Rajasthan Villages - North India - Khatmandu

22 february to 12 march 2016

Day 01 Departure from France at 10:40 on Swiss Airline with a stopover in Zurich, arriving at Delhi the next day at 0:45, after a 8:00 hours flight, short night in Anila hotel to get a little rest.

Day 02 Delhi - Nawalghar - Mandawa   304 km (metered) 27° in the morning / 32° in the day

  1. Meeting with Arvind for the last formalities. Great personality, with character, rigor, but also tact and delicacy.

  2. It takes between 1:30 to 2:00 to go out of Delhi traffic jams, with a bath of unimaginable pollution. Here drive becomes meaningful, everyone is trying to jump the queue, by not respecting any rule of conduct, of priority, of traffic lights, despite signs advising of penalties for infringements and the presence of many police officers. Everyone do until the other capitulate. Every man for himself, it will be like that on all roads.

  3. We do not go the shortest route (Jhajjar-Charkhi Dadri- Loharu)! The driver passes through Gurgaon and Narnaul.

  4. In Narnaul, we fall into the protests that paralyze Haryana for some time (with violence and deaths). The state would have introduced quotas to allow the lower castes to have access to jobs in the public service and at the entrance to the university. This displeases the upper castes (Jats), which do not support the reduction of their privileges, and invoke the fear of being dispossessed of their pice of cake in India's growth.

Protesters block roads at intersections and leave not pass any vehicle. At some point we have the opportunity to turn back, which would have come out of the city and around it. The driver has turned back, but to engage in the left lane of the same junction. We remained blocked for an hour before to enjoy the forced passage of a truck to get out of the blockade.

  1. Puce 14.00 - Lunch at Chandni Midway in Narnaul. Nice restaurant for local and foreign travelers. Dining room for tourists and room for drivers Buffet 500 RPS, or to the card. The disadvantage of buffet is that vegetarians are paying the same price as those who take meat and fish. While a la carte a cereal dish with vegetables cost less than a dish with meat or fish.

  2. We enter the Shekhawati area, a region where we find havelis: mansions built by wealthy merchants, Marwari, from the late 19th and early 20th century, who founded their fortune on the caravan trade ( silk, precious stones, gold and precious metals, salt) sometimes smuggler (opium trade, sometimes slave) between north India and its eastern neighbors.

They were real small palaces supposed to represent their wealth and social status. Their interior walls as exterior are decorated with frescoes called "chitera" made by craftsmen of the cast of Kumbhar (potters) cheraja or (Masons).

Gradually, the descendants of these families have gone to urban centers (Mumbai, Kolkata) in order to develop other businesses. The haveli, gradually abandoned, deteriorated over time, without conservation efforts have been undertaken.

Most of the havelis are no longer inhabited by guards who are not paid by the owners,  living on entry fees and sales of handicrafts.

  1. 4:40 p.m. - Stop at the temple of Hanuman Balaji Mandir Jhunjhunu. A temple like all the others, with a huge statue of the monkey god in the garden. Little interest.

Leaving the temple, we see that the driver has taken our road book and he is reading it in the car. It's not serious, but this falls to a lack of respect and confidentiality.

  1. 5:00 p.m. Arrive Nawalgarh a bit late because of the event and stopping at the temple. No time to see all the havelis we planned: Aath haveli, Jivrajka haveli, Khedval Bhawan, Hemrai Kulwai haveli, Bhagton ki haveli. We had already seen the Podar haveli School in 2009.

We simply saw facades, and the gates remained closed, the particular ambiance of the streets of Nawalgarh, feeling sometimes that we will meet a Marwari or group of courtesans at a street corner or hear the sound of a music concert started behind one of those doors.

We meet a French speaking guide accompanying a French couple supported by the same agency as us. A young interesting guide (Dhiraj Kumar-french.dkb@gmail.com). He agreed that we join them to visit the only haveli we discover : the Morarka haveli.

Succession of rooms, corridors, terraces, not always in good condition. Nice view from the roof on the city.

Visit to the "royal" family chhatri (at the time they all were kings) who ruled the city (covered pavilions structure domes implanted where important people were cremated) that translated as Cenotaph (tomb that contains no body).

  1. Arrive Mandawa around 07:30pm. to hotel Mandawa Haveli. After a vegetarian dinner that will make us sick like animals all night (indigestion and Quick edema), we saw a wedding procession in the street.

Day 03 Mandawa - Churu - Bikaner  239 km (metered) 22° in the morning / 29° in the day

After three visits of Mandawa at intervals of several years, we never got to go around the city in an interesting way, we asked a young guide (Lucky) to make us discover his city.

We start by changing money in a "money changing" the most interesting rate: 1 euro = 74 rupees (at the airport 1 € = 70.42 rps, and banks between 71 and 72 rps).

  1. Leaving the hotel, you have to move left, move the fortified gate Sonthaliya Gate, cross the small market to get in the neighborhood of the havelis. We are surprised to discover that unlike other cities Shekawati many havelis are here transformed into restaurants, hotels and guesthouse, as Monica Roof Top Restaurant, Hotel Radika haveli, Hotel Mandawa haveli or luxurious Royal Rest, with its erotic paintings at all levels.

  2. Visit the Gulab Rai Ladia haveli, very damaged. when running along on the outside wall left it sports some slightly erotic fresco, a couple  making love while sitting, a woman giving birth. The Vishwanath Goenka haveli, Seth Dayaram Dedraj Goenka haveli, the Lakshmi Narayan Ladia haveli very closed that we can contemplate from the roof of his neighbor Gulab Rai Ladia, Murmuria haveli with its frescoes Italian like and many others closed, with no name, which we contemplate the facades.

On the walls almost all havelis found drawings of European by bike, by car, aircraft, boats, trains.

There is also in the towns and villages of the area, old wells Arabic style, flanked by their miniature minarets.

  1. Departure at 10:30 by making a detour suggested by Arvind : Ramgarh, Mahansar, Bissau and Churu. Small towns more authentic than those of conventional tours where time seems to have stopped, which hide some havelis, temples and interesting markets.

Small road in good condition, which alternates landscape of dunes and mustard fields completely dried, herds of goats. More Muslim population is living there.

Ramgarh and its pretty little dark green mosque, Mahansar and its pink gate leading to a small bustling market, where people are surprised to see tourists. Some havelis that are not open.

In the area there is Moringa tree, or Drumstick, Hindi sahijan, supposed to cure 300 diseases according to Ayurvedic medicine. Native to northern India where we will meet in large quantities, it is the subject of numerous studies both its composition reveals important for human and animal health: the foliage has a very interesting protein (assimilable to 90 %).

Nutritional analysis showed that Moringa oleifera leaves are rich in vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B9, A, C, E), minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, selenium) and protein than most vegetables. They contain amino acids including essential amino acids (isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine). Many humanitarian programs use Moringa oleifera leaves against malnutrition and its associated diseases (blindness, etc.).

You get to ask why there are still so many people dying of hunger in the area where it grows, while the "sharks" of Western business dietary supplements sell it for gold, playing on the report antioxidant /fear of aging.

Churu is said to be the coolest city in Rajasthan. There is gentle and quiet. Again havelis occupy a small part of the city. The majority do not visit. The ideal is to be accompanied by a local guide to discover the wealth. Our driver does not know this part of Rajasthan.

A haveli was restored by two brothers who transformed into a hotel, Malji Ka Kamra hotel: beautiful, very comfortable and well located, with reasonable prices. From the hotel you can visit the center on foot, the local market, and the beautiful Jain temple which opens at very specific times. The hotel organizes excursions in the area and safaris in the dunes.

  1. Puce Lunch Malji Ka Kamra hotel, a delight, and not break the bank at all. A dining  room for clients, and dining room for drivers.

Little walk around some havelis.

  1. Departure at 15:30 to Bikaner where we arrive at 19:15. Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Harasar Haveli.

Day 04 Bikaner - Deshnoke - Nagaur - Chandelao   296 km (metered) 21 ° in the morning / 33 ° in the day

  1. Departure at 09:00. Before leaving Bikaner, the driver suggested to visit a Hindu temple and the Bhandasar Jain temple overlooking a Muslim neighborhood. If the Hindu temple is of no interest, the Jain temple and the Muslim quarter worth the trip.

The Jain temple because it is old (1571) and the interior decoration is particularly rich. It is more like the Jain temples of southern India as those of Rajasthan.

The Muslim neighborhood because it is the dyers on fabrics district and on each façade are hung framed freshly dyed fabrics, which gives the area a festive air. A delight for photographers.

While I make some pictures, "3 asshole on a bike" barred my way. They seek to intimidate me, laughing heartily. I dodge me telling them to buzz off strong enough to attract the attention of neighbors. They immediately stopped. Western Massala!

  1. Depart 10:25.

  2. At 11:05 we reach the Kami Mata temple, or temple of rats Deshnoke.

There are so many different legends that explain why this temple is dedicated to the rats, as we seek to know more which is true! By cons we have much trouble recognizing the temple. It was a small village temple with its gray and dirty mature, amidst a small deserted square. Courtyard was just covered with wire mesh to prevent birds from entering the temple. The square is now overrun with shops for local tourists, fence prevented from approaching the temple, forcing people to go through a security checkpoint. Typically Indian paradox admission is charged for cameras but photos are prohibited inside.

This does not prevent local take pictures with their mobile! The courtyard is covered. The exterior walls are painted in garish pink, giving the temple a candy box air that will cover the dome of a building under construction. This temple has no more charm.

  1. We leave around 11:20. In the countryside of Noka, we stop to visit a family that lives in the desert. A concrete house, mud huts, huts of straw. We wanted to know how and with what these families live. A father, a mother, their male children and stepdaughter, and childen occupy a smaller space. The driver acts as an interpreter, we sometimes have the impression that he arranges the answers to our questions on his way. They live with the culture of mustard, and their goat farm. Women spinning cotton for their own money, husbands not giving much to live.

We take photos and offer to send them a copy as we do every time we share a moment with people. The driver said that they all have a mobile and they did not need our photos ! no problem !

On the side of the road we saw many display stands of pottery, with clay pots of all shapes and sizes. It reassures us, rural India is not completely converted to the Chinese plastic.

  1. Puce 1:45 p.m. lunch stop at the exit of Nagaur: the driver stopped us in a roadside tavern for truckers: Baba Ramdev restaurant. He takes food himself in our dishes: mutter palak, aloo mutter and leaves us paying the bill, by absenting to go wash his hands. Embarrassed we do not react.

  2. Starting at 14:25. We pass a huge farm which is actually a hospital for cows: we stop. Shri Krishna Gopal Gau Sewa Samiti Veterinary Hospitals Jodhpur Road, Nagaur Ho, Nagaur - 341001, National Highway 65.

A reception committee very outgoing and very enterprising offers a cup of masala chai, and documentation in Hindi. Everywhere seats, tents to shelter visitors from the sun, and poster gurus including a girl of 14. Every 5 minutes an ambulance arrived carrying a cow.

We can see the animals from the outside, there is a covered area for cows that were injured: road accidents, domestic accidents, falls, space for cows that were operated from cancer, a space for cows poisoned by a malicious neighbor, a nursery for calves orphaned etc ... A lot of them have bandages that are very clean. 300 people involved 1,500 cows permanently. We can work as a volunteer, families come to work one day, or a week, or a month. In this case they are fed free and free accommodation. The cost of functioning of the establishment is 6000 euros per day.

It is a non-governmental organization that works only with donations. We never got to know who ran it, and what are the meaning of gurus in this story ? Is it a  sect ? The driver did not get to understand or explain.

  1. Road to Chandelao, the driver suggested us to visit a village, we do not understand what he wanted, his pronunciation is particular (he pronounces the s = ch) we understand ahimsha. We thought it was a village focused on non-violence. In fact he drove us into a luxury hotel Khimsar, he wanted that we go to drink a cup of tea and visit the Maharaja car show. This is not one of our concerns, we refused and have to insist to hit the road to Chandelao.  What did he expect ?

We arrived at 18:15. Dinner and overnight at the hotel Chandelao Garh.

Day 05 Chandelao - Pipar Bazaar - Pushkar  167 km (metered) 20° le matin/ 30° l'après-midi   

  1. Wake up early to visit the village walking, alone. Leaving the hotel, turn left, then down the street to the right and straight on until the water tank. Climb the steps to the terrace overlooking the reservoir. Buffalo and crowned cranes occupy the banks.

A little further women collecting water with strings and brass pots.Just sit and let fascinate by the colors of the saree, by gestures and heads ports of these women who carry up to 20 kg balanced on the top of the head and whose silhouette stands in raking light dawn.

Meet the inhabitants invitation to drink chai with a group of men who meet to commemorate the death of one of them a fortnight earlier. Some exchanges with students and schoolgirls who go to class. India awakens.

  1. Depart 10:30 for Pipar city. Meet Yassine Shahabuddin "block printer" and visit his workshop which has already seen four generations of block printers. The son of Yassine gave us a fascinating guided tour: the sculptor of units (blocks), preparing only vegetable and mineral dyes and fixatives, preparation of fabric pieces, the different printing techniques, the block sometimes making several passages of different colors and forms, a form of batik practiced with clay mixed with gum, sanding some patterns. Yasine works on demand, according to suppliers, and sometimes for designers who create their own patterns. He works for a a very know Indian trade to wear: Fabindia.

  2. Then visit the Pipar City Bazaar, mazes of streets,  tangle of shops. Everywhere people invite us to come and see what they sell or what they do: from ropes and baskets to kitchen accessories, jewelers who make silver jewelry on demand to cosmetics and pasta merchants,  plastic bags sellers to dealers of all (batteries, combs, elastics, paper, books, incense, flashlight etc ...) fruit and vegetable stalls to craftsmen who turn to wood roller chapatis, foot beds and lamps. The barber who works in 2 square meters,  and grain merchant.  The miller who press sesame seeds to extract the precious oil, leaving on the side of the tray a sesame paste that is similar to tahini that children come to beg greedily, and another who make mustard oil extract.

The cloth merchants and tailors seem never run out of work, because in the countryside and in small towns in India people are still doing their custom clothes rather than buying them ready-made in China. Like the shoemaker able to revive all the pairs of shoes, because in India people do not throw anything.

Those who seem to have the most successful are merchants pf bangles and tikka which women are crazy and Panipuri vendors, small balls of dough filled with spicy stuffing that everybody buys as a meal.Pipar has something very authentic, and is part of our hearts shot in Rajasthan.

In the vegetable market I was stopped by "3 asshole on a bike" (3 young men sitting on the same bike) jeans torn, false leather jacket without sleeves, bandanas around the heads and fake Ray ban like the bad boys of the new violent films of Bollywood. The leader come to me provocatively, holding his hand as a gesture of defiance, to which I answer folded hands in front of chest refusing to touch his hand. The inflated chest with testosterone one of them stare me until I look deeply into his eyes, and said now you go away. They do not insist.

A western massala !

  1. We leave Pipar at 1:40 p.m..

  2. Puce 2:05 p.m. lunch stop in a tavern for truckers: Siyag Hotel and Resort. A well pompous name for three pots from which emerge only jeera aloo, dahls, and chana massala which tear the mouth. The driver made us pay again his food and water. We do not understand his attitude. As he is fairly gruff, we dare not speak for fear of spoiling the ambience. This is embarrassing because we know that its fees are included in the contract. Why does he do this ?

In the fields we see some sambar, large antelopes that live Rajasthan.

  1. Arrive in Pushkar around 17:00.

  2. Walk on Gaths and around the lake. The view is beautiful, the light is beautiful, but the atmosphere "new-age", "bobo", does not suit us. The streets are only rows of shops for local and foreign tourists, trendy restaurants, wi-fi, with posters calling for yoga, meditation, music  classes offered by opportunistic gurus. Many European disguised as "baba" when it is not like "sadhu", or female with mini shorts and tank tops low neckline as everywhere fashion place in Asian do not correspond to the idea we have of the trip

  3. We only regret having missed the Sikh temple.

  4. Overnight at hotel Pushkar Palace. The hotel does not have a good reputation about food, and the restaurants are full and too "new age", we take lyophilized meals provided for these circumstances in he room.

Day 06 Pushkar - Roopangarh 63 km   (metered) 15° in the morning / 32° afternoon   (half day for the driver)

  1. Departure at 9:15. Highway until Kishangarh. As soon as we take the highway, we lose the opportunity to stop in villages or even on the low side.

  2. Then small road until Roopangarh. The area is specialized in the extraction and sale of marble, including marble from Makrana whose finesse has made it a preferred material for the great monuments: the Taj Mahal, the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata and many Jain temples made of marble from Makrana.

  3. Arrive Roopangarh at 10:50.

The walled city and Roopangarh Fort was built in 1648 by Maharaja Roop Singh of Kishangarh to protect and control trade in the region.

Roopangarh was the capital of Kishangarh for about 100 years and has never been conquered, despite having been attacked several times by the neighboring states. This village was the residence of the Maharaja of Kishangarh for a long time. The fort was converted into a hotel by Maharaja and Maharani of Kishangarh in 1999.

  1. Puce We lunch at the Fort and spend all day to pace bazaar to deliver photos we took of them 3 years ago to more than 50 people. This created a certain buzz.

We sent them by mail at the time, but we are not certain that the postman delivered correctly, we made copies. Some of them were well received.

  1. Our meeting with the inhabitants of the bazaar led to share many cups of chai masala. Nimal Keshar, chai walla has been busy this afternoon. While speaking little English, most people gave us news, showed us how their children had grown up. We had fun finding Jethu and his wife Bemla that hold bracelets and jewelry shop. Their daughter Komal grew well and likes to pose for our camera. Their neighbor a bit cheeky Sunita also loves to pose for photos. At Anwar Ali Shaikh shop we found a clay used as soap and shampoo that makes the skin soft: the multani mitti.

  2. In Roopangarh as in other bazaars, we see a woman nestled in a small cavity at breast height that distributes drinking water to those who wish, for free, either by pouring it directly into the mouth or in a container.

We went to the tailor Namil Chant to make a basic kurta-pajamas. He took us to his neighbor, the fabrics merchant to buy the 6 meters necessary cotton. It has become an attraction, it was impossible to bargain properly as there was many onlookers who mingled with the transaction. I finally comes out for 500 rupees to the tailor and Rs 500 for cotton, which later will laugh the driver who will say that I paid too much. But at least it has benefited little people and I got what he was not able to help me find.

We have a lot of fun to roam the streets of the village to see aagain all these small businesses that animate, nothing seems to have changed over the years.

  1. Dinner and overnight at Roopangarh Fort.

Day 07 Roopangarh - Tilonia (36 km) - Pachewar (47 km)   83 km (at the counter)

  1. Start 09:40. Beautiful country road to Tilonia: field of mustard out of sight, well green wheat fields, vegetable gardens where the villagers grow long leaf spinach (palak), chickpeas ( chana) that people buy as a bouquet when they are still green to eat raw as fresh peas (delicious), or they leave to dry to make flour or chana masala.

Many farmers remain in the fields day and night to avoid that one robs them their harvest

  1. Meeting with families and lots of children in the fields.

  2. Stops for a small temple very photogenic: Chaminda Mata Temple.

  3. Stop in the village of Harmara for some pictures.

  4. Stop at Tilonia: in our last trips we had planned to visit the Barefoot College which is an Indian NGO.

This organization's mission is to find simple, sustainable solutions to the fundamental problems of the quality of life in rural areas: clean water, renewable energy, education and health care. Its headquarters is in Tilonia.

The Barefoot College was founded in 1972 by Sanjit "Bunker" Roy, activist fighting against poverty, inspired by Jai Prakash Narayan to build a new model that gave access to clean water and solar electricity to impoverished farmers. His weapons for this challenge was "empowerment" illiterate grandmothers as a transmission channel for education and health care in the Third World.

We can visit this NGO after registration on the web,visit cost $ 20 per person is requested, which gives right to an on-site meals. One can also choose to stay there overnight.

Although we had booked by e-mail and confirmed by phone through our agency, the day of the visit, all residents and staff of Barefoot had gone to visit the Taj Mahal. Luckily we had not paid online as they ask! We discover on the spot that the NGO has become a real business, with an internal bank dedicated to international transactions. That harvest a lot of money!

  1. Puce 11:50 lunch stop on the highway to Jaipur at the height of Dudu: Kuber Resort (!), midway style with room for guests and room for drivers. Cool ! We just pay our bill .

  2. 12:40 departure for Pachewar by a small road in very poor condition, lined with spiny of dried mustard fields.

  3. Arrive Pachewar towards 02:45 pm in full procession of women who celebrate the birth of a child. They follow a jeep barded with speakers that play loud music. We are invited to join the procession. Saw some men intoxicated, we dare not mix with the crowd. Some women are dancing, others wear gifts.

I have been pushed around for no apparent reason by a schoolboy in uniform 12/13 years that has nothing to do with the procession, each time I want to take pictures of the procession. He returned to attack me several times, hit me hard in the back while I take pictures, until I run after him with my camera pod to hit him. I miss. He disappear in a nearby farm. Was it sent by an adult? What was he looking for ?

Installation at the hotel Pachewar Garh

  1. Pachewar has a lake which attracts migratory birds in winter. It has an imposing fortress 300 years old, formerly ruled by Rajputs Khangarot. Anoop Singh Thakur Khangarot captured Marathas Fort Ranthambhore and annexed to his allies in the family of Jaipur. Reward, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I of Jaipur granted him the Pachewar territory in 1758.

The village is famous for its blue pottery, carpets, tie & dye, terracotta and nomadic Gadia Luhars (blacksmiths).

  1. We leave the hotel to visit the village, walking alone. The driver wanted to accompany us. We are joined by the hotel manager who asked to wait 5 p.m. to visit the village because we attend a demonstration ofwhich we were not informed! ! We say that after 5 p.m the light is not good for photos. He insists to expect and provides drinking tea while waiting.

Another man apparently "upset" interposes wanting to turn us to visit the village. A malaise settled: who is this man? why should we have to wait?

We maintain our wish to visit the village now and without the presence of the intruder. The manager imposed himself as a guide !

We walked through the narrow streets of the village, almost deserted, until the workshop of a blacksmith who upon arrival unwraps characters, animals, insects cut out of metal he hopes to sell us. We are then escorted to the exit of the village, where there is a pretty chhatri on the edge of the reservoir  expecting till the time has come to go to the demonstration:  a demonstration of local cuisine for one hour and half approximately presented by a village woman in the courtyard of his house. The first recipe is between dumplings and gnocchi made from chickpea flour (gatta curry) second recipe is fairly spicy millet flour pancake (bajra roti).

At the end of the demonstration, we are encouraged to leave a tip to the lady, what should be the goal of the demonstration. These recipes are nothing special and are not typical of the area, we can found in video on internet, even in French. We will not see anything of what we had expected.

  1. Return to the hotel where they press us to have a meal. We feel a bit taken hostage in this hotel (where we are the only guests), unpleasant feeling of having to do what they want. Considering the condition in which the hotel is, given the exorbitant meals rates on their website, we refused the proposal and prefer our lyophilized emergency dinner.

Day 08 Pachewar - Suroth      271 km (metered) 17 ° in the morning / afternoon 34 °

  1. We are going early to the tank to see again India awakening. Women wash clothes.

  2. Starting at 09:20. At the roadside we passed important camel herds, which are the wealth of their owners, grazing the thorny.

  3. 9:42 Stop at school of Parli. We are invited to come and attend the morning rituals: all students are gathered in the courtyard, sitting in yoga style, boys on one side, girls on other side.

There are almost as many girls as boys. 4 girls face the assembly and lead prayers and meditation.

Then a girl reads the headlines of the newspaper of the day, then students are picking up and sing the national anthem. Some protocols "military" type and everyone goes to his respective class. We meet the principal and teachers who invite us to drink tea and to visit their premises, library, computer room, classrooms. We exchange on working conditions (they earn approx 35000 RPS / month -. € 460). Students come to school from 09:30 to 15:30.

Internet works a few minutes a day, computers have very little software that are mostly outdated. The books in the library are several years old, some classrooms are not yet equipped with furniture, students sit on the ground. However thanks to the tenacity of the staff, all students have access to free canteen for lunch, it is for some the only full meal they will do in the day. We spent two hours to realize the conditions in which teachers and students of deep India live and work, and where inequalities begin.

Everything is well thought, people are very dedicated, by cons they have few resources. Emerging India don't mind about schools in countryland , it does not seem to worry about, anyway it is not in this environment they intends to draw the elite they need to reach globalization.

  1. We take the small road towards Dudu smashed to reach the highway that connects Jodhpur to Jaipur.

To our surprise this highway is lined with villages that sell cow dung piled  in mountains circle geometrically shaped or small huts to protect them from thieves.

  1. Difficult crossing of Jaipur (about 01h) due to traffic jam as in every major city. I do not quite understand the logic of the driver: we save time driving faster on the highway, but we lose much time in traffic jam to cross a city! Would it not be wiser and more enjoyable to get around big cities by small roads ?

  2. Puce Stop for lunch in Pipalkhera Bansal Country Resort, midway style, we take a sandwich and tea so as not to have the meal of the driver to pay.

  3. From Mahwa, we take a small road to Suroth. Nice road. Lot of mustard fields, wheat fields, sheep, goats.

Stop to take some pictures of a group of women who came to get water at the well. The depth is impressive, there is no protection. They need to bend dangerously to launch the containers attached to a long rope, they slowly get back to fill those metal pots they carry on their heads. Some bear a large of about 20 kg, other carry three smaller but heavier in total.

After asking permission to take photos, we see that there get fun especially as we show the pictures on the screen of our camera.

It becomes a game, they discover and let their smiling face appear until teenagers arrive  "3 asshole on a bike". They cover again and smiles disappear. The machos are there.

The driver explained that is a mark of respect, I am not convinced that this is the right explanation !

  1. Photos of women working in the mustard fields, an old man chop herbs to feed his cows, stop in front of a photogenic farm, the family invites us to have tea, unfortunately we are very late and it remains the road to go.

  2. Arrive Suroth a 6 p.m. We are welcomed at the Suroth Mahal, with necklaces, bracelets and an aarti ceremony with oil lamp and dot (tilak) on the front.

Delicious dinner at the hotel followed by a demonstration of kushti, traditional Indian fighting continues a tradition where every fight is a spiritual quest.

The fighters of all ages find themselves without consideration of caste. Physical strength is not an end in itself but a means to the control of muscles and soul.

Normally kushti fighters train in akhara, the sacred arena. The competition area consists of soft earth and thick fed with milk and sometimes scented oil symbolizes mother earth. The fighters are coated with a single underpants.

The arms taken on legs and legs on legs are permissible, which sometimes results in acrobatic postures. The battle is also taking place on the ground. With each attack, answers a defensive move.

Fighters at the end of the training, or fight, cover the body and the head with earth to dry the sweat and avoid cooling too quickly.

This ceremony is completed by massages to soothe the muscles but also express mutual respect. The fighters bathe before and after tournaments or Dungal: prior to purify, after to remove impurities born of struggle. When the fighters leave akhara to be on the outer arena the fight becomes ritual competition.

We observed local champions Nawarl Singh Taco and Singh Bâgsi practice their art without animosity, without aggression. A ballet all in power and flexibility with an impressive mastery of gesture. Quiet fight, but so powerful.

Day 09 Suroth - Karauli    51 km (metered) 20 ° in the morning / 35 ° afternoon    (half day for the driver)

The hotel offers a guided tour of the village, cart pulled by a camel with a guide. It looks like folklore for tourists, especially because it is difficult to take pictures from the top of the cart, even when stationary. But they are so nice that we dare not refuse. We descend from this perch at every opportunity.

  1. Suroth village at 08:00 in the morning is very pleasant to discover, so it is genuine. As Chandelao, Pipar, Roopangarh, Suroth do not seem too affected by tourism (mass or individual). We rediscover these small trades encountered everywhere in Rajasthan and India, with sometimes unexpected as the confectioner who melted sugar to drop beads on a fabric where they spread like little white coins: the batasha.

The Suroth market is rich of various products, colors and the welcome is very friendly. Deep india is really amazing.

Visit to the granite cutters who make millstones to grind grain, of all sizes,from  the family model to industrial model, they will export in the area, across the country, as well as Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Visit the railway station which named as the grandfather of the current owner of the Suroth Mahal.

Then a girl invites us to visit her school. Same ritual as in the school of Parli: prayer, meditation, reading the newspaper, national anthem. We observe that all teachers arrive with some delay.

Unlike Parli where the number of boys and girls was roughly equivalent, here, there are 27 girls for every 115 boys. A teacher explains that this is because some parents prefer to put their girls in a school for girls. Another explanation was given to me quietly, it's partly because of discrimination and infanticide against fetuses and newborns girls which ravaging part of India for over a decade.

We spend a long time to share tea with the teachers who start every day reading the newspaper in the school yard.

We discover that the first English course begins with the study of a text on the Alsace/ Lorraine and the war 40/45. Amazing to see that Indian students learn the language of Shakespeare, talking about our border problems. This resulted in amusing exchanges, insofar nobody, not even the teacher, did not know where were the Alsace/ Lorraine, nor their linguistic and culinary peculiarities.

Here the classrooms have no furniture, students sit on the ground, no computers, very little library. The small school in its simplest form. Ah ! if the tourism money could be used for something other than shareholders or policies!

  1. On returning to the hotel, a dance performance (Bhopa Dance) was here: 4 musicians and a dancer  with a wisk in full regalia begin a joyful and sustained dance. This is a demonstration of a dance that leads to trance during religious festivals. Each musician and dancer becomes possessed by the goddess.(Jagdish, Rajesh, Papu, Sonu)

  2. Small dusty road lined with open harvesting mustard fields. Photo stop. On advice of the driver, as there are only women, I have to stay in the car. But he's going! I do not try to understand, explanations on the respect from macho bore me. I never had problems with women in India so far and I always asked permission before making pictures. I probably have more respect for women than 3/4 of them.

  3. Puce Arrive Karauli at 13:40. Lunch alone at the hotel Bhanwar Vilas Palace. Huge palace belonging to the family of Maharaja who once lived in the city even more sumptuous palace and delirious.

The principality was established in 1348 and run by Maharajas Pal whose family ruled from 1772 until 1948, when Karauli was incorporated in the State of Matsya and Rajasthan in 1949. The latter is Ganesh Pal 1947-1948 . The city was and is partly surrounded by a red stone wall.

Karauli is famous for City Palace built in the 14th by Arjun Pal, what's left in the 18th. The area is full of small forts that belonged to local lords and princes: Timangarh Fort, Fort Dev Giri, Giri Unt Fort, Fort Ramathra, Amargarh Fort, Karauli Dang, Mandrayal Fort, Fort Padampura, witnesses of a rich feudal activity combative, small seugneurs spending time to tackle, to annex, to ally.

The area is also known for its many temples (about 300), the Kaila Devi temple. (23 km) where is held an important festival in March April, Shri Mahaveer Ji Jain temple in the village of hindaun resulting in a great festival after that of Kaila Devi. the Madan Mohan Ji.

  1. After lunch we go to visit the city, the market and the City palace accompanied by a member of hotel staff.

The city center is inside fortifications. As in most fortified cities, narrow streets are filled with many shops and artisan workshops. The stalls of fruits and vegetables, pastry and confectioners, the fabric merchants, tailors, the market offerings, in addition the knife sharpener, behind a mound of spare parts and out of order engines the repairer of electrical appliances and televisions, or repairer of watches, and even bracelets manufacturers that melt the plastic, to cut it into slices, to give them their final shape, they melt again to adhere glitter, small crystals to decorate.

Many wood turners strive to make foot bed, on demand, between two roller for chapatis.

It is reassuring to observe this local economy where everything sold has been produced on site. We bless these parts of the world that China and globalization have not completely invaded.

As in many small Indian cities, today, we are bothered by "3 asshole on bike" that stop when we are looking at someone or something, who interfere in conversations or seek to divert, who force us to take pictures, arrogantly. Whether we are with a guide or not, it changes nothing.

  1. Visit the City Palace. Shortly quoted by tour operators, it can compete with others: huge but in very poor condition, it gives an idea of the megalomania of feudal "princes" or "little kings" who ruled Rajasthan, until there is not much longer : the twentieth century.

When I visit palaces and forts, where I hear about "royal families" who "build" and inhabited them, and when I heard about their sumptuous lifestyle, I have a special thought for all people who really built, decorated, maintained, served and defended these forts with their lives, just to have something to eat: the little people enslaved to these families called "royal". History has a short memory !

Leaving the City Palace from behind, visit a Hindu temple frequented by hundreds of pilgrims. No photography allowed. We are seeing pojas, rituals without always understanding their meaning, although it is not very complicated to observe that everyone has his small private gestures, his little manias to get the favor of a god or a goddess, with a lot of donations to enrich priests who also have interest in it continues as long as possible.

  1. Back to the hôtel in the dark, and lyophilized dinner at the hotel (a meat buffet had been prepared for a large German group).

Day 10 Karauli - Alwar - Delhi.   321 km (metered) 24 ° in the morning / afternoon 30 °

  1. Departure at 08:30 for a long road to Delhi. Rather than take the highway that goes from Matura to Delhi, we would go through Alwar.

A mix of mustard fields at time of harvest, farms, villages, last chimneys of brick kilns, some universities with hundreds of students gathered outside the gates: we are in exams period. Last herds of camels, sheep, goats, huts and tents of Gypsies.

  1. We stop to take some pictures of the mustard harvest and the harvester that extracts the grains. A man operates the machine and women the task. They discovered the face and feature sympathetic smiles. While we are in the fields, "3 assholes on bike", stop on the road and came to see what we do and tried to be photographed. Women cover again, the enchantment of the fortuitous relationship is over. I think it's more fear than respect, though thinking driver.

Alwar and Deeg have magnificent palaces and forts, nestled in particularly photogenic areas often underrated by tourism agencies.

  1. 12:30 we just go to Alwar, very difficult to find because the locals themselves are not familiar under his name: City Palace or Vinay Vilas Mahal and Water tank. After several unsuccessful attempts, a man most erudite tells us that this place is better known for kacheri, because the Supreme Court of the region is installed in the palace. And that everyone knows.

As is day of the hearing, the first difficulty is to find a place on the car park without getting ripped off, everyone improvising parking attendant just to make a little pocket money.

Surprise, lawyers consult sitting outdoor at tables in front of the palace, or in some exiguous offices in the roundabout that is in front of the building. Scribes armed with typewriter from last century or computers and printers take turns to prepare all documents that requires a passage to justice.

All the city palace is occupied by court of justice. It is not visited. As in Karauli, it is immense. On the left, a flight of stairs leads to the cenotaph of the Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar, built in 1815 of red stone from Karauli and white marble  The interior and the dome are particularly well decorated, although very poorly maintained. One of his wives (rani) was also cremated there, hence the other name of the place is Moosi Rani ki chhatri. On the right of chhatri a beautiful water tank (Sagar lake), lined chhatris and gateways, with the frame surrounding rugged hills whose overhanging fort and fortified walls, Bala Quila or Alwar fort.

The history of the city saw heavy fighting against Mughals and Afghans invaders, and later between different princes of the area.

  1. Puce 2:20 p.m. stop for lunch in a restaurant for truckers; Sam Rat. When paying the driver disappears again to wash hands. This is the third time that we did pay his meal. Third time ! We are surprised and annoyed. As he looks to be a loudmouth not very smart, we do not want to risk spoiling the end of the stay, or asking to change the driver.

  2. Long drive to Delhi, two hours trafic jam from the Delhi suburbs.

  3. Arrival at the hotel Anila at 18:25. Diner in the hotel. Correct.

Day 11 Delhi - Haridwar    232 km (metered) 21 ° in the morning / 31 ° in the afternoon

  1. Departure at 8:40, with 1:45 trafic jam to go out of Delhi.

We are amazed to discover that the countryside around Delhi is the subject of a multitude of construction projects of residential towers of 15-20 floors. Young couples of middle class need to stay without their parents. They will put two hours every morning and two hours every evening to work, on board their Renault Duster, Mahindra Scorpio and XUV 500, their Maruti Suzuki Swift or Tata Nano for more modest (as Parisians ).

  1. The landscape changes completely what we experienced previously. No aravelis on the horizon, an immense green plain, or alternate rice fields, wheat fields, flowering mustard fields, sugar cane fields, creating an unimaginable shades of green dotted
    with yellow.

On the roadside sugar cane juice vendors, shikanji (lemon juice, ginger juice, salt, sometimes saffron and cumin, soda water and ice) and nimbu lemon soda, with its famous kancha bottle with ball whistling when you open them. We want to test everything.

  1. So, we ask to taste a fresh sugar cane juice. Experience which implies a minimum of hygiene in the container and avoiding to add water or ice. While there are vendors with new machines and well maintained all along the road, the driver stopped us at the dirtiest one : the wheels are full of grease, the tray that collects the juice has not been cleaned for a long time. Although he made sure that the seller does not add water, we have the impression that he does not care about us!

  2. Photo stop at an artisan producer of cane sugar. This is the same method as the manufacturing palm sugar: the extracted juice is heated until the maximum water evaporates to result in the molasses, the more it will be thicker more it will be farm after cooling.

Here we discover that chickpea flour is added to the molasses, to force the thickening and especially weighing sugar. Fraudulent process to make more money on the weight of sugar sold.

All along the way, we meet pilgrims who walk under a blazing sun, from Hardiwar where they drew water from the Ganges to take home in plastic cans hung around the neck or placed in hanging baskets in a balance sometimes highly decorated they carry on their shoulders.

There are hundreds to pace the road in single file, sometimes exhausted. On their journey people take stands where they offer free meals, drinking water, rest areas for a few hours or overnight. They just walk two days and they still have three days to walk to the end of the 250 km separating them from Delhi or village of Haryana, to be in time to the temple to offer this water to Shiva day .

Some do this trip twice a year. Men, women, the elderly or very elderly, youth, and children sometimes do this ritual with impressive fervor. The years of Kumba Mela (every 12 years), there are hundreds of thousands on the road to the point that must prohibit the movement of vehicles.

  1. Puce 1:00 p.m. lunch stop at Roorkee. The driver does not eat, saying that his wife made him a good meal this morning before leaving Delhi. Thank's to her.

  2. 3:15 p.m. Arrive in Hardiwar. We can not go to the hotel by car, we have to stop in a parking at the entrance of the city (pedestrian area and security measures), walk through the bazaar with luggage.

Installation at the hotel Haveli Hari Ganga, on banks of the Ganges, 10 meters to the bazaar and 10 minutes walk from Gaths where aarti takes place.

Haridwar is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism. Every twelve years held a religious festival Kumbh Mela and every 6 years ardh kumbh mela (half Kumbh Mela as this year from January to April). The town is an important pilgrimage site, because according to tradition, the faithful who bathes in the Ganges at Haridwar escape the cycle of rebirth in the world of forms. Haridwar is old. It is quoted by Chinese travelers 7th century. It was destroyed by Tamerlane in 1399. In the 19 century it was an important center of religious reform movements, including the Arya Samaj.

We were impressed by the security measures that rule this town: the police are everywhere, with bulletproof vests, helmets, machine guns. Camps, improvised barracks occupy the entire city center. If there are thousands of pilgrims, there are also a thousand heavily armed police. Even the hotel is guarded by armed security guards. We receive very strict safety regulations, both in the room than at our city trips: no bag, no money, no jewels, attention to cameras etc ...

The driver had proposed to accompany us to visit the bazaar and the Aarti ceremony. We waited him in vain.

  1. We visited the bazaar alone and asked the hotel to benefit from accompanying to go to the aarti ceremony.

On the way a young thug tried to distract myself by wanting to shake my hand while an accomplice made me a body search on the oppposite side to detect some interesting catch. No luck I have experienced this technique in Senegal, I immediately  reacted, although having nothing to steal over me.

  1. The aarti ceremony begins at 17:30. The intensity and the crowd increases gradually as we advance in time. Priests chant mantras, pour milk, ash, different colored powder in the Ganges. Pilgrims come to lay curved leaves with offerings and candles in the river water. Others come to immerse in water, or simply splash. Current is impressive, barriers and chains are installed to enable devotees to dive without being washed away and drown.

Electric garlands and a lot of lights make the site more magical. Thousands of people are sitting in Gaths, chanting prayers, raising arms above heads.

The apotheosis (06h30 pm) is at the end when the music goes up and the priests brandishing the famous oil lamps, they rotate in the air, illuminating the atmosphere. This is one of the finest religious ceremonies that we have been able to see.

This is very different from the aarti of Varanasi which appears to be a show for local and foreign tourists. Here no light shows, no choreography synchronized by priests or actors, no spectators on boats ...

  1. Following a huge walkabout to return to the hotel. Diner at the hotel, nice buffet.

Day 12 Haridwar - Rishikesh    31 km (metered) 17 ° in the morning / afternoon 28 °    (half-day for the driver)

  1. 9:00, we'll walk through the bazaar which is already invaded by a dense crowd to take the cable car that will lift us to the Manasa Devi temple built on the hill overlooking the city. It is dedicated to the snake goddess Manasa-, a form of Durga. The ascent of the hill is done either on foot or by chairlift. The view of the city and the Ganges valley should be interesting when there is no fog.

In the temple we are crushed by a hysterical crowd screaming, shoot, wants to pass at all costs even walk on the other. It is virtually impossible to stop to look at a scene of offerings on one of the many altars of the temple or take a picture. We have no trouble imagining what it must be in a period of great festival, when there are millions of pilgrims and sometimes the number of deaths by crushing produced this kind of hysteria. People move without worrying about the others who are in front of or next to them, a real steamroller without control, without brake.

  1. We leave Haridwar at 11:10. Given the number of police and military camps surrounding the city, we realize that this city is really under surveillance. We will have no reliable explanation about the presence of this force, each with its own version. The fear of terrorism is one that comes up most often.

  2. Arrive in Rishikesh at 12:00. We drop the luggage at the hotel Ganga Kinare. Very nice hotel at the edge of the Ganges, a bit isolated and away from the tourist center.

Rishikesh is the world capital of yoga. When I took yoga classes in 1974, my teachers had been trained in Rishikesh and they often spoke to us. We had imagined a village perched in the Himalayas, some in Tibetan style, with surrounding mountaintops.

It is an ordinary city, which one sees no mountains worthy of the Himalayas, Nothing but rocky hills.

The city is known as a pilgrimage city, it attracts many Hindus but also a lot of Western for its ashrams. The Beatles and 80 other celebrities have made the place famous by coming to study Transcendental Meditation taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi from February to April 1968. They have written there the white album, and a song where John Lennon asks the guru "Maharishi, what have you done? You made a fool of everyone ! who the fuck do you think you are? ", when he realizes that guru made love with most of his female followers. The ashram is abandoned and can be visited for 2000 rps!

In the North East are two bridges that cross the Ganges: the Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula (10 minutes by car from the hotel). This last one has a beautiful view of the Gaths and Trayambakeshwar temple. Most shops and restaurant are located next to the last bridge.

All activities, from Dhobi (washer pressers) the tailor are on the other side, on the right bank. As in Benares, religious activities take place mainly, but not only, on the left bank of the river.

Although the city is sacred, there are only shops of clothes and religious trinkets for local and foreign tourists, institutes and yoga and meditation classin all buildings hold by gurus not always clear!

We were right in the international festival of yoga, which creates a certain buzz in the citywith the possibility to come across gurus and "masters" of various disciplines, some Indian, most "new-age" from California!

We crossed the path of a "hairy and bearded guru" with his escort, surrounded by Western devotees, all in beige and white uniform, professional camera in hand filming all the doings of the "revered teacher", in total fusion as a hen with her chicks, which he strongly held one (girl of course) by wrist! Anthony Paul Moo-Young a Jamaïcan artist based in London became guru H. H. Pujiya Mooji after a "sacred" meeting. It would be "inhabited" by the word of God !

Beware of monkeys (do not walk around with food or drink - we saw a man being mugged on a bridge to fly her coca cola bottle by a monkey) and cows not always very cool .

As Pushkar, Rishikesh and its "trendy" atmosphere,  connected to "paradise" of twisted spirituality, with "illuminated" gurus and sadhus , its Western baba "blissful", has not made us want to further explore the city .

  1. Back at the hotel, walk along the Ganges, passing by a village of blacksmith Gypsies specialized in the manufacturing of tools We visit the Koyal Grand restaurant for a possible dinner. When we saw the condition of the dining room and kitchen, we opted to dine at the hotel. So goof buffet, so fresh, and great variery of food.

Day 13 Rishikesh - Dehradun - Chandigarh 234 km (metered) 18 ° in the morning / afternoon 28 °

  1. Departure at 09:10 towards Dehradun.

  2. 10:48 Stop at Clement Town, 10 km before Dehradun for visiting the Mindrolling Monastry, a traditional Buddhist monastery, as one can see in Sikkim and North Bengal.

At the time of the Chinese invasion in 1959, there were about three hundred monks in Mindroling. The monastery was partly destroyed by Chinese. In 1965, Rinpoche Khochhen and a small group of monks undertook to restore Mindroling monastery near the mountain town of Dehradun in Uttarakhand. Hampered by the difficult conditions of the area they chose, they began to build the monks district and the main sanctuary before inviting the 11th Mindroling Trichen that he provides leadership. Mindroling Trichen Rinpoche came from Kalimpong to Dehradun in 1976.

It now hosts the Nyingma University  of Ngagyur, one of the largest Buddhist institutes in India.

We met a western "turbaned" who accosted us not so cool to inform us it was necessary to remove shoes before entering a Buddhist temple, as if we were idiots. May Mary Gibson, living in Los Angeles, aka Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Queen of Kundalini yoga, momentarily escaped from Rishikesh festival.

  1. Departure at 11:55 for a small village that houses the farm school of Vandana Shiva. Arrive at 01:20 pm.

Vandana Shiva is an activist, environmentalist, writer and Indian feminist. She is a leader of environmentalists and anti-globalization worldwide, including the promotion of traditional and organic peasant agriculture, as opposed to the policy of expansion of agro-food multinationals and genetic engineering. She struggles against the patenting of life and biopiracy. She founded Navdanya association for the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of farmers' rights. Like many Indian activists, she seems more known in the world in India !

She intervenes in different instances such as the European Parliament to explain the threat against the peasant freedom and ownership of seeds, and the danger of multinationals trying to control the food system: such as Monsanto, Cargill, Nestlé, and by interposed products Bayer, Syngenta...

Her association Navdanya and Biodiversity Farm / Bija Vidyapeeth are at Ramgarh Village / Old Shishambara Shimla Road, PO Sherpur Dehradun - Phone: 91-135-2693025 / 2111015 In case of Any problem call Mr. Pawan Singhal +91 8191802080

The entrance area begins with a magnificent mango plantation. We visit the farm that welcomes volunteers from all over the world, for a day, a week, a month, a year, Indian being the least represented among the trainees. Find the mistake ! Vandana was absent, in conference at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh

We can learn biodiversity, permaculture, seeds ptotect. Most typical Indian vegetables and cereals are grown here without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, in order to produce seeds that will be kept in the bank of the association and distributed free to farmers who wish provided they donate a small share of seeds harvested to maintain the gift of the chain.

Uttara and Anur  guide us to introduce the work undertaken in the farm. We will also meet Bija Didi, the guardian of the seeds.

Cows are bred for milk and to operate farm tools, no power machine being used, to best match the economic reality of the majority of small Indian farmers. There is even a nursery for earthworm to relocate these living organisms in land despoiled by chemicals. We are invited to the meal on site.  For more information, click HERE

  1. Puce Lunch in Vandana Shiva Ashram. Simple and tasty vegetraian food.  The driver must take lunch before us.

  2. 4:10 p.m. stop Paonta Sahib to see the Sikh Temple Gurudwara Paonta Sahib. Built in tribute to Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) poet, warrior, philosopher, the last of 10 Sikh gurus. who wrote one of the holy books. This is an important place of pilgrimage. Free admission, permission to take pictures, friendly and respectful atmosphere. To enter a Sikh temple, you have to cover the head, a bandanafor men, a shawl for ladies, take off shoes, washing hands, pass through a footbath. Do not have cigarettes on oneself, or alcohol.

The people are friendly, kind, open, quiet, no shouting, no hysteria. Three priests sing psalms very soft, while a fourth hunting insectsrunning or flying on the golden fabric that covers the holy book.

This contrasts most with the rest of India is that everything is free, the toilets are extremely clean, custody of shoes, the entrance of the temple, nobody not ask for donations, books offered when exit even, even food is free, you can get free hosting.

6 km from Paonta Sahib, the Gurudwara Sahib Bhanjani another important Sikh temple, no time to visit. Gurdwara Guru = door. Beautiful environment, river, cultivated fields, mountains. The temple is built in the place where he won his first battle against another Sikh who accused him notoriety.

  1. The driver took the wrong route repeatedly reached Chandigarg at 20:40, under a storm of wind and rain.

  2. Installation at the hotel Hometel in a very dark and poor industrial area !

Day 14 Chandigarh - Dharamsala - McLeod Ganj    294 km (metered)  (alt. 2082m)

Chandigarh is a "horrible" city divided into rectangular areas called "sectors". The streets and avenues are straight and perpendicular axes, identical with round dots, fruits of the delirium of Le Corbusier.

The road is long and wishing to reach Dharamsala early enough to ride around quietly. we want to go at 08:30. Departure at 8:40.

  1. Before leaving Chandigarh, the driver proposed to visit Sukhna Lake and Rock Garden (the Indian equivalent of the French Postman Cheval) Sunday walks for young lovers and middle class families who make their jogging between two grass juice stalls. This does not interest us! Sterile debate for 5 minutes. The driver is going to discuss the recent presence of François Hollande to try to convince us !

Tired of talking we capitulate! It will take us two hours to visit. Without interest. With the trafic jam we leave Chandigarh at 11:45 am instead of 8:30. The driver said we have all day tomorrow to visit Dharamsala. It's not up to him to decide! We are starting to get bored of his indelicacies.

  1. 12:30 stop at Sikh temple in Anandpur Sahib, in festival. There is a lot of people. We are impressed by the deployment of colors (sari) on white marble background. We are impressed by the calm of the pilgrims, unlike Hindu temples: no jostling, no yelling, no hysteria. People respect more or less queues.

  2. Puce 3:30 p.m. lunch stop. Instead of stopping in some of restaurants style midway , clean and family, (they are plenty on the road) the driver stopped again in a restaurant for truckers: Sar, pur vegetarian. This time we just take a plate of white rice and a parata without drink. When the cashier handed us the bill, it shows a pickles, dhal and a bottle of water that we had not ordered. I ask what that is, she replies that it is the driver's meal.

I refuse to pay and requires to have a bill for our dishes. The driver try to make us paying again for his meal, that alone is double what we had. The driver showed no signs of embarrassment and no apology.

  1. After several route errors, the driver regularly asks the road, although he says often come to the area with "Australians" customers , we come to Dharamsala in a windstorm and rain at 19:15.

  2. Installation and Tibetan dinner at the hotel Chonor House. A bit of sweetness in this end of travel.

Day 15 Dharamsala - McLeod Ganj  11 ° in the morning / afternoon 20 °         (half-day for the driver)

Dharamsala is situated in Himachal Pradesh. The English working or staying in Delhi made the city a resort. McLeod Ganj was inaugurated in 1850 after the British garrison it was installed.

In 1905 a major earthquake, killing 20 000 people destroyed most of the buildings. The whole area was ruined and the English moved to Shimla,

When the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, left Tibet, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru allowed him with relatives to establish a Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala in 1960. Since then, thousands of Tibetan refugees settled in the city. Most of them reside in the upper Dharamsala (McLeod Ganj), where they established monasteries, temples and schools.

The Indian Army is also very present in the region, China has regularly provocative and intrusive behavior along the border that separates India.

  1. At 9:00, we walk to visit the complex of Tsuglagkhang: official residence of the Dalai Lama with the Namgyal Gompa Monaste
    ry, Tibetan monks and ordinary people come here to show their respects to the Dalai Lama and pray.

A Buddhist place as we like: clean, simple, humble, no decoration flashy, no statue in gold, no icons, no avatars and frescoes telling tall tales legends, not cinema, just a place for prayer and meditation.

We attend the morning prayers of the nuns and then monks. Men and women do not pray together. We are surprised by the number of nuns of Western origin.

At the end of the prayers of men, once out of the room, monks greet and talk as if they were not seen for a long time. This gives rise to meetings full of warmth and friendliness. We spent a moment sitting watching them.A moment of pure happiness, shared in a look, in a smile, in a gesture.

  1. At 10:30, we find the driver for a tour of the area. Although he says regularly drive customers in this area, it does not seem to know the interesting places to see.

  2. We would visit a Tibetan children Village (TCV). Although the hotel gave us a map, the driver seek information. He asks for a tibetan school. We see a sign indicating the tibetan children village, he refused to follow the path indicated, because he seeks fo a school. We specify that it is the TCV. He stopped us on top of a hill, we have descend and ascend on foot to go to the place where we had seen the sign. Very short mind this man !

The Tibetan Children's Village is like our S.O.S. villages. Many children of refugees arrive McLeod Ganj without their parents. Many lost their parents during the crossing of the Himalayas or killed by Chinese, others are from families who lost everything in their exodus, do not have the means to raise them. Today many Tibetans trying to escape Chinese colonization by crossing the Himalayas. Many are killed by Chinese border guards. The village is where children live and study. 1500 of them are housed in shelters run by a group of women and many small complex of apartments near the Dal Lake.

They take courses in Tibetan language, study literature, history, science, mathematics, English and the arts. Visitors are invited to observe classes, and long-term volunteers are sometimes accepted to help. The village lives only through donations and sponsorships. While most of the orphanage in the world asking for sponsorships of $ 20 by  child, TCV  ask for$ 40.

Nearby is the Dal lake, insignificant "sacred" pond surrounded by a forest of Himalayan cedars, where every year in September takes place a pilgrimage leading purifying dips.

  1. We want to see the bazaar of Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj is a succession of clothes shops for tourists and religious trinkets at exorbitant prices, as Pushkar, Rishikesh and Khatmandu. We does not even try to negotiate so the prices are high, even for a simple rosary.

No luck all Dharamsala bazaar shops are closed because it is the day of Shiva! It's funny what's holidays in India.

The driver suggest to take us back to McLeod Ganj, what we end up accepting although there are many other things to see in the area : The DipTse Chok Ling Monastery, the Tibetan Medical & Asrological Institute (Men-Khang Tsee).  If it is to spend hours searching, missing the road, because he does not know,  it's not interesting. He got one afternoon holiday !

  1. On the way back, visit the church St John, so British. He drops us in McLeod Ganj at 13:30

  2. We cross the streets without much interest, shops, bars and restaurants "hip", a Chinese style temple Kalachakra Temple. We search in vain for a Tibetan cooking class to learn how to make momos. There are but we were bad informed.

We meet a French sexagenarian couple who travel six months a year only in local transport. They just do part of Asia. We share a good time. They impressed us with their simplicity and openness. A violent windstorm and hail forced us to take refuge in a Tibetan restaurant.

  1. Puce Lunch in this Tibetan restaurant.

  2. Return, rest and dinner at the hotel Chonor House.

Day 16 Dharamsala - Amritsar 223 km (metered) 12 ° in the morning / afternoon 28 °

After yesterday's storm, the sky is clear. We can see the snowy peaks on the back of the hotel. The air is pure, intense blue sky.

  1. Starting at 08:30. Under the sun, the small road that takes us to Nurpur is beautiful, with the Himalayan snowy foothills in the back. Succession of pine forest, small green valleys, well garnished gardens and small farms.

  2. We then take the highway that runs through Pathankot which has been the object of a terrorist attack against the military airbase in January 2016. In this area, military presence is very strong, we meet many convoys on the road. On this his side, it is Pakistan that regularly plays provocation. There are some countries that it is better not to have as neighbors.

The road is lined with wheat fields, sugarcane and mustard. Many sugarcane production workshops.

  1. Puce No lunch stop, to avoid giving the driver another opportunity to cheat us.

  2. 2:05 p.m. Arrive in Amritsar, baggage drop at the Golden Tulip. Hotel is in eccentric roadside in a area not very outgoing.

  3. 3:15 Visit the Golden temple Harmandir Sahib. A wonder: white marble and gold, to which is added every color shades of saree worn by women. Despite the crowds, it's peaceful. Four doors provide access to the sacred pool (Amrit sarovar) where pilgrims purify themselves. Women with a covered area of sight.

The temple which seems to float in the middle of the basin in which it is reflected, consists of 3 floors, the upper parts were covered in gold leaf. The base is marble of various colors inlaid mother of pearl and semi-precious stones. Inside is the sacred book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. There are so many people that we can not enter inside  the temple unless to wait very long time.

At the rear of the temple, a refectory (Langar) distribute free meals to all visitors (thousands): each takes a plate and a glass and go into an upstairs queue to access the meal. Once again no rush, they all are quiet. Once seated on the ground, volunteers pass with seals to distribute rice, dhal, spinach and chapatis. Leaving everyone makes his tray while hundreds of volunteers do the dishes. In the kitchen, huge stoves cook food in huge pots. A man walks directly in the pan for cleaning.

Those who wish can sit and have tea, free.

We are constantly invited to share a meal, or to give our impressions. The Sikh world is truly a world apart. its solidarity, its power, its cohesion make sometimes thinking about the Jewish world. With Sikhs we find a very different world from what we used in India: the majority of people are smiling, friendly, polite, respectful, welded and concerned by others. In temples they put a point of honor to be volunteers to help for free.

The temple has been the subject of numerous attacks. It was destroyed by the Afghans in 1757, who have always been brought to destroy the heritage of other cultures.

In 1984 he was the subject of a massacre perpetrated by the Indian army Indira Gandhi claiming that separatist Sikhs had taken refuge. They are pilgrims who were killed.

The temple burned during the attack was reconstructed. The assassination of Mrs Gandhi is linked to the attack. Following his assassination, more than 11,000 of which 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi were killed.

  1. Visit the Jallianwala Bagh, which was the subject of another massacre April 3, 1919, which was 379 dead and 1200 injured. Here again history appears to have a selective memory: after three days of deadly violence in the city against European civilians by Indian followers of Gandhi (who seemed to have forgotten the principle of non-violence), Indian soldiers of the British Raj open fire on an unauthorized rally of Gandhian !!! killing hundreds among them. Nobody mentions the dead run by supporters of non-violence!

  2. Quick visit in Katra Jaimal Singh Bazaar impressive. We do not have enough time to go in depth, the evening falls. We should spend at least a whole day in Amritsar.

By late afternoon, contact with Arvind for a last debriefing. We talk about meals that the driver made us pay. Being ordered to refund us, he never apologized, never refund, just arguing he does not ask his friends pay for the meal he offers and that have happened only twice (4 in reality). We are not friend, but clients. Why should we offer him meals that are already included in the contract with the agency?

He mentions that he has never asked us anything in exchange for half-bottles of water he provided the first 8 days and that he paid from his pocket. Dishonest, liar, fast-talking, and blackmailer.

Day 17 Amritsar - Delhi - Kathmandu (alt.1350m)  Flight

  1. Starting at 08:30 am for the airport. It is with pleasure that we separate of this driver, we give him an envelope with correct tip despite his tactlessness and an envelope to pay him 24 half-bottles of water provided and the two sugar cane juice he had paid.

1.Jet airways- 9W2662 - 09 March 2016 at 10:45 Departure from Amritsar reach Delhi at 24:00 exchange plane at Delhi for Kathmandu - 9 W260 - departure at 1:25 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. at reach Kathmandu. (2:55 total) Boeing 737-

2.Jet Airways- W259 9 - 11 March 2016 Departure from Kathmandu at 4:20 p.m. reach Delhi at 6:05 p.m.. (2 hour flight) Boeing 737-

Delay of the first flight, boarding the second just before the doors close, a stewart misleads our bag with camera equipment, a hostess very arrogant. 4 hours of pure madness with Jet Airways.

  1. Entry formalities for a visa on arrival for 15 days in Nepal: complete a paper form, pay the visa fee: $ 25. Go on one of the computers available: scan the passport, fill in the digital form, obstacle course, as long as one does not enter a mobile number, and email address the computer refuses to continue ! You have to call a specialist. Then the robot takes a picture with his web cam and issue a ticket with a bar code that represents all that information. With all these documents go to the immigration office. Everything takes between 30 minutes and an hour depending on the crowd.

The overview of Kathmandu is surprising amalgam cubic houses of two or three floors, dull or colored, all identical. The landscape is relatively flat, slightly hilly.

Kathmandu is located at the confluence of two rivers, the Bagmati and Bishnumati. It is surrounded by medium size mountains unlike Darjeeling Dharamsala or does not give the impression of being close to the Himalayas.

Kathmandu city was founded in the 10th century by King Gunakamadeva. The current structure of the city dates back to the 16th century.

Kathmandu valley has three main cities, Kathmandu itself, Patan and Bhaktapur, which seem to be the suburbs. In the 60 Bhaktapur was the capital of hippies who lived in Freak Street.

The city and its valley are located in an area of intense seismic activity, she suffered from several earthquakes in 1934 and in April 2015. These two events caused the death of several thousand people, and the ruin of many buildings including that of historic buildings.

  1. We were supposed to visit the Durbar Square of Kathmandu on arrival. We will be driven to the hotel Friend's Home without visiting !

The local correspondent, authoritarian,  informs us that he changed the course of our program to make more sense.

  1. Walk alone in the Thamel area which is the preferred tourist area since the 80s, it's a dirty neighborhood, dusty, with bumpy streets. Hotels are being built everywhere. There are only clothes shops, and religious trinkets at crazy prices. In the evening when the stores are closed, bright and suggestive posters are installed on sidewalks to attract people in bars and dance halls a bit special. We are far from Kathmandu hippies, it is not yet in Patpong, but not so far.

  2. Dinner at Utse, one of the best and oldest Tibetan restaurant in Thamel.

Day 18 Kathmandu - Bhaktapur - Changu Narayan - Durbar Square

Kathmandu suffered a gas supply shortage in gasoline, in food: strikers blocked the borders. As elsewhere in Kathmandu, electricity is rationed. The hotel informed us that there are cuts, and then cuts the generator takes over, which does not operate electrical appliances such as air conditioning and fridge. Some restaurants can not prepare some dishes.

The monarchy was deposed in 2006, following the many abuses of power of an unpopular king. He was replaced by a Communist majority regime which does not appear to do better, with many internal conflicts, people begin to blame for a few things like not being effective during the last earthquake in 2015 .

Tourists pay a lot of money for earthquake and instability in the country, under the pretext of participation in the restoration of sites, which is already covered by many organizations and foreign sponsors.

Bhaktapur $ 15 per peson, Changu Narayan 300 rupees per person, Durbar Squar Rs 1000 per person, Patan Rs 500 per person, Boudhanat 250 rupees per person, valid one day pass, to which is added museum entrance fee. For areas where there are practically only ruins to see! Not less than  61 euros for two days of visits !

Good to know, whether in Bhaktapur, Patan, in Kathmandu, the center of the old town called Durbar Squar. Hence the importance of locate in what area it is.

  1. We asked to start early days (08h00-08h30) to enjoy the time, refused by the local agency. The day begins at 09:30 !

To visit the sites plans supplied through the entry counters, and paper guides are relatively poorly made and do not allow to move efficiently. It would be interesting to use a human guide. The problem is there are so many false guides and scammers we no longer know whom to trust. Municipalities should consider the training and the provision of official guides!

  1. A driver, nice man but who does not speak a word of English awaits us to take us to Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur is the third royal capital of Nepal with Kathmandu and Patan. The center is home to many temples, destroyed mostly, palaces, small alleys with houses collapsed substantiated that keep still a certain authenticity.

The Nyatapola Temple located near Durbar Square is the only building to be intact. The stairway is bordered by 5 pairs of statues. These represent two wrestlers, two elephants, two lions, griffins and finally two goddesses.

Among the buildings of Durbar, the royal palace, with fifty-five windows of wooden lace can not be visited. The Vatsala temple dedicated to Drurga is reduced to its base, the Til Mahadev Narayan temple and the protective statue for earthquakes facing it are intact.

The historic city of Bhaktapur is a pile of ruins. The old brick houses have not survived, many still stand because they are substantiated. some streets are inaccessible.

  1. We take a very frustrating country road: leaving Kathmandu, we expected to discover typical villages and farms in a mountain setting. The mountains are hills and farms of cubic houses like those of the city. We get more impression of being close to the Himalayas in Dharamsala than here.

  2. Visit Changu Narayan: in the valley 15 km from Kathmandu, 6 km from Bhaktapur. The village is the place to the oldest shrine in the valley, built in the 6th century BC in honor of Vishnu by King Handatta Burma.

A flight of stairs through a traditional old village of bricks, each house is transformed into a restaurant or craft workshop, like mandalas (high prices) leads to the temple itself, damaged by the earthquake, and guarded by many military. There would be statues and valuable works of art that the Nepalese would tend to steal for resale. Site restoration is ensured by Germans funds.

In one building facing the temple we are surprised to discover a portrait of Satia Said Baba, great Indian impostor guru who has nothing to do with spirituality and Hindu religion!

  1. The driver is about to drive us to the hotel!

  2. The full day tour planned in our program became a half day tour 09:30 to 12:30 ! We would be taken to Kathmandu Durbar Squar on the way back as it was removed from the yesterday program.

The driver called the manager who begins by refusing saying we have to take a taxi ! 

I insist saying that this visit has been removed from his done, and today it was planned a full day tour, and it was billed us not a half day tour. He accepted in condition to have have a copy of our contract. This is our word is in question then it was they who try to  cheat us !

  1. Kathmandu Durbar Square is the historic site of the old Kathmandu.

This is the place most touristy of the Nepalese capital. The accumulation of temples, palaces, statues, pagodas, the cobbled streets made it magical, before the earthquake.

This is especially where there is more pigeons and more young people in the city.

The Royal Palace is largely destroyed, the Kumari Ghar house dating from the 18ème century stands on crutches. It is a House with multiple windows that was inhabited by a living goddess, a virgin girl called Kumari. forbidden to photograph. The tradition of Kumari in the seventeenth century, during the reign of Jaya Prakash Malla. It is considered the embodiment of the goddess Taleju.

Girls selected from four to five years, the reincarnation of the goddess on earth must have a flawless body and a specific horoscope. All her desires are fulfilled, although this does not necessarily entitle her to an exciting life. She almost does not play, does not move and only comes out for some religious ceremonies. Any injury or onset of blood terminates her sanctity. Luckily for her, her role ends when the onset of menstruation. Then she eturns to her family, with many gifts, and a watchword rather restrictive: stay single all her life.

The Chyasin Dega temple dedicated to Krishna is completely destroyed, as the Trailokya Mohan, the Kasthamandap, and Pratap Malla statue.

On the square are walking fake sadhus, who look more like clowns than wise, in search of tourists naive enough to pay for a photo.

  1. Puce Back to Thamel in the early afternoon,have lunch at Utse, try different dishes.

  2. Walking through Thamel. I try to imagine what life was like here in the 60 's / 70' s: babs, freaks, hippies everywhere, shabby little hotels from where chit smoke volutes mixed with those of incense and patchouli. Today we must be unconscious to buy items in this neighborhood: singing bowls, rosaries, statues, mandalas, tanka, and other trinkets. They are sold at unreasonable prices and even bargaining, they cost 2-3 times more expensive than in the specialized shops in Europe, or on the web.

  3. Dinner at Utse, whose owner Dechen Dolkar sells a superb book of Tibetan cooking explaining all the recipes listed on the menu.

Day 19 Kathmandu - Patan - Boudhanath - Delhi 18 ° in the morning / 28 ° in the afternoon.   Flight

We planned a free tour in the morning around the hotel, to get time to take a shower and a meal before going to the airport to reach Europe. The local agency decided otherwise modifying the original program.

  1. Starting at 09.30, after the head of the agency has made a copy of our contract !

The driver took us to Patan, in the surburb of Kathmandu.

  1. Visit Patan (Lalitpur) on the run (we should be back to the hotel before 12h00) Patan is one of three royal cities with Kathmandu and Baktapur. It is located six kilometers from the capital, separated from it by the Bagmati river.

Patan was previously a large Buddhist teaching center, as evidenced by the numerous monasteries scattered around the city. Lalitpur was chosen by Emperor Ashoka, who is the founder of the city, to raise one of the four great stupas which the belt, located at the cardinal points.

Patan has its Durbar Square, identical to others with the same design. It has a dozen temples dedicated to local deities. Patan seems to have suffered less than other sites in the earthquake. Few brick pile, only a few temples are supported.

On the square is the Royal Palace, richly decorated. It houses a museum (entrance fee). The Shiva temple, original, which consists of brick and wood dating from the 17th century. A bit further, the Golden temple one of the most beautiful monuments in Patan. It is a gigantic piece of jewelry update the 12th century. Further north, the Kumbeschwar temple is one of the last to possess five roofs.

  1. Hurried departure for Bodenath also known as Boudhanath,  which Lonely Planet calls village! This is an area in Kathmandu where is the great stupa almond-eyed photogenic, surrounded by buildings arranged in a circle around the stupa. All these buildings are now restaurants, shops of clothes and religious trinkets.

There would be thirty Tibetan monasteries in the area, we note the presence of many monks on the site.

The stupa was built in the fifth century B.C., but its origin remains mysterious. It was constructed with five terraces on which to climb. The base of the stupa has three terraces, representing a giant mandala that the faithful can go. You can see a hundred and eight niches each containing a Buddha statue. This base represents the earth, the dome water, tower cupola surmounting the fire, the crown pinnacle air and ether.

The base of the tower, square, is the harmika bearing eyes of Buddha. The upper elongated pyramid-shaped, white stone, consists of thirteen degrees that represent the path to enlightenment. The harmika and tower were damaged by the earthquake. A huge scaffolding covers part of the dome, and fences prohibit access.

Fortunately a Nepalese wedding came by and put a little life into the site.

  1. Back to the hotel, check out and leave for the airport.

Kathmandu and its valley will not let us unforgettable. It's a dirty area, dusty and very polluted to the point that the majority of youth wearing surgical masks.

One meets more Nepalese and Tibetans on periphery of city centers. The tourist areas are predominantly occupied by "Indian" shopkeepers and other kind of "indian" dealers  immigrants or expatriates !

  1. Puce We are outraged to learn that millions of dollars and millions of euros donated by various international organizations and governments are still stuck in the coffers of the Communist government. Shocked to discover that if the reconstruction of tourist sites has just started, aid and support millions of victims (who have lost their homes, and their jobs) does not seem to be a priority for a government that claims of socialism!

40 years after the great migration of the "pathway to kathmandu" I still do not understand why this place has attracted so many young people, if only it was fashionable to come there. I do not see the interest to travel 6000 km to come locked in a creepy room guesthouse to smoke "joints" all day long, or spend time wandering through one of Durbar Squar or sit on the steps of a temple.

I understand that trekkers and hikers come to Nepal for mountain sports and visit authentic villages. The rest remains a mystery!

Kathmandu is the most tourist rip off I met.

Jet Airways-  9 W259 - 11 March 2016 Departure from Kathmandu at 16h20 reach Delhi at 18h05. (2h de vol ) Boeing 737

23 h check in for international flight.

Day 20  02h20 flight back Delhi - France via Zurich


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