maharajah of the road

Day 11

Maharajah of the road

Muscle cars


Day 11

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From Manvar to Gajner

Gajner is another historical city of Rajasthan, India.

The chief attraction in Gajner is the Gajner Palace. Gajner Palace was built by Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh Ji of Bikaner to be used as a hunting resort for the royal family and guests. Built over an area of 6000 acres, the palace complex houses its own sanctuary housing endangered species. More than 100 species of the migratory birds flock the lake by the palace during the winter months. The palace has been redone meticulously to revive the Raj days and capture the grandeur of kingly Rajasthan. During the stay in, one should try a camel, horse or a jeep safari into the wildlife sanctuary. The wildlife is plentiful and the best time for the safari is the early morning or the evenings when the wildlife flocks to the lake to drink water.

Monday 26th January 2009

All timings according to Indian Standard Time – IST


The morning has begun on a very strange note! We are going to witness a very special thing today. We are going to see the desert tribesmen perform the famed Warrior ceremony!!! Understandably, the exotic aura of this event has got everyone excited and on their toes bright and early today. Being an extremely private and traditional undertaking, only a small group is going to participate in the ceremony, as the filming crew will capture it all on camera for everyone to see. The rest of the group is going to be leaving for a desert Saffari around the same time! So everyone is going to have a unique experience today!


#1: The Ceremony
We all jump into the backs of the 3 open jeeps, Camilo, Michael and Nicole will represent us on camera today, as we head out into the open desert. Soon we enter a very very small village, the average spacing of the huts being one every 100 meters. We feel like were at the back end of nowhere. Suddenly, we see a well; around the well is a semicircular construction of a roughly built brick wall. There are a few women drawing water from the well, as 2 little children run around playing with sticks. However, our interest is drawn to the wall. 12 men sit cross-legged in a crescent shaped formation with some very unusual apparatus around them. We are told that these are the tribesmen who will be performing the ceremony. As we join them, we notice that there seems to be a patriarch of the group. He is dressed all in white with a white turban, with 2 men (his right hand men so to speak) on either side of him, who seem to be performing the duties of preparation. They take a blackish resin first, and start grinding it in a small bowl. Steeping water into it, they seem to be making a clear tea of it. As this is taking place, another lot smokes what we are told is tobacco from clay pipes, and a strange jar like hookah apparatus (it seems) of exquisite silverwork stands between them. Soon, they seem satisfied with their efforts, and start pouring the liquid into another unique object. A set-up of 3 conical cloth filters, with a disc on top of it, to filter the tea of the resin particles, and to make it consumable. After they are satisfied with the filtration, they pour the liquid into the exquisitely crafter silver jars, and start the consumption ceremony. The ritual is that one person starts pouring out the liquid into his cupped palm, and offers it to another member of the group. This happens 3 times per person. With a lot of (what seems ritualistic) exclamations of surprise and shock at the quantity of the drink (loud exclamations of: no, no, no, no, no!), they seem to have roused themselves from their previous, nearly meditative trancelike state of silence. Finally, after the first set is consumed, they begin preparing another jar for the guests. After some reservations about the quality of the water used, and the not so hygienic looking palms of the tribesmen, we convince them to use bottled water and to let our group perform the ceremony between ourselves, to ensure nothing untoward happens, we partake of the tea. The tribesmen have brewed a weak concoction for the group, as it is our first time performing the ceremony, and most of us feel a mild buzz. A pleasant feeling follows, almost like drinking a strong herbal concoction, almost like ginseng tea perhaps, and we all feel very good about ourselves. With a final thank you, we take our leave, to continue with the day.


#2 The Dunes
Following the warrior ceremony, we take the jeeps forward to join the rest of the team at the dunes. A wild ride through the sandy hillocks, we go down dunes high enough to make respectable roller-coasters! The sight is beautiful, virgin sand dunes stretching into infinity in either direction. The gradient blue of the clear skies forms a sharp contrast to the various shades of brown and light beige of the sand. We spy on some antelope and many birds of different hues as we pass by them. A strange mix of a horse and a cow, we catch a glimpse of a NeelGai (blue cow). The hump and the rear portions which are reminiscent of a cow, while the front resembles an elk. A rare animal, on the endangered list now, as it was once a favorite Shikaar (hunting game) of the princes, we are pretty lucky to catch them grazing out here today. As we are driving back to base camp, the driver tells us a strange fact. The animals are fearless of vehicles, but terrified of the sound of human voices. So back when these dunes were hunting grounds, the hunters would have servants walk around with a tin can filled with stones, shaking them to resemble the sound of a car/jeep's motor, and shine a torch in the darkness to resemble the headlights of a car. So this way the hunters would sneak up on their shikaar, and manage to shoot a prized catch.


We reach the base camp for the cars, and discover a quaint lunch set up on the premises. Sandwiches and traditional Indian grub share shelf space at the buffet, and we make a relaxed meal of this. Then post lunch, we depart for Gajner, where we will get to see the strange and bizarre Rat Temple.


On the road. The going goes slow, as Tom's car (TOM1) is having problems with its breaks. Pacing it slow to keep the group together, this simple 190km journey looks like it might take a lot longer than we gave it credit for.


We have made a pit stop at a tiny reservoir, which is the migratory winter home for a breed of black necked bird greatly resembling a crane. On enquiring we discover that it is the Siberian Crane. At a watering hole in the true sense of the word, we stand back and look at the hundreds of these birds taking off together, and the groups of village kids who come to look at us like we are aliens from another planet! Cars like this, people like this, equipment like this are as alien to them, as inhabitants of another country are to us. Smiling, and gesticulating our goodbyes, we finally seem to be taking off...


The Gajner Palace hotel looks warm and inviting in the fading evening light. Guests in riding clothes walk by us, as they stare in amazement at the convoy entering the gates. One thing no one can deny, these cars are prima donnas! They take center stage anywhere they go! The hotel has organized camels, dancers, and a much needed welcome drink at our arrival. We take our keys and head to the rooms, grateful for the opportunity to rest...


A folk music performance has been planned for us. We all congregate at the 1st courtyard, and enjoy the soothing music as it hits our ears. Dinner is by the beautiful lake.


Dinner over, and everyone is well pleased. It happens to be one of our cameramen, Mark's Birthday today, and everyone wants to make a cozy little party of it. So cake has been brought, and mirth and merry begin! So Happy Birthday Mark, and lets all meet again tomorrow?

Maharajah of the Road

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