Farewell incredible India. :(

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The last night of any holiday is always a bit sad. We’ve had our farewell dinner at the “The Chicken Inn”‘, taxied back to the hotel in a wonderful old Hindustan Ambassador. The Ambassador was based on the old classic Morris Oxford, and is the perfect car for both country and city life. I want one – watch this space!
I have so many happy memories that are all stuffed into just ten days. Everything you imagine India to be is true. There’s poverty all around you, but the lack of money doesn’t seem to stifle the forever friendly atmosphere. The Indians take life as they find it and although difficult for us to understand, material objects such as money and mobiles only matter so far. On the entire trip I have never felt threatened or fearful, and in today’s world, that’s pretty rare. We’ve been to places where tourists never venture (due to the bus getting lost on the way to Delhi), and the first reaction from everyone is the same, a smile, then a wave then a welcome. England has lost so much of this attitude to the human race, and we’ve all been touched by the people we have met.
Yes, it’s quite mad too! Cows in the road, elephants going the wrong way down the streets, dogs in jumpers, goats in t-shirts, bikes with three people riding, tuc tucs crammed full, the list goes on. But it’s all great. Our coach window has been a T.V screen looking out onto another world.
And did the Keniston family survive each other? I think we all got to appreciate a little bit more of what we are lucky enough to have. The girls have groaned at my jokes, excused my crass behavior to the rest of the group and hopefully got to see their Dad being what I so much what to be – just a Dad. I love them all and they’ve been wonderful.
And finally, to all those who said I must be mad or very brave to take three girls to India on my own were almost right. Fortunately both madness and bravery are excellent attributes for a crazy tuck-tuck ride round Jaipur! I’d do it again tomorrow.

Xx.

Tonight, we live like kings!

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We are staying in a restored castle called Surrajgarh Fort in another small village called Shekawati. On arrival everyone discovers their rooms are all different and decorated in the traditional style. Our room boosts an enormous sunken marble bath and a door right out onto the swimming pool.
We soon found ourselves sitting on a camel cart riding across the desert to see a hundred year old “Bowlli”. Looking like an abandoned art deco swimming pool, a Bowlli was a place where the villagers would come to wash clothes and bathe. It relies on rainfall for all the water, and sadly has fallen into disuse due to global warming and a general improvement in the infrastructure..
On the ride back we stop at a little shop and watch some bangles being made. We are shown how a wooden lacquer is warmed up, colours added and it’s finally formed into a beautiful bangle. The whole shop is ran by the family, with the young daughter in charge of sizing the wrists, the mother in law keeps the fire hot, and the son stands by and dreams of being a Bollywod actor.
Tomorrow we are on the road to Delhi and our final night. I will be sending one more blog entry before we leave where I will hopefully sum up what this trip has meant to everyone. Back soon. X x

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A priest in pink slippers

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Stayed the night in a lovely heritage hotel deep in the Rajasthani countryside. Owned by a royal family, it has a stable of traditional pure breed Indian horses. If you are a horsey type, they organise a day out on safari, looks awesome. Maybe one for later. The hotel is called Roop Niwaskothi Hotel. We took a short coach ride into the town of Nawalgarh where we visited a 19th century Halveli. These are the houses once owned by the wealthy landowners, where the families would live and the business of farming was discussed. Split into two main squares, one for the men, and one for the women. They were decorated in beautiful frescoes and have never been restored, so although a little jaded in parts, they have a wonderful charm about them. Polly enjoyed exploring all four floors, using the many hidden stairways, while we listened to the Halveli guide, Yunus, talk about what is was like living in the house like this.Across the way we popped into a holy temple and was greeted by an elderly priest in pink slippers who dabbed our foreheads with a lucky orange Sandlewood paste. At this temple, the villagers would ring a bell to wake the gods, prey and walk around the building seven times. The priest offered us all a little sweet which will all politely took, and secretly binned when no one was looking.Right now, I’m sitting on the veranda of the hotel, while Polly and her English friend Izzie are having a swim. Oh, did I mention the heat?

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The magic of the Amber Fort

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So finally, Polly got to go on an elephant! A ten minute journey up to the Amber Fort. Surrounded by a 20 mile wall, you can’t fail to be impressed by the craftsmanship of the mogul citizens four hundred years ago. This fort boosts an early air conditioning system with water collected in the domes on the roof and then channeled all around the palace.
On the way down, Polly posed for photos with a snake charmer and amazingly, a young Indian photographer had taken pictures of us on the elephant earlier, printed them off, then waited an hour to find us in the fort, and after all that effort, tried to get us to buy them. They were pretty nice photos, so we got all four for 70p!
Coming down the fort we managed to buy, two strings of elephants, two strings of elephant gods, one “brass” water pump and four Sandlewood figurines. We are going to have to get a bigger bag!
On the coach back to the hotel a boy entertained us by making a small coin disappear and then reappear in front of our eyes. He also had the ability to swallow small balls and make them appear again in his mouth, but this time bigger! Ah, the magic of India!

What goes down, sometimes comes back up again!

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I’ve been a poorly bunny. Last night the curry made a dash for it and got out. All night I laid awake listening to the groans and gurgles of my stomach and its contents. Needless to say, Polly in the bed next to me remained asleep throughout the whole drama. It seemed no matter how quiet I tried to be, the sound of me chucking up the korma would have made the hairs on even a hardened tiger hunter stand up on end. But the good news, the co-motions have stopped. Imodium 1 – Pebble Dash 0.
By the morning I was well enough to venture out on the bus to see the Royal Place and Observatory in Jaipur. Another amazing set of accomplishments considering the build took place some 300 years ago. I was shown round the Arms and Weaponry museum by a nice chap who showed a great talent for explaining exactly how the numerous knifes, guns and pistols would do their worst. Sadly he failed to get the joke when I asked him where the legs were? (Arms and Weaponry museum – get it?)
Our guide is concerned that my shopping may be getting out of hand, I can’t seem to say “No”. Today’s purchases include two peacock feather fans, an elephant wooden stamp, an elephant drawing and a camel hair rug. Whoops! All my cash has gone and the ATM is refusing to deal out more dough.
Alice and Rosie stayed at the hotel today and later took a tuk-tuk of their own for an hour around the city. They came back full of tales and particularly enjoyed telling us all just how much wee comes out of an elephant!
This holiday is proving to be everything I hoped it would be, with the older girls having some independence, while Polly and I take in the cultural delights.
Tomorrow, the Amber Fort and Elephants!

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I’d be a cow any day

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A nice late start this morning, then we ventured out to visit a local school. We drove into a very rural setting, more like a film set from Robin Hood, then an actual living village. At the entrance to the stone school building was the elder of the village, lying comfortably on his day-bed. We were met by the head-teacher who introduced us to the many children aged from 4 through till 12, all sitting on the floor shouting aloud the instructions given to them by their teachers. It was humbling to see the enthusiasm of the children. A brave few stood up and recited nursery rhythms, while the rest repeated verse by verse. The Indian government only gives very limited support to this facility, so the resources available were very poor and the study books used time and time again.
Our group had brought some biscuits with us, so the children single filed towards us and everyone got a little extra that day.
My girls posed for photos and talked to the older children. I gave a short lesson in English using just a tiny piece of chalk. I finished the lesson by showing them the magic dissected thumb trick. Hopefully, with practice they can frighten the life out of their parents later today by performing it too.
We then had a quick walk around the village and learnt many things about the cow, a sacred animal. The village was all Hindu, and all vegetarian, so the cows are treated as family pets and cleaned everyday. Not only do the older cows provide milk, the also provide heating by having their dung dried and made into a pizza shaped fuel log for the fires. The bulls go out into the field to work with the women. It’s not bad being a cow in India. As a final note, apparently drinking the cow’s pee is also a good cure for cancer! I wondered if that was one of the five a day!

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Tiger, Tigers everywhere, not!

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We caught our own tiger and raised it as our own

Today we went in search of Indian wild life in the back of a open top safari lorry. We saw monkeys, deer, eagles, numerous head jumping birds, crocodiles and a kingfisher. sadly we never got to see Sher Khan, the tiger king. But we were happy with what we saw, and it provides a suitable excuse to come again.
The manager of the hotel welcomes me into the internet cafe, and has stood over us dictating comments about the accommodation into Trip Adviser.com. Regardless of his super-hype, it’s a nice place and we’ve enjoyed out\r stay at the Ranhamhore Forest resort.

The highlight of the day was feeding the wild birds in contrary to the safari regulations. First we saw one bird, then two, then a million. Hitchcock would have been proud of the scene. Earlier a cheeky monkey had fished out a couple of fruit bars from a man’s bag giving whole truck a laugh and him with nothing to eat for the trip.

We are loving the food! Curry, curry and pasta (with curry sauces). Polly is now on a diet of bananas and water. I am having to insist that she eats more, or no more treats for you!

The hotel puts on a culture show every night, which has been a family of musicians giving it large and dancing up to the crowd. My girls have held their own in the group participation event, and now the Indians have been introduced to street dance and the Micheal Jackson moonwalk. Good fun, and a nice video here.

Tomorrow we are visiting a school and providing biscuits for everyone! Then on to Jaipur for Elephant rides and Tuc-Tuc adventure.