Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Excursion into the Countryside with Kukki

We’ve had a splendid day about 35 km to the east of Bundi in a very rural area—no vehicle horns!  Not much traffic!  But a very bumpy road!

We were with Kukki (sounds like “cookie”), an amateur and passionate archeologist, who knows every hill, valley, and rock in the surrounding area.  He has roamed these hills since he was a boy, picking up and collecting artifacts from the last 4 – 5,000 years such as arrowheads, flintstones, pottery fragments, coins, shell ornaments, and so on.  Along the way, he has discovered magnificent rock paintings, and that was the primary reason for our excursion.

Kukki asked the driver to stop along the edge of the road, and we got out, following Kukki at a brisk pace across the scrubby grassland.  He complimented me on keeping up to him saying that Indian women don't move very fast (well, how fast can one move in a sari??)  

This is the dry season, and there’s very little green vegetation. 

There was lots of evidence of animal life (droppings and paw/hoof prints of sloth bear, porcupine, leopard, antelope, and gazelle) who come out to graze in the cooler evenings and early morning.  The only animals we saw were some birds, including several vultures (with wing spans of about 1.5 metres) soaring high above in the heat thermals.

Kukki led us to a deep sandstone gorge where we could look out and see the Maharajah’s tiger-spotting tower. This is the reason there are no more tigers in the area—they were wiped out by trophy hunters long ago.

Just above this gorge, and under a rock overhang, we scrambled down to view some wonderful rock paintings that he discovered in 2003.

 These beautiful paintings are from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, 3 - 10,000 years ago.

The next stop was a “tribal village”, and just a few kilometres before the village there was a road construction crew—several very colorfully dressed women carrying soil and rocks.  It turned out that these were friends of Kukki’s from the village.  We took some pictures but I won’t post them because I didn’t get their permission.  They were as curious about me as I was about them, but they were a lot braver in touching me, wanting to feel my clothes and understand how I was dressed (pants and top).  This was a little disconcerting!  They were all dressed in skirts and short tight blouses that expose the midriff, with head and shoulders wrapped in large chiffon shawls.  They were particularly curious about my midriff so I lifted up my top and they all said “Ohhhhhh….”!  One of them reached out to touch my zipper fly but I stepped back firmly, clearly drawing the line!  Lloyd suggested they were curious as to why I was wearing men's clothing.

We went back along the very bumpy road to Bundi and stopped at Kukki’s house for chai and to look at the various artifacts that he’s collected over the years.  He’s clearly passionate about local history and has passed along this enthusiasm to his children.

Back to the hotel to see what our new accommodation was like…at breakfast this morning we were asked to pack up to be moved to the deluxe haveli suite at no extra charge for our last night.  We have no idea why this happened and assume that there were guests arriving who needed our particular room.  Our new digs are very luxurious!

And right below our window in the courtyard next door is a massive undertaking—it looks like a banquet for the whole community.  People are seated on carpets and are being served by several young men, one type of food after another.  As soon as they’re finished their meal, they stand up and leave, and another group takes their place on the carpet.  We have no idea what’s going on, except that it sounds and looks very festive.  We're hoping it doesn't get too raucous and that it shuts down in an hour or so!  I'm writing this at 9:15 PM Wednesday--almost my bedtime!

Bundi is also home to many monkeys, in fact many of the buildings have wire mesh on their rooftops and windows to keep them out. 

Cows, dogs, and pigs roam the streets grazing for food in the garbage...and monkeys are on every wall and rooftop....just imagine what the streets are also full of along with the garbage...we definitely have to watch where we step!

Tomorrow we take the bus to Kota where we're going to spend the next four days on a dairy farm. I stayed there for only two nights a couple of years ago, and I'm looking forward to meeting the Singhs again.

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