Its a 6hr drive from Bharatpur to Karauli. Suman has prepared the bus brilliantly and we have lots of cold bottled water and a clean bus ready for the road less travelled. The view from the windows has changed dramatically as we are now in the deepest rural parts of the majestic Rajasthan. What was continual road chaos is now a lot quieter, the methods of transport have changed too as we are one of a very few motorised vehicles in preference to the Camel and bullock trucks towing just about every commodity known …… however let me just say one thing and remind everyone that this isn’t the M1 … after about an hour in to the journey, tarmac becomes a rare sight and if it is then its in really bad repair ..our expert Driver Irshad navigates the best he can but the roads are tough going and arduous for the Bus… we as ever are too busy enjoying the view and each others company to care…busy pointing and commentating on the forever changing canvas around us.
We take a rest stop and continue until Rafeeq pulls the bus over at an approaching village. When I say village in mean a small enclave area with 3/4 families all living together, in mud & brick huts, bullocks, goats and water buffalo tethered to trees, Wide eyed children in barefoot wonderment at the approaching strangers . Rafeeq has a quick and elaborate conversation with the Elder member of the village and it is approved for us to enter and look around …. this is just an amazing experience the families are all smiles and full of grace, the children shy at first but curious none the less intrigued by everything about us…. our clothes ..our cameras… our voices… our skin… wow what an opportunity this is
So it’s back on the Road and we eventually arrive in the incredible Town of Karauli. This is different from anything we have been to before and dates back to the 13thC .. Tonight we are staying in a heritage property . A heritage property is a an old palace or lodge that has been transferred into a Hotel or guest house . This Hotel was once an old Maharajah hunting Lodge and has all the furniture and fixtures and fittings to match. Huge stuffed Tigers adorn the antique style lobby and ornate black and white Photographs of Old India with Eyes of times past staring back at you … doing the check in here is slightly different as each room is entirely different and offers a unique stay …to make it fair we have decided to register everyone in the usual way but instead of allocating the rooms I will put all of the keys in a bowl and get the team to pull out their own key …it would be unfair to allocate in such a unique environment….. with all keys distributed and the group on their way to their rooms it was time for Rafeeq and I to sit down, catch up on our game plan and sip some ice lime water, in, lets describe it as the Maharajahs’ Snooker room !!
It was arranged that the group were to meet at 4pm for the afternoon’s guided tour of the Palaces and forts of Karauli, with a twist. We weren’t going to be doing this with a normal method of transport… but on the back of camel carts no less. 1 camel with like a flat wooden plank attached to wheels on top of the plank was a blanket where 4 people plus the camel driver could sit, so again in convoy 5 individual camel carts pulling our delighted group up through the narrow streets and markets of Karauli …from the minute we set off we were surrounded by children running after us …shouting ‘Hello Hello’ and waving furiously …the local people bemused to say the least at this spectacle as we climbed camel speed through the hilly town . It felt like the whole town stopped and came and watched like a long awaited carnival was finally arriving into town totally enthralled with us and enjoying our ever so bumpy but memorable journey…again we were surrounded with cars, rickshaws, motorbikes ,cows goats…also were enjoying our long slow busy colourful path to the top .