“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!” Mark Twain
Our 1,122 mile road trip through Rajasthan, India, last year wouldn’t have been possible or remotely enjoyable if it weren’t for this man, Rejender Singh. He was the man behind the wheel, so to speak, our driver for 14 days, covering seven cities.
Of course, we visited many incredible, iconic temples, forts, palaces and museums along our route. The architectural legacy of the maharajas is this state’s signature attraction. Udaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Mandawa, Samode, Jaipur, and then to Agra. There are plenty of large bus tours, but that isn’t out travel style. Having a personal driver and the use of local guides made our trip more flexible. And, having the same driver the entire time allowed for more opportunities to engage in cultural exchanges with each other that went beyond just pleasantries. We couldn’t have been matched to a better driver, and for two weeks you wouldn’t want to have a bad experience. Our personalities and travel styles clicked.
Driving through the cities and the rural roads takes skill, experience, and even guts. It also requires an emphasis on safety. Rejender has all that. He has been driving for over 25 years with this travel company. That says a lot. Knowing that we are passionate about photography, he would pull off for us to see something he thought appealing or would go back if we mentioned something we just saw. He is patient, knowledgeable and has a sense of humor. He also realized we have a sense of adventure.
Upgrading our mode of transport from a Tata to an Air-conditioned SUV Toyota made for a comfortable journey that was well worth the investment.
This wasn’t a trip for dozing off. There was always something of interest to capture our attention while driving through the countryside. A way of life. Long, windy, dusty roads, past small villages with their open air markets and women in their colorful saris.
Unexpectedly, we came upon a parade of villagers in route to a holy festival nearby. They looked somber, but this young lady greeted us with a smile.
Rejender is an opportunist, and when he saw a man by his well, pumping water by using his oxen to turn the wheel, he stopped for us to see it and to make sure I got a chance behind the oxen. The water was being pumped under the road to irrigate a sugar cane field.
I loved the colorful trucks everywhere, but some were overloaded. See what happens. I hope the driver wasn’t terribly hurt.
Time to get the milk to market.
Road blocks are opportunities to stretch one’s legs as Ron is doing while waiting for a rather long train to pass by.
Sheep are just a way of life and also have to use the roads. Goats, too. Cows, too.
Trucks laden with marble. There are many quarries and the stone is an abundant building material.
We notice brick kilns dotting the landscape.
Another opportunity to stretch our legs. Our first encounter with a camel driver surrounded by wheat fields and another one loaded down.
Farm trucks are interestingly home made.
This part of the drive was horrendous, but it was our only way to get to Mandawa. Due to unexpected road construction, the ride took much longer, and Rejender was quite tired when we finally arrived. Many trucks and machinery on the road including tons of red Massey Ferguson tractors.
I loved the arid Aravilli Hills, rocky mountainsides and ridges, including terrain that is harsh and barren. Pushkar is remote and we climbed a mountain pass to get there. Rejender is cautious as we go around the curves, but he seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to driving.
It was a treat to wind up a narrow road to get a glimpse of a lake.
Part of a driver’s time is not driving, but waiting. Here Rejender waits for us to finish touring the Panna Meena stepwell near Jaipur. Regardless of the dust and grime that covered the SUV each day, Rejender somehow wiped it down during his wait time and polished it spotless after each day’s driving. He also made sure the cooler was full of bottled water.
Working with Dream Vacation Pvt.Ltd., to customize an itinerary for us, was also rewarding. Ron had worked with them the year before while planning a trip to Kumba Mela. The team made sure our 50th wedding anniversary trip would be of the best quality and it was. Our thanks to Sudip Sen and Sanjeev Mehra, owners of the company, who came to our hotel in New Delhi to meet us. They referred to us as “the golden couple”. These men had planned our 26 day itinerary, which included Mumbai, New Delhi, Kerala, Munnar, and coordinated all the in-country flights, our overnight train ride to Varanasi, and of course, the details of our memorable road trip. Thank you, gentlemen.
And, let’s hear it for Rejender.
“So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.” Mark Twain