As originally foreseen, there have been many opportunities to mail home this last week (particularly when I have been resting my weary buns after a day’s non-stop walking), but I am fully expecting these to dry up overnight with my departure to Rajasthan imminent. Not only will Internet connections be of diminished quality, but I also know what is ahead of me for the next three weeks of touring with Imaginative Traveller. Lots of rushing around, time keeping and snatching the most from every moment. At least I don’t have the worry of being the tour leader!
This day has been spent recovering from a pollution-induced sinus infection and praying it doesn’t reach my misery-prone tonsils (a pox on doctors who refuse to take them out these days). I have been strolling around more seriously scoping out the stalls for my return visit because, like Bernie, I will stock up on my return.
The market stalls are as varied as the people that run them. Kashmiri and Nepalese people are as common here as are their traditional goods. Wares hang high above the stalls for display and are brightly coloured and diverse. Striped kurta pyjamas, silk scarves and pash minas, fishermen’s pants next to ladies bras; leather bags and sandals and belts; adhesive bindis and henna stamps; stacked fortresses of coral-coloured carrots, pineapples and sugar cane for crushing in rusty, clunky machines that look like they have lived in my Dad’s shed for decades waiting for that one day when they will be useful; shiny pomegranates split open for display, bananas and apples and mandarins; bolts of material waiting to be made up by tailors manning old Singer sewing machines; groups communally stitching quilts; the Indian equivalent of 711 stores with groceries. It’s all here.
I do wonder if touring beyond Delhi will change what I value. I watched Bernie passionately bargain over a small model of Shiva intended for the dashboard of his car. It was battery operated and changed in colour from luminescent green to blue to pink. Bernie was in raptures over it and I stood by and watched, quietly derisive of such tat. Maybe that will be me in three weeks’ time, haggling for some plastic idol that will ward off evil spirits.
The nicest part of having been settled here for an extended period (apart from not having to constantly repack my bag) is that after every day’s long trek of 15 to 20km it has been really nice to come home to a place that is familiar and recognisable, where the people have also come to know my face, too. I’m sure I will be seriously looking forward to it in three weeks’ time.
Ahead lies overnight train rides, long bus hauls, a camel safari into the desert along with many fortresses and palaces, and I hope, many smiling faces. These group tours can live and die by the combination of people thrown together, so I look forward to seeing what fate delivers. There will be many stories in the group and these will spiral downwards quickly to ‘earthiness’ once the first lot start getting sick. The group that’s sick together bonds together, is my experience. I haven’t suffered any 2F2F syndrome yet (too frightened to fart) but no doubt it will happen eventually once I get away from places I know and trust. I guess that will be where the fun really starts.