Going to visit and staying at a small and remote retreat area even for one day in the middle of an agricultural valley seemed like a wonderful idea. We have been traveling and rushing for six full days visiting monuments, remarkable museums and walking through crowded marketplaces.
The journey to the retreat was as exciting and full of experience as we had each day. On the way to our remote site we stopped to visit the Abhaneri stepwells from the 7th Century. Many of the large archeological segments and pieces were still exposed to the weather and others had been removed and were on display in major museums throughout the world.
We got off the main road and turned toward on a narrow village road that quickly turned into an unpaved trail. The sides of the streets were still full of people carrying a variety of agricultural products. Our bus had to make a quick stop because a caravan of camels were crossing the road. There was at least 100 camels moving slowly in front of us. They were herding them to the site for their annual camel roundup to sell them.
These large smelly one hump animals (dromedary camels) can haul up to two tons. We saw tractors in the vicinity, but their camels can help transport over harsh dry terrain thus their value extends beyond simply helping to plow. It was mentioned that in some areas the post office uses them for delivery. Camels can live for 40-50 years and provide milk, hair for textiles, and the basis for soap.
Outside India, they are butchered for meat.
These large odd looking animals have served to carry men and equipment into battles. We even experimented having the U.S. military experiment with using camels before the Civil War. They were called the United States Camel Corps. They brought 70 of them from this region over to Texas. The experiment of using them for military use never took hold, but there was one attempt to use them for mail transport during the Civil War. The camels would travel by caravan from New Mexico to San Pedro, California. I doubt that any of the camels in this herd would qualify to be in the Camel Beauty Pageant in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Perhaps some of the animals would be selected for racing. It's a popular betting sport in countries of this region.
We proceeded after waiting for the long caravan to pass and we began to see adobe homes that had multiple water buffaloes tied close and near the entrance of the home. The buffaloes can help work the fields and provide milk and by-products to sell. They also symbolize the wealth of the family. Some people, back home, may park multiple luxury cars in their driveway. Here they display their valuable beasts. An added benefit of having these large black animals is that their dung is flatten and placed to dry on their roofs. The dried buffalo chips can be burned and used to heat the house, for cooking and to sell. It was common to see large numbers of flat cakes of dung placed on roofs and walls for them to dry in the sunlight.
Our bus kept traveling through narrow dirt roads and we finally reached an area where it could not proceed. From there we got into small all terrain jeeps and traveled on a very dusty road for about ten-minutes until we reached what seemed as a tiny oasis called the Dera Village Retreat. We were informed that phone and Internet connection was not available.
The site had 17 small and charming cottages that went around a large grass area. As we looked beyond the site we could see open fields on one side and dry rugged rocky mountains beyond that. Trini was still not feeling well so she opted to get in bed and sleep. The wall air condition kept the room comfortable. This retreat site maintains its own electrical generators and they do turn them completely off during the night. That's why we had flashlights in our rooms.
While Trini slept I went outside to enjoy the cool desert breeze and enjoy the peace and quiet. The employees and locals were on their break and playing an impromptu game of cricket. I was invited to play with them. I immediately joined in. It came time for me to bat. I never realized how heavy the cricket bat is. It's also a unique experience to swing at a small hard ball that it is bouncing off the floor as its headed towards you. In cricket, the batters swing their bat as if they are in a golfing position.
Given that I had never batted in this type of game, I managed to hurl a couple of balls for some distance. It was unlikely that we would play a full game since they can play one game up to five days. Now, don't think that a five game day is uncivilized. Think of it as a five-day tournament. They will play for 6-7 hours and then stop until the next day. One a given day of the tournament, the game does stop several times for the players and the crowd to have lunch and tea time! It's calculated that when the national cricket teams of India play against Pakistan, more than a BILLION people watch this one game.
About an hour before sunset, we set off on a camel cart safari. Each camel pulled a cart with four people on it. We trekked leisurely through a dusty road. After twenty minutes we arrived to a small Meena tribe village. There we saw the young men dance while the elders sat on the floor and chanted as they played their musical instruments. We were invited to participate in some of their dances. We just followed along. We kicked up quite a bit of dust as we danced around, but it was part of the day's experience.
After the dancing, we had the opportunity to look inside their homes. They were made with adobe brick and dirt floors. The floors are a mixture of dirt and dung so if it is watered lightly each day it stays firm. The few young women that were in the tribe wore a light yellow color vail over their head and face the entire time we were there. They didn't speak English so communication was limited to gestures and facial expressions. Everyone seemed friendly and there were many smiles.
We said our goodbyes and went back to our cottages the way we came. We were happy that we had time for a good hot shower prior to dinner time.
Trini missed the camel tour because she slept and rested, but she felt better and tried eating a bit of white rice.
As night fell we all meet in the middle of the grass area. There was a nice big wood fire in the middle of the group and we talked amongst ourselves in comfortable lounge chairs. We took time to star gaze. The evening temperature was getting comfortably cool. The closure for the evening was to watch a performance by Rajasthani folk dancers. We enjoyed being around the fire under the stars. We were truly off the beaten path.
Many of us commented on how excited we were to be visiting India. We were also looking forward to visiting the city of Agra the next day to get our first glimpse of the Taj Majal.