We awoke to an unseasonable wet morning. The forecast was for some rain later in the day but nothing prepared us for the actual storm that unfolded later.
Having arrived a little late the previous evening due to heavy traffic out of Delhi we took the opportunity in the morning to walk around the town and see the merchant Havelis which had once made this one of the greatest towns on the spice route through Asia. Partition in 1947 put an end to the route – and Mandawa’s fortunes. Within a few years the merchants had left for Delhi or Bombay as it was then and the Havelis were abandoned to their fate. Most of the havelis were built between 1850 and 1922 and varied in style from Moghul to Art Deco.
Most left by 9.30 on their cross country drive to Pushkar and the camel fair. Cutting through the village and hills we made our way to the Shahid Bhagat salt flat – the largest in India. Here camels trains reflected in the water of the salt pans as we made our way through this vast plain.
The route had already had its muddy patches as the overnight rain had reached this part too, but then the heavens opened and suddenly we were in a tropical thunderstorm of the type rarely seen in Rajasthan even in the monsoon season! The rain was a wall of water that flooded the roads, making progress slow, so that some people had to drive the last 50 miles or so in the dark – a particularly Indian experience as you have a combination of traffic which refuse to put their lights on ‘to save their battery power’, camel carts with no lights at all and other cars and busses with lights on full beam.
However, everyone made it safely to the Westin Hotel and a warm dry welcome. Here was our home for two nights – a welcome break from the daily driving routine.
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