First leg: Nasirabad, 640 kms away, where we expect Mercy, Michael and their baby Michelle (Mitchou Kouti for those in the know), a very nice little family met during our walk in Vashist. Both are from southern India, but par for the course with geographical mobility in the military, Michael was transferred to Rajasthan.
Finished the roads in laces and a little chaotic, enter the flatness of the highway, with almost as much two wheels (including bicycles) as trucks, to the beautiful sections of two lanes. Tolls (many and not cheap) are once again appearing, just like the rice fields, flooded and strewn with curved backs, in full activity of transplanting the rice. Roads may be expanded, modernized, and smartphones and laptops may be almost everywhere, some rural traditions seem as immutable as the sacred cows: on the roadside, on the central reservation, or crossing the road, they are there, forcing us to move out of the way at the last minute!
No more fitted Sikhs’ turbans, enter the multi-storey ones, typical of Rajasthan, and women’s colorful veils, long and shimmering , sometimes folded over the face.
A third of the way done, the GPS takes us out of the main areas. We take the opportunity to slow down and try to find a quiet place to stop, a challenge in India. A crowd is formed immediately when we stop to do some small shopping in the village of Danimirdad, which must not see many tourists, let alone interracial families in a big truck! Nobody seems to speak English… Oh yes, the former teacher of the village, Zile, makes himself known, and invites us almost immediately to his home, 50m away. And here, bivouac we found! Between the extended family, the neighbors who parade to see the attraction of the evening, the visit of the property, greeting the buffaloes, invitations to eat, drink, take a shower, do our laundry, or take selfies, we do not know where to turn!
We are quickly seated in front of an entirely vegetarian meal: homemade roti (flat bread), okra and rice with good fresh buffalo milk. We enjoy all these simple dishes by talking for a long time with the youngest daughter of the family, young mother who come to see her parents as « guest » and to take a rest from her life as a housewife organizing the life in her in-laws family. Favorite topics: our trip, and the cultural differences obviously: arranged marriages (the norm in these rural areas) vs love marriages, school system, studies… Bedtime for everyone eventually arrives, and for us it will be…night under the stars on the mattresses installed in the courtyard, rocked by the roar of the air freshener (which will not prevent a few mosquito bites!).
The awakening by the first glow of the sun and by the voices of the household at 6am will be a little difficult, and progressive. We see everyone in the light of day, and spend another half day with our guests, between breakfast, the school session in the living room away from inquisitive eyes (but still a little interrupted by neighbors and relatives curious about us), and lunch.Last pictures with the families, a big « Dhanyawad » to everyone for these nice moments of sharing, and we are back on the road, to cross other villages, before joining the main road. The landscape changes, and the green rice fields are gradually replaced by the ocher sand and the thorny desert, and it is in this setting, at the corner of a sandy off-road track, that we will probably find our spot the most « Wild camping » in India. Too many thorns to get the bikes out, but a big space for the children to let some steam off, and no mosquitoes, so it will be dinner outside!
Branches cracking and distant voices in the early morning: cows and camels, accompanied by their shepherds came to keep us company, not bad as an alarm clock. We take the time to enjoy it a little before going back on the road, still as good, and much better than in Loïc’s memories, dating back 15 years ago.
As we approach our destination, we cannot miss the long section, continuously lined with importers and resellers of marble, which is still widely used in the region. Then it will be the arrival in Nasirabad, a real barracks town, where you cross military on jeep/truck/foot or on scooter on every street corner. We hesitate a little (with a not-so-discreet U-turn in a small village street) before finding the Catholic church and school in Bhawani Kera, indicated by Michael who will come to pick us up a few minutes later, still smiling. Mercy, and especially the adorable Mitchou Kouti, have stayed up to welcome us, and enjoy this very nice evening with us. Not unhappy to finally put our feet down after these 3 days of non-stop driving: good showers, good meal, and a good night, despite not being able to use the fan after a power cut!We will spend 3 very calm days, living to the pace of Mercy and Mitchou Kouti, the Captain Michael being more busy than planned. Well kept busy by the baby and the housework of a young mother, Mercy will still find the time to be caring, and cook for us, for all meals! A little respite for Michael at the end of the weekend, so we can all together visit (with a vehicle) the city of Ajmer, 40 kms away. The afternoon is already well advanced, we skip the mosque that seems to be worth a look, to satisfy ourselves with the view of the city’s lake and a park where the children will have fun.
Last day spent together at home, and it is already time for us to say goodbye and find Arty, still parked 5 kms away. But of course, let’s keep in touch! After such a welcome, for once, we will have a little more than photos to leave in modest memory of our passage: shea butter, rare product and expensive in India, that Mercy is delighted to be able to add as an ingredient to her massage oils for baby.Come on, let’s retrace our steps a bit, towards Jaipur
, the pink city!