Cow poo huts and fresco paintings

Trip Start Jan 17, 2011
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Trip End Feb 06, 2011


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Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Friday, February 4, 2011

We arrived in the small town of Mandawa after sunset and checked into the accommodations.   This time we are staying in little mud huts made primarily with sticks and cow poo.   This is my first time staying in a "shitty" hut, and I have to say it was quite comfortable.   My little poo hut had a sitting area, large king size bed and a shower with plenty of pressure and hot water.  Ahh the luxury!   Because cow poo is a relatively unstable construction medium, there is a group of ladies going around the place repairing any broken walls.

The next day we set out at the crack of 10:00 to walk around the town. Mandawa is a smaller town, about 25,000 people.   The town is known for its beautifully decorated buildings.  Many of the buildings are decorated in fresco paintings many of which are over 500 years old. 

The first stop on our walk was a wonderfully painted Hindu Temple.  I have seen many temples by this point, and each one is completely original in its decoration.  This one was covered by brightly painted fresco designs.

Way back before the English introduced cargo ports to India, Mandawa was a very wealthy town on the silk trade route.   As a result, there are many grand mansions around called “Havelas”.   When the sea ports came along, the town became unimportant, and many of the Havelas were disused and left in shambles.    A few are still occupied and kept up and allow visitors to roam around inside.

The typical Havela has two courtyards.  The first courtyard is where the men do “business”, and the second courtyard is for the ladies to cook, clean and take care of the house.   All throughout the building, the walls are decorated in brightly coloured frescos.

After viewing the Halvelas, we went to a public school and chatted with the students.  In India, there is  a big drive by the government to educate the masses.  They see this as being the way for future prosperity.   School is mandatory for both boys and girls until grade 12.  To further encourage attendance, the government pays for 1 meal for every child each day.  Children go to school for 6 days a week and will have a four month break.   The school we visited has children from year 1 to year 7, after which they go to a secondary school to finish the remaining 5 years.

We had about a half hour to interact with the children.  A boy got up and read a couple pages of an English book to us and had a remarkable command of the language.  Then a group of three boys proudly sang the Indian National Anthem and the little ones showed off their workbooks containing both English and Hindi lessons.   Remarkably, the students were still using slates and chalk as it encourages them to learn through making mistakes and corrections.

After the walking tour, we all headed back to the poo huts for a quiet afternoon of croquet games, Gin and tonic and general laziness.   It was well over 30 degrees in the mid day sun, so cold G&T and shade was an excellent way to spend the afternoon.

I had opted for a sunset camel ride to the sand dunes.  Once again, I didn't really think through the whole camel-riding thing before I paid for it.  An hour of riding around left me with very sore legs and late afternoon clouds blocked the sunset out.   Not quite what I hoped for.

This was the last evening that our group was together.  In the morning, some of us go back to Delhi and others carry on for another week.   After traveling with these people for two weeks, we have all become good friends.  So to cap it all off, we bought some bottles of gin, rum and beer and had a farewell party in one of the poo huts until 2 am.   The early wake up call for the drive back Delhi was painful. 
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