Driving from Bijaipur to Udaipur was not a relaxing experience. Our driver had a very fluid understanding of lanes and safe following distances – we swerved from side to side to ensure that not one second was wasted. Jo, the Australian, attempted to put on her seatbelt which to nobody’s surprise did not work, jammed in behind the seat she asked the driver to fix it, after a feeble attempt at pulling it loose he shrugged his shoulders and declared it broken. The next 3 hours were vaguely worrisome to us but as you can no doubt tell from the fact I am writing this, we arrived in one piece. Getting out of the car in Udaipur felt like stepping into a crematorium, the air was hot and thick and for the first time I really did think that the heat would beat me. Ditching our stuff at the hotel we headed out for lunch and to see the city palace.
Holding up well at lunch I was excited to go and see the palace. This excitement however lasted all of 10 minutes. Arriving at city palace and meeting our guide I quickly realised I was dehydrated and not at all interested at seeing another f***ing building. I was not the only one – our whole group looked absolutely defeated and the poor guide was basically dragging us from room to room…
Kai, the German giving up and sitting under a fan
Escaping city palace in 1.5 hours, Maddy offered to take us walking around the city. I promptly declared that I would not participate in such a terrible activity and was completely sick of the whole affair and wanted to go nap – followed by 3 others I returned to the hotel where I proceeded to spend the entire afternoon drinking water and sleeping (fair to say I was not making the most of my time in Udaipur). Revitalised after 4 hours of hibernation we went to a cultural dance show in the evening where traditional Rajasthani dance was showcased. Paying a whopping 100 rupees for the show ($2.19 Kiwi) I had very low expectations – I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover I was not in fact attending a primary school’s annual performance. The dancers wore amazing costumes, and did a lot of dances with stuff balanced on their heads e.g. Fire or 11 water pots – it was very impressive.
Day 2 in Udaipur started at 5:00am with 5 of us walking up to the Kuri Mata temple that overlooked the city. Arriving at the top in time for the sunrise we enjoyed what was perhaps one of the most underwhelming sunrises I have seen.
On the upside however we got to enjoy some milder weather – if only briefly. On the walk down we went through the Rose Garden that was teeming with locals taking their morning exercise – I was amazed at the number of women exercising in saris and running shoes (an excellent combination). After our walk we went to a delicious Greek cafe for breakfast where I learnt that eggs in India don’t always have a yolk…
Afterwards we trawled the deserted markets for a couple of hours. As it is the off season the markets are basically empty, many shop keepers tell us we are their first customers all day/week/month. While in general this is a lie and merely an attempt to make us feel sorry for them and buy things, Pam one of the Canadians was not aware of this and bought about 4 things because she felt sorry for various vendors who she believed hadn’t had a customer in weeks.
Next on the agenda was an hilarious cooking class with a local restaurant owner. With a very good grasp of English and an excellent sense of humour this man taught us to make Malai Kofta, Kadai Paneer, Roti, Biryani and Chai Masala. With everyone taking it in turns to cook things we managed to make ourselves a delicious lunch…
Karyn and I spent the afternoon buying fruit from the market and stopping at cafes. At one cafe we met to very interesting men. The first was from the UK and moved to India last December to open a restaurant (not the interesting part). Riding is motorbike to Udaipur he had an accident and shattered his shoulder. Not holding medical insurance at the time he managed to get himself to Udaipur, apply and gain insurance (8 days later) and then seek x-Ray’s etc 10 days later. He seems to think the doctors won’t click on and even if they do he doesn’t think insurance fraud is a big deal. This guy did not realise he was talking to a Doctor and a girl with a law degree. The second man was fairly young and from the US, he was in India getting a levitation chair made so they he and his girlfriend could go to Hong Kong for a month where he is convinced they will make lots of money as buskers. For those of you who don’t know what that chair is… He plans to sit like this for 10 hours a day and make his millions…
Udaipur was the first city I have been in where I felt genuinely threatened by the motor vehicles – scooters, rickshaws and cars would all come screaming round very tight corners onto even narrower streets with barely even a warning horn that they were coming.
On to our final stop of the tour, Pushkar we took a very well air-conditioned train and arrived at midday. Pushkar is a very important holy town for Hindus and therefore is a completely vegetarian (including no eggs), alcohol free town. Knowing we were running short of time on the tour and that there was a camel ride in the afternoon Karyn and I set out on a mission we had conceived a few days earlier… We were going to buy very cheap saris and spend an afternoon wearing them, bellies and all showing. Each armed with 300 rupees we haggled our way into saris and raced back to the hotel to get ready for the camel ride. Having not disclosed our plans to the rest of the group they were very surprised to see us emerge for the camel ride dressed in saris… Maddy our guide just couldn’t stop laughing. It turns out a sari while not being the number 1 camel riding outfit it in fact very cooling. There is something about having your lower back and tummy exposed that is exceptionally refreshing – for the first time in 3 weeks I was walking around without sweating.
The camel ride was not an overly comfortable experience. The way they stand up and sit down again is a lurching motion that makes you feel like their legs are buckling under your weight. As we rode past many locals, and later walked through town many women came up to us an complimented us on our saris (we don’t know if they were then saying rude things in Hindi), we all agreed that we felt more comfortable walking around in saris than we did in dresses and pants/t-shirts. By the end of the night however I was very ready to abandon the sari. 6 metres of a very synthetic fabric is a lot to deal with when you are walking around or riding camels.
Our last full day of the tour was spent in Pushkar/returning to Delhi. Again rising at 5:00am, 5 of us walked up to the Savitri Temple. A much steeper climb than the last temple with large rocky steps we again made it in time for sunrise. This sunrise was much better than the one in Udaipur (but still not amazing)
Sipping on chai and eating biscuits was an excellent way to spend 45 minutes. Returning to the town Maddy took us to a hotel for breakfast where he assured me the fruit would be safe to eat – a very exciting prospect here. After walking through the town I returned to the hotel to organise my belongings for our return to Delhi and the next step on my Indian adventure – Varanasi. My attempt at washing revealed to me just how thick with dirt my clothing was, with the water turning black almost instantly (I should really do washing more often)! One benefit of the insane heat was that all my clothes dried in the space of an hour.
We are about to return to Delhi via train and from there I fly to Varanasi tomorrow to spend 2 nights there. Coincidentally Jo, the Australian from my tour, is also spending 2 nights in Varanasi and staying at the same hotel/hostel as me (she is spending a lot more money!!) so it will be fun to explore with her for two days before I return to completely solo travel!
I am really pleased that I did the tour. It was certainly a very easy way to get around Rajasthan (especially at such a hot time of year) and allowed me to get used to life in India in a fairly stress free way. While I found the group dynamic to be tiresome at times on the whole I have met some incredibly kind people with fascinating lives (mainly thinking about Pam who has 22 children). I have also learnt a lot more about Indian/Hindu lifestyles than I otherwise would have and have gained a much greater appreciation for why many things in India are the way they are. Below is a map of where we have travelled to for anyone wanting a visual!
Note the two Rural Heritage stays are Madhogargh and Bijaipur.