Between our visit to Jaipur and our departure from India in Delhi we only had only one week to learn a bit more about India. We really wanted to go on a camel safari so we decided to end our trip in Bikaner, a city nested in the Thar desert. We could have went for a short visit in the city of Jodhpur before Bikaner, but we spent a lot of time on buses in India and we were tired of doing 10 hour-long bus trips. So we all agreed to go directly to Bikaner and spend a few more days there before our safari.
Just like Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, Bikaner has its fort to visit. This huge fort was once again magnificent and very artistic. The armoury exposition was impressive and included swords, guns, knives, etc. Moreover, the boys loved the plane from the first world war that was part of the exhibition.
National Research Center on Camel
Before going on our safari, we decided to visit the National Research Center on Camel to learn more about these animals still unknown to us. The Center was interesting, and although there were a few informative posters about the different breeds of camels, what we preferred was to see all these camels through the site. There were about 400 camels from three different breeds in this Center and we saw a lot of them. There is also a small museum and a dairy shop where we could taste camel milk. Hugo was the bravest and drank a nature milk, for our part, we chickened out and chose a camel milk that had a pineapple flavour.
After Hugo’s and Kolya’s posts on our excursion in the desert, there is not much else to add because they did a fantastic job with their personal post. They talked for a month about this safari, constantly asking us when we were finally going. As you may have read in their posts, they were not disappointed with their adventure. From a parent perspective, it was great to see our children enjoy so much their experience. The smile they wore almost permanently, the fun they had by playing in the sand and their contagious happiness made sure this will certainly be one of the most memorable experience from our family adventure. Hugo loved the camels and petted them continually, he was always willing to be riding a camel instead of going on the kart. On our side, let’s just say that a camel back is not comfortable at all and we were happy that we did not go more than three days 😉
Bye bye 1000₹ and 500₹ bills
The morning of our departure from the hotel for our safari, we learned that during the night the Indian Government had decided to eliminate the notes of 500₹ and 1000₹. They are the most widely used currencies in India where literally everything is paid cash. Let’s say that we were in big trouble, especially since we had withdrawn a large amount of the old bills to pay for the rest of our trip in India, we had several 500₹ bills in our hands. So upon our return in town after the safari, we had to find an open Bank in order to exchange those bills so that we could have diner, nobody was going to accept these expired bills anymore. Luckily we managed to find a Bank that was still open late in the day and we were able to exchange some of our old bills for some new 2000₹ bills. We then had a different problem on our hands, the 2000₹ bills were to big for the shops and restaurants that quickly ran out of small cuts to make change. We have managed to feed ourselves in extremis, but not without difficulty.
The old town
At this stage of our trip to India, we were all tired of the noise, pollution and incessant solicitation. We all agreed to visit the market by rickshaw and only to go see the spice market as well as a few havelis, those being homes or small richly decorated palaces dating from the period between the 17th and 19th century. The architecture of the havelis was beautiful and included many details carved in the red sandstone, but like many other buildings in India, let’s say that they need ed a bit of love. It is so sad to see this architectural wealth deteriorating with time. As for the spice market, we expected to see more choices of spices, but since Bikaner is not so big, it was probably normal. Finally, we went to see the Laxmi Nath temple. Its interior was wonderfully filled with murals and statues. Considering the surprise that was waiting for us at our return to the hotel, it was a very good thing that we kept our visit of the old town short.
The big surprise
Upon our return to the hotel, we were packing up to catch the night bus that was taking us to Delhi for our last night in India. Simon probably brought us misfortune by saying that it was now all over with bad surprises (see paragraph on the Indian currency among other things). A few hours before our departure, the hotel staff came to announce us that the bus company had just called to let us know that our bus transportation was cancelled due to technical problem. It was a big deal considering that we were very far from Delhi and the options for leaving Bikaner were already very limited when we made our reservation, imagine at the last-minute. While Simon went to get reimbursed, Karine called different travel agencies with the hotel staff. After being told by several companies that they were full, the agent of the hotel was able to find a company that still had a few spots. As everything is paid cash in India, Simon had to get on the back of a motorcycle, without a helmet, hold himself tight as the hotel agent was driving at full speed in the busy streets of Bikaner to get to the Travel Agency in order to buy the tickets. This 15 minutes rather seemed like an hour, in a terrifying ride. It is very grateful for the friendly hotel employee that went above and beyond for us that Simon came back to the hotel thinking we were finally out of the Woods.
The big surprise (part 2)
We had booked two double bunks on the bus of a somewhat dubious company, (Yes there are some sleeper bus in India). Karine and Kolya took the first cabin, Simon and Hugo the second. Simon and Hugo had a cabin with a window that could be closed and a curtain which offered very good privacy. Karine unfortunately realized that her window was only closing half the length of the cabin, so it was a little less private, but it didn’t matter, what can happen when everyone is going to be sleeping in their own cabin? Unfortunately for Karine, the bus, like almost all buses in India, would take people who would travel sitting or standing in the aisle. Overnight, a foreign hand-made is way into Karine’s cabin to grab her bum. Karine unfortunately could not see who had committed this unforgivable act, but worst that, she couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night, afraid of being mugged again. We finally arrived in Delhi and we went directly to the hotel to conclude our adventure in India.
We are leaving India for Thailand a bit like we arrived in India, excited but somewhat troubled. We have another post coming about India which will tell you a little bit more about what we lived there on a daily basis and our general comments on this country full of contrasts. We wanted to get out of our comfort zone in India and we can tell you that we were served ! The adventure continues and we are very excited for the next chapter.