We were on our way from Agra to Karauli. After about an hour we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, a deserted city. Again we had a local guide, used local tourist buses and had to get past endless hawkers! Our tour was fascinating. The city had gone out of existence due to lack of decent drinking water. The site was huge and the tour interesting. At the end we made our way past the hawkers again and onto our own bus to continue our journey. After a while we stopped at a roadside restaurant/hotel and had toasted sandwiches for lunch. They came with a back of potato chips! We continued on to Karauli, snoozing and enjoying the landscape along the way. Suddenly we come to a town where we are blocked from going further by a festival procession so we got out of the bus to take photos. Soon some of our group are in the middle dancing. Crazy stuff! After a while the procession moves on and so do we. We finally arrived about 5:00 and were welcomed into a huge reception area at the front of our boutique hotel for the next two nights, Bhanwar Vilas Palace, a heritage hotel which a former royal family lives in part of and has guests in the rest of the property. We are shown to our suite, 207 which is near the back of the palace. After settling in we go for a walk around at our guide’s suggestion. We see the chicken and bird enclosures, water buffalo enclosure then check out the car collection. A staff member even asks Karen to get in one for a photo! Then we run into others from our group so we go further to check out the pool. As we stand there a young Indian guy readies himself to dive in and says we should join him! It turns out this is the young prince! We head back to our room after a good walk around and take a shower. Dinner is at 7:30 in the large dining area. There are four tour groups staying here altogether. It’s a buffet dinner for 600 rupees (about $10) plus drinks. We sit as large group and chat while eating. It’s a fun night. We go back to our room after about half our group has left. I spend some time catching up typing our journal before getting into bed about 11:20. It’s very hot and humid. Our air conditioner and fan are put to good use. Sadly the AC is at floor level!
Monday October 14th
Sleep well until 4:15 when a rooster is audible but manage to get back to sleep until about 6:30 when we hear the kitchen staff just below our room! Also there’s lots of loud music coming from the village as it is the tenth and final day of the festival. We head for breakfast about 8:10 after taking another shower to cool down. Breakfast is buffet style again. At 9:00 we start our day’s activities. We are walking through the town of Karauli to the former palace and a temple. As we walk we are a bit of an attraction. This town is certainly a bit off the main tourist trail. Our guide, Shalandra points out many things and explains the local occupations and specialised businesses. At the palace we spend a couple of hours looking through the many rooms, nooks and crannies and having lots of history explained to us. We finish the morning with a visit to a temple for Lord Vishna. It’s busy with many devotees praying. We feel a bit as if we are intruding. We decide to then visit the neighbouring public school. The classes are small, about 15 in each and the teachers are tolerant of us visiting but the principal is delighted, as are the children who are proud to show off their work. We then spend some time walking back. The ladies decide to buy some of the local speciality, a bangle made from heated resin, shaped, coloured and beautifully decorated. Karen has them in mind for the girls in her class and for our two nieces Melody and Lilli. After looking at several designs we choose and explain they are for young girls aged 7 and 11. They are heated and shaped to fit the appropriate age before being quickly cooled in water. When ready for purchase they are wrapped in newspaper and we pay 100 rupees for each one which is approximately $1.60. All the women in the group are there making their purchase. It’s a lot of fun and the locals are enjoying it too! We continue walking back through the town passing through the old gate. At one point we buy more cold bottled water. We return in time to wash and go to the dining room for a buffet snack lunch of soup, pokharas, chips and sandwiches with an unusual spread on them. When we finish we head to the reception area to try out the wifi but no luck. So we decide to take a nap. On awakening we go back over to the reception area and try to send our emails again with still no luck. By now it’s 4:30 and time for our camel cart ride. We grab hats, water and cameras and wait out the front. Five camels and carts arrive. We clamber on board in groups of four or five and off we go. We pass through more of the town. We, the tourists, are certainly the centre of attention. Lots of kids and adults wave or call our hello. The ride is lilting and at times quite bouncy. After about 20 minutes we reach a dam on the edge of the town. It’s quite scenic. Boys are jumping in and swimming. On the far side women wash clothes and themselves. There is even a stand that is used for mounting elephants for rides. Marsala tea is served and Karen has two small cups. Then we walk around talking. After a while we get back on the carts and proceed back to the hotel, again attracting lots of attention from the locals. The sunset on the way is quite spectacular, a huge red-orange ball. Another fantastic day!