Archive for the ‘Manvar’ Category

Rasjasthani camel cartsOur 3 days were soon over in Jodhpur and it was time to pack our bags again. Since my travel partner and I only took hand luggage of 7 kg each for our month travelling in India, it takes us only 5 minutes pack!  A driver drove us the 120 km to Manvar, on the edge of the Thar desert.  Most vehicles on the road were 4×4’s and the long convoys of army trucks is a reminder that the Pakistan border is not far away. I’m amazed when we passed through the handful of tiny villages to see 4 wheel pushcarts loaded with an assortment of vegetables. Astonishing that such a barren, dry area can yield so colourful a harvest.

This area is inhabited by the Bishnois, who are passionate environmentalists. They are followers of the 15th century sage Jambeshwar whose creed is contained in 29 principles (or ‘bis noi’) which focusses on environmental protection. Their faith bids them to protect every living thing – even with their lives if necessary. They live in houses made of mud and straw, and make a living by selling clay pots and vegetable-dyed dhurries they weave. It was around these communities we saw the most antelope walking freely, since they know they will not be harmed.

We arrived at the small Manvar resort just in time to enjoy a buffet lunch. (I could only eat 1 dish – everything else, mostly vegetarian dishes, were cooked in cream. I usually carry with me a supply of cracker bread, sprouted lentils or whole fruit from our previous accommodations, just in case.) tasselled camelsWhile our luggage was taken to our tent camp, my travel partner and I mounted a pair of slightly scruffy, but heavily tasseled and decorated camels. Each was lead by an elderly but fit man wearing a bright red turban. We passed fields of millet (hand-watered, and women separating the chaff also by hand); very poor 5 or 6 year old boys and girls tending flocks of thin sheep and goats and family clans living in thatched round mud bungalows. The only sounds were that of singing doves in the scraggly thorn trees and the camels’ hypnotic bells – the almost Biblical experience was unexpectedly interrupted by my turbaned man’s cell phone ringing!

After 2 hours in the camel saddles (only 7 km from the resort), we arrived at the very neat tented camp.  Our small rucksacks were already placed in our spartan and clean tent. The floor was woven sisal, there was mosquito netting over the windows and the attached bathroom had a stone floor. At sunset we joined a group of French travellers sitting on cushions placed around a platform: while a group of 8 musicians played traditional instruments and colourfully dressed girls danced, we were offered tray after tray of delicious snacks. Five of the six trays of food were in fact vegan, so I had a lovely time sampling traditional gram flour pastries, vegetable balls, roasted nuts and very spicy lentil sausages. Dinner was served in a tent a little way off, the path lined with storm lanterns and candles across the sand.

Manvar tented camp

Manvar tented camp

The next morning, after a restful sleep in the wonderfully quiet desert, we had breakfast as the sun rose over the dunes. There was no buffet, so I simply asked for a banana and herbal tea. I mixed my last packet of Kashmiri lunch platterprotein powder with soy milk (the last small take-away soy milk box I still kept from the Rambagh Hotel in Jaipur a few weeks ago), cut up the banana and topped it with plain oats I requested. Heavenly. A jeep took the two of us back to the Manvar resort, 10 minutes away, where our official driver was already waiting. The 2 hours to Jodhpur airport went quite quickly. Arriving back in Delhi where we started our adventure, we had almost a day for ourselves,. We went for lunch (pre-arranged so that the chef could veganize the dishes) at an upmarket Kashmiri restaurant in a hotel – the cuisine from an area north from the desert. We were served a range of small dishes in beautifully crafted little bowls placed on silver platters. However, most of the dishes were too spicy for us! We had a relaxing few hours at the Radisson airport hotel in Delhi before we took the evening flight to Singapore.

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