|Early morning at a rural home|
Riding out at first light is often the best time of day.
The light that early is a beautiful soft white, and people and critters are just starting to move. Yesterday we rode out just after sun-up and rode through part of the Sariska wildlife reserve. Monkeys were out having breakfast in the trees. Peacocks – an entire flock – were strutting about. There have been peacocks around regularly – they are wild here. Just hang out by the road. People are sleepily wandering about and often engaged in their morning constitutional as we travel by. There is a haze in the air that doesn’t lift all day.
We did not see a tiger, but that is not entirely a bad thing given one of them is as big as my bike and can certainly outrun me at a sprint. Apparently the park used to have over 30 tigers, but some of the game wardens were involved in poaching them and killed them all in 2004. They imported tigers from somewhere else in hopes they re-establish. So sad what is happening to the big predators – some counts have India’s tiger population down under 2000. All for tiger penis aphrodisiacs and sale of other body parts – mostly to China. It’s hard to just blame the local people when the source of the problem is the market for it. It’s like bombing Columbia with caterpillars to try and solve the US drug problem… Columbia isn’t the problem.
We were in the mountains, and road out of the park on a good road that held up until about 20 K from Jaipur. It was a stunning ride. Green fields, yellow mustard framed by mountains. We followed a valley through several little villages with kids who were worked into a hyper frenzy by the time I rode through with my male escort of the day, Rod. 90% hellos and good morning and smiles, 10% of kids so worked up they are trying to touch you, grab the bike and otherwise amuse themselves. More on kid frenzy, later.
We spotted forts built into the tops of several big mountains … a view of everything, impossible to conquer, and one heck of a climb. They were really striking and impressive, and I wish we had time to climb up and check on out if it was even possible. I’d like to learn more about the history of the area – clearly it was hotly contested territory.
As we road west towards Jaipur the earth turned red and we morphed quickly into the desert. Cactus, bare earth and barren lands. It was an abrupt change, a transition for lush green to red desert.
|Strong and Proud|
We broke for lunch near the beginning of the desert. Two girls were watching us, and then a woman who may have been their mother came over to check out the new arrivals. She was there with a small scythe scraping green ground cover off the ground- a succulent looking something like sedum – and putting it in big basket. I wandered over and said Namaste and through points and shrugs asked what it was for? To eat? She holds up her hands and mimes milking a goat (or cow) – she’s gathering food for livestock. She hands me some, I check it out. All quite amiable. She had a remarkable face – lined and strong with a huge gold nose ring with several beads. She was dressed in bright orange – as many women in that area were. Her eyes were sharp, curious, and very intelligent. She gave me permission to take her picture and grinned with hands on hips – owning it.
We finished with a harrowing ride into Jaipur city – which was so insane I really couldn’t believe I was doing it. Unbelievable chaos and traffic. Elbow to elbow with rickshaws, motorcycles and tuk-tuks, all working to avoid the vehicles higher up on the food chain. Yet the chaos has a system, as long as you understand the rules it all works. More on that later.
|Hawa Mahal and the lady’s peepholes|
Jaipur is a bustling chaotic city of 2.7 million. It was the capitol of the area and is a walled city with gates and an inner walled palace. We went to the beautiful women’s palace today … the Hawa Mahal known for its beautiful design, intricate lattice work and the peepholes so the palace women could look out and see what was going outside without being seen by others. The beauty of the building is how intelligently it’s designed to play with light and shadow…
A wander through the bazaar kept turning up all kinds of interesting things – craftsman making gold jewelry or banging out cooking pots, a row of bike stores, and all kinds of interesting food and drinks, including a sugarcane press that squeezed the juice out of the raw cane stalks and a very popular roadside stall with yummy fried things. I was eying it and asked the local guy next to me if it was good. Why yes is – very spicy. Would you like a taste? Why yes, thank you – stuck my hand in and tried some his lunch. He was right – it was spicy. Good though – my throat burned for several minutes. Plus the usual folks trying to sell you scarves or latch on as a guide. But overall I found Jaipur much more interesting and a lot less predatory and aggressive than Agra.