30 Oct 2013
We have to be ready for the bus at 6.45am and the rest of our group all join us for breakfast at 6.00am even though they don’t leave until much later – good friends indeed! It was a sad goodbye to what had become good friends.
Our new guide is called Naveen and our new group are:
Hans-Jorg and Barbara from Austria
Sebastian from Germany
Jo and Karin from Australia
Pat from England
Isabelle from Quebec, Canada
And of course Eke and Brian and Sue and Martin are continuing as well
We were driven to the bus depot, and despite our trepidation, we are reassured that we do have comfortable but not particularly clean public bus (with red betel juice spit stains under the windows) and the roads are the best we have driven on in India! It took a while to get out of Agra – we drove through neighbourhoods that were busy already: uniformed children going to school, men having their morning coffee/chai at the outdoor chai stand. We see very few women out on the street. We see some people washing themselves at public water pumps by throwing the water over themselves and vigorously rubbing themselves with their hands. I even manage to sleep for some of the way – only waking up when the driver was dodging 2 piglets that were hopping all over the road like rabbits.
Once out of Agra we drive through rural areas with many fields freshly ploughed. Lots of different vegetables are grown: cauliflower, chillis, peas, spinach. The fields look very fertile and there are lots of Massey Ferguson tractors.
After a 5 hour bus ride we transfer again to jeeps (with our luggage in a car) and drive to our next destination – the town of Bassi. Our accommodation is at Madhogarh, a 500 year old fort that is being renovated as a hotel. It is one of only 2 inhabited forts in India. It is perched up on a hill top and a magnificent paved driveway leads up to it. We are met at the entrance by a very dignified moustachioed ‘sergeant major’ and turbaned young men. Welcome drinks are served in the courtyard and then we are shown to our rooms. These are amazing – all different and beautifully decorated with paintings (hand painted designs all round the walls and ceilings), pictures and lovely antique furniture. Eke and Brian have a marble bed set into a stained glass bay window and have a sunken bath.
After lunch Eke and I talk to Mahesh, the painter who has a shop in the courtyard. He has a whole family of painters who have been paintingall the rooms. We buy some of his paintings of blue and gold peacocks done on old rice paper and some old postcards that his brother drew the outlines of elephants etc on and the children have painted.
We go for a walk in the village – the children are very excited to see us. It is a small village of about 2000 people with another 2-3000 in the surrounding countryside. We see industry as well – there is a government cotton mill where women are sitting at looms and old men are spinning the thread. The noise from the looms is deafeneing. We meet people doing their everyday things; and stop for some delicious chickpea pakora being cooked by an old man with a delightful smile and sense of humour. We then move on to watch bangles being made from a resin, and of course we buy a few: 4 for 100 rupees ($2).
We have to take a short cut back to the fort so that we can make it back to the rooftop in time to watch the sun set with a drink in hand. The countryside is beautiful with a mix of village, fields and mango trees.
After a while Naveen asks me to come with him and I am dressed in a sari by a lovely lady, and then go back to the rooftop to surprise the others. One by one the women are led away to be dressed in saris and the men in Rajasthan turbans (6m of cloth). We spend quite some time taking photos of us in all our finery. We meet the present owner, a descendent of the maharajah, who has been responsible for the development of the fort into a hotel/guesthouse. He also tells us about the responsibilities that come with his position such as fund raising for facilities in the village.
A buffet dinner is served in the courtyard and then our next surprise arrives: we have musicians with a drum, a hand piano and a boy with bells playing traditional Rajasthani music. Our sergeant major surprises us with a very agile dancing style and the be-turbaned youths show us their style also. We are then expected to go up and dance as well, with some entertaining results. I ‘performed’ with one of the youths and it was great fun despite being very hot. I also discovered that it is extremely difficult to keep your sari where it is supposed to be while spinning around!
After dinner and dancing, some of us went up to the rooftop to watch the stars before bed. It was so peaceful and relaxing – a million miles from the city.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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