22 day tour with Shoestring, departure 14 January 2006.
Because we like to read other people's travel reports and ourselves have also searched extensively on the internet, we decide to make a traveloque. Maybe it will convince others.
We have never regretted this trip for a moment! In everything we read before, there was something to worry about. It is not a question of whether you will get sick, but only when, it is filthy, you are ripped off for large amounts, etc.
But luckily enough our curiosity wins, and we leave on January 14th!22 daagse tour woth Shoestring, de parture 14 januari 2006
If you click a picture it will be enlarged. The pictures can then be viewed in succession as a slideshow. If you see a link, for example: Shoestring click on the link and it will be opened. When referring to a map, the map can be accessed by clicking on the link : map aan te klikken.
English is not our native language, so we apologize in advance for translation- spelling- and grammar errors.
Friend Jan takes us to Schiphol early in the morning. That is very nice, because although we can just make it with the first train from Schagen, we think it is a big risk to do so. And, as it turns out, rightly so, because even early in the morning that Saturday morning, train traffic is once again completely disrupted. We don't know if it's because of the leaves or the ice or whatever.
The plane leaves on time to Frankfurt and also from Frankfurt to Delhi. Full flights! The first turbans are already appearing around us.
In the plane we sit next to a first travel companion; Bert.
Arriving in Delhi we meet the other travel companions. A nice small group of 8 man/woman.
Customs is going faster than expected. In the preparation for our trip we had read stories that they could do very difficult at customs, but that turns out not to be an issue with us in any case. We are picked up by people from the hotel. Our tour guide is still with another group, elsewhere.
The ride to the hotel goes well. It's pretty quiet, but then it's 3am. There is a time difference between Holland and India of 4.5 hours.
We are staying at the Sheraton hotel. That name doesn't really do the hotel justice. A dingy hotel, and a very hard bed. But we are tired so we immediately go to bed.
By appointment we are at 9 o'clock in the hall of the hotel where someone from the travel agency gives a short introduction story. Our own tour guide will not join the group until tomorrow, when we move on. We get explanations about what ye do and where to go in Delhi.
We stop a rickshaw and drive to the red fortress. We are not very impressed by the fort itself, but it is a nice and quiet place compared to the hectic streets in the city center.
We find a nice restaurant in the fort where we drink our first chai; the real Indian tea. Tea, with some milk and other ingredients including ginger. You have to keep stirring the tea, otherwise you will get skins on the tea. brrr. We also eat a sandwich; toast with potato in between. Very tasty, and all incredibly cheap!
After the visit to the fortress we just wander around and look our eyes out. We have been to countries before where things are very different as in Holland, but here….
Chaos, penetrating smells and an awful lot of noise. But also: very beautiful people with turbans or other patches on their heads. People who are just washing themselves in the street. Rickshaws that want to take you for a ride. So much to see, to wonder about and to discover.
Rickshaw Drivers sleep in the craziest positions on their cart. We think it's a kind of nap in between.
Poverty, filth; it's there too. People walk barefoot on filthy ground. Traffic is teeming with each other. No one seems to care about the other. It's a wonder things don't go wrong more, but people really show themselves masters of anticipation and dodging.
Bulk loads are transported on carts and other means of transport. Many times more loaded than we are used to. Piles of goods, while people also cram together in a rickshaw that is too small. We are also an attraction here. Children especially like to shake hands with us. The weather is ideal. About 21 degrees. But apparently people think it's cold here. They sometimes wear hats and thick mittens while we don't even have a cardigan on!
While strolling around, we suddenly find a kind of courtyard with old havelis. Those are old merchant houses. What a sudden calm. We also see monkeys along the many electricity wires!
We are amazed at a kind of official(?) ear-toddler. He has a long swab with which he cleans the insides of ears!! He keeps the stick half under his turban behind his ear. So between his hair. He also offers to clean our ears, but we thank you for the honor! He always has customers!
In the evening we find a lovely restaurant where the locals eat. Not a tourist in sight. People think it's funny to see us eating. They stand still less than a meter from our table and stare at us as we enjoy eating the most delicious Indian dishes .
The food is very tasty. Rice, bread, and all kinds of bowls with curry and other things. With drinks we have lost 150 rupees together! So only 3 euros!
Get up at half past eight and have breakfast at the hotel. We are the only ones! Met our tour guide. A nice man who speaks quite good english. He asks us to call him after his nicknam; Toei.
We leave just before half past nine. There are eight of us traveling in a small van. Toei, driver Mr. Singh (yes, that's half India's name) and a younger man, the co-driver. It takes quite a while to get out of Delhi.
We love it. Not having to drive yourself and witnessing everything that happens outside. What a wonderful world we have come to!
How many people! Carts, wagons falling apart, buses; everything that can drive is used for transport and (much too) heavily moored! People hang on the side of a bus in a place where there really should be a door.
We make a stop somewhere along the way. Very tasty food, vegetarian.
We stand on the side of the road for a while. Watching those crazy car-like cases come along. We also spot the first camels. A shepherd comes along with his flock. The camels here are real beasts of burden. They often transport stones from the countless brick factories.
After lunch we continue our journey towards Nawalgarh.
Arriving in Nawalgarh we first make a city tour with our guide Toei. He shows us old havelis. The havelis are often very dilapidated, but it is still good to see how beautiful everything once was! The owners, wealthy families, usually live somewhere in a big city. They let the houses run down. Pity! A kind of house keeper keeps an eye on the havelli and occasionally shows a few tourists around for a few rupees. You sometimes wonder whether all these houses will still be there in about 20 years….
Nawalgarh is a unique village. A huge difference with that big city of Delhi! Colorful people in the streets, who usually don't mind having their picture taken. They often even laugh about it!
Finally we arrive at the heritage hotel where we will stay the night.
We are welcomed with beautiful live music and are given flower garlands. Then a welcome drink too: rum cola. Wine may rarely be available; still a lot of alcohol is drunk!
We get a spacious room. We sit together for a while on a kind of platform, near a fire flask. This is a real holiday! We dine inside the restaurant. Delicious food at a smartly set table.
Slept well, great breakfast. The hotel occupies a large area. There are peacocks, sheep, horses etc.
We are going back to Nawalgarh. We really like Nawalgarth and would like to take a walk around the town. We agree to walk around for another 45 minutes, after which we meet again at the bus station. There's only one, Toei says, so no problem.
After strolling around for a while, we look for the bus station. The bus station turns out to be quite a distance away. We keep asking if there is indeed only 1 bus station. Everyone agrees, so we move on. Just when we think we might have to go back, we meet 2 other travel companions. Still good ... we think.
The four of us wait but no one comes. We ended up standing there for an hour, waiting for the rest. We don't dare to go back because we are afraid that people will just be on their way to “our” bus station, and we will miss each other. Finally, after we call, the bus comes anyway. Yes, it turns out that there are 2 bus stations.
But even if we had to wait a long time; we had a great time. So much beauty to see! Camels with everything in their carts, sometimes with flowers on their noses. Wedding cars overflowing with flowers, overcrowded rickshaws.
When we can continue our journey we leave for a similar village. Just as nice, and again those beautiful colorful people. We see an ox grinding and we visit another fortress.
Then we take a long drive through the desert, to Bikaner. We see Indian antelopes. Indian antelopes are seen here as reincarnations.
Another lunch stop along the way. This time during sandstorms! What a wind and what a sand! It's everywhere, right up to the teeth. It seems to have froze here shortly before, very unusually for here. Now it's delicious. Around 25 degrees.
Another beautiful hotel in Bikaner. Here again a flower reception and a drink. Nice! Beautiful room.
In the evening we went out for dinner with Toei in a hotel further down in Bikaner. Four high on a roof terrace. Nice view, great food.
In the morning we had an extensive breakfast in the hotel.
Out of our group of 8, only 4 want to go to the rat temple. So we don't go by bus. Guide Toei arranges a taxi for us at the hotel. Fine, but we fear that with a taxi we will not have enough time for ourselves in the temple. That doesn't seem to be the case. If you want to walk around for 2 hours and then go back, the driver will adapt. He will wait quietly for you to finish. Was a luxury. So for a euro or 2 the man we leave for the rat temple about 35 km outside Bikaner.
We see hundreds of rats. They are reincarnations. The rats are fed extensively out of respect. Since you are not allowed to wear shoes in any temple, we had brought special socks for it. That is very pleasant. Preferably not with bare feet through the rat poop! But you only see something like this once in your life! People who approach rats reverently and, above all, stuff them with food. And the white rat, who is extra holy, is touched as soon as he shows his head
It is a nice place to look around you and let the special atmosphere sink in. Many sincerely devout people.
Outside the temple there are beautiful old men with turbans.
When Ingrid takes a few pictures of the men, she gets an address to send the pictures to a little later. A young man wrote down the address for them.
In total we have 4 people to send photos to during the holidays. They will be surprised if they find out that the photos are indeed sent to them!
Both on the way there and on the way back we pass a railway crossing. A special experience too. There are 2 lanes. One for each direction of travel. If one has to wait for the train, cars are put on both lanes on both sides. Consequence; when the train has passed, no one can cross. So both on the way there and on the way back we have to wait 20 minutes while everyone around us is busy negotiating about who is going first.
No one really gets aggressive. While we are standing there we see the most beautiful people passing by. A camel is led with great difficulty between all the baricades .
Nice trip. The temple is definitely a must.
In the afternoon we walked to the red fort. What a crowd!! Crossing the road here is an adventure.
We took a rickshaw to the Jain temple. Beautiful temple and friendly people who are always willing to tell you all about their religion. You can talk about the Hindu gods for a long time because there are about 3.3 million different gods! After our visit to the temple we stroll for a while through the small streets in the city center.
Rickshaws, bicycles, carts, motorbikes and of course cows, camels, goats, many dogs, often still with puppies, donkeys, people etc. try to find their way through narrow alleys. We took a lot of pictures.
Usually people have no problem with that. When they are allowed to look at the display of the digital camera, they become completely enthusiastic. Seen a lot of turbans and other beautiful headgear!
Back at the hotel to surf the internet. Jan is coughing and has some fever.
At 9:00 AM we leave for Phalodi.
This place is new to Shoestring's travel program. We were told just before departure that this place was added because of the thousands of cranes that winter here from Siberia. The journey takes about 3.5 hours. Not spectacular. However, there is always a lot to see. Desert foxes, birds, mini huts that function as houses, camels that transport loads of sand.
Halfway through we stop in a caravan town. Beautiful people again. Then continue to the place just outside Phalodi where the cranes are. There are a few hundred.
We can get a good look at them by standing on the roof of a house. The birds are making a big noise! The next morning we will come back here. Then the villagers lay down food for the birds according to old tradition. Every morning, for centuries.
Also looked at cranes at another place. At a small lake. We suddenly appear to be walking past a cremation site. You can still see bones.
Then we go to our hotel. That's a fairytale!! Splendid! A very old haveli nicely renovated in style. Small corridors everywhere, vistas. Our room is very nice. Bay window on the street. What a picture!
Jan has not been feeling well for a while. flu. Probably brought from the Netherlands.
While Jan takes an afternoon nap, Ingrid walks around . She sits down on one of the terraces. You can see all the way over the town there. Next to "our" beautiful heritage havelis are other havelis. Some are just a ruin. What a shame. But it still does look nice and original. Others are still in reasonable condition and are also inhabited.
Lots of blue walls in the street. Photogenic! Of course also those holy cows. The cows are allowed to walk around quietly, but they also sometimes get a slap in the butt if it stands in the way too much!
In the afternoon we take a walk together in Phalodi. What an event What a party! People hardly ever see tourists here. They love seeing other people. You are greeted everywhere. People want to shake hands. Not all hands look equally attractive, but that's part of it. Most people like to be photographed. Hordes of children walk with us. At first you think “go away again”, but it is all so well-intentioned. They are really curious. All friendly. Just because of this unforgettable afternoon in this non-touristy village, this is a great stop!
This morning at half past eight we leave our beautiful haveli. First a second visit to the cranes. The birds are fed on a large area. Beautiful!! Jan is still not well today. After a reasonably good journey, he had quite a fever when we arrived at the hotel in Jaisalmer. That is why Jan stays in the room in the afternoon.
Ingrid is invited by the other group members to join them. That's the nice thing about traveling in a group. At noon she goes with them in a rickshaw to the city.
At the end of the afternoon Ingrid goes on a camel safari. Ingrid likes it, although it does not come close to the sand dunes in southern Morocco. They sit with 2 people on 1 camel. Somewhere on the sand dunes, the company stops to watch the sunset. After the sunset they leave for a kind of folklore evening on the edge of the dunes. Dance and music. Nice. Back at the hotel around half past nine.