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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Jeep-sharing to my first Stone (or Iron) Age village

Impressions of India: 17
I’m currently travelling for 3 months in India, through Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, with a pretty hot and hectic schedule of boutique hotel reviews. The galleries below are my online photojournalist diary of scenes caught, people met and things found along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did and am still.

Please do take a moment to log and/or e-mail me your reactions and comments and, if you're on Facebook, attend/join my Indian Adventures photo-blog cyber-event there, or become a Follower, due right on this page? The more people I know are reading and enjoying it, the more fuel it adds to my fire, so all forms of encouragement and support will be gratefully received.

After I'd relocated to my next hotel review, a romantic 350-year-old haveli inside Jaisalmer Fort, I went on an afternoon village-and-sand-dune-sunset safari with one of their local taxi drivers, Singh.  Our vehicle was a very old and very bouncy jeep with 3 shark-toothed gears, which roared along at a full-throttle 30kmph and, en route, Singh stopped spontaneously to give a lift to this group of 6 women and 5 children, who crammed laughing into the back. 
Once we'd dropped them off we turned off the road and onto the sand to see this little lake. The water normally comes up to the steps but there's been a 3-year drought in Rajasthan. 
Then it was on to the first of our 2 villages. Singh comes from a desert village himself and, again, only had 'camel college' rather than any formal education. He said life was hard in the villages these days as most of the men were away working in the cities, leaving the women to fend for themselves for months on end. He sang as he drove and and had a nice line in chipper rhymes - 'Singh is King!', 'no worry, no hurry', 'luverly jubberly', but his English was sometimes hard to understand and there was a mournful look that kept creeping into his eyes.
These thorn animal pens are very similar to those Simon and I saw in the traditional Masai village we visited in Kenya's Masai Mara game reserve, protecting the animals from predators at night. The thorny twigs are such an abundant local resource, strewn everywhere, that I kept spiking my feet on them if I wasn't checking the ground carefully enough as I walked.
Traditional village safaris in the Thar Desert are becoming more and more popular and commonly-offered by hotels, and offer a welcome source of extra income to the villagers. It's probably inevitable that there will come a time when it all becomes a bit theme-parky, as it is already with the Masai, with souvenirs on hard-sell and the villagers all-too-used to seeing tourists. 

But it hasn't happened yet, or not in these 2 villages anyway, where the women, children and old men seemed tickled and intrigued by my arrival and, most, more than happy to be photographed too. 
I asked this old gentleman, in sign language, if I could take his picture and he held one hand up - 'wait' - and swiftly coiled on his turban before indicating that he was ready for his portrait. 
This kitchen was every bit as dark as a Masai mud hut. The black shots below show what was visible to the naked eye, from 2 directions, when entering out of the bright sunshine, while the lighter ones were shot from the same angles, handheld at half-second exposures, to show what was actually inside the room. 
These steps, poking out of the wall and with no vertical support, are typical of Rajasthan. I've climbed up  lots of them and they always make me slightly nervous that they might just break off.
This is their stone flour-grinder which spins very smoothly and probably hasn't changed in design in the last thousand years.
And this lady is the grandmother of the house, with white plastic bangles all the way up both arms and eyes that were buried deep in their sockets and turned up in different directions, suggesting she was all but blind. 
Posts still to come before we're up-to-date: 
The second Stone Age-style village in the Thar Desert
Magical Jaisalmer Fort
Jodhpur to Jaipur


  1. Great and authentic stuff. Keep going

  2. Hi cathy - hope your journey going to plan and that you're getting great enjoyment from every city,town and village you visit. re: photos - they make a great viewing especially the portraits. What lens are you using? i've resently purchase 3 prime lenses for my nikon d300 - 85 f1.8 50 f1.4 and 35 f1.8 (all sharp) look forward to more of your images - especially at the exhibition. you take care - ron. ps don't forget to enter your one image,shelly needs them by tommorow.

  3. Such an interesting array of colorful people you have met in India.

  4. Those steps leading up the wall look great. Function, aesthetics and simplicity, all with no concession to health and safety. Riding in the jeep looks like a more intense experience than morning rush hour on the Victoria Line. However the general mood and composure of the passengers looks much less prohibitive.