Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Tuesday 28th - Part 2 - Off to the Desert.
Our guide/driver is one of the hotel family's cousins and he has brought a friend with him who has two days off from driving tourists around Rajasthan. Talk about a busman's holiday. There are a couple of errands to run, such as delivering gas cylinders and the like before we hit the road horth west. The first part is like a moonscape as we pass endless sandstone quarries and weave our way among lorries piled precariously high with chunks of rock. We stop at a travelling roadside market where people come for home essentials such as doors, ladders and charpoys. A bit like a tented B&Q.
The next stop is Balesar famed for its pakoras made from lentils with a little bit of chilli. Straight out of the frying pan into a makeshift bag made of newspaper, they are very tasty but we are a bit wary of the chilli content so only have a few. The sun is definitely sinking now as we make terrifying progress along the roads of Western Rajasthan. We have been promised a sunset so maybe that is why we are in such a hurry.
After about two hours we turn onto a minor road and then onto a track through the sand, finally pulling up in the centre of a collection of huts and square stone buldings. One of the stone buildings is being renovated but has a room and a bathroom of sorts and is to be our accommodation. We will be fed 50 yards away at "Uncle & Auntie's" and are invited to wander round but not to miss the sunset which is best seen from the roof. We are immediately a centre of attraction for the local children who had been amusing themselves by banging a drum - practice for the forthcoming Holi festival.
After the sun has gone down we are called across to partake of aperitifs and nibbles. We have pre-ordered a couple of beers which have been warming nicely during the trip. Our guide is an expert at opening these without spraying everybody and it goes down well with the homemade papads, cooked on an open fire. No more microwaved Sharwoods' for us. The kitchen is a separate thatched hut to the rest of the house and is very much Auntie's domain. We are invited in to watch the chapatis being made and R slips easily into supervisory mode. EHOs look away now.
We enjoy a meal of vegetables cooked in a lightly spice sauce, rice, daal and two kinds of chapati, one of them made with millet a local speciality. After eating we are asked if we would like to sleep on mattresses on the roof, on beds in the courtyard or inside, or in a thatched hut. The night sky is fantastic (although it won't photograph) so we opt for beds in the courtyard. Goodnights are said all round and we are left to enjoy our night-cap before turning in. We lie watching the stars, some shooting across the heavens, for a long time before dropping off to sleep.
A fantastic experience!