I don’t like heat and crowds.

Many people comment to me that they don’t want to visit India because of the heat and the crowds.  Let me explain: I don’t like heat and crowds either.

That’s why I plan Kasu Tours for the northern Winter when the days are cool to mild – like our Spring.  For example, the average daily temperature for Rajasthan in January is 8 to 23 degrees Celsius and for Gujarat,  12 to 28 degrees.  In both places, the early mornings and nights can be quite cold.

I especially dislike being in a crowd of tourists competing to see an attraction. And although it can be stimulating to experience an Indian city for a few days, we soon get out of town to regional areas, small towns and villages where we are often the only vehicle on the road, or the only tourists in town.

Here are some of the roads we travel and places we visit:

 

A new tour!

Announcing a brand new tour for Kasu Tours:
THE LUXURY TOUR OF THE LESSER-KNOWN RAJASTHAN
January 2020

The final itinerary and cost will be published soon, but here is a taste of what is to come.
This time we explore the lesser-known regions of north west Rajasthan, staying in gorgeous former palaces and mansions. (Might have to dress up for dinner!)

The dining room of one of our hotels.

Our tour begins in Jaipur, known as ‘the pink city’ , the capital and the largest city of Rajasthan. We taketour with a local guide to visit some of the famous local monuments including Hawa Mahel, Jantar Mantar,  the Anokhi Museum,  Amber Fort and the Monkey Temple.
We also visit a sanctuary for retired working elephants in a nearby village where  we can get up close, feed and maybe paint their faces or help them bathe.  We also enjoy a traditional village meal with our hosts.

Leaving Jaipur in our private luxury bus, we head for an amazing step-well traditionally used to conserve and store water and for public baths. It was dug approximately 30 metres and 13 stories into the ground, making it one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. Work began on this step-well in about 800AD and it was completed about 100 years later.

Our next destination is a town in the centre of the Shekhawati area where we spend five days exploring the region famous for its abandoned havelis (mansions) extensively painted with murals.

A painted haveli in Churu

This area was once a part of the silk road that extended from China to the Mediterranean. Merchants made their wealth sending their goods on camels along the silk road,  and built mansions, temples and step-wells, vying with each other in building ever more grand edifices. They commissioned artists to paint their homes as a sign of opulence, decorating both inside and outside with painted murals.  The area is now known as ‘the outdoor art gallery’.  The art of painting the havelis was kept alive for nearly 300 years. However, when shipping became available and a faster way of getting their goods to the world, the merchants abandoned the havelis and moved to Bombay or Kolkata.
We also enjoy a tour of local crafts and visit a local farm.

Junagarh Fort, Bikaner

Next we head to Bikaner, a  city surrounded by the Thar Desert. We will visit the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits.

Bikaner is also famous for miniature paintings and we will visit a third generation artist in his studio.

Whilst in the area, we visit a temple dedicated to Karni Mata (1387 – 1538)  a female Hindu warrior sage. She is worshiped as the incarnation of the warrior goddess Durga by her followers and is an official deity of the royal families of Jodhpur and Bikaner. She lived an ascetic life and was widely revered during her own lifetime.

Karni Mata Temple is also known as the Temple of Rats. The temple is famous for the approximately 25,000 black rats that live and are revered in the temple.
Legend has it that Laxman, son of Karni Mata, drowned in a pond in while he was attempting to drink from it. Karni Mata implored Yama, the god of death, to revive him. First refusing, Yama eventually relented, permitting Laxman and all of Karni Mata’s male children to be reincarnated as rats.

Some of the best fed rats in the world.

In front of the temple is a beautiful marble facade with solid silver doors. Across the doorway are more silver doors with panels depicting the various legends of the Goddess. The image of the Goddess is enshrined in the inner sanctum.
It is said that eating food that has been nibbled on by the rats is considered to be a high honour. But we won’t do that! For the squeamish, entering the Rat Temple is optional.

In the blue city

We continue our journey to the city of Jodhpur, historically the capital of the Kingdom of Marwar, which is now part of Rajasthan.
Set in the stark landscape of the Thar Desert, it is popularly known as Blue city for the preponderance of houses that are painted blue.

We take a heritage walk through the old walled city of Jodhpur, immerse ourselves in the bustling  bazaars and take a cooking lesson from husband and wife team Anil and Rekha.  We have dinner on our last night in Jodhpur overlooking a renovated step-well.

Our last destination on the tour is Bundi, often referred to as ‘the unexplored part of Rajasthan’. Bundi is rich in natural beauty as well as stunning architecture. It is known for its decorated  forts, palaces, and more than 50 step wells.  We will visit the highly ornate Raniji ki Baori (Queen’s Step-well) not far from our hotel – a boutique haveli in the heart of new city with views of the old town, palace, fort and lake.
If luck is with us, we may also be able to take in a Bollywood movie in the historic Ranjit Talkies Cinema Hall.

But the main destination of our visit to Bundi pre-dates all of the amazing architecture of the town:  pre-historic rock art, believed to be from the Mesolithic period dating back ten thousand years.  We will take a guided tour with Kukki, the man who discovered more than 75 sites in the area. An amateur archaeologist and grocery store owner, Kukki has been honoured by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with the status of ‘honorary archaeologist’.

Bundi cave art

After Bundi, we return to Jaipur for the last day of the tour. There are options to visit more destinations, go shopping in the busy bazaar or rest up before departures the next day.

The full itinerary and cost will be published soon.
(This overview is correct at time of publishing. Some minor changes may occur and will be noted in the final itinerary)

If you are interested in joining this tour, please make contact soon as places are limited to six intrepid travellers.

See the roads we travel :

 

 

 

 

Ahmedabad declared World Heritage City

June 8, 2017
Ahmedabad, the starting point of our Cloth and Stone Tour to Gujarat, has just been declared India’s first World Heritage City by UNESCO.

The walled city of Ahmedabad believed to be founded by Ahmed Shah some 600 years ago has 26 structures protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, and hundreds of ‘pols’ (old city neighbourhoods) that capture the essence of community living.

The voting countries unanimously supported Ahmedabad citing a secular co-existence of Islamic, Hindu and Jain communities along with exemplary architecture of intricately carved wooden havelis dating back hundreds of years. The countries also recognised that the city was a cradle for India’s non-violent freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi, who lived there from 1915 to 1930.

It will now join the 287 world heritage cities across the globe which includes Paris, Cairo and Edinburgh.

Take a virtual tour of the old city of Ahmedabad.
Click on any image to enlarge the gallery.
Also, check out this link >>>

 

What our customers say

Our recent CLOTH and STONE TOUR to Gujarat was a huge success and my guests had a great time.
Here are some of the things they say about Kasu Tours:

For nearly three weeks in January, I travelled within Gujarat, India with our tour guide, Beverley Bloxham and four other guests.
The tour was named The Cloth and Stone Tour and it well and truly lived up to its name. Every day was filled with fascinating activities and local guides were employed to ensure we gained the greatest insights to the places we visited.
For me, the most heart-warming and memorable times were those in dusty, humble and relatively remote villages where the the standard of weaving, tie dying, wood carving and lacquer work had to be seen to be believed. How special to be able to purchase directly from the artisans.
Through Beverley’s research and previous trips to India, we were able to visit Dr Vasa who showed us his precious private collection of Indus Valley civilisation artefacts – some as old as 4500 years old, and in an extraordinary contrast to the small village experience, to visit Asif Sheikh who is world renowned for his embroidery and who showed us his latest collection, destined for the international catwalk.
I would highly recommend a tour to India with Beverley.”
Margot Ryan.

 

“What a fabulous trip – Jill and I are still talking about it.  Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge, insights and stories and your introductions to such a vast range of artisans. Truly an enriching experience.
When’s the next tour?”
Pauline Cosgrove

The Fair Trade Tour of India

This tour took place in February 2016.  If you are interested in a similar tour, please connect with me via the  CONTACT page.

Or check out our upcoming tour: The Cloth and Stone Tour to Gujarat 

The Fair Trade Tour to India
This tour was created for those who  like to see India through the lens of  fair trade.  Our clients are people who care about where their purchases come from and that the makers are being paid and treated fairly. They are also interested in visiting remote places to meet the makers and see the goods being made.

Through my research into fair trade organisations in India, I have enjoyed searching out quality stock for my online shop, KASU EMPORIUM. Now it is time to share the journeys with like-minded others. As with KASU EMPORIUM,  a percentage of profits from KASU TOURS is donated to charities we work with in India to improve the lives of people living in poverty.

During the course of the tour, we  meet makers and artisans working in traditional weaving, tribal arts, block printed fabrics and more. The places we visit all adhere to fair trade principles.

But India has such a wealth of wonderful things to see and do: in each destination, we  also visit some local sites of importance. For example, Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Museum of Man in Bhopal,  the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in Jaipur.

We  take various forms of transport in our travels within India including flights, trains, private buses, rickshaws and taxis. The ground level journeys are more than getting  from point a to point b – they are opportunities to see India up close:  the landscape, the women in brightly coloured saris, children playing, farmers farming,  nomads with their herds, bullocks, colourfully painted trucks with their musical horns and of course the various landscapes … it is all a colourful experience that cannot be had from 30 000 feet up.

To take a virtual tour in the order of travel, click on the link at the bottom of this page. Continue in this manner and you will ‘visit’ each destination. There are more links on each destination page to some of the places included in the tour and some extras that may be visited in the free time we have in each place.

The tour starts and finishes in the capital city of India, Delhi >>>>

Map the tour

The CLOTH and STONE TOUR to INDIA will take place in the state of Gujarat at ground level in our private vehicle.  That means we can stop at will to enjoy the colour and diverse wonder that is India up close, and enjoy many encounters with locals and wildlife.  Map the tour here >>>

Fellow travellers on the road north, Kachchh.

Fellow travellers on the road north, Kachchh.

The Timeless Varanasi tour begins in the city of Ahmedabad and takes us to Varanasi to immerse ourselves in the history, culture and spirituality of this ancient city.
Map the tour here >>>

Evening Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat

Click here to check out some of the sights you might encounter on the tours.

Below Ahmedabad

Day 2 has been busy, spending a lot of time in autoricks with the late winter breezes tangling my hair and rendering me a rather scruffy, but happy, individual. The mission today was to visit the wonderful Calico Museum of Textiles and stepwells Adalaj and Dada Harir Vav.

After a sustaining hotel Indian style breakfast with some excellent masala chai, I headed off to the Museum, only to find that I had missed the one very controlled tour (restricted to 20 visitors) for the day and would have to book in for Monday. Continue reading

Countdown…..

This time next week I’ll be experiencing for the first time Air India’s non-stop flight to Delhi from Melbourne – 11.5 hours in the air, leaving at a reasonable 10:45am and arriving at an equally reasonable 5:40pm local time.  On arrival, a visit to money exchange and to the Airtel counter to buy a local sim card. Then a leisurely  drive (in Delhi traffic, maybe not so leisurely) to my bed for the night at a nondescript but convenient hotel near to the airport ready for an early morning flight to the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state. Continue reading