Leaving the beautiful town of Bundi behind we took a local train to a very small village called Bijaipur. The local train was a very interesting experience! We were told by Maddy our guide that there was not allocated seating on the train so fearing 3-3.5 hours of standing we hustled our way onto the train, stopping just short of elbowing the locals out of the way! Four of us split off from the group thinking that this was a necessary step to secure our seats. It turns out that our fear was unnecessary, where we were getting on was actually relatively uncrowded and there were seats a plenty… All we really achieved was pissing the guide off because we split from the group! Nonetheless we remained in our separate compartment and set about enjoying the ride. Within minutes we were surrounded by a family of locals, all desperate to practice their English and learn about us. For an hour we chatted (as much as possible) learning about who was who’s sister/brother/mother/husband/son and what everyone did on a daily basis. Our cultural differences were very evident as we chatted, the Indian family had no issues with personal space – three of them very quickly wedged themselves onto the bench between Karyn and I with little concern for just how much we were all touching one and other. A highlight of this conversation for me was being able to teach them the word “chickpea”. Having learnt that the word chana was the Hindi word for chickpea I was thrilled when the family bought dried chickpeas and kept offering us “chana” telling them the English was chickpea they all started trying to commit the word to memory starting something like a chant! They then asked for pen and paper so that I could write it down for them so they could learn how to spell it as well. Another great moment was Pam from my tour trying to explain to the family what “adoption” was. As she showed them photos of her daughters and sons, who were all African American she could see their confusion as they looked at her (Pam is white). We never successfully translated the word adoption and I think the family just left us very confused about why Pam kept calling them her children.
After an hour of chat we managed to get a little bit more space to ourselves and we all did what westerners do when they travel, put in our headphones and didn’t talk to one and other! I also then had a nap on the train much to the amazement of everyone around me!
After 3 hours on the train we were greeted at the train station by two jeeps that drove erratically for 45 minutes to our hotel. Our hotel was actually a ‘Palace’ owned by the royalty of Bijaipur. In these circumstances however royalty means more that they are related to royalty and they used to run the village and do things like collect taxes… So not quite royalty like Lizzie Windsor.
(I feel like Lizzie would enforce the traditional spelling of ‘Castle’)
Arriving at the Castle was one of the best moments of the trip so far as it had a massive pool and we knew we were staying there for 2 nights with very little sightseeing to be done in the village! I quickly ditched my bag and went for a swim… After 2 hours of rolling in and out of the pool I once again felt like a human being. In the evening we took Jeeps to a permanent campsite where normally the tour I am on spends a night – however as we are here at the end of the dry season and the start of the monsoon season we don’t stay there. Driving out there our jeep’s horn broke which I originally found very amusing until I worked out that the lack of working horn meant that overtaking was increasingly more dangerous as the driver was not able to notify the car/bike in front of us that we were trying to overtake!
The tents were awesome and I really do wish we got to spend a night there, it was like the ultimate in glamping! Instead while dinner was being cooked we walked up a hill to the ruins of a fort. Karyn and I tired of the groups slow pace walked ahead and made up the history of various monuments as we went (when we did learn the actual history we discovered we were quite a long way off the mark). After climbing around the fort for a while we then realised we had completely lost track of the group so we attempted a short cut down the hill. This was not our best idea.. Climbing down rock face in jandals was rather a difficult task but we survived and made it back in time for dinner. Dinner conveniently involved two of my favourite Indian dishes (Chana masala (yellow one) and baigan bharta (Aubergine one) – this photo does not do their taste justice…
Driving back to the palace in the dark was quite interesting as instead of using their horns, the Jeeps would erratically flash their lights to let other vehicles know we were coming. I also discovered that the highly decorated tractors light up quite spectacularly at night – I would recommend all NZ farmers invest in similar party lights and streamers for their tractors.
Day 2 at the palace started with an early walk around the village – as it was 6am and a Sunday there was very little activity in town, just a few tractors on the road… And a lot of cows waiting for their morning chapati. Wandering slowly back to the castle my heart sunk as I saw a large family of Indians surrounding the pool – suddenly my plan on lounging around in a bikini seemed highly inappropriate when all the women were swimming fully clothed. I hid in my room reading and waiting for the pool to empty. Finally, there were just 3 kids left in the pool, Karyn and I bit the bullet and decided to brave swimming in just togs. No one yelled at us and the family eventually left for an outing – only after getting family photos with us in our bikinis… Seemed slightly inappropriate! The day drifted by with nothing but reading, napping and swimming occurring.
At 3:30 Karyn and I headed back to the village to see what it was like when people were conscious. The first house we came upon had two young girls standing outside yelling hello to us (as usual) – it turned out these two girls, aged 12 and 13, spoke impeccable English. They invited us into their house, introduced us to their mum, aunt, brothers and cows. Their house was a courtyard with two rooms coming off it and a stable-like thing. In total the whole area would be only slightly larger than our kitchen and dining area at home… And 9 of them lived in that space! Continuing on round the village it was clear that tourists did not frequent these parts often – while children would run up to us, say hello and hold our hands, adults would stare and point…. And young men would try and take sneaky selfies with us!
Our final activity in Bijaipur was henna, a 22 year old school teacher from the village came up and did henna for us and she could do incredibly intricate patterns! We were all very impressed, especially when each one only took her about 10 minutes.
Sadly our blissful time in Bijaipur has ended and we are off to Udaipur – however this is our tour guide’s favourite place on the trip and it means that the tour is nearly over – meaning I am getting much closer to escaping the heat!!
Further note on cows – I have learnt more about the life of a cow in India. Hindu religion dictates that the first chapati (Roti type bread) made in the morning and evening is for the cow and the last one made is for the dog. This means that cows go from house to house each morning to get their chapatis. While I thought our guide was spinning us a massive yarn we then saw cows consistently lined up outside houses waiting for their breakfast and dinner!