When news went around that this year’s cancelled outbound trip had been rescheduled, I was ecstatic. Furthermore, when I found out that we’d be visiting the lovely golden deserts of Rajasthan, I felt on top of the world. This was going to be the greatest trip! I had never been to Rajasthan and had heard so much about it from my mother, who had studied there for four years. In my mind Rajasthan meant peacocks, camels and endless stretches of sand. Not to mention the pink stone houses of Jaipur, the blue houses of Udaipur and the colorful bandhini clothing which Rajasthanis wore on their bodies and turbans.
So there we all were; A bunch of teen-aged kids from Inventure Academy, standing outside the Cafe Coffee Day in Bangalore Airport as our chaperone, Mr. Ganapathy, did a headcount. It was four in the morning, and most people looked as though they’d abruptly been awoken from their sleep, but I was bright-eyed and excited. We checked in our luggage, boarded the plane, and sooner than expected, the plane took off.
The flight was a restless one. Some slept, some listened to music, but bubbling chatter dominated everything else. Every 15 minutes there was a seat change, and the other passengers were certainly getting annoyed by how the aisles were constantly blocked by orange-shirted teenagers. Amongst all this, none of us had realized just how fast we’d reached the other side of the country.
We got off the plane in a single-file line, smiling thank you to our air-hostesses. Stopping at baggage claim, we grabbed our bags, and off we went! All of us prepared ourselves for the blistering heat by removing sweaters; Out came the sunscreens, sunhats, and sunglasses. But as we approached the bus that was going to take us to our inn, we realized that the weather this time of year was nothing but pleasant, and all of us sighed with relief.
Full spirited, we embarked on our endless bus journey. (At this point, our bellies were filled with McDonalds, and our hearts with glorious expectations). It was quite amusing watching the gradual dying of energy amongst my friends. We all started out loud, fully fed and well napped. About an hour later came the irritation. ‘How much longer? Are we there yet? How far is it now?’ After the 3-hour mark, most people had given up on their enquiries, and resorted to their iPods and various other electronic gadgets. The scenery outside was a combination of dry earth with occasional appearances of green. After awhile, it all seemed to blur. Water was clearly an issue. What a difference it was compared to the outskirts of Bangalore, which were green with swaying palm trees.
A gruesome ride it was. Hours just melted into each other, and it was impossible to tell how long we’d been inside that airless bus, when finally we started seeing more green. As we’d dropped our bags into our air-conditioned rooms at the Haveli, all that was put behind us, and we made ourselves comfortable in the common room. Our guides, Kaushik, Sunny, and Jude had been with us on the ride from the airport, but we did our formal introductions now. This was shortly followed by a night walk, into the inky blackness of the pleasant Rajasthani night, where we’d spotted a giant bone belonging to an unidentifiable animal.
Satisfied by our findings, we returned to the Haveli, ravished with hunger. After a hearty meal, we headed up to the rooftop, and found the most spectacular night sky spread out above us. In Bangalore, due to urban smog, stars were not a daily sight. We lay on the rooftop for a good hour or so, drinking in the twinkling light. If we’d had it our way, we would have fallen asleep there too. But the adults barged in on our star gazing, sternly informed us that we had to get to bed in order to wake up early the next day, and all of us grudgingly said our good nights.
Groggy, we awoke the next morning. Followed by a brief breakfast, we set out for some animal spotting, fully equipped with our fancy cameras. This morning the heat was blazing, and by lunchtime all of us were dying of thirst. It was worth it though; we were able to spot countless species of birds, elk, deer and other critters. Sweat drenched, we returned to our Haveli, where we all freshened up. This was followed by an intense game of pithoo, an Indian game of knocking down a pile of stones. After dinner, we wrapped up the day with another round of stargazing.
We awoke even earlier the next morning, as it was time to say goodbye to Fatehpur; we were now heading off to Ranthambore, the famed safari destination. It was time to get back onto that treacherous bus! This time however, we knew what was in store for us, so we’d braced ourselves with a deck of cards, and stayed preoccupied by playing round after round of poker. Around lunch, we’d arrived at a lush, green resort, and were given a significant chunk of time to relax and make ourselves comfortable. Rested and refreshed, we climbed onto an open bus, and set off to explore the rural countrysides of Rajasthan.
And what a sight it was! Endless stretches of wheat fields rolled around us, dotted with mounds of golden grass. We couldn’t go more than half a kilometre without spotting either a camel or a peacock. Our open-air bus cruised along the dirt road, and along side us trotted goat herders with their countless ‘bakris’. The joy ride came to a gradual stop though, just as the sun started to set. We had reached the bank of a river.
It was nearly dark now, and our guide Kaushik suggested the most peculiar of things; that we cross the river, just as the villagers did on a daily basis. The river was too shallow for a boat, so it was evident that we would have to wade through it, fully clothed. Some were reluctant, but the idea got an over all good reception, because none of us urbanites had ever waded in a river. And so we went for it! Laughing and stumbling, we paraded through the warm waters. We reached halfway, and upon deciding that it was far too dark to carry on, we turned around, back to the bus, feeling victorious.
Our sopping clothes somehow set us in a good mood, and we hopped onto the bus, admiring the ever-darkening sky. Songs were being sung, jokes were being cracked, and all was well… until a scream was heard. A frenzy of flashlight beams probed all over our seats, to reveal HUNDREDS OF TINY BLACK BUGS. Shiny, black, and about the size of peas, they were EVERYWHERE. Though they seemed to be minding their own business, we all couldn’t help but feel creeped out. When we got back to our resort, everyone gave themselves a thorough scrubbing before going off to bed.
We started off our 4th day in Rajasthan with only one thought set in our hearts and minds; Today, we were going to see a tiger. We were divided into groups, were given jeeps and assigned trails. It was a great day for photography; pleasant weather, rolling hills, towering trees, and an endless supply of monkeys as models. But no tigers! We went back, had our lunch, and returned again, this time even more determined to see one. We saw more than enough birds and deers to satisfy us for a lifetime, but much to our dismay, it wasn’t tiger season! We left the nature reserve at sunset slightly broken hearted.
After showering, our guides told us to meet up on the lawn for a special surprise. We arrived onto the lawn to see chairs set up, and local musicians spread out on a tarp on the floor, with their various drums, cymbals and other regional instruments. It was a great show; folk dancers twirled their skirts and stomped their feet, and the air filled with Sufi and Rajasthani folk music. It rang in our ears while we ate dinner, and it was during our meal that the greatest news of all had been given; The pool was now filled! We hurriedly finished eating, and ran off in its direction. Some people dived in with full enthusiasm, while others were content simply dipping their feet into the water. There’s nothing quite like a night swim!
Alas, all good things come to an end. Sooner than expected, came the last day of our trip. What lay before us was the most important decision we’d been faced with yet; Our agenda for the last day. We had one of two options. The first was to visit the ancient fort of Jaipur, the infamous Amber Qila. The other was to visit the unreal golden sand dunes that once again, Rajasthan was legendary for. After much debate, we came to a unanimous decision; we were heading off to the sand dunes! The greatest part of all was that this would once again involve crossing the river.
We greeted the river like an old friend, with the same level of enthusiasm that we’d had on our previous encounter. Though we did step on a few thorny underwater plants, we came out on the other side wet and unscathed. We walked a good kilometer or two to reach our desired destination. We reached what looked like a dried up river bank, with cracking dirt everywhere, the cracks seeming endless. We couldn’t help but double over with laughter; These were supposed to be our grand sand dunes ! There was disappointment, but most of us were simply amused.
We then set off for our next stop of the day; the markets of Jaipur. Us girls went crazy; it was a heaven of colorful bangles, brightly embroidered handbags, and most of all, SHOES, especially the infamous Jaipur juti, made of leather, with curved tips! Every single one of us bought a pair of ‘jutiyas’ as a souvenir. Pani puri, ice golas, and other small stalls crowded up the small alley way, and amongst the hustling bustling crowds of people, you could see a clump of Inventure students every few meters or so.
All pockets were now emptied, and the tedious task of buying gifts for our loved ones had been accomplished. It was now official, Jaipur Airport was just 20 minutes away, and it was time to say farewell to our glorious Rajasthan experience! It was the same procedure all over again; checking in our bags, getting our tickets stamped, boarding, taking off, etcetera. But this time the flight was much more solemn, and we’d managed to sit the whole flight with only a couple seat changes. And as the glimmering lights of Bangalore came into view, it dawned on us that this chapter had ended; we were now home, and the Rajasthan Experience was now nothing more than a warm memory.
Grade 10 IGCSE