The fleet of cars that had been delivered to the hotel hotel were decorated with the rally decals before a holy man blessed the participants and their cars. Then we were ready for the off.
Our first obstacle was to circumnavigate the early morning traffic in Gurgaon. This was not aided by an impromptu road reroute by the police because of the volume of traffic trying to get into town. Well this in India! With our route blocked it took some careful and patient navigation to find the route. Eventually everyone successfully navigated their way out of Delhi and rejoined the “purple line” pre-set on the Garmin’s.
Once out of the centre,it wasn’t long before we were on the country roads with lorries, cars, bikes, tuk tuks, people and cows coming at us from all directions – even this was preferable to the chaos we had left behind.
With a fine day in prospect we enjoyed the mild sunshine of this time of year and the clear air!
Towards the end of the day the villages thinned out and the local traffic also reduced. We struck out over the low hills on our cross country route as we wanted to avoid the highways which have a constant stream of chugging lorries and suicidal minibuses. The honking of horns subsided as we encountered horns of the bovine kind instead.
Most made good progress on the day but the more nervous took their time and arrived as dusk fell making the last few kilometres somewhat uncomfortable in the gloom as it’s difficult to see animals and vehicles without their lights on in the dark.
Our destination today was Castle Mandawa Hotel in the centre of the once vibrant trading town of Mandawa. A key point on the lucrative Spice Road it prospered until Partition in 1947 when the traders were prevented from crossing the border effectively killing off the trade – and the town. It is now a living museum with tourists attracted to visit the now empty highly ornate Havelis (wind houses) which date from the early 19th century in Moghul style to the later Art Deco buildings. The vast majority are empty now and present a sad sight to a once vibrant town