Needless to say, the alarm clock is absolutely calamitous. I go down yawning, and then remember that there is no buffet at breakfast. The service is slow as always, and I wait for my tea. I go back, free the room, and go out and board the van. I try to sleep. Upon arrival in Jodhpur, we leave for an hour by car, which takes us to Rohet Garh, a small palace in western Rajasthan.
It is a family home standing for 300 years. On the outside, there are traces of small hands embedded in the walls. It is those of the women of the family who burned themselves, as the tradition of great families had done, after the death of their husband.
We then depart in an open jeep, for a typical Rajasthani village in the backcountry. In Dhundhara, 50 km south of Jodhpur, the houses have just been repainted for Diwali. A single wall, pierced with doors, gives access to all houses that do not close. The walls are very low and never reaching the roof. It is basic but very colorful, relatively clean, unlike the clouds of filthy children running in the dust.
This is the moment our driver chooses to offer us an opium class. It was a warrior tradition, it seems, something that the soldiers offered themselves before going to battle. It is at once an anesthetic, steroid, and good for the stomach. Today, it would be rather a sacred ritual of concord, good agreement, conflict resolution. Here, men always clink with opium to celebrate a wedding or bury a hatchet.
In short, the quantity of opium is negligible and is stacked, mixed with water, with molasses. It is then filtered in socks made of camel wool, five or six times until the liquid be very clear and then it is offered to the gods. And to everyone, in the palm of their hand. After this we can continue our exploration of villages in southwest Rajasthan.
We go on the way to the Thar desert, a succession of arid lands, dunes. On the left as on the right, there is sand as far as the eye can see, with some dunes on the horizon. The landscape is punctuated with thorny and silver acacias by dust and drought. Here and there, a few goats stand on a trunk, camel huddle in a puddle of shadow. We see a round hut topped with brown thatch, indicating that life exists.
We go to see the Bishnoi, a particularly strict sect, I am told. Their idea is to protect everything from trees to animals. They are totally vegetarian, and strongly oppose that anyone attacks all these little animals. Shepherds or blacksmiths, this population has preserved the customs of the ancient civilizations of the Indus.
It seems that they owe the survival of the antelopes. They are also the only followers of hinduism who bury their dead instead of burning them, as wood is scarce in this region. Their welcome is warm. We sit a little on a kind of bench, take some pictures of men in white, women in color, and then go back to our lives. Our hike takes us to the heart of the fields of millet, sesame and sorghum, cereal crops typical of the region.
We head to Mihir Garh. Overlooking the desert, there is a place straight out of fairy tales. Proudly set on Mali Nathji ka Dhora, the sacred dune dedicated to the God of War, the Mihir Garh surprises with its gigantic structure and impressive beauty. It is distinguished, majestic, among the golden sands of Marwar, as if the desert itself had carried it in its bosom.
Its architecture is inspired by local villages on the west side of Rajasthan, with its large mud walls, slightly rounded corners, numerous alcoves and fireplaces. The tones, from blue to yellow and red, perfectly highlight the traditional furniture. The view of the desert is omnipresent. We are invited to an almost sacred rest.
There is a parade of drums, horses, and dances in the setting sun, with all that is needed of shimmering colors and insistent melodies, which finally leads us inside the palace. The common areas are very good and quite simple.
After a drink in the very pleasant dining room, then another endless glass outside, we finally go to table. It's time and, while the others are struggling to know who will go on a horseback ride on the Marwari horse. They are horses with legendary history. Indeed, for some, the Indian thoroughbreds are the fruit of love, under a crescent moon, a black stallion of the desert and a blonde mare from elsewhere.
But it would seem rather that these proud Indian horses of Rajasthan, mounts of Rajputs warriors and princes, are the descendants of thoroughbred Arabs rescued from a shipwreck on the Indian coasts. Married to more powerful local ponies, they would have developed this unique peculiarity, transmitted over generations.
They are courageous in combat, it is said, and only the princes and the warriors were allowed to ride them. Its story is therefore related to the rajput. What a gift to ride them. The excitement wins us! Thali and chapatis are among other things our meals, in a camp just extraordinary, mounted like a village. We sleep on thin mattresses and observe the stars as children. The sky will also offer some shooting stars.
After a few grilled toasts over a wood fire, a hard boar and a winery, I go to sleep.