Rajasthan with a nine-year-old

Travel Destinations, Travel Perspectives — By on October 15, 2007 at 11:16 am

Rajasthan has a reputation as one of the stars of the Indian travel circuit. There are vibrant colors, stunning desert landscapes, camel treks and lively bazaars. Amanda Jones recently embarked on a visit to Rajasthan, but with a twist – she made the journey with her nine-year-old daughter and then wrote about the experience for the Los Angeles Times.

Last spring, I invited my eldest child to go on a trip with me. Indigo had just turned 9, and I had panicked. One, because she was halfway through her time of living at home, and worse, she was mere years away from thinking of me as a source of tedium and embarrassment. One-on-one time with her was becoming a precious commodity. I had to seize the moment.

“Really,” I said. “Your choice of destination: Washington, D.C., for the Lincoln Memorial? Los Angeles for the Getty? New York to shop?”

She considered these and replied, “India, please.”

I winced. Her choice was clearly my fault. Not long before, I had told her the story of how a five-day camel trek in Rajasthan 20 years earlier had transformed me from a dissatisfied fashion magazine employee into a freelance adventure travel writer.

“I want to go there, Mama,” Indigo said. “I want to ride camels, shop in a bazaar, get henna and slide down sand dunes.”

And so in February, we traveled to Rajasthan, a western state, home to the Great Indian Desert and camels and sand dunes.

Mother and daughter had a variety of experiences in India, but one of the highlights of their trip was the Jaisalmer Desert Festival.

The final part of the festival was late in the evening in the desert, a 40-minute drive outside Jaisalmer. The wind-rippled dunes were beginning to glow from the sunset as camels and their hopeful village jockeys lined up for a race of about a mile. People came streaming over the dunes, on foot, on camel and in open trucks straining under the weight of their load: villagers standing in their finest dress. The dunes were ablaze with colorful saris and tinkled with the sound of ankle bracelets…

The harmonium (a hand-pumped reed instrument that sounds like a lazy accordion); the wailing women; and the female dancers in their tribal costumes with mirrored skirts, heavy, twirling and luxurious, were intoxicating. Smoke from a large bonfire soared into the night sky, silhouetting the camels and the turbaned men.

At one point during the evening, Indigo hugged me, saying: “Thank you for bringing me here, Mama.”

I knew then that she had the heart of an adventure traveler and that she would be back here someday. She may have to stay in a hovel and lug a backpack, but no matter. She has seen the riches that lie in far-flung places, and she now knows that their wealth lies in more than 400-thread-count sheets.

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