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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The bare minimum village life in Jaisalmer

This post shows you the photos of a simplest village house in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. While most of us have our origins in villages or at least have good exposures to villages, the villages in Rajasthan survive on bare minimum stuff. The houses are often too far from each other and lack most amenities we take for granted.

One such village is picturized below- clicked during our quick stop-over during the desert exploration with Suryagarh,

Above: Two tiny houses, that had about 4-6 residents. The women in the house seemed very reluctant when we went close, but as the male visitors stepped aside, they opened up a bit and interacted with female bloggers in the group.

Below: Village people, clicked from a distance (Clarification: one on the right most is NOT a village person- guess who is that?)


Above: Cloth washing area
Below: Cattle shed
Below-left: A tiny storage area
Below right-the cot
Was good to see a small bit of technology reaching these villages- I could see some solar panels and a radio device
 A donkey and a goat
Above photo by Sudha Ganapathy
 We also visited another village on our way to Kiradu
 A Jaisalmer villager
Above: A well that has good amount of sweet water even in peak summer. Unfortunately there are very few of them.
Below: Villagers carrying water on their heads, clicked from a moving car

Above: Village kids
Below: Roof of a village hut in Rajasthan
The camels, when looked upon closely, feel very aged and poorly fed. Spotted a marking on the neck, which I believe is for identification purpose. As I tried going closer, the camel got scared and tried to limp away (its front legs were tied to each other to prevent it from escaping), so I moved back and returned, so as not to scare it further.
Most modern facilities are yet to reach their villages. Over time, they have learned to live in a self sustained way, growing their food locally and with near zero dependency on towns or governments. Of course the times are changing. Village youth are finding employment in cities, bringing better facilities to their homes, but it is still a long way before these remote villages get basic facilities we city people have taken for granted. Suryagarh has good number of people from these villages employed at its botique hotel and also spends good money sponsoring village schools and so on.

Also read: Kuldhara * Jaisalmer Fort  * Lodhruva Jain temple

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Exploring Mount Batur and surroundings with Scoopy!

Mount Batur is one of the top attractions in Bali for adventure seeking tourists. This place, located in Kintamani region is popular for sunrise treks- there are many tour operators who would pick you up from your hotel very early in the morning (like 2 AM at Kuta, 4 AM from Ubud etc), take you to base of Mount Batur, take you on foot till top along with a guide and enable viewing sunrise from top of Mount Batur, bring you back to your hotel by late evening. This trip costs between 60 to 70 USD per person. I evaluated this for a moment, but decided against it because of following reason
-    I was all alone, trekking is best done with a group of friends
-    This program would take one full day
-    I am already spending about 13 USD per day on bike rental and insurance- that will have to go waste as I need to leave the bike behind
-    The pure touristy, fixed itinerary isn’t very flexible should you wish to deviate from the plan- like go somewhere else nearby or spend more time for photos etc

I tried to find out if we can go to Mount Batur on a scooter- at least cover partially and come back. I couldn’t find an answer. I went to numerous “Tourism Information Centres” located all across Kuta, but those guys were only interested in selling me the 70 USD package above and because of their poor English, it was difficult to have a meaningful conversation.

Nisha Jha checked with her local contacts and helped me with some input- essentially I learnt that it is not possible to go to top of (or say half way) Mount Batur on scooter. But then the wanderer in me wouldn’t take No for an answer. I decided to go there and check out anyway. Worst case would have to turn back- which was fine. I wanted to start very early in the morning, but woke up late and could start by 8 AM or so. Mount Batur was about 85 kms from my hotel in Kuta and as per google maps needed about 2.5 hours. Several times I wondered if it will be worth going that far- consoled myself that there are other backup attractions to visit in the area should this flop. I pressed on direct to Mount Batur without deviating anywhere. As I neared the mountain, I stopped at this viewpoint. I could see the Mount Batur, the Lake Batur and another hill on the right side. As per maps I still needed to go about another 10 kms or so.



I pressed on, rode closer to the mountain.


Above: Sign board indicating we are in a live volcano prone area. I went further, filled up some petrol. I was told by this shop owner I need to go just a km further and then need to trek for 40 mins. I pressed on, but road started getting worse. I had reached the point shown by Google maps and gone beyond. The road was no long suitable for a regular car- got very narrow but was good enough for the Scoopy. But too far from city, any break down or problem I would have been in big trouble.
While the road seem to keep going further in a narrow manner, a local resident came out of his house, introduced himself as a trekking guide and offered to guide me till the top for 700000 IDR- that is about 50 USD. It was about 11 AM with sun getting hot. I wasn't really keen to trek to top- sunrise is long gone, the view of lake and other hills nearby was anyway visible to me from various vantage points without having to go to top- if reaching top was my intention I could have taken the 70 USD package hotel to hotel. I refused his offer and said I am not going to top, will roam around a bit and return. But as I proceeded further, this person followed me in his two wheeler-either he wanted to keen an eye on what I am doing in his territory or was hoping that I will change my  mind and give him some business. It began to get uncomfortable for me- what if he had bad motives? Decided to turn back and head to the main road.

The roads were nice and scenic, though not very smooth
There are many budget hostels and few luxury resorts near Mount Batur, if you wish to spend more time in this area. I randomly rode around the lake Batur area for sometime.




Hot Water Springs
Also there are many hot water springs, where you can pay for a bath and spend an hour or two in the campus. I entered one such facility,called Batur Natural Hot Spring, which was adjacent to Toya Devasya resort. When I said I am not planing to take a bath, just look around and click some pictures, staff let me through without having to buy tickets. I did take some photos but avoided many clicks in respect of privacy of those who were in the pool.
Below is a pic of blogger and social media legend Nivedith Gajapathy taking a dip in this hot water spring during his visit about a month later.
Some random photos from the campus





There was a shopping area- on learning that I was Indian, the lady pulled out Ganesha artwork and suggested that I buy them. These were reportedly made using volcanic ash and other local materials. Shopping is usually nowhere on my list of priorities and carrying these big size items are usually a No-No, so I had to refuse her invitation to purchase (price quoted was about 50000 IDR or Rs 300)

I also spotted a big Banyan Tree on my way back
 As I was returning, I spotted this cute dog and slowed down. I also saw a cat. There was a cafe nearby so I pulled over and went inside- purely because of pets there. Had good moment with their lovely pets. I am glad I went inside, because it had good view of the Mount Batur and lake Batur (Danau Batur)




My next destination was Besakih temple. As I was heading there, I spotted a deviation, which felt like a trekking track. I took a detour, got some good views as below. There was a fee of 15000 IDR


A close-up of Mount Batur top 
There were some workers collecting bamboo from forest and taking it away. The super long bamboos precariously placed on a mini truck almost hit nearby structures as the truck turned.
Overall, it was time well spent riding around Mount Batur. Next time I will probably sign up with one of the trekking operators to go to top.
Indian Bloggers 
 Also read: Beaches of Bali that I explored * 7 ways you might be tricked in Bali * Bali one week offbeat itineraryBali bike rental experience  *