth of February. For safety we bought e-tickets for different days to reach this city. Now, since our plans are more concrete, I want to cancel the superfluous tickets. Finding an internet-cafι is harder then the cancellation itself.
Friday 26 1; Tirupati Nellore
At nine we walk to the station, we have plenty of time and I use it to buy the tickets for our next journey to Vijayawada on Monday. Since our train starts from here we can get aboard soon. We have the side-berths, the other places are occupied by a family that has been on pilgrimage. In no time all of them are asleep.
The train leaves in time and after a nice ride of a few hours we arrive at half past one in Nellore.
Our plan is to take a somewhat luxury hotel, but these are all booked up and we end up in a similar den as we had the previous nights. A bonus is that here is a laundry services.
We have two reasons for a stay in Nellore. We want to go to the beach and there is a pelican sanctuary in the neighbourhood. The latter is a ride of more then 90 km, we find that to far away and skip it. The hotel-staff tells us there is a bus to the beach Maipadu and the station is direct behind the hotel.
There on the information-office no one speaks English but a couple of boys tell us that we have to go to another bus station. We don't understand in which direction we have to go and they write a note in Teluga for us. As we walk further some good English speaking students start to talk with us. After some chatting we tell them our problem and they bring us to the bus station, a sandy ground behind a fruit-market. After a while we say goodbye to our guides, look around in the city and then walk back to the hotel. There is a power cut and the rooms are so dark that we have to sit in the hall if we want to read something. Another bad thing is that we cannot find a beer shop. All these things together make that we decide to leave on Sunday and I go to station and change the tickets.
For diner we take a rickshaw to Mayuri restaurant and enjoy a good meal. As we walk back we encounter a market with a fun fair. It is nice to go to it, there are all kind of attractions, much music and we are more or less the top event. Especially Wies when she takes a large candy floss.
Saturday 27 1; Nellore
There are no sheets on the bed so we have to sleep under our own fleece blankets. Also there is no breakfast so we are self supporting once again. At nine we go to market and then to the bus station. There is no information desk, and we ask the bus drivers, which now and then arrive, if they are going to Maipadu, but no one goes in that direction. Together with other passengers we sit sociable under a roof of palm leaves, wait and exchange sweets. A fair English speaking man sits next to us, and he takes over our enquiries. We get the impression that he also goes to Maipadu. Father David, as he introduces himself, is connected with the Anglican church. After nearly two hours waiting and asking everyone the general conclusion is that something has changed and that we have to go to yet another bus stop.
Together with father David we go there and as we don't see the bus immediate we take for 130 rs a rickshaw. In the meantime we understand that the father helps us just out of kindness. The rickshaw is quite large so the three of us sit in the back together. On the way the driver sees two young woman with a baby and he takes them also in the car. When he wants to take yet more people Wies yells 'no' and he obeys.
It is a nice ride through a landscape with many fish-pounds, coconut trees, rice and banana fields. At the beach we say goodbye to father David and thank him for his aid.
For us it is strange that there are no dunes between the land and the sea. The latter is just a few metres below the inner land. And also odd is that there are no seagulls, just a few crows. A row of new fisher boats lays on the beach, by the inscriptions it is clear that they are donated after the tsunami. The remainders of the old vessels are also still there.
It is a nice quite beach, we walk along the waterline and sit in the sand. A few people are taking a bath in the sea. A fisherman is working with a big net, he has some fishes and buries them in the sand. Then he takes the net with him and swims far into the see for his next attempt. It is quite relaxing to spend here some hours.
There is a small stall where we buy something to drink and in the afternoon we take a rickshaw and go back. It is good that we missed the bus because that stops in the village which is a few kilometres from the beach.
Back in the hotel the lady next door comes to our room and offers us some fruit. She keeps talking but knows just a few English words. Later on her daughter, who speaks very good English, and her husband arrive and we go to their room. More people arrive and since there are only two chairs they sit on the bed. About nine o'clock we go to our own room.
Sunday 28 1; Nellore Vijayawada
Our trains starts at half past twelve so we have all the time of the world. As we arrive at the station the first thing we hear is that the train has a delay of four hours. There are other trains to Vijayawada but then we have to take the unreserved class and that is so overcrowded that we decide to wait. They regular announce that the railway company is very sorrow that our super-fast train is delayed. At last it arrives at six, more than 5½ late. Although there is always much to see at the stations this is just too long to be nice.
Since we could not get a proper meal at the station we are glad that we can have dinner in the train, for 35 rs we get rice, two gravies and some chappati's, it is not really tasteful. What still shocks us that everyone throws the foil packing out the window and finds that normal. We do the same but feel uncomfortable with it.
At ten o'clock we are in Vijayawada, the better hotels don't have any vacancies and we end in a lodge for 400 rs. This time there are no windows, no chairs and no hot water but there is a beer-shop next door.
Monday 29 1; Vijayawada
For our breakfast we we go to one of the more costly hotels in the neighbourhood. That one has still not a room for us but in the nearby Manorama we can get a room of 1200 rs on the 7tth floor. It is a luxe suite with large windows and a view over the city.
I sleep a lot because I don't feel so well, it's a mild attack of the Delhi Belly. In the afternoon we walk to a part of the city where there are a lot of shops with luxe, modern articles.
Tuesday 30 1; Vijayawada
Annex to the hotel is a travel agency and we ask there for some information of places we can visit in Vijayawada but there is nobody who speaks English. With the help of the receptionist of the hotel we discover how we can make it to Bhavani Island.
We take a rickshaw to the jetty and for 40 rs. we cross the lake. I have read somewhere that the island is a nice place to relax with a boating-club and the opportunity to walk around. But in reality there is a restaurant by the landing-stage and some apartments with paths around it. The rest of the island is blocked with bramble-bush. Further there is place where you can buy chips and lemonade and climbing-ropes for the younger ones. We sit a while and look at all the vessels that pass.
Back on the main land we go to the APTDC tourist office at the station but this is closed since it is a holiday.
Wednesday 31 1; Vijayawada
Today we want to go to Kondapalli, a village where the inhabitants make wooden toys. This time there is an English speaking man in the travel agency and we arrange a car for 500 rs and also one for tomorrow when we want to go around to the Undavalli Caves and Ameravati, that costs 900 rs.
Soon our driver arrives, he doesn't speak a word English and gets his instructions from the travel-agent. First we drive on a quit motor-highway but then we turn off into the hilly country. These hills may not be that high but the road goes steep up and is in a bad condition. After half an hour we find ourselves amazed at the feet of a huge fort. Lucky enough there is someone who speaks English and explains us that this is the fort of Kondapalli and that later on we will go to the village, it is all part of the package.
In the fort is also a museum with pictures and drawings of all the forts in Andra Pradesh. Further you can walk around in the remainders of this extended, 600 years old, fort. Beneath us we see the village
We go back over the same road, drive around the hills and in the village we take a sandy road and at the end we see the fort above us. Here are the shops where they sell the toys. Around it are the men busy making the toys and deities. Wies asks a shop owner how they make them and we get a detailed explanation. Everyone has his own task, from cutting the rough parts to assembling the puppets while other men paint them. Of course we buy something and take all the time to look around.
In Vijayawada we let us drop at the Kaleshwara Rao market in an older part of the city. This is a more friendly and cosy part then the more modern neighbourhood of our hotel.
Back in the hotel the travel agent comes with the bill, it is more than the 500 rs that we agreed before because we made more kilometres. Since we did not make any agreements about that we refuse to pay the extra and he accepts it. We also tell him that for tomorrow we insist on an English speaking driver.
Thursday 1 2; Vijayawada
At ten we go to travel-agency. The agent suggests some more places, besides those we select. We accept his suggestions and will see where we are going. The driver, who indeed speaks very good English. arrives and after we have paid for the petrol he goes to the Kanakadurga temple at the edge of the city.
Our minds are still full of all the temples we have seen in the last weeks so we decide not to go inside and just walk around. One of the temple guards sees us and we have hardly a choice, he takes us to the entrance for the special darshan and insists that we go inside. It is an electronic wired gate and makes all kinds of alarms since we have our day-pack with the camera and so on our back but we can go in. We follow our own path along the waiting queues and in no time we stand in front of deity and the priests with their ceremonies. In this temple there are more deities that you can worship but we skip that and go outside. Our driver does not believe that we were inside being back so quickly.
Over the Prakasam barrage our journey brings us to the Mogalarajpuram cave, first through the small village and then up the hill. It is a small temple and for the main cave stands a row of pilgrims but we climb the stairs to the upper caves and enjoy the view.
Since there is an interesting story about the deity of this cave we want to go inside and are looking for the special darshan entrance. Of course no one speaks English here and as we see a board saying tickets for 50 rs we think that this is what we are looking for but that is not the case. As the priest understands what we want we get half of our money back and another priest takes us, against the walking direction of the pilgrims, into the cave. In this temple the ceremony is done for a group of pilgrims together and we join them. They worship a deity who got, as a reward, all the food of the world and he was so holy that he returns half of it to mankind. The priest puts water and food on the head of his statue and in a hole in the wall. When this overflows all the pilgrims get a part of this.
From here it is not far to the Undavalli caves. These are old Buddhist caves but there are also beautiful statues for Hindu gods. When I am on top of it I have a fantastic view over the agricultural environment.
Through this scenery we drive in a hour to Ameravati, also on the Krishna river. First we and the driver want to lunch and when I want to pay he has already taken care of that. Around lunchtime the temple is closed, and to be honest, we don't mind. Now we have plenty of time to walk along the river. Young women are walking through the water looking for oysters and around them children are swimming. A lot of boats sail over the river.
Afterwards we go to a square where workers are erecting an enormous Buddha statue and then to the museum with the remainders of the big stupa.
By a one-way road on the dike along the Krishna river we drive back. We are around 3 meter above the surroundings and over the tops of the banana trees we see the river, it is fantastic, just as the rest of this day.
Friday 2 2; Vijayawada Visakhapatnam
It is a travel day again and at nine we are at the station. Next to us stands a family also bounded for Visakhapatnam and we chat together. The train arrives about ten, half an hour late, and just before it rolls in there is an announcement that we have to go to another platform.
We share our compartment with three Indians in western clothes and a Frenchman dressed up like an Indian monk. He sits on the bank with crossed legs, falls asleep and nearly tumbles down.
At a station the three men are replaced by an older Indian couple in traditional clothes. Their family has other seats and as we move on they all come to our compartment. Finally we are with twelve people on the eight seats.
It is around five o'clock that we, with an hour delay, arrive in Visakhapatnam. As usual we selected some hotels from our guide-book but these are all booked up and the other ones in the same streets are above our budget. The rickshaw driver says he knows a good hotel and brings us to Hotel Prince. It is fine, the room-price is 670 rs. and it is close to the centre.
First I go to an internet-cafι and mail to Jahir, the owner of Adventure Holidays & Tours, our travel agency for Orissa. So he knows where he can pick us up on Monday. For dinner we find a bar-restaurant where we can get beer by our tasteful rice with shrimps.
Saturday 3 2; Visakhapatnam
For today we don't have any special plans and after breakfast in our room we go to the office of the tourist organisation of Andhra Pradesh and ask them if they organize day-trips. We decide for the tour to the Araku valley, a combination of train and bus. It starts tomorrow at six o'clock at the train station.
Then we take a rikshaw and let us drop at the Ramakrishna Beach. It is not a very wide strand along it runs a boulevard with high buildings. At the beginning of the beach there are some stalls for food and drinks and around it are some people. As we walk along the sea we hardly see anybody and in contrast with our Northsea beaches there are no seagulls and few shells. Well we see a lot remainders of flower garlands. On the beach is a museum of war ships, including a nuclear submarine.
Between the rocks men are catching crabs and other see-animals . One approaches us with two fresh see-hedgehogs. He cleans one of them and for 10 rs we buy the skeleton. Three buses stop on the road and all the occupants, grown-ups and children, run yelling to the sea. Probably it is the first time that the see it.
We eat something at the stalls on the beach, it tastes likes the surroundings, dry and sandy, even the street-dogs don't like it. Then we go back to the hotel.
So tomorrow we have an early start and we make some arrangements for this. The man at the hotel desk promises to wake us at five and he also shall arrange transport to the station.
Sunday 4 2; Visakhapatnam
It is good that we set our alarm at five because the hotel-boy does not wake us. When we are downstairs a rickshaw driver, who sleeps in has car, is wakened and drives us to the station, the streets are very empty. All over the station hall people are sleeping on the floor, we walk careful between them and go to the office of the APTDC. As it opens we get our tickets and the man tells us by which train we travel. With the aid of some Indian fellow travellers we locate it. We sit in a second-class carriage with wooden benches and closed shutters.
This compartment is reserved for the APTDC trip, someone sends the other passengers away. At seven the train starts and we get a breakfast of idli's, wadi's and a bottle of water. Soon we drive into the mountains where the train stops at every village. Here everybody is allowed to go into our part but happily most off the people, many which a lot of luggage, stay in the portal. We drive through a fine mountain scenery, there are many tunnels and between them are the fantastic panoramas on the Aruka valley.
At eleven we leave the train at Simliguda and continue by bus. The first stop is at a botanical garden with many roses and other flowers, palm trees and a toy train. For lunch we go to an APTDC hotel and stand in the row for our food, there are to less chairs so we eat sitting on the ground.
After a visit to a small museum with tribal arts we go back to the hotel where tribal people perform a dance for us. We enjoy it but we feel uncomfortable when fellow-travellers join the dancers.
Then we go in the bus again and make a trip through the beautiful valley, we look at everything around us while nearly everybody else sleeps. By the description of this trip a visit to a coffee plantation is mentioned and especially this is something we like to see. The bus stops in the middle of the road, the guide points to a coffee bush and we drive on. Somewhat later we stop in a curve of the road and leave the bus for a short time. Again the scenery is fantastic and probably every bus stops at this point since here are the usual sellers, this time with coffee and whiskey.
By the next APTDC hotel we stop for chai and snacks and after another spectacular ride through the mountains we arrive at the Bora Caves. We have more than an hour to visit the cave with a guide. It is huge with sinter at some places. Half past four we leave and drive over small mountain roads, I'm glad that it is still light. Once we are out of the mountains we go through a string of villages and are back at seven in Visakhapatnam.
Tired as we are we order dinner at our room. We are a little ambiguous over this day, we have seen wonderful things bit also spent too many hours driving.
Monday 5 2; Visakhapatnam
Today we start quiet since we are still tired after yesterdays trip. After a late breakfast, with coffee this time, we go to the internet cafι, an ATM and more such things. By noon we take a rickshaw to the fishing harbour. It is quit there at this time of the day, on the deck of some ships the fishes lay to dry and at the shore men are knotting fishing nets.
We walk to the bay next to the harbour, there also a lot of small fishes lie to dry between the tiny wooden huts. Most of the men are playing card under a shed. Between the remainders of many old rowing-boats there are also some usable vessels. Two men are busy to caulk their boat with a rope of about seven centimetre thick. There are many kids and as always all of them want on a picture. After a late lunch in a very nice restaurant we go back to the hotel.
Half past seven Jahir, our contact person with Adventure Holidays & Tours, arrives at the hotel. He and the driver Pratap stay in another hotel and tomorrow at eight they will pick us up. Jahir will accompany us to Rayagada where a local guide will take his place.
For dinner we have delightful large shrimps with a bottle of beer. Then we take a shower and go to bed.
Tuesday 6 2; Visakhapatnam - Rayagada
The alarm goes off at half past seven and we order breakfast. It does not arrive and after an hour we hear that there is no bread so we get some idli's. The coffee is served when I pay the bill.
Our Ambassador stands in front of the hotel with Pratap in a white suit. Apart from some bottles with water we also get a bunch of bananas. The bananas here are small and taste wonderful, in the coming weeks I get more or less addicted to them.
First we drive on good roads through the country-side of Andhra Pradesh. At some point we wait by a railway crossing. As usual this takes a long time but since they paint the crossing barriers we have to wait until this is ready.
Jahir gives us al kind of information about the tribal people we will meet and explains all the things we see around us. We stop by a group women along the road, they perform a ceremony to celebrate the new harvest. They fed their chickens with the first rice off the new harvest. After the chickens have swallowed it the priest saw the birds head with a blunt knife.
High in the palm trees there hang buckets to collect the juice, while the sellers stand at the feet of the tree.
Later on we stop and see the traditional way of sugar making. The cane is crushed and the juice is put in big flat tanks. The remaining of the cane is used to heat this juice until it is thick molasses. The men put this in buckets to cool off. As we walk to it Wies falls and hurts her ankle.
After the lunch we cross the border with Orissa. Here the roads are not so good and the village that we pass consists merely of cots with walls of mud or wood and roofs of palm leaves. At some places stand house of stone, build by the government.
After a wonderful ride through the countryside we arrive around three in Raygada, hotel Jyoti Mahal. It is a little odd that everything is organized for us. Wies her feet is blue and thick but she can stand and walk on it. So we go around the hotel, at this time off the day most of the shops are closed.
Later on, in the restaurant, we settle the business part with Jahir. We made these arrangements some months ago, it is all inclusive, except of course our beer. The first ten days we travel with a guide and driver in the tribal area, somewhat more into the inland than on the standard journeys. Later on we go to Chilika lake and Puri. The guide, Babuli, joins us and sees what is expected from him. Together we drink a beer and Wies and I get our dinner.
Tomorrow we have breakfast at six and will depart immediate afterwards, so we go to bed early.
Wednesday 7 2; Rayagada - Jeypore
We wake up before five o'clock and after the usual morning pursuits we start just after six. Our luggage just fits into the car since there is a lot of other stuff in the boot.
It is just beginning to lighten as we ride through a valley with a beautiful scenery. Regular we pass small lorries loaded with people and goods also on their way to the market in Chatikana.
As we drive Babuli explains a lot about the environment and the several tribal people (or mountain people as they are official called) that we shall visit in the next week. He also gives us some background information over him and Pratap. The latter is employed by the travel organisation while Babuli is a free-lancer. They have made many tours together, it is of course early to judge but we have the feeling that they are good couple to travel with.
It is eight o'clock when we arrive in Chatikana, Babuli and Pratat are satisfied since we are the first car. It is quiet because the market is not started yet. We drive through the village until we are at the feet off the mountains. We leave the car and take a step path into the hills. The Dongaria Kondh arrive by this path from their villages, some of these are over 20 km away. They carry different kinds of nutrition which they cultivate or collect in the woods. Further they sell rings, armlets and knifes. We stand in a curve of the road and enjoy everything we see. Constantly small and large groups are coming down and Babuli explains everything to us.
Since we were so early there where no other tourist at first but now they slowly arrive. A group Itallians stays with us, their guide is a friend of Babuli. Tomorrow we go to the village where he lives and he buys bananas and pineapples for his family. Other people from the village arrive and start negotiating also. As long as the tribals are passing we can freely take pictures but for a close-up we have to pay.
As the big groups tourist are coming we go to the market itself. With the money that the tribals get for their products they buy everything they need such as dried fishes, clothing, soap and so on.
At ten o'clock we leave and go to a small village. The headman comes to Babuli and together we walk around and observe how the people are living. Somewhat later, by an isolated farm, a vendor on a bike sells all kind off toys. Wies buys something for the children and everyone is happy.
Market along the road
We dive the whole way back to Rayagada, have lunch there and then we continue our tour to Koraput. We drive through a splendid river valley with , now, a lovely stream. In the monsoon time this must be different since some of the bridges are destroyed by the water and replaced by temporary ones. Later on we drive through the hills with many woods and between it rice in paddy-fields.
In Koraput we visit a temple, the images are scary. In the tribal museum we get a too detailed explanation from Babuli about all the differences between all the tribes.
At six we arrive in Jeypore and stay in Madhumati. We enjoy our dinner in the garden. Many of the the other guest where this morning on the market and go also to Onukadalli.
Thursday 8 2; Jeypore Onukadalli
It is six o'clock when they call us for breakfast, in the dining room a group of Italians is eating our meal so we have to wait a little. We will be back here in some days and leave our laundry in the hotel.
Yesterday we have seen that Babuli stands high in the hierarchy of the local guides, he also speaks the language of many tribes. He asks us if it is all-right that the Italians join us at the market road and we agree. It is just after seven as we leave. Again it is a race between the drivers to arrive first by the market but they don't take any security risks.
Today we go to Onukadalli the home village of Babuli. Just as yesterday we go first to the mountain path where we watch the Bondo people passing by. It are mainly the woman, dressed in strings of beads with a loincloth. They want to sell all kinds of ornaments and have more aggressive manners then the people yesterdays. They are also very keen to receive money for pictures. Most of the men carry an axe or a bow with arrows.
About ten o'clock the big groups of tourists are coming and we walk back to the market. The people here are different but the goods are of the same kind as yesterday. In a separate corner men sell palm wine and even at this time it is busy. A relative of Baboli runs a restaurant and there we take chai.
In the meantime Baboli has gathered five Bondo woman who will sing traditional songs for us and the Italians. First they need a bucket of palm-wine, for drinking they use a gourd and while singing they keep drinking. We also try a draught, it is a little sour. It is a strange kind of music but it has something special.
After dinner we visit another little hamlet and from there we go to the top of a waterfall. It is a stiff walk but it is very beautiful and we rest some time at the top. When we go back to the car it is clear that Wies her ankle hurts her too much so she cannot make the trekking day that is planned for tomorrow.
After visiting Babuli's family we drive along a broad rocky path into the inland. After a drive of nearly one hour through a reddish desolate landscape we arrive in another small village. This will be our home for the next two nights. The camping site is between the dormitory for the nubile girls and an open stable. For our washing we have to use the communal pump, the toilet is in the fields.
We walk between the huts and see everyone busy with their daily work. Woman pound the grain with a heavy wooden stick, another is weaving an apron from bast while little boys make baskets from little papers. One woman takes Wies her shawl, she can use it to carry her grandson and will hardly return it.
Baboli and Pratap are busy, in the trunk are two small tents, sleeping-mats, sheets, pillows and a complete kitchen equipment. They make the tents ready, beneath the ground sheet they put a armful off straw.
Some time later they start to prepare our dinner. We drink a beer and half of the habitants sits around us, everyone is cheerful.
At six it darkens and the only light comes from a flash light and some candles. At seven our dinner of rice, dahl, vegetables and fries is ready and after Pratap and Baboli are finished there is still a lot food left which is divided between the villagers. Nine o'clock we turn in, my blanket and pyjama are disappeared. They turn up again while every one is laughing.
It takes some turning and shuffling before we find a good position to sleep. It is very primitive but it will help that we always have camped during our European holidays.
Friday 9 2; a village near Onukadalli
Our beds are not very comfortable and it is quit cold so we sleep uneasy. About four we are wakened by the distance sounds of drums an a flute, it stops half an hour later. An hour later we hear the first people in our village. Half past six, as it begins to lighten I get up. The village is coming alive and the women have cleaned the dishes of yesterday. I walk between the huts, a man sits with a group of boys around a fire and invites me to join them, but since we have no ways of communication I stay just for a minute or ten.
After breakfast we set out and walk through the village that consists a thirty houses. Babuli knows everyone and so we may enter every place. The people drive the cattle, all young ones, out of the stables and clean the houses and paths. The older women carry thick necklaces and 15 cm big earrings.
Through the fields we walk to the neighbouring hamlets, they are similar as ours but yet different in details. The walls of the houses consist of clay or bricks, some are grouped around paths while in other villages they are scattered around. Also the clothing of the inhabitants vary.
The women are working, the men drink palm-wine and the children walk with us. All together it gives an overload of impressions.
A group of man is digging a well with a diameter of three metres and they are now at a depth of five metres in the rocky ground, somewhat further we see the remainders of an earlier fruitless effort.
The witch-doctor leaves his drinking companions and we follow him. First he goes to an older couple, the man is sick. The priest cuts some skin from the woman's cheek, if she does not bleed the man will recover.
Two children of another family have fever, the rituals of the priest are strange to us. First he counts his fingers, puts five rice grains in his hand and speaks banishments. He puts the grains in a scrap around the wrist of the children. In yet another village the rites for a dead baby are just over when we arrive.
After walking and gliding over the small paths we are back for a lunch of jackfruits. In the meantime Babuli has learned that the music that we heard this night was the start of a wedding ceremony and we can visit it. After ten minutes walking we arrive in the village. The young couple, they are about 15 years, comes out of a hut and sit together. All the people get as a welcome some rice on the head, we too of course. So the ceremony starts, we stay a while and look at the different rituals.
Then we must go back because by the tent some of the women will sing their music. We think that they are old but when we ask it they believe that they are forty or so. Afterwards we go back to the wedding-party, many off the guests are dancing on the music of a band There is an other couple tourists but they are sent away.
The young couple is still there, the priest makes some gestures with a candlestick, throws some rice and then they are married. Now it is time for the gifts, one off the relatives keeps a record of this, it is mostly money. Since we donate also we are allowed to film.
On our way back we meet the other tourist, they are not so happy with their guide and ask about our experiences. We tell them and their answer is 'Oh!, you have the fabulous Babuli'.
In the village the eight girls who live in the dormitory are making a wedding gift, the bride is a friend of them. As we have dinner at seven it is dark again. Pratap and Babuli prepare all the food that we have with us so many of the villagers get their share as thanks for their hospitality.
There is more wind tonight so the candles blow out and the only light is from a little fire. The girls return from the wedding and as the rest of the people go to their homes they start to sing. At first in two groups about a quarrel between a boy and girl and then they improvise a text about us. Babuli translates now and then and it is funny. By the time that the fire is out it is nine o'clock and the last song is that the guest have to go to bed and so we do.
In the tent we talk about how fantastic the experiences these days were. Speaking of culture shocks, this is a heavy one and it is hard to describe how it impressed us.
Saturday 10 2; back to Jeypore
Because of the strong is wind, it is extra cold tonight so we don't sleep well, Wies is coughing. At half past five the village comes alive and I listen at the sounds. After half an hour I get in my clothes and walk around, sometimes later Wies calls that I must come quickly. Our tents stand just beside the farmland and the villagers change the irrigation system so now the water flows to our tent, we can grab our goods just in time.
Before eight we leave this overwhelming place and go to a 'normal' village for breakfast. Babuli has bread, we have nes and after some puri's we are ready to continue the trip. Through the wooded hills we go to a dry and barren area in the nearness of Gupteswar. Of course it is always warm but here it is extreme hot and dry. The farmyards in the hamlets are fenced with bamboo and wood to keep the pigs outside. In the village are only old men, which look after the children, and some young mothers, the rest of the people is on the fields. They sell bamboo utensils and parrots. The young birds are taken out of the nests and when the are grown up they cost 100 rs. In the heat we walk to some other, similar hamlets and there waits Pratap with the car.
In Gupteswar we have again a delightful lunch. There is also a temple on the hill, Pratap and I climb to it. After 160 steps we stand in a cave by a linga of Shiva and can go back.
After a few hours driving we arrive in Baligaon at another tribal market. We are now so experienced that we can distinguish the different tribes. It is a large and vivid market with hardly any tourist. Here they sell vegetables, fruit, clothes, dried fish, tobacco and so on. There is also a cattle-market with many cows an ox's.
It is already four o'clock when we leave this market, according to the program we shall visit a textile village. But all of us agree that this is too much and we drive directly back to Jeypore. There we get the same room as a few nights ago. Our laundry, that we left behind, is also clean. Since we are out of the market circuit there are just a few guest and we must have dinner inside. We are very tired and go to bed at ten.
Sunday 11 2; Jeypore Magura
As so often these days we have an early start and half past seven we are on our way. According to the program we have half day of trekking from village to village ahead. So we are surprised when we stop in a hamlet near the road, it is a new settlement build by the government. A wedding ceremony is just over and the guests bring their presents to the home of the groom, most of it is liquor.
Meanwhile Pratap recruits fifteen young girls for a tribal dance. Reluctantly they start and try to walk away as soon as possible. We know Pratap has to organize this because dances are part of the program but we feel ill-at-ease the way it turns out, so no such arrangements in the future.
Across the road is another village, and although the distance between them is just a hundred metres the inhabitants barely have contact with each other.
While we drive to the next place Babuli tells us that he noticed how tired we are and that they adjusted the trip. Also the weekly market which we should visit is cancelled due to the elections. Now we drive through the country and visit the hamlets of different tribes. In one of the places it gives the impression of a lazy Sunday afternoon while in another village everyone is busy making baskets of bamboo.
Then we drive back to Rayagada and after lunch we continue to Putassing. In one off the villages there is a Hindu wedding. We stop and are immediately invited to join the ceremony and are welcomed with a cup of chai. Most of the guests speak English, they explain the service and ask us all the usual questions.
The moment we arrive the bride, hidden in veils and accompanied by her father and sister, sits on the ground. The priests is opposite her leading the ceremony. To us it gives the idea that he invents every next stage at the moment that it is executed. After a while the bride goes into the house and the groom arrives, now another priest leads the ceremony. Since we have a long ride ahead we cannot stay and leave after an hour. We get some addresses so we can send them the pictures we made.
Then we drive again through a wonderful scenery and pass a steep mountain, with 1400 metre one of the highest of Orissa. Alongside the road a man harvests the palm-juice, we wait until he climbs out of the tree and get a bottle of it. It is a little sour, Wies likes it but I don't. At five we arrive in Magura where we sleep in the Inspection Bungalow. It is a large stone building with some primitive rooms in it. Pratap and Babuli go shopping and prepare then our diner of chicken, vegetables, rice and chapatis.
Monday 12 2; Magura Rayagada
At seven thirty our caretakers bring a breakfast of bread, omelet, papaya and black coffee to our room. Half an hour later we are on our way to Puttasing, again it is a spectacular ride through the mountains. The first part of the road is renewed but after that we drive over the bare rocks. A enormous boulder is tumbled down on the road and a new lane is constructed around it.
At ten we arrive in a small village near Puttasing. In the original plan we should have camped here but this was cancelled because of the insecurity during the elections. Pratap has friends here and he visits them before we go to the market. Three women who have to go to the hospital join us. The market is not as colourful as some of the others we have seen and it is also smaller, I guess here are about a thousand people.
We walk around together as a police officer commands us to follow him to the office. But before we reach it Babuli sees us and he convinces the man that we are trustful people. There is one other couple of tourist and by accident they are also Dutch.
Everywhere on the market are men campaigning for the elections and try to make as much noise as possible. Most have there speakers on a car but there is also a group with a generator and an amplifier on bikes.
After a while we drive back to the village. Here again we will have a tribal dance, while we are waiting Pratap disappears to his friends and we try to communicate with the locals. The older women have ten cm big slices of wood in their ears. We walk around through the fields and admire the beautiful wall paintings in one of the houses. In a nearby village there are more, so we drive and walk to it. This hamlet consists of five houses and apart from the paintings we get a serenade from a lady on a typical instrument.
Back in the main village we discover that we have no lunch in the car apart from some old bread, a banana and a cup of chai. Above that we are short of bottled water. In the meantime the women are ready to dance but the musicians are still working on the fields and nobody knows when they will be back. Since our mixed feelings about these dances and the fact that we still have a long ride ahead Wies and I decide that we want to leave. Pratap and Babuli are astonished but we insist. They are afraid that we are angry bit is is just that we are tired of waiting.
On the way we visit some small tribal villages and again it is clear how these tribes differs from the majority of the Indians, on the roof of the houses lays half a cow to dry.
This night we stay again in Rayagada and just before there we arrive we get a flat tire. It is changed quickly but later on Babuli tells that it took them a long time to find someone who could fix the inner tube.
Tuesday 13 2; Rayagada Taptapani
This is the last day that we travel through the tribal area. To be honest we feel that we have seen sufficient of it. The long days of travel combined with the constant stream of all kinds of impressions are overfilling our brains.
It is cloudy today as we drive to Chatikana once again. Last Wednesday it was crowded as we were there visiting our first market, now it is quiet and only the skeletons of the market stalls are left. We drive into the hills and stop by one of the villages of the Dongharia Khonds. Babuli warns us not to take pictures otherwise the inhabitants will be angry.
The hamlet consists of the three groups of approximately ten houses. First over an unstable bridge and then crossing a stream by stepping stones we walk to the village. Between the trees we see cassava, pine-apple and banana plants. The people in the village are busy with their daily jobs, we sit down look around and absorb everything. The hair of the women, old and young, is crammed with pins. Beneath us the boys play cricket, except for the ball all equipment comes directly out of the wood. How strange as it looks but the slow game just fits here.
We go back to the car and drive further in the mountains, the road becomes so bad that we have to walk to the next village. These houses are build alongside a street and everywhere the people dry tamarind. They are not used to tourist and Babuli feels uncomfortable with their
behaviour. We don't notice it but at his advice we leave quickly.
And then we drive back into the direction of Rayagada, eat something along the road and have another 180 km to go over bad roads. A heavy rain starts, just as we drive through a region where tigers and elephants live.
In this area it is election-day and in the villages stand rows of trucks with teachers and civil servants. They have left their normal jobs to regulate the voting. The 'problem' for us is the ban on alcohol. Together with Babuli, who likes his whiskey, I go into the back streets. Two men behind a fence take the money and return after a while with beer and booze.
It is dry and five o'clock as we arrive in Taptapani. We stop for a short visit to the warm-water well and go then to the OTDC hotel. This one is really declined glory, the rooms are in separate concrete buildings with a balcony that nearly falls off. As soon as we arrive we must order our dinner. At eight we go to the cheerless restaurant. But together with Babuli and Prapt we make the best of it and have a nice time. We are curious how Pratap keeps his uniform so white, he tells that he washes it at night and hangs it on the big fan to dry.
Wednesday 14 2; Taptapani Barkul
It is foggy when we start at seven and after a short ride we stop in another small village and see how the people start their day. Some are already busy while others sit around a fire and try to get warm and to wake up. So in the hazy light once again it looks like a fairytale.
When we are back on the road the sun starts to shine through the fog which gives a fantastic effects on the wonderful scenery.
We are going to a region where Tibetan refugees have a settlement. They have their own villages, the houses are build from stone but the stables and sheds are made from wood.
Babuli was here four years ago and is looking for a nice, small Tibetan temple, but he cannot find it and everyone he asks directs us to an big temple which is still under construction. At last we go to it. Next to the temple is a cloister and one of the older priest welcomes us. He tells that the new temple replaces the one we are looking for.
We have a bad timing since everyone is very busy for some important visitors. But the monk takes all the time to show us one off the older temples and, in opposite to other holy places, we may film everywhere. With a young student-monk we go upstairs to the library. The books are made from leaves and have pages of a metre long and twenty centimetre high, the books are wrapped in cloths.
Another young student brings us to the new temple, the builders are locals from India, while the huge Buddha statues are constructed by men from Nepal. For one statue they need twelve lorry's of clay mixed with raw cotton.
In another part of the complex there is a school for monks, the younger ones are reciting hymns while the older ones get English lessons. In yet another temple some very old monk are teaching their younger colleagues.
Behind the cloister the party ground is made ready for the Canadian guests, everywhere wave the pray flags just as one sees in Tibetan movies.
We drive back to Taptapani and on crossroad outside this place we stop. For Babuli this is the end of the trip and he hopes to get a bus to Jeypore from here. (Later we hear that he got a hike from some French tourists and in return acts as a guide for them.) It is a strange feeling to say goodbye so in the middle of nowhere after more than a week of intensive travelling together. We truly know that his knowledge and personality made this trip so wonderful.
Now he is driver as well as guide Pratap becomes much more talkative. While driving he spots everything what is interesting and stops directly so we have all the time to look around. A few examples I remember are a group women who have covered the road with dahl and thresh it by beating on it with sticks. Shepherds wear big hats of palm leaves so dense that they are waterproof, I try one it is heavy. In one of the villages there are heaps of rice covered with clay alongside the road. This is there way of storrage.
We arrive on the busy way from Chennai to Kolkota, part of it is bad while others stretches are a four lane highway.
At four we arrive in Barkul; at the Chilka Lake. We stay again in a OSTDC hotel but this one looks fine. It is situated outside the village and from the balcony we overlook the large lake. After a beer the three of us have dinner, Wies and Pratap have crab and I take shrimps.
Thursday 15 2; Barkul Satapada
We begin to get used to the early starts and at seven we go to the boats. We have one for ourselves, it is about twelve metre long and two wide. The skipper needs some assistance to start the outboard motor and he takes one of his helpers with him. We know it is to late in the year for watching the seasonal birds and now there are just a few left. Fishermen are busy with their nets, the water is not deep since they can walk around. It is cloudy but dry and there is no wind.
After three quarters we land on Kalijai island, on it is a temple to remember a young girl that drowns while she it going to her wedding. At this time of the day there are more souvenir sellers than tourists.
While we are rambling around the wind starts to blow and as we go back our boat rocks heavy. We like it but Pratap is not that happy, in the meantime the crew bails out the water and assures us that there is no danger and of course we arrive dry and save.
Half past nine we sit in the car and drive alongside the lake. At the end we go to a small textile village. Five years ago it was crowded here with tourists but since that time everyone goes to the tribal areas and nobody comes here any more. Even Pratap has not been here in those years. The headman is glad to see us and shows how they make sari's and aprons and of course we buy something. Also they produce silk, the cocoons are boiled and one of the old ladies twins the thread rolling it on her leg.
We drive further by a small road through the fields. The harvest is ready but everywhere we see palm trees and ponds while we pass a lot of small villages. In one of them we stop by a pottery and the owner gives a demonstration. Further on the fields are situated more low and still filled with the water of the previous monsoon. The rice is growing in the flat fields which are crossed by ditches and it looks a little like the grasslands in our homeland.
Painters are concentrated in another village. The artist etches his drawing in a prepared palm leave, after the sketch is finished he rubs ink into it and so he gets a very detailed pictures.
Near Puri we are back on the main road, and go from there to Satapada. This is situated on one of the islands that lay on the seaside of Chilika Lake. These islands are connected to each other by bridges. Also here it is election day so now Pratap and I go to the black market.
In Satapada we have again a good looking hotel of the OSTDC with a room that overlooks the lake. By this time we are so tired of travelling that we are in bed before ten o'clock.
Friday 16 2; Satapada
Today we stay in this place and we don't have to hurry. We go sailing again and at half past nine we are on our way in the same type of boat as yesterday. First we want to find the dolphins that live here and soon we see them. They don't stand on their tail like Flipper, we see just their back and tail while they are hunting. There are quit a lot, sometimes in groups while others swim alone.
Next we land on one of the island with a small temple and then sail to the tidal outlet that connects the lake with the sea. We embark on the sandy strand and walk around. On the sea-side we see the remainders of many turtles. At our way back we see again some dolphins and at last one which his head out of the water.
After the lunch we have the afternoon to ourselves and we need that rest. First we take a nap and then sit for a while on the balcony. But after a while I get restless and go out. It is not hectic, there is a dolphin museum and the tourist are here just for a boating trip. On the waterside fishermen inspect their nets. Since Satapada is the last island that is connected through bridges to the mainland you must take a boat to cross the lake. Whole families as well as business men go on board of some older ferries which transport them across. On the other side of the hotel is one of those small villages untouched by the time. Women are chatting or sweep the foot way, men play card and the children are playing together. And everyone stares at the white tourist.
At diner a Japanese dolphin expert joins us. This is his second year here and he never has seen a dolphin with his head up. He tells that there are about 120 dolphins left. The service in this hotel is extremely slow and so the Japanese orders also his breakfast for tomorrow. It is a big fun when the waiter brings it now. While we are eating there is a power cut and we eat by the light of an oil-lamp, matches and a mobile phone until the electricity is up again.
When we are filling or backpacks a thunderstorm starts and the electricity is gone again.
Saturday 17 2; Satapada Puri
This power cut lasts the whole night so the fan is not working. With the balcony door closed it is too hot to sleep and with the door open the mosquitoes trouble us so we have a bad night. Later on we hear that there are just a few guests in the hotel and therefore they did not start the generator.
On the road to Puri we stop by a fisherman, he walks through the water, chases the fishes with an open basket and then tries to grab them. While we are looking he catches nothing, the kingfishers are more successful.
At nine we are in Puri, after the rain it is muggy and the roads are slippery. We walk towards the Jagannath temple. As non Hundu's we are not allowed to go inside, next to it is a library, from the roof of it you can look into the courtyard. Of course we have to pay, according to Pratap you can bargain it down to 20 rs., they ask 200 and we cannot get it down to less than 100 rs. Wies doesn't realize that this is the only spot where we can see inside and walks away. Since we are both tired and easily pissed off we walk grumbling in the streets around the temple. At last I go to the roof alone, I cannot climb that high so the view is not as good as I expected.
We go back to the car where Pratap is waiting and then to the, very fine, ORSTC hotel. First we take a nap and after the lunch the three of us walk over the beach to the fishermen's village. It is a large sandy coast and after while we arrive by the boats on the beach. A group of men pushes them through the breakers before the motor can be started while other ships come ashore with fish.
The catch lays on the beach, the men shake the nets to get the little fishes out of it. There are also eel and other bigger fishes, they even have caught two sharks.
Women buy the fish and take them to the village adjacent to the beach. There they clean them and the remainders stay as food for the craws. We walk through the village and arrive then on a road in a tourist region. Everywhere hotels and travel agents.
Half past six we go to the beach in Puri, here we see again another aspect of this city. There is a really boulevard with all kind of shops and on the beach is an extended, colourful, souvenir market. Of course there are many small places to eat. In between the priests do their ceremonies with much fire and music, while in the meantime you hear the waves on the coast. As a contrast there is a cremation field at the boulevard, here also are the fires are burning.
Back in the hotel we drink a beer together before we have dinner.
Sunday 18 2; Puri Bhubaneswar
Again an early start and at seven we leave the hotel. We drive through a region rich of deer but the only wild we see is a jackal. We stay close to the coast, sometimes we ride along the see and so we arrive in Konark.
The sun temple is very beautiful and impressive. We take a guide and he explains ample about the way the temple is constructed and how the wheels act as sundials. He also clarifies the meaning of all the sculptures, with a lot of emphasis on the more erotic ones.
We walk back to the car for the last part of the trip to Bhubaneswar. Everywhere farmers are busy with ploughing and planting as well as harvesting rice, in this climate it can be done in the same period. Pratap gets regular a phone call from his boss Jahir because he must pick up new guests this afternoon. So after an early lunch we arrive by noon in the Sambit Palace hotel. Jahir has reserved it for us, it costs 600 rs.
Jahir is in such a hurry that he cannot wait until we fill up the evaluation form, we shall send it to him by mail. We say goodbye to Pratap, it is as leaving a friend, and promise to send him the pictures we made and then off they go. It is a very abrupt end of an unforgettable round trip and now we are on our own again.
The rest of the day we sit in our room and walk a little bit around, we have to digest all the impressions of the last ten days. It is good that we keep a dairy so we can recall all the things we have done.
Monday 19 2; Bhubaneswar
After six weeks we need a haircut and find a saloon close to the hotel. I'm the first victim, after the cutting the barber powders my hair and gives me an extended head and shoulder massage with a lot of knocking and pinching. Wies laughs but that changes as she gets the same treatment, by her the massage is done by one of the girls. Meanwhile we get a cup of chai and one and a half hour later we are neatly cut for the astonished price of 60 rs.
We walk to the station to book our journey to Sambalpur. The queues are long but someone points us the special women and tourists queue and so we have the tickets soon. After a tasty lunch in a restaurant next to the station we go to the tourist organisation and book a city trip for Wednesday.
Back in the hotel we watch the video film we made during our stay Vijayawada and the first days in Orissa, it is just a fortnight ago but it looks like ages. It is good that we have some quiet days after the intensive travelling of the last weeks, I'm so tired that I go to bed at half past nine.
Tuesday 20 2; Bhubaneswar
A rickshaw brings us to the lake in the centre of old Bhubaneswar. Everywhere around us there are big and small temples. A very tiny one is erected in the middle of the road, on both sides a priest can do a worship for two persons.
We wander around and with the support of the map in our guide book we find our way and just look around, absorbing the atmosphere. In one street all the houses are painted with figures to remember the wedding days of the inhabitants. On another place, as the streets become small alleys, somebody sends us back, it is a dead-end road. We sit down at the lake to rest but by doing this we disturb the bathing of the men so we go to another corner. After lunch we go back to the hotel.
Later I go to a photo shop and transfer the photos to a CD for 50 rs. pro card. We have dinner in the Venus Inn, it is cosy and the meal tastes fine. Then it is again time for an early night.
Wednesday 21 2; Bhubaneswar
Since we have to be at the station at half past eight we order the breakfast on our room. It arrives a lot quicker then in the dining room. The waiter has also a delivery for another room, he smells which pot is filled with coffee and which one with tea and tells I am a Christian.
From the station, where an ODTC office is, we are directed to a bus and after a short ride we stop at their headquarters. The participants of the city tour must get off, we are the only ones. After an hour we are with eight persons, besides us four Indians, a French girl and a Japanese man. With the driver we just fit in the car. The man of the tourist organisation explains us the program and off we go, the driver keeps his mouth shut almost the whole day.
The first goal is the Nandankanan Zoo, a twenty km outside the town. Here waits a guide who gives us a fast tour. The only thing that is really special are the white tigers, the other animals you can see in almost every zoo. But it is a nice zoo, the animals have plenty of room and it is intriguing to hear that wild elephants enter the park at night.
Next we go to the Udaygiri and Khanagiri caves, the are situated on hills opposite to each other. It are Jain caves, the oldest are from 200 BC and the Udaygiri are the best conserved.
Since you have to pay an entrance for these, it is quiet inside. We wander around and it is hot in the sun. Some of the caves look like honeycombs, most of them are simple, others have nice carvings. I also take a quick look at the Khanagiri caves, here it is very crowded and the caves are locked with plate-glass so you cannot see anything from the interior.
By now it is half past one, we go back to the city and have lunch at the OTDC hotel. We foreigners share a table and the other two get one bill together, the waiter probably thinks that they are a couple.
After the lunch we drive to Dhauligir where a modern white Buddhist temple is situated. It is on top of a hill and the views are fantastic. There must be the remainders of one of Ashoka's pillars but I cannot find them. Then we go back to Bhubaneswar to visit the temples over there. Happily we go to others than those we saw yesterdays, the temples are not used any more so we can look inside. They are very beautiful carved.
Next we go to the museum but since we are behind schedule this is about to close. If we pay some extra we can go in for a short time but nobody is interested. Finally we go to the Lingaraj temple in the hart of the old city, this one is forbidden for non-Hindus.
We were here yesterday also and know there is a platform from where you can see into the compound. It is free but a group of boys trie to convince us that we have to pay 500 rs, we laugh of it and give them 10 and off they go.
It is six o'clock when we are back in the hotel. This time we stay here for diner, it takes again an hour before we get something to eat.
Thursday 22 2; Bhubaneswar
For some days Wies has ear-ache and we decide to see a doctor. We ask for one at the desk and they advise us to go to a clinic. There Wies gets a card with a room-number and a waiting-list number and we wait in the crowded hall. Many patients lay there motor-helmet on a spare chair so the rest of the people have to stand.
After half an hour it is Wies her turn and as everywhere during a visit she must take off her shoes. It takes five minutes for the diagnosis: ear infection. The consult costs 100 rs. and for the half of that amount we buy the medicines in the the pharmacy.
Then we walk back to the centre. In this new part of Bhubaneswar the roads are wide and straight so it is easy to find your way. We end in a huge market place and from there we are quickly in the neighbourhood of the hotel. There are a lot of people on the street because a murder is committed in another hotel.
We must make up our minds for the rest of our journey. We have train-tickets up to Jalgaon from where we will visit the Ajanta caves. For the last part of the trip we wish to stay in Jodhpur and from there to the airport of Delhi. For the three weeks in between we have several ideas and now we decide to make a trip through Gujarat starting in Vadodara. So in the afternoon I'm beginning to make an itinerary. For dinner we go again to the Venus Inn, this we like a lot better then our hotel.
Friday 23 2; Bhubaneswar Sambalpur
At six o'clock we wake up and half past eight we are at the station. There we are informed that the train is delayed for nearly two hours. So I have time to buy tickets for the Jodhpur-Delhi stretch. Now I go directly to the women/tourist queue and observe how the locals use this. The ladies stand in the row, many accompanied by a man. At the ticket office the man does all the talking and finally his wife may pay. It takes half an hour and then I have our tickets.
On this station workers are constant sweeping and swabbing the platforms so it stays very clean. As the train arrives we have six places for us together and we can easily stretch out. This times the entertainment consists of beggars and drag-queens. There is no lunch aboard so we take some snacks. Along the track there are no big cities, only small towns with some agriculture around it and for the rest it is barren land. For a greater part of the journey there is also a lot of industry Then the landscape becomes more hilly with many small rivers and lakes, very beautiful.
Halfway the engine has to go to the other end of the train, this takes some time so it is half past three as we arrive in Sambalpur. The rickshaw stand on the viaduct outside the station and it takes us a while before we discover it. The first hotel we try is the Phantanivas, again from the OTDC, and we take it. It is an old but clean hotel and we have a large room with a balcony.
Hungry as we are we take a cup of soup in the dining room, a cheerless room with a sigh that says don't spit on the wall.
Annex the hotel is a bar where we can buy beer. In the garden of the hotels big tents are erected for a wedding reception. The kitchen personnel is busy preparing food for the party so the assistant-manager has to cook and serve our dinner and we chat with some of the wedding guests.
Saturday 24 2; Sambalpur
Despite the noise of the wedding party we have a good sleep, it is so cool that we don't need a fan. After breakfast we go to the centre of Sambalpur, it is a nice place to walk around and not that hectic while there is enough to see for a few days. It strikes us that there is no hassle from children asking the standard questions. The market is narrow and crowded, they sell mainly fruits and vegetables.
After a while we sit on the bank of a lake, and as it has happened before we sit opposite the men's bathroom and it is obvious that they like some privacy.
We meet some young people, as so many others they will make a picture from us and them together. We ask why everybody wants to do this and they explain that an old Sanskrit legend states that guests are like gods. So if you are on the same picture it is good for the soul of everybody, this is a nice thought.
After lunch in a grand hotel we go back to our modest one. The climb in the sun is hot so it is good to rest in the shadow of our balcony. At the desk we arrange a car with an English speaking driver for to-morrow. We want to visit some villages where the inhabitants manufacture all kinds of textile. To be sure we ask if they work on Sunday and that will not be a problem. The assistant-manager is very helpful in arranging everything.
Sunday 25 2; Sambalpur
At nine we are waiting for our driver but nothing happens. The hotel-clerk that arranged everything for us is off duty and his substitute assures us that there is 'no problem' and refuses to take any action. In a back-office I see a man reading his newspaper and he happens to be the manager. I explain the situation, he will take care of it and rings a bell. After a while he comes to us with the explanation that our car is stolen and that he has arranged another one. Half past ten the car is there with a driver who doesn't speak a word English, but the hotel personal guarantees us that he knows the scheme.
First we drive to the Hirukud dam, we think that we can walk on it but it is only possible to look at it from a belvedere. It is a long mud dike with a barrage in it. Unfortunately the sky is not clear and therefore the views are not good.
Then we go to the textile villages, the driver can make it clear to us that we ride on the road from Mumbai to Kolkata, it is a teriffic two-lane road with of course much freight traffic.
We pass the first village we want to see and stop in Barpoli. Then we notice that the driver is totally unknown here. He drives around until he sees a child and that guides us to a sari-weaver, everyone there assures us that nobody else is working because it is Sunday. So we decide to go back and at three we are in the hotel, our complaints don't make any impression.
In our room we try to complete the itinerary for the Gujarat leg and notice that we need a car to do the things we want. We will try to arrange it when we are in Vadodara. In the evening I go to the bar for some beer. Somebody taps on my shoulder and when I turn around the man asks 'how are you doing'. I cannot believe my eyes when I stare at Pratap, he and Jahir stay here tonight.
The four of us go to the bar, take a beer and have a lot of talking to do. Wies is the only women since ladies are not allowed inside officially. We ask Jahir if he knows a travel-agent in Gujarat, we get an e-mail address and he will contact their office. Then we all go the dinner room. Pratap keeps laughing every time he remembers the way I looked at him in the bar.
Monday 26 2; Sambalpur
A rest day, the only thing we do is walk to the city and buy some second-hand books. Due to our train reservations we have to stay quit long here. Although it is not a very inspiring city it is good for us to take a break after more then six weeks travelling.
Tuesday 27 2; Sambalpur
The local tourist information says that the 'leaning temple' in Huma is a must since it resembles the tower of Pisa. We arrange a rickshaw for 250 rs. It is a trip of nearly an hour through an agricultural environment with small villages. The upper part of the temple is leaning but since it is only fifteen metre high the effect is not that spectacular.
But it is situated in a fantastic landscape along a river in which swim big fishes. It is forbidden to catch them this brings misfortune since they are consecrated to Shiva. Little boys take the risk and try to capture the small ones. For ten rs. I go with a small rowing boat. Across the river are two immense modern statues of Shiva one standing and the other laying.
As usual there are many monkeys in the temple, these are not interested in the fish-bait that is sold. Our drives buys some biscuits and that is is more to their taste.
At one 'clock we are back and makes some arrangements for to-morrow. Our train leaves from the station in Jharsguda so we must hire a car to reach that city.
Wednesday 28 2; Sambalpur Jalgaon
We have to leave the room at eight so we must rise in time. A lot of paperwork has to be done before I can pay the bill, 2500 rs. for five nights, and then we have all the time of the world since we have ordered the car for three o'clock. The chairs and couches in the hall are good and we spent our time with reading and of course we go for the last time to the city. We check our mail but there is no post from the Gujarat travel agent.
The car is in time and on a good road we drive in an hour to Jharsaguda. There we store the luggage in the cloak-room and look around the station. As we go into the ladies waiting room a attendant sends us back, Wies is well allowed to sit in the men's part.
We walk through the city, next to the station is a long shopping street, and eat something. Back to the station we hear that the train is an hour late so it arrives at eleven o'clock. In the dark we find our beds. After the conductor has checked our tickets we get the bedding rolls and make ourselves ready for the night.
Thursday 1 3; Sambalpur Jalgaon
Despite the snoring around us we sleep well, the man in our compartment is awake at six and puts on the light to read the newspaper. Half past seven we are up and soon get our breakfast, bread with omelet. Our fellow travellers are a Sikh couple and besides 'good morning' they don't say a word and at ten they are asleep again.
We kill the time by reading, puzzling and looking to the ever changing landscape. Sometimes it are bare plains with occasionally trees with fierce red flowers, and an hour later we travel through woodlands. Wies goes regular to the toilet to smoke sneakily a cigarette. The train is somewhat delayed and after more than fifteen hours we arrive in Bhusaval.
Since we want to stay in Jalgaon we hire for 450 rs. a car outside the station and reach it within an hour. We selected Hotel Plaza by ourselves but the driver tries to get commission from the owner but he is not falling for it.
For 900 rs. we get the biggest room there is, very clean with a good hot shower, and a separate sitting section. In Jalgaon there is regular a power cut for some hours and as a precaution we get a candle to enlighten in the toilet. To-morrow we want to go to Ajanta and according the hotel-owner we can easy do that by bus. He will arrange a rickshaw to bring us to the bus station.
We take a stroll through Jalgaon an average busy Indian town with nothing special. We see an internet-cafι and send a mail to the travel agent in Gujarat.
Next to the hotel is a good restaurant and we have a tasty meal enjoying our beer. Wies is again the only woman in the room, quit ordinary in an eating-house where beer is served. We buy another bottle and drink it quietly in our room.
Friday 2 3; Jalgaon
It is before six as we wake up and as so often we prepare our own breakfast of bread, jam and powder coffee. The owner is waiting in the hall and writes down detailed instructions how to go to Ajanta. The rickshaw is there and before seven we are at the bus station and take the bus to Aurangabad.
We have plenty of space and after a pleasant ride of an hour we are at the entrance of the cave-complex. Two man are waiting for us, they are very modest but yes they are shop keepers. Near the road is a special shopping centre and this is also to place where the shuttle to caves starts. The shuttle service begins at nine so we first take coffee and then go with the men to their shops. Both trade in stones and gemstones and after a lot of bargaining we sell some presents for people at home.
The we go to the shuttle there are only six tourist for the AC-bus, so we have to take an ordinary bus and go up with the workers. After four kilometre we arrive by the stairs and climb further. The about thirty Buddhist caves lay in a curve of a few hundred metres half way up the hill. They all consists of a hall with pillars and behind that a statue of Buddha or a stupa. Some caves are decorated with fresco's, heavily battered but what is left is still very beautiful. The many sculptures are of course in a much better shape. Since we are so early it is not crowded and we even don't have to wait for those caves with a limited entrance capacity. I visit nearly all the caves including one with two floors and some caves which are unfinished.
Wies is what more selective. At the end we see some old Japanese ladies who are carried around in chairs by four men. When the ladies enter a cave we pay the porters a lunch and may try the chair.
We go back to the shopping centre where one of our 'friends' is waiting again. But as we say that we only take a lunch he leaves. Then we walk to the road, there is no official bus stop but when we wave the bus stops and the second one goes to Jalgaon.
At two we are back and keep it easy for the rest of the day. There is an e-mail from the Gujarat travel agent with a proposal for a full package tour with heritage hotels. That is not what we want so we mail him our ideas. The power cut today is from four to eight and we wait in the hall and chat with the owner and some other guests. We had the impression that Holi with the paint throwing takes place tomorrow but it is a day later and that is the day we travel again.
The guests tell us that the restaurant has a roof and there we have a meal with them. It is a nice evening, we exchange a lot of experiences and there is enough beer.
Saturday 3 3; Jalgaon
So we have an extra day to spend here, according to the hotel owner there is not very much to do here and we take a day off. Since Wies coughs a lot she stays mostly in the room while I walk regular to the internet-cafι to mail over the Gujarat trip. With a mixture off the ideas of Vikram Dooth, the travel agent, and ours we plan a nice trip.
Tomorrow we will travel with the same train with which we had an five hour delay in Vyaijawada. It starts at ten this morning in Chennai and in the evening it is still on time.
Sunday 4 3; Jalgaon Vadodara
At seven we wake up and prepare ourselves for the next stage. The hotel owner is rightfully proud of his place and shows us some of the smaller rooms, these are also spotless. Half past eight we walk to the station, it is just a few minutes away. There is still no sign of the Holi festivities. For the variation the train is in time. As always on day trains we travel sleeper class and this time we have the side berths, all the other seats are occupied too.
As the train leaves at nine we see the first youngsters changing their clothes in preparation of the paint throwing. We travel through an agricultural area and since the harvest has taken place it is somewhat dull.
When the train drives slowly through the outskirts of the cities it is wise to close all windows. Everywhere groups of young peoples are trying to throw the paint in the train. Once someone closes his window to late so some of us are a little red.
At five o'clock, according to the schedule, we arrive in Vadodara. The hotels are close to the station so we decide to walk but we take a wrong turn and get lost. A rickshaw brings us to hotel Apsara, Wies inspects it but it is very dirty. In the meantime a man tells me about another hotel and we try our luck there. Just a few blocks away we end in hotel Rainbow. It is on the 7th floor of an office building, the rooms are small but clean and we pay 550 rs.
The Holi festivities are over and the streets are heavily coloured. We diner in a 24/7 restaurant opposite the hotel. The waiter who takes the order speaks English but the other personal doesn't. When we ask if they have black coffee the answer is sometimes. Later on we walk around and see that we are indeed close to the station. The only disadvantage is that there is no beer in Gujarat but this we knew beforehand.
Monday 5 3; Vadodara
Wies is still coughing so we both don't sleep so well and decide not to exert ourselves today and take the breakfast at the room. As we order new bottles mineral water they simply refill our old ones. It takes some time before they understand what we want.
We exchange some mails with Vikram Dhoot, the travel agent of Harsh travels, and come to an agreement. A car and driver for ten days costs us 22000 rs. the meals and hotels etc. we pay separate. We start here on the 8th and the tour ends in Udaipur. Later Vikram calls us at the hotel and we confirm the agreement.
In the afternoon I take a walk in the neighbourhood and figure out how we can reach Champaner, the bus goes every quarter of an hour so that is easy. Then I go to a park, in it is a Zoo, a toy-train and a lot of flowers, it is a nice place to relax.
Tuesday 6 3; Vadodara
This morning we take a rickshaw to the centre of the town. First we stroll through the more modern shopping streets but then we discover the old centre. That is one of the things we like most, wandering through the tight winding streets with markets and small shops.
After some hours we are back by the more modern shops where Wies sees a fine jeans. Unfortunately it is not in her size but in the next shop she has more luck. Inside a customer and one of the vendors have a conflict and they nearly start a to fight before the client is put outside the shop.
The trouser sellers are men but there is a girl to take Wies her measures. In the store roam at the back of the shop she can see if the pants fits. It is a little to long but a salesclerk takes the jeans and after five minutes he is back and now it fits perfect. In the meantime there is a powercut and the personnel experienced prepares the generator and starts it.
We wander further and come by a tank with an enormous statue of Shiva. There is a side walk around the lake but it is difficult to walk over it since here live many homeless people.
Later in the afternoon we go together to the park and enjoy ourselves. In the park lays a jogging track and many persons, including women use it. However in this heat, it is about 35ΊC, most people suffice with a solid walk.
In the hotel district where we stay there are many restaurants so we regular choose another one. In this area as well as in the rest of the town we see a lot more beggars than in the other cities that we visited until now on this journey.
Wednesday 7 3; Vadodara
It is about eight o'clock as we walk to the bus station. There are just two free places in the next bus to Champaner and off we go. First half an hour through the city and then on the highway with now and then a detour for a stop a small village. At ten we arrive at an abandoned area and according to the conductor this is Champaner. From our travel information we don't have an explicit idea what is exactly to see here, an old city, mosques or a fort, and how we can reach that.
There is a tourist desk and the man, who speaks barely English, tells me to take a taxi to Manchi. The rickshaw drivers ask 100 rs. so we try our luck with a shared taxi. These go to different destinations and we find one that goes to Manchi. Nearly twenty persons in a landrover and each pays seven rs.
We sit tight in the back and despite clamping ourselves we shake around while we go up the hill. The destination looks like a small village, we follow the other passengers and arrive at a ticket seller and then see a cable car.
It is quiet but according to the crush barriers that is not always the case. The cabins looks fine and no more than six people are allowed to go in, and they check it. We travel with a couple that was in our taxi.
It is a quiet trip and I expect to arrive by an abandoned fort or something like that but it is somewhat totally different. The street goes up in steps and on both sides of it are souvenirs stalls. All over is the sound of videos-films, with other words it is a pilgrims place.
We walk upwards and then through the village, the panorama over the land around us is beautiful. At the end of the village is a long stairway to the temple on top of the hill. Wies is not interested so I climb alone. Halfway I must leave my shoes and then I stand in the queue, happily a ward opens a gate and now it goes twice as quick. All the pilgrims have coconuts with them which are blessed by the priest, I only have my day-pack and walk on. It is possible to climb still higher but for my fear of heights this is enough. When I go down I observe two women who are carried, the fat one on two, the other on one bamboo stick. During my excursion Wies sits under a tree chatting with other pilgrims. The women sit close to her, the men stay on a distance.
We walk back to the cable car and descend with the same couple we went up, they are from Mumbai. With an even more overloaded landrover, the passengers are hanging outside, we go down the hill. Just a few weeks ago, as we saw such an overloaded vehicle, we said it is madness and now we do it ourselves.
When we search for the bus to Vadodara someone directs us to a private bus, we can sit on the bench next to the driver. As the bus leaves we sit there with nine and when I try to look how many people there are inside I see just a wall of men. During the one hour drive even more passengers come aboard. In this way the travelling itself is worth the trip.
In the late afternoon we want a bucket hot water for a shower but it is not delivered so we go out for diner. As we are back we ask again for it. At ten we get two buckets, one is hardly warm so it must have been filled some hours ago.
Thursday 8 3; Vadodara - Jambughoda
We wake up quite early and that is good since Vikram, our travel agent, is in the lobby before eight. We settle our business with him and go to the car where we meet our driver Pandit. He is about forty years and speaks sufficient English for the daily communication.
This first day of this trip is part of the original proposal of Vikram so more or less a surprise for us. We drop Vikram at the station and go with our Indicar to the same highway as yesterday. Now there is a traffic jam and Pandit passes it through the verge. The accident is a crash between a truck and some cows. When we are on the move again we are soon back in Champaner. Now we drive direct to Jami Masjid, a beautiful mosque not far from the main road.
We visit it and continue, via a rough country road, to two other mosques. Not that fine but still impressive, here workers restore the buildings. By hand two men unload a truck filled with enormous stones. Others, with just a chisel and a hammer, process the stones in the right shape. It is done in the same way as when the mosques were build , some ages ago.
According to Pandit there is nothing special to see in the walled city so we continue our trip. After a ride trough the woods we arrive in the tiny village Jambughoda. Here is the palace of a maharajah, the stables and other buildings on the estate are converted in hotel rooms. But a company has booked all this rooms for a seminar. After some talks between Pandit and the hotel staff they find a nice resolution.
In the original guest house of the palace is huge chamber, now this is used as a storage room. If we agree the personnel shall clean and furnish it. Of course we take it.
A courtyard separates our building from the palace and in between these is the kitchen. As we observe that the servants take off their shoes before entering this compound we realize that all is part of the ' masters house'.
Since the maharajah is away we may lunch in his dining room. It is a big chamber with many windows and a table for at least fifteen persons. The other half is furnished as a sitting room with a large swing bank. Behind this room are the other private rooms and we get a guided tour. Just like as in the museum palaces everywhere are family pictures and also from gatherings of all the Indian rulers with the English viceroy.
We have a fantastic lunch of rice, chappati's, prapad and four delicious gravies. For desert we get some baked sweet. When we are finished our room is ready and we rest until four.
In the afternoon we go to a tribal settlement, one of the personnel goes with us as a guide. First we drive through the woods and past many small farms. We stop by a hamlet consisting of a few houses. The house we visit has walls of clay and dung, the roof consists of tiles. They live here with a family of twelve persons. There is a common room and a store room. The cattle consits of two ox's and some cows, goats and chickens. The family cultivates peanuts, maize and mustard seed. The wall of the common dormitory is beautiful painted with all kinds of images, full of colour. We get a demonstration of grain grinding, Wies takes a turn and it is very hard work. Also we get a draught of mava(?), a strong alcoholic drink made from flowers.
The hotel servant lives in a farm near the road with his mother, wife and three children. We stop and he shows us around and explains what they, or mainly his wife, cultivate. Via a footpath we walk back to the hotel.
It is getting dark now and we sit quiet in the inner-court by the light of candles. Then their sounds a loud 'hello' and with wild gestures a tourist enters. He wants a room and the manager explains to him that the hotel is booked up. From his accent we hear that the tourist is from Italy and as in a hilarious movie he loudly explains that he reserved it by telephone and insist to have a room. The staff doubt about it and try to find a solution with the group business guests. But then the Italian says that he is with more people and needs six rooms so now it becomes clear that he is bragging and the manager tells him to leave. After an hour the man tries again and then gives up.
We eat by candlelight, it tastes fine but not as good as the lunch. The greatest surprise however is that, as guests from the maharajah, we are allowed to use his alcohol-permit and can order a beer. As we go to our room we get some more blankets.
Friday 9 3; Jambughoda Bhavnagar
It is good that we had these extra blankets since it was a cold night. Wies is still coughing and has lost her voice, we hope that she not will turn really sick. After breakfast we get the account, 2680 rs for a night in the palace. By a different way we drive back to Vadodara and then go westward.
In Borsad we stop and visit a modern temple devoted to Surya, the sun deity. Pandit goes with us and explains the names of all the gods and saints, for us this is a little overdone. Behind the temple is a festival with music and dancing women. The visitors have a complete new kitchen equipment with them so we guess it will be a wedding party.
The scenery becomes more desolate and although it looks as if nothing can grow here large herds of cows, sheep's and goats roam around. The herdsmen are nomads who live in the Rann of Kutch during the monsoon. Whole families, in scenic clothings, walk along the road and accompany a long row of camels. The grown up people and animals walk while the camels carry the furniture and the young children as well as little dogs and goats. We take all the time to film this prehistoric spectacle.
As we drive to the south the surrounding becomes even more lost and dull. There are salt layers under the surface and nothing grows here. During the monsoon this area is flooded now it is dry with bridges that cross broad sand rivers.
The salt is explored on a large scale, we stop by one of the explorations and as the manager observes our interest he climbs in the car and leads us into the site. Water is injected in the ground to dissolve the salt, they pump the brine up and store it in large basins. After three weeks the sun has done the job and all the water is evaporated.
On a site across the road the salt is dry and a bunch of men and women dig it in baskets and carry these to a lorry. We film it from the road but they gesture us to come closer. They wrap old scraps around their feet and hands to protect themselves. It is again very hot and it must be incredible heavy work.
During the last part of the trip the surroundings becomes wet again as the sea-water still floods the land. Around four we arrive in Bhavnagar and Pandit suggests us first to look at the annex of the Nilambagh Palace Hotel. The new build, large rooms are situated around a inner court, it is 1200 rs a night and we take it. We dine in the garden restaurant of the real palace. A lot of tables but just five guests and the same number of waiters. But the ambiance and the food are good.
Saturday 10 3; Bhavnagar Junagadh
The plan is to leave at eight but since Wies her coughing stays on we decide to see a doctor first. There is one associated to the hotel and he arrives within half an hour. He examines Wies accurate and the diagnose is bronchitis, a injection and three different types of pills must be sufficient to cure it. A hotel boy goes to the pharmacy and comes back with the message that one pill type is not available. The doctor, who is still with us, does not believe this and sends the boy back. To be sure he writes an extra cure on the prescription and then he leaves, the consult costs 400 rs. The boy comes back with two cures and we think that will be enough. (Back home our physician sees the prescription and thinks that one cure was enough).
By ten o'clock we leave and the first stop is Sihor, in this place they melt old copper and make then new objects. Because of a wedding the factory where they make these things is closed, except of course the sale department.
So we go to the copper foundry a few houses away and stay there quit a time to observe the complete production process. Here it is extremely hot and noisy.
A hole in the floor with an oil-heater serves as the melting-furnace. Men put old copper and tin in it and as that is melted they bail it out with a basket and pour it into a mould. In a few minutes the copper is sufficient cooled off to remove the moulds. The plates, a few centimetre thick, are subsequently rolled, heated in an wood oven, rolled again in thin plates, and then cut into circles and other forms. When the workers have a break we drink the chai together, all of them are bucked that we film there labour. Of course we go back and buy some items in the store.
We drive further through a scenery that is not as flat as yesterday but still barren. We want to stop for the lunch but Pandit says that he knows a better place. His choice is a restaurant where we only can sit inside and it is filled with flies. We refuse to stay there and Pandit feels him selves insulted, as the next restaurant is a long ride away, the atmosphere in the car becomes a little tense.
This restaurant looks fine and the waiter speaks good English. There is no menu but we will get all the local specialities. There is plenty to eat and it tastes fine but I'm shocked over the bill, it is 400 rs., this is too much but I pay it.
At four we arrive in Junagadh and Pandit wants to go to the hotel he knows. It is the hotel of the tourist organisation but it so dirty that we leave at once. More and more we get the idea that Pandit is used to drive with tourist that let make him the arrangements and that he cannot cope with people who want to make their own decisions. At least we are in the hotel we want, it is hotel Relief where we get a clean room for 500 rs.
It is hot but at six, as the sun sets down, we go into the city. We walk in the centre which is very crowded. The road goes steep uphill and when the rickshaws go down the drivers switch off the engine so we must watch exceptionally if we cross the road.
Wies is feeling better but needs paper handkerchiefs, no shopkeeper knows the existence of those and so she uses napkins instead. The food in the restaurant is fine but there are just a few guests. In our room it is broiling, we open the window as well as the door and with the fan on the maximum speed we try to get it colder.
Sunday 11 3; Junagadh
In this way is stays cool enough to sleep. We are up at eight and go to the fort which is of course on top of the hill. From the hotel we go straight upwards but fortunate in the shadow of the houses. The entrance to the fort is a massive gateway and from there we climb further to the water tank. In this part we don't see any other visitors, only monkeys, birds of prey and peacocks. We walk along the walls with big canons and the remainders of towers, meanwhile we overlook the city .
We ramble further to the more tourist area. Next to a Hindu temple a man is collecting fruits from a tree and gives me some, they taste as raw field beans. Then we come by a fifty meter deep well. It is an early form of the step wells, by this one the steps are constructed at the outside of the well. I go down but not to the bottom since it is quit ruinous. In every hole pigeons are nesting.
Near an old mosque is a cemetery, the graves are covered with coloured cloths.
By this time it is heating up again and we have seen enough. Now we have to walk in the bare sun to the centre of Junagadh. There is a fruit juice bar, something we haven't seen so far during this trip. They serve amongst others a delightful pineapple lassi.
At noon we are back in the hotel and take a nap. Later on we go into the city to look for a place to lunch. We cannot find a decent eating house so we go back and arrive just in time since the restaurant closes at three. In the town we visit another mosque and some mausoleums. The latter can right away be used in a fairy tale movie with towers and balconies everywhere. It is not possible to go inside the monuments, on the terrain around it is a herd of goats.
The internet cafι here is on a store attic and the connection is very slow.
Tomorrow we have again an early start, before the breakfast service in the hotel begins, so we buy bread and jam. And then of course we take another fruit drink
Monday 12 3; Junagadh Bhuj
After another warm night we rise early. A man sleeps in the hall of the hotel and opens the front door, but we must carry the luggage ourselves. At seven we leave, just before Rajkot we get a flat tire. After changing it we go to a tire-centre to fix the old one. But the inner tube is totally worn out. Pandit has a new one with him and after three quarter we are on the road again.
Soon we ride through the Little Rann of Kutch, during the monsoon this area is filled with seawater but now it is mostly dry and covered with a thick layer of salt. It is not as pure white as the salt near Bhavnagar but nevertheless it is gathered. Along the road there is a thick irrigation tube for the transport of drinking water to the hinterland.
As we come closer to Bhuj everywhere we see new built villages, erected after the earthquake of 2001. There are also a lot of industrial settlements varying from modern electronic companies to chemist factories. Sometimes these are situated in the middle of nowhere with apartments for the workers and surrounded by a wall.
We visit two villages where the textiles are dyed in the traditional way. The most impressive is the block technique, it needs fourteen turns of printing and washing before the merchandise is finished.
Tomorrow we go to the tribal areas to the north of Bhuj and as we arrive in the city we go to the police station to obtain the permit we need. Here reigns the bureaucracy, we wait before the fence, behind it sits a man shifting papers and talking in the phone, next to him sits another doing nothing. After a while we get the forms and fill it up. The man takes them, waits a while, makes an entry in a book and disappears with the papers. Quickly he is back and tells us to wait half an hour since his boss is not present. After nearly an hour this official arrives, sets his signature and we get our free permits.
From the information in Footprint we selected Hotel Lake View and tell this to Pandit, it takes some trouble to convince him. We get a nice room for 900 rs., it is spacious with a working hot shower.
In the tribal region we shall visit tomorrow are hardly facilities, so we have to take our own lunch. The hotel cannot arrange this and we go with Pandit to the market and buy bread, water, fruit and biscuits.
We eat in the hotel garden next to the empty swimming pool. The whole day it was not that hot and there is a stiff breeze, now it cools off so much that we go inside for the coffee.
Tuesday 13 3; Bhuj
In the morning we leave Bhuj for a day trip to the tribal villages into the north. After a small stretch of cultivated land we drive through a sandy desert with just thorny bushes. At least this is how it looks but there must be food since we see many herds of buffaloes, goats and camels.
In a tiny village we stop to look around. The people boil milk with sugar in three hours down to a solid substance which they sell. As we understand this the only place they make it. A blacksmith and his helper manufacture axes, his wife operates the bellows.
In the next village we go with our permits to the police station. Although we have three copies of it they still need another one. We wait some time, go into an office, write our home address on the permits, the police puts them in a drawer and that is the last we see of it. Inside the police station there are two cells, one for men and one for women, the latter is used as a storage room.
We continue on a good drivable road until we take a sharp turn just before a roadblock. As I look at our map I see that the main road goes directly to Pakistan. Since we are in the frontier area we see some army camps. The landscape becomes hilly and the road gets worse. At last we drive through a rocky dry river-bed to the top of a hill and stop next to an army camp in Kala Durhar. We walk over a few hills and then look down over the Rann of Khutch. This part is still filled with water, and on the opposite side, to far to see it clearly faces Pakistan.
Around eleven we continue our trip to Khutdu and Lundi, villages established by the government after the earthquake. The, once nomadic, tribal people who live here are tall, the women wear colourful dresses combined with a large shawl. The men wear long jackets over a pair of trousers of the same colour, mostly white.
The villages consist of merely round houses, beautiful decorated. The inhabitants are used to tourists and invite us inside their house and try to sell clothes, carpets and other stuff. They act as if these are locally made products but we have the idea that they buy it somewhere else. Another activity is the making of charcoal, a lot of the bushes are used for this and I am afraid all the wood will vanish soon.
The government also build new schools, but here are too few children to fill all the classrooms, only one of the six is used.
Our own lunch we eat in another village where an education centre for women is situated. Apart from some attendants we don't see anyone and the dust in the library indicates no activities at all.
We have much too much food and share it with the local children.
Next we go to Dhoria again a long ride through a barren landscape. Here lives a Muslim family three kilometre from the Rann and is the last village before the border. It is a rich family with computers and stuff like that. They reason for this prosperity is the ownership of the local well so they sell the water.
We drive back to Bhuj, near the city is a film location and there we film the making of another movie with a malicious English officer and poor Indians.
During this day we discussed the rest of the trip with Pandit. I want to go to Dholavira but that is awkward as a day trip from Bhuj and we decide to visit it during the journey to Patan.
We eat in the cheerless dining room of the hotel, but the quality of the food and the friendly employees compensate this.
Wednesday 14 3; Bhuj
Today we make a trip to she south of Bhuj in the direction of Mandvi. Our fist goal is the Vijay Villa Palace. It is situated a few kilometres outside Mandvi in a large ecological garden. I don't see anything but bushes, probably nothing else will grow here, since it is sandy and close to the sea. The palace is well maintained, at the entrance a boy waits and shows us around. Then we climb the stairs to the roof by the outdoor. Here an older man tells what there is to see around the palace, such as a tennis court and a swimming pool. Very special is that the guides don't accept a tip.
On our way to Mandvi we see large groups of cranes, gathering together for their flight to the North. We go to the beach, it is to early for the daily visitors but there are camels and horses for hire. Along the tourist beach stand modern wind mills for electricity.
On the banks of the nearly dry river are the shipyards to build and repair big wooden dhows. Large groups of workers work manual on about twenty ships. As usual we take our time to observe all of it before we continue.
Over a lot of narrow roads we arrive in Tundah Wandh where the Rabari's live. According to Pandit these are 'strong men', in any case they are tall. One family gives us permission to take pictures and we also enter into their house. Inside are a few beds and the walls are covered with cloth and decorated with mirrors. The roof is made from branches and other wooden materials.
Back to Bhuj for the lunch and since we tomorrow leave early we settle the bill now. Without an invoice we get a discount of 100 rs. pro night.
In the afternoon we visit the palaces in the city, first the Sarad Bagh Palace, this is close to the same lake as our hotel is situated. Next to the palace is a plant nursery, in the trees in the garden hang huge bats. From the palace is only the part with the dining room open for visitors, the main building is heavily damaged by the 2001 earthquake and closed.
After this we go the palaces in the centre, here is the damage from the disaster also obvious. From the outside the Prag Mahal looks unharmed but as we walk to the backside of it we see the broad gaps in the tower. The inside is also damaged and totally neglected, it must have been a impressive and beautiful palace. Now it is sadly with defecating pigeons and the indications of mouses and rats everywhere. There is an overwhelming hall but the cloth hang down from the ceiling, with some fantasy I still can see the splendour of the past.
The Fuvura Mahal is so badly damaged that it is closed, the Aina Mahal is also a museum and better maintained. We wander through the shopping area, the road plan is old but the shops are rebuild, and in the side-streets we see a lot of ruins.
Bhuj is still a nice place but I guess it has lost a lot of the splendour it had before the earthquake.
In the meantime Pandit has read our Footprint and wants to show us everything that is mentioned in it. We skip the rebuild mosque and the museum is already closed so the first stop is Rakund, a fantastic restored step well. Next we go to the cenotaphs at Chattaradi, many of these are also destroyed and now partly repaired. From here we have a great view over the lake and the city.
Before we go back to the hotel we buy tomorrow's breakfast.
Thursday 15 3; Bhuj Radhanpur
At seven we leave Bhuj and drive back over the partly finished highway. This is not pleasant and we are glad that after a few hours we take the detraction to Rapar and Dholavira. The road runs through a very dry area and gets bad and narrow, at least there is just one lane left. As usual Pandit moans when the car hits a hole in the road. We are happy that there is barely any traffic and tourists we don't see at all.
The people in the villages are traditional dressed, the man wear white trousers, jacket and a turban, and as usual the women have more colourful clothes. We drive again over the bottom of a part of the Rann, an eight km long road right across the salt fields, it is an unearthly sight. We cross the next 'island' and, as we see the Rann again, a very tiny road leads us to Dholavira.
Just before the excavation there is a sign to a tourist resort but we continue and half past eleven we arrive at a large empty parking zone.
Next to this is a brand new museum, men are busy to set up the exhibition. We ask if we can take pictures on the site, according to my information it is forbidden, but there is no problem as long as we do not use the video.
Over broad paths we walk to the ruins. I estimate that the terrain is 500 m. long and wide, apart from a group workers we are the only people. The walls we see are in such a perfect condition that it looks as if they are heavily restored. But as we see the workers digging it is obvious that after 4500 years the walls come undamaged out of the sand. We talk a while with the supervisor and then explore the site.
We are allowed to walk everywhere and there are boards with clear explanations on it. Some of the walls are completely excavated whilst from the most buildings only the upper rows of the stones are visible. Clearly you can see how impressive this stronghold was. As usual on places like this I want to see everything and go on while Wies takes a rest in the shadow of a tree. I feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of walking through the remainders of one of the oldest civilisations. But we have to go on and after 1½ hour I have seen enough and we leave.
We are hungry and go to the tourist resort for lunch, there is a new restaurant and a hotel. It looks as if the restaurant never has been opened, in the lobby of the hotel a man sleeps, the doors are closed. So no food and the first place were we can eat is in Rapar, more than two hours driving from here. In a village we buy some biscuits in a small shop and then we have a lot of luck.
Just as we crossed the Rann again we arrive in Ravi and a restaurant has opened since five days. The cooking is done in the open air and the cooks enjoy that we film the preparing of our meal. Everything is so brand new that the price stickers are still on the tableware but the food is fine.
From Rapar we drive by another road to the highway and from there the only memorable thing is that we must stop for four crossing Nilgau.
The first city with a hotel is Radhanpur. The hotel is close to the highway and not that good but it is six o'clock and for 600 rs we take a room with AC but without chairs. I take a walk through the city, it is dusty and absolute not touristic. At seven the sun sets and all the shops close. I suddenly realize that compared with Orissa, where we were some weeks ago, there is an hour difference in the time of the sunset.
Friday 16 3; Radhanpur - Meshana
The breakfast is bad and the price of mineral water is a mystery: 3 bottles for 49 rs. After an hour we approach Patan, we drive around the city and stop at, at least that's how it looks, a lawn with a fence around it. But in reality we stay before the Ran-ka-Vav stepwell. Just as always a form for the video must be filled up and this time I have to do it myself. The ticket seller gives the impression that he sees the form for the first time.
Above the ground level there is nothing to see but as we walk towards it we discover that the well is fantastic restored with sculptures everywhere. We go down as far as it is allowed and that is quit deep.
Then we go to the Sahastralinga talav another large water tank in the shape of a great square. Here are also few visitors, a little boy walks with us an insists that we climb down but we prefer to stay at the surface.
Patan is also well known for weaving sari's according to the ikat technique, hereby are the individual threads painted before the weaving process. We get an extended explanation of the way this is accomplished. The dying takes 3 months, the weaving 1½ and then you have a sari for 90.000 rs. Also the smaller shawls that they sell are above our budget.
We leave Patan to see the big sun temple in Modhera. The temple itself consists of two buildings and before it is a great stepwell. And, as on the other places, just a few visitors.
We stay the night in Mehsana in the Sahara Bridge hotel, it looks very luxurious but we get a nice clean room for 800 rs. In the afternoon we make a trip to Vadnagar. There, in the middle of a ordinary neighbourhood, are two very tall triumphal arches decorated with sculptures.
After that we drive to one of the old town gates and from there we make a walk through the city. By many of the houses the upper part is build with beautiful carved wood. The last stop is by an again lovely old temple. The carvings are so well kept that we think they are restored although it looks original.
At five we are back in the hotel, Vikham, Pandit 's boss, phones him and we briefly talk to Vikham telling that we are satisfied with our trip. This hotel has two different dining rooms with different prices, we take the cheaper one.
Saturday 17 3; Meshana - Udaipur
Since Wies her coughing is nearly over we both sleep well again. By the payment the clerk needs a calculator to determine the change (1000- 788) and it takes some rides with the elevator before the boy and I are on the same floor to collect our luggage but it was a nice hotel. About eight we leave and after an hour or so we reach the high-way to Delhi.
In Gujarat we drive through an agricultural environment but that changes immediately after the border and we are in a barren and dry hilly country. The green colour comes from cactus hedges planted up and down over the hills.
The border between Gujarat and Rajasthan is as between the European countries a decade ago. The freight trucks have to go to the customs on both sides of the border and Pandit needs a travel-permit for Rajasthan.
The landscape and the road stay the same until we enter Udaipur. We go to hotel Mahendra Prakesh, they have just one room left and since we stay for five nights we get a discount and pay 1200 rs. It is a big room and there is a lawn and a swimming pool, just the luxury we need for some days.
It is one o'clock and we say goodbye to Pandit and I guess that both parties are relieved as persons we could not go on together very well.
After lunch we take time to relax and late in the afternoon we walk to the lake. We stand at the back entrance of the City Palace and can not walk alongside the lake to the centre. So we walk around the palace, it is hilly with now and then a stout climb. And of course everywhere tourist shops and the customers they need. This is a big contrast with the last weeks, or actually with our whole journey so far.
We go back and buy some Kingfisher, it tastes good after our dry period. We dinner in the garden of our hotel. There are some tourist groups but we sit there quiet and happy with another beer.
Sunday 18 3; Udaipur
We take our time this morning and at nine we have breakfast in the garden. Then we walk to the centre and visit the City Palace. The maharana still lives in a part of the palace and he just arrives in his Mercedes. From the travel book I got the idea that there are many different palaces but in reality it is one big complex. Every ruler has added his own chambers to it and every extensions
they call a palace.
It is very luxurious and there is a lot to see, many beautiful rooms and objects while the views over the Pichola lake and the town are magnificent.
There are a lot of visitors but there is a one-way route through all the narrow corridors and stairs that connect the different parts of the palace. Due to this it is possible to look at everything in your own tempo.
For lunch we go to a rooftop restaurant, the kitchen is below and there is just one person to do all the work so we take a rest at the same time. And that is necessarily too because afterwards we walk to the clock-tower, and the walk goes up and down. Happily we find another way along the foot of the hill and so back to the hotel.
We have a quit afternoon in the garden and go out for dinner. The first rooftop restaurant is near the hotel. It is dark up there and just one table is occupied, but we have a nice view on the palace. We sit down and wait for the waiter. It takes a long time and just as we want to leave he comes and of course we can eat. After again a long wait he brings the breakfast menu, that settles it and we leave.
Next to the Ray Palace, this is more pleasant and the food is perfect. On the way back to our hotel we walk to the lake. In a pubic garden are enormous luxury wedding parties. On the hill is an temple, this and the contours of the lake are lightened and so is the Palace Hotel in the lake.
Monday 19 3; Udaipur
The hotel desk mediates for trips, this afternoon we want a rickshaw (500rs.) for a tour through the city and the surroundings. For tomorrow we hire a car (1400 rs.) for a trip to Kamblagarh and Ranakpur and they will take care also for tickets for the bus to Jodhpur on the 22nd. Now all this is settled we stay the rest of the moning in the garden and as that becomes to hot in the hall next to our room. They have a filled bookshelves so we have something new to read.
Although we have another fortnight before we go home we feel that our ambition to explore a lot is declining. We have already decided to go to Jodhpur from here. During our previous trip we stayed there in Durag Niwas. We decide to take that as a base for the remaining days and I mail to Govind, the owner.
After lunch we must pay the food and drinks we had until now. I see that a beer is 120 rs. so in future I go to the shop where I pay 25 rs.
Half past two we go with the rickshaw amd a driver who speaks reasonable English. First a ride to various markets in the city. As the rickshaws are not allowed to park here we just take a quick look.
Next we go to the cenotaphs, officially it is not allowed to enter the enclosure. But when we pay the guard 20 rs. and write a few lines in the guest-book after the visit there is no problem. It is an large complex with about 700 cenotaphs. We visit just a part of it, the older monuments are situated in lawns, the newer ones in a sandy terrain.
In the Jain temple we visit after this, a monk guides us around. He tells that all the sculptures are original, I don't know if this is true but they are beautiful.
Then to Moti Magri, a court around the remainders of the oldest castle of Udaipur. Here is much attention for the famous horse Chetak just as in the City Palace and at many other places in the city. From the park we have a fantastic sight on some of the lakes around the city.
The following court, Sahelion Ki Bari is constructed with many and mostly working, fountains. There is also a natural science museum for children.
A little outside the town is Shilipgram a craft village intended to show the tribal live in these region. But to us it is more a tourist trap with many shops and space for a lot more. An old camel is to hire for a ride and musicians and dancers start their performance as you stand still before them. We don't stay long.
The final is a trip to the Monsoon Palace, high above the city. There is a gate at the beginning of the road where tickets are sold. For the video the tariff is 200 and we do not want to spend that. The driver, I did not mention it but he is a nice companion, has overheard this and assures he will fix it with the guard by the palace for 100 rs.
The road turns upwards and it is nearly to steep for the rickshaw but again it is a wonderful trip with great views over the lakes and the surrounding mountains. The driver goes with our money to the guard while we look around a little. When the guard ask us for the video ticket we point to the driver. The guard ask what did you pay and as we tell we gave 100 rs. we may enter.
The monsoon palace is merely a tower in a terrible state of disrepair, but the reason to go is for the indeed amazing views. Since buses are not allowed here it is not very crowed. On the ground floor of the tower is a small exhibition of the flora and fauna of the region. We go upstairs in the tower, sit on the broad window-sills. The swallows fly around us. We want to see the sunset but since it is cloudy that is not so spectacular and as the city lights go on we return. Down hill it is not necessary to switch on the engine.
Back in the city the driver asks if we want to go to a school for miniature painters. As foundation for the paintings they use silk or plates of crunched camel bones, the latter as substitute for ivory. After the demonstration there is of course the selling.
Tuesday 20 3; Udaipur
It is nine o'clock when we are on our way, again we are lucky to have a driver who speaks sufficient English. Soon we go into the Aravalli Range, this also is a fantastic scenery with barren hills and small-scale agriculture in the valleys. We drive along the river through a lot of small villages where the people mostly wear traditional clothing.
In a somewhat bigger village we drive into the mountains and go through an old arch. Then, on the top of the hill we suddenly see the Kumbalgarh fort before, or better, above us on the next hilltop. From where we stand it is an impressive sight, the long wall seems to go on everlasting.
We drive to the entrance and start to climb to the top of the fort. It is a steep path with hairpins and many arches for the defence. As we look at the impressive surroundings we can follow the long outer wall, in the area it encloses are many temples. The fort is build on the last hill of the range and in the distance we see the flat areas.
The older buildings and defence bastions are ruined. An old woman allures us inside the remainders. There are the statues of some gods and we get once again a clot of paint on our forehead for the price of 10 rs. She wants to guides us further but we go on together and clean our head. On the top of the hill there is a newer palace but nowadays this is also abandoned. We go to the top roof, it is frightening how steep it goes down from there.
We walk back to the car and want to lunch here but according to the driver it is better to eat in Ranakpur. Through a just such impressive area we drive towards it. There are many wells, the water is pumped up by mean of the so-called Persian wheels.
An endless chain of buckets is slung round a large vertical wheel. A system of tooth-wheels and bullocks which walk in a circle make the vertical wheel turn and every bucket comes up, filled with water. We visit one and after a little payment I make some rounds on the shelf behind the bullocks.
In Ranakpur we lunch in an worn out collection of cottages.Big signboards advertise it as a holiday resort but we are the only guests.
It is obvious that the main road is close to the Jain temples, bus loads of tourist arrive regular. But it is a beautiful temple with many sculptures. The biggest temple has so many pillars that I cannot get a good impression of its real size. We may film everywhere except for the holy centre and guards look after this. There are also two smaller temples which attract much less visitors. By the smallest one is just one guard and to ban the boredom he guides us around. For a small fee we may film here realy everything.
The drivers drops us by the nearby sun temple, we have actually seen enough for this day but since we are here we walk barefooted through the hot sand. The trip back is again wonderful with the low standing sun and we are thirty past six back in the hotel, again a fascinating day.
Wednesday 21 3; Udaipur
After a slow start we walk at ten o'clock to the city to explore the markets on which we briefly where at our city-tour. We find the vegetable market easy but the spice market is a problem, everyone we ask points us in a different direction so we give up and just wander through all kind of shopping streets and allies.
It is maybe just a quarter of hour walking from the lake but here are hardly any tourists. In a small stall we have a delightful chai and then do some shopping. On a squire we see our yesterday driver, today he is a rickshaw driver. We chat a while and he offers us another chai.
Slowly we wander towards the lake and want a lunch. In a row of houses is a very modest entrance to the Red Herring restaurant. We enter the alley and arrive in a small eating house with a terrace for one table above the lake. It is gorgeous peaceful, the food tastes fantastic and we enjoy the panorama over the lake quit some time.
On the way back we look after a bracelet for our daughter. The shopkeeper has a lot of bracelets but not in the colour we want. His son has a shop a few blocks away and he has other stones. As we walk to it the father is already waiting for us. The colours are good but now we don't like the model and on the spot he fabricates a new one.
This evening we want to visit the daily dance demonstration in the museum at the lake. It starts at seven and we leave one hour earlier. The streets are crowded, especially with women and children who walk to the centre in their best clothes. Police blocks the road for motorised traffic. We walk with the stream in the direction of the museum, the crowd splits in two, the greater part goes to the lake.
By the museum, of course a palace, are arrows with the announcement this is reserved for ladies and foreigners. So we come at the roof of the museum, in the meantime it is clear to us that this cannot be the standard dance evening.
The roof is overcrowded and we climb a table in the hope to see something. Beneath us, at the bank of the lake, stands a much larger crowd. On the lake drifts a raft with seven women. As it darkens they dance and a wide variety of other boats pass by. These are filled with officials, other dancers, musicians and of course the TV. Since it is so crowded we can only see fragments of the festivities.
Then the police enters the roof and evacuates it, rumours say that somebody has fallen down, I guess there are just too many people. We talk a little with the police and leave as the last ones, it is unbelievable with how many we were. The festival continues and there is a stunning firework.
As we are downstairs beautiful clothed idols are carried from the lake into the city. As we ask for the cause of the festivities the answer we get is that it has something to do with a new year and that it is a typical Rajasthan festival. Later on we discover that this is the start of the famous Mewar festival.
Thursday 22 3; Udaipur Jodhpur
Since our bus to Jodhpur leaves at two o'clock we do not have to rush anything this morning. With a rickshaw we go to a travel agency near the bus station. After a short time a man leads us and other passengers to the bus. Above the seats are berths so we don't have too much space above our heads.
First we make a detour through Udaipur to pick up more passengers. Then we leave the city by the road to Ajmer and after a while we take a turn to a smaller road through a hilly landscape. It is warm and the windows are open but in front sit a few women which are carsick. If they vomit it is wise to close our window so we must be attentive.
In a village beyond the hills we stop and can leave the bus for a while. Then the service continues as a slow bus through the desolate country. The driver stops for everyone who puts up his hand and the passengers can leave where they want. We think it is a private trade by the driver and his assistant. Of course this gives a lot of delay and one of the original passengers gets very angry. It makes no impression.
At six we are on the main road to Jodhpur and don't stop so often any more. But when we drive through Pali we act as a city bus. So it is thirty past eight when we arrive in Jodhpur.
With a rickshaw we cross the city to Durag Niwas where we are cordial welcomed by Govind, his wife Mukta and the rest of his family, it is as we are coming home. We eat something and talk a while in the innercourt with the other guests before we go to bed.
Friday 23 3; Jodhpur
Yesterday Goving told us about a ceremony on behave of the first haircut of their son Ayush. We are invited to join the family and of course we have accepted this. It starts tomorrow so today we don't do very much.
After our late breakfast the women of the Sambhali project enter, this is a NGO that Govind has founded in a separate part of his guest house. We want to go to the city but first Wies goes to see what they produce and how they make it.
So it is about noon as we go to the market near the clock-tower. When we were here in 2005 we visited the the fort and other tourist places. Now we just explore the city, walk around the lakes and go to a restaurant that overlooks them.
Back in the hotel we rest and drink and after dinner we discuss the coming trip. Two other guest, Swiss Nigama and Cat from the USA, join the party.
Govind explains about the ceremony. It is a Rajput tradition that the first hair of the eldest son is burned to sacrifice it to the god Durga. Ayus is two now and it is time to do the offering. Govind's own hair is not burned but his mother has kept it, so they have a double ceremony.
The ceremony takes place in the Thar desert from where the family origins. It is in a little village near the small town Setrawa. We will stay there in the old deserted family house. We know this place because we stayed there one night in October 2005. During the chat the bleating of the two goats that will be sacrificed sounds in the background.
Saturday 24 3; Setrawa in the Thar desert
It is one o'clock as we leave Jodhpur. In our landrover we sit with ten grown ups, two children, two goats, the kitchen equipment and a lot of food and water. The odd combination, with four white tourists, draws a lot of attention as we cross the city.
We make some detours to pick up more guests but nobody is at home. Halfway we stop in a village to eat a lot of delightful pekora's.
Due to all the detours it is four o'clock when we arrive at the the village. The house is build as a rectangle around an open court of twenty metres. The neighbours have already cleaned the house so we just have to unload the car.
Mukta was only here once, short after her marriage four years ago. Now she and the other women install the kitchen and start to prepare a meal. The propane stove we have taken with us.
The other cars arrive also and Govind installs our sleeping places, the four tourists near to each other on the rooftop under the open sky. As guest we are not allowed to do anything but after some nagging we may peel a large load of garlic.
Everywhere in the courtyard are clods and banks where everyone settles down. Govind's grandmother, a lady in her late sixties, lived in this house when she was young. The people of the village remember her and greet her with great respect. The preparation for the ceremony is lead by an uncle of Govind. In the house there is no electricity but someone makes an illegal tap to the electricity wire of the neighbours so we have one lamp besides the light of the candles.
A niche, normally filed with rubbish, is cleaned and now act as an altar. When the evening falls a big drum is beaten and a man tells a story. This is the start of the ceremony which goes on, with large intervals, the whole night.
The musician plays his organ and sings traditional songs. A priest is there and after the meal he and four other accomplish an extended ceremony by the altar. All of them are clothed in white with colourful turbans. Of course we don't understand anything of the rites, but it is as something of archaic ages and very impressive.
Next to the house is the temple for the village deity and there takes place the next episode. Outside this temple about ten travelling mediums are gathered, inside the temple is a fire. The musicians join the group and together they sing.
After a while we go back inside, the village children are eating and as they finished we get our meal.
The temple ceremony is still going on, the mediums sing and beat together on a big drum. Inside the temple one of them is dancing and meditating. Suddenly he shouts and comes out shaking and rolling with his eyes. The deity has possessed him. Everyone is excited and the villagers approaches him and ask their questions to the god. According to Govind these questions are on the level of why gives the goat no milk. After a while it becomes quit again, cigarettes, booze and chunks of opium are shared, I refuse that and go with the others back inside.
Now the ladies who did the coking have at last time to eat. We sit and talk for a while, climb to our bed and lay down. The sky is clear and we see a lot of stars. Naturally it is cold but with some extra blankets it is fine. The men near the temple stay awake the whole night, now and then they sing and by this sound I fell asleep.
Sunday 25 3; Setrawa in the Thar desert
During the night I am regular half awake and hear the drums and the priest by the temple. Then, at three o'clock, I wake up by singing of six women on the court beneath us. I put on some clothes and go down to film it, Govind's mother is awake too and says something to the other women and then I am the centre of the fun.
At thirty past six we wake up again as the musician starts to sing. I see the sun coming above the horizon and shining over the deserts and the peacocks who wander around the houses, I walk to the temple, it is obvious the mediums there had a cold night and sit quietly together.
One by one the other members of our party wake up and Mukta has chai, bread and fruit for everyone. Of course there is a queue for the only toilet. All of us go to the temple outside where the priests have got back their energy. Te deity still possesses the same man and he starts again to dance on the beating of the drum.
There are more ceremonies by the altar in the house and outside with another temple. Back in the house the musician get his reward and the men disappear. It is half past nine and already getting hot.
At eleven we walk with the family into the desert for the haircut. Everyone wears his most beautiful traditional clothes. A few hundred metres from the house is a stone in the sand, this represents the deity of the family. Here they kindle a fire of cow dung.
After the preliminary ceremonies Govind's mother burns his baby hair. Then it is Ayush his turn, he stays calm when his hair is cut off very short and burned with the proper prayers. Just a little tail stays on the back of his head. It is impressive, with a little group in the desert fulfilling an ages old ceremony.
We walk back to the house and stay there during the afternoon. The house is thoughtful constructed so there is always shadow in a part it. In the meantime there is still more garlic to peel and other guests arrive.
By nightfall we go with three cars to Setrawa a few kilometres from here. Of course the goats go with us. In the dark we walk along 600 year old ruins to a small temple. There again are ceremonies for Govind and Ayush. We walk back to the centre of the village where the family once again circles around a holy fire and the last tail of Ayush his hair is cut off and burned.
Then the goat is let around the fire, when she shivers the gods will accept him as an offer. The goat waits some time but then she shakes.
Bunty, the man which does a lot of the work in the hotel shall offer the goat. He is going to marry soon and his family warned him not to accomplish the ceremonial killing because this brings bad luck. A boy lies on the ground holding the hind-legs of the goat. As Bunty swings the long knife down the blade flies off and rushes close to the boys head. Happily nobody gets wounded. Govind's Uncle takes over and the second goat goes spotless.
For the return journey there are only two cars so the ladies leave first. We get something to drink and while we are waiting the goats of other families are sacrificed. With twelve man in a mini van we go back together with the slaughtered goats. In the house we get a little to eat while Bunty and others chop the goat in small pieces. The meat goes with 1,5 kg hot pepper and other spices in the cooking-pot on the open fire. While we are waiting we chat and drink a beer or something more alcoholic.
At one o'clock the meat is ready, not many people have stayed for this. It delicious but very sharp, when Wies tells me that her kisses will burn me everyone laughs his head off. An hour later we climb to the roof.
Monday 26 3; From the Thar desert back to Jodhpur
At seven thirty the sun wakes us. Early in the morning the temperature is pleasant and again we enjoy the peacocks showing off their tails. Together we clear the premises, for breakfast there is just chai. There is only one car left and Bunty leaves with ladies of the family while we are waiting for a car from Jodhpur. We fall apart in small groups, Cat and Nigame will continue their trip together and discuss this. We talk with Govind about the plans and ideas he has to develop this region and how different he must behave here then in the city.
Round eleven our car is there, an open jeep with seven seats. Including the driver we are eight persons. The real problem is that we have a large amount of baggage. After a lot of trying and shifting the two back seats disappear under the luggage. Three man on the front row, we, Cat and Nigame on the next bench and Govind sits on the spare wheel at the back of the car, hanging over the luggage. The four of us sit so tight that during the ride I sneak to the back and sit on the kitchen equipment.
After an hour we stop for the lunch and rearrange the luggage. Now Govind and I sit next to each other both on a burner of the stove. We continue our conversation of this morning. For none of us the ride of 100 km. is really pleasant and we are glad when we are in Jodhpur. In the outskirts Bunty waits for us with the hotelbus. Back in the hotel Ayush is now clean shaven, for hygienic reasons Govind and Mukta did not want to do that in the desert.
This desert trip is one of the experiences you don't even dream of by planning a tour. For us it was one of the highlights of this journey.
The hotel has two big rooms and since one of them is empty we have arranged to take that. We take a nap in our new environment before we go downstairs. The rest of the afternoon and evening we keep talking with the family and other guest over this incredible trip. It is past midnight before we go to sleep.
Tuesday 27 3; Jodhpur
We go to the city to take care off the pictures and videos we made in the desert. From a part of the pictures we make prints and in the shop next door they transfer the video on a DVD, so we can leave all this here.
It is the birthday of one of the girls of the Sambhali project and she has treated this morning on candies. Wies buys some bracelets for her and as we are back in Durag Niwas we give these. Of course we must join them for a birthday meal of chips, bread and something very spice. In it is a green pepper, we eat that while the others take it out, so there is a big laugh over the dummy tourists.
Of course the family is happy with the pictures and film. Apart form eating and chatting we don't do anything.
Wednesday 28 3; Jodhpur
The night is hot again and since we don't succeed to switch on the AC we keep sweating. Yesterdays I looked at the weather forecast, day temperatures up to 40Ί and nights 25Ί, it looks like summer. With this heat and after all the things we already have done in the past months we decide to keep it quiet for the remaining days. I had some vague plans for a trip of a day of three but we lack the energy to do this.
From Govind , Wies gets some shawls, they are made by the girls of the project and very nice. My sister in Holland has connections with a shop that sells such goods. I call her and she is interested and I order a dozen. In the evening it is chat time again. Mukta's sister gives in return fort the pictures a necklace to Wies. In the meanwhile we here all sorts of new episodes about the family history. We have turned the AC on and now it is 20Ί when we go to bed.
Thursday 29 3; Jodhpur
With the AC on we sleep a lot better but the daytime temperature is definitely too hot for us. In the morning we go to the city and the rest of the day we stay in the shadow in the hotel. The balconies are filled by the scarves we ordered.
While we are complaining over the heat the contractors are working in the sun, building a better place for the girls of the Shambali project. Now the work beyond a canvas sail. In the evening it is again the good ritual of coffee, beer and chatting.
Friday 30 3; Jodhpur
A friend of Govind works in a luxurious hotel with a swimming pool, which he will let us use it for a reduced tariff. It is not that far and we walk towards the hotel and ask at the lobby for Virendra. After a little confusion the man tells us that he works in the night shift. So we pay the full tariff of 600 rs. It is an overdone place where the waiters in the garden wear black tunics with a fantasy turban but without a decent place to change our clothes. Wies, who never swims, likes it with this temperature so we stay there quit a time. We are the only swimmers while around us the other guests drink their beer. We take just mineral water for 56 rs.
Back in Durag Niwas we hear that there are two fancy hotels next to each other and we took the wrong one.
Saturday 31 3; Jodhpur
This morning we make a trip to the area where the Bishnoi people live together with James and Clair, a young English couple. Originally Bunty will drive us, but he is going to marry in a couple of weeks and is too busy with the preparations. Now we have the same driver and car as on Monday.
We leave at eight and we arrive at a solitary farm after a drive of an hour through the countryside, with everywhere peacocks and deer. The owner works in Jodhpur, his wife and children live here.
She shows us their food of grain and vegetables and we may look around in her hut. Of course there is chai and some opium. We all eat a little of it, it tastes somewhat sweet.
In a nearby village a man shows how he weaves thick shawls. He gives a short demonstration and then the selling starts. We have more interest in the wild birds that nest in his house. In the next village it is the same pattern, a small demonstration of making pottery, weaving, blockprinting and then the negotiations.
Back in Durag Niwas there is Bunty's mother for a visit and she asks us to stay for the wedding party. Since that is not possible we will visit her tomorrow.
In the evening Cat and Nigama set of for their journey to Sikkim, we stay again the whole evening on the inner court. It is a festival day and official there is no beer in the shops but Bunty goes to the black market so everyone get his drinks. At midnight Govind starts with April jokes.
Sunday 1 4; Jodhpur
Wies wants a massage and Govind calls a woman who gives this, soon she arrives. It is a harsh treatment and as reward the lady likes a watch above the normal payment of 400 rs. By Clair who is next she wants immediate something extra and then she is sent away.
By one o'clock Bunty is here with two nephews and we go to his parents house. For us it is special to be invited by people we hardly know and they are honoured that we want to come. So everyone is happy.
After paying our respect to grandma, who lives in a separate part, we go to the parents bedroom. After the wedding this will be the chamber for Bunty and his wife. We get the place of honour on the bed and his mother and a niece join us. We chat, get chips and peanuts and admire the family pictures.
As the booze comes on the table the two ladies leave. Now Bunty tells his stories about Durag Niwas and the family. As a boy he worked for Govind's father and he knows how difficult is was after the man died.
We get a large pile chappati's and we eat a lot of them and that is a good idea. For both of us there are three bottles Kingfisher. The men drink their whiskey. It is again a pleasant afternoon. Before we leave we get the official wedding announcement. On our way back we have a sugar cane drink something we did not dare so far.
Later in the hotel all the guests are gathered again. Since it is our last night Mukta will cook something special for the whole group but that takes some time. An Irish/Singapore teacher couple is here also for a few days and they know all kind of silly games, it is great fun. We have chicken for dinner, very special in a vegetarian restaurant.
Monday 2 4; Jodhpur
A last trip to the city to print the pictures we made at Bunty's house and from the girls of the Sambhali project. After lunch we pack our belongings, Wies notices that she is one shawl short and the girls make it at once. In the meantime we give them the pictures.
We give Bunty the pictures and a wedding gift for him to Mukta. We think that the hotel bill is too low but Mukta insists that it is all right. Govind gives us some farewell presents. It is a sad feeling to leave especially as for us this is the real end of the journey, the rest is travelling.
From a guest we have the telephone number from a reasonable priced hotel near Delhi airport and we reserve it for the next day.
Our train starts at thirty past seven, Govind and Bunty bring us with a car to the station. Virendra and little Ayush follow on the motorbike.
It is a cordial goodbye with a lot of waving and we sure hope to see them again.
Tuesday 3 4; Delhi
At thirty past seven we arrive, outside is car with two man and for 400 rs. they bring us to the Airport Inn in Mahipalpur. Of course they try to get commission but they fail. We are in a suburb outside Delhi and for 1500 rs we have a room for the rest of the day.
We try to take a nap, watch TV, walk a little in the neighbourhood, eat something and so the day passes.
At ten in the evening a car brings us to the airport and the travel routine starts.
Wednesday 4 4; Delhi - Netherlands
We take off in time and without anything remarkable we land in Heathrow. The security measures for transit passengers are silly but we pass and fly to Amsterdam. There it is the first opportunity for Wies to smoke a cigarette since we entered Delhi airport. With the train and the bus we go to our village it is nice to be home again.
The following day we start to think about the next trip.