Sunday, June 1, 2014

Castle Bera, India

What took me to Castle Bera was the search for leopards but the people of the area stole the adventure.  But the castle itself was impressive and different from those I am familiar; mostly in Europe.  The castle also known as the “Rawala” gets its name from the village where it is located at the highest point.  It has been recently opened as a hotel and the ambiance is that of the 1920-1940s.  The guest areas are spacious and the bathrooms huge equipped with porcelain fixture of the time period.  The one I stayed have a central living room and separate sleeping quarters, all furnished in a quasi-art deco style.
The photographs of several generations of the family dressed in royal dresses with jewels, feathers and swords denote the wealth and royal pedigree of the family.  One of the family members was a famous hokey player, the castle has horse stables but they are no horses…gone with the wind.  One final note, the dining room is British in style and the Indian food was the best I had, freshly made to order.  The owner was very polite and makes you feel as you are a friend and not a customer.  A “must stay” place.

As previously mentioned, I went there for the leopards; photographing them was another issue since they are mostly seen at nighttime.  Several were seen, more that I can say about East Africa, were you are lucky to see one.  These animals were in rocky hills but came down at dusk to hunt.  I understand that they feed mostly in the sacred cows, and that since nobody owns them there is no much of a problem.  I did see the feathers leftover from a peacock that who was eaten by leopard.  The images of the leopards were taken using ISO above 4000 so the colors may be off a bit.

There was other wildlife such as the Eurasian Eagle Owl, the Peach Headed Parrot, the House Crow and the Sarus Crane.  These birds were very suspicious of approaching people.
The Saurus crane was photographed in nearby Jawai Dam; the largest in western Rajastan, but due to the current drought is basically dry. Just as the rest of the world, India is undergoing extreme weather changes.  Near the dam I passed and interested abandoned home built among the large boulders in the side of the mountain.

The people made the trip, their colorful turbans and clothing made the camera’s pixels jump with joy.  Since no many westerners are seen in this area, you become a curiosity to them.  All willing to be photographed; I was invited inside homes where the hosts gathered the family for introductions.  I was always offered water to wash and to drink using pantomime language, since I could not speak their dialects.   In most parts of India, the people speak English that is the alternate official language, but not here. It is hot in Bera with 116 degree F the day I was walking down the streets.  Above are the images of a couple whose home I visited.

There was a Kodak moment down every street.  I noticed that in this village, both the men and women were wearing their traditional costumes.  Unlike the people in other countries where the women still dress in the traditional outfits but the men as adopted western style clothing, the old dress norm has been maintained both.

While driving down the roads, plenty of photo opportunities were available.  Since I was traveling to get to the sites where the wildlife was, the photos above were taken on the go from an open Jeep.  Most of the people walk and carry their loads in their heads, the more prosperous ones may have bicycles or motorcycles but cars were rare except for commercial trucks.  Red turbans were predominant in the countryside.

To go in search of the leopards, I was on the road by 5 AM and routinely stopped at a tea house.   This was the most delicious tea, a mix of tea with milk and sweetener.  I do not like tea but this was different, I was told that the tea they used was the secret since it had such a pleasant flavor.  It was served in a small clay cup…an Indian version of hour disposable drinking paper cups.  I was surprised when the people finished their tea; they smashed the cups against the ground.  The story is that these cups are very cheap to make and since they made out of clay, they are environmentally friendly and will return to the soil as they break down.  By using these cups, there is not a need to wash them and also creates jobs in Bera for those who make them.  Above is an image of a woman walking by a roadside dump (very common), notice a clay cup at the bottom left corner.  An image of a cup is above…I collected 6 but only one made it back home intact.  I wonder how much it is worth at the Antique Show?