India on a shoestring – Part 1


Monday 24th March

Had a well-earned lie in after 2 weeks of partying in south India and early starts for flights. Left the brothel, sorry I mean hotel, at 10am and jumped in taxi to the airport to meet Zoe. The journey started eventfully as I jumped in the taxi, the taxi driver jumped out to chat to someone, meanwhile the taxi, with me in it, started rolling back into the road. Luckily I yanked up the hand brake saving the day, it didn’t end there though! The driver nonchalantly hopped in and then reversed straight back into the road and drove the wrong way up a slip road to the main road! Entertaining!

Anyway, met Zoe and we jumped in a taxi from Delhi Airport to Karol Bagh area. The taxi driver was a grumpy bastard and kept asking us to ring the hotel to find out where it was in Karol Bagh. We kept saying we couldn’t ring on our phones (slight lie but mobile phone bill is already high enough!) the driver then had a tantrum, stopped the taxi, jumped out, slammed the door, cursed us and then asked random men in the street where the hotel was! Someone gave him directions so he came back to the taxi, got in, slammed the door, cursed us again and drove to the hotel! We finally found it at which point he asked for 100 rupees more! Didn’t have to bring out the hindi swear words, managed to ignore his plea for money and he got the hint!

Zoe and I checked in, went shopping and then had a cheeky pizza hut for lunch. It was a welcome change from curry, even though it still managed to taste of curry!

The rest of the afternoon we watched films and napped until 6pm when we joined the welcome meeting with the rest of the group on the India on a Shoestring tour. It’s a smaller group than the last tour…6 ladies! Myself, Zoe, Miriam and Kirsty are all from UK, Anna is from Germany and Chrissy is from Australia. Again we have a dishy man for a guide, Ankur. He is very shy and reserved but comes out of his shell after a couple of rum and cokes! Lol

We went for a group meal near to the hotel and then hit bed early!

Tuesday 25th March

We all met at 9am and headed into Delhi for orientation walk. We met with one of the kids from Salaam Balaak which is a charity that homes and supports street kids and is supported by the tour company. We wandered the back streets of Delhi before meeting some of the other kids housed at the shelter. There are apparently 400,000 kids on the streets of Delhi so these are some of the lucky ones!

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We sat with the kids for a while and played games with them, some of them practiced their English too.

We then walked to Connaught Place, at which point the police pulled Ankur over and questioned him as to why he was leading 6 ladies around Delhi! A heated discussion in hindi commenced, Ankur disappeared into a hut with the police, meanwhile we are standing around the middle of an intersection! After a few minutes we had to all go into the hut with a copy of the itinerary and confirm to the police than Ankur was our guide! Ridiculous!

Anyway normal service resumed and we jumped on the metro to Chandni Chowk, we walked to the red fort, jama masjid and back to Chandni Chowk where we wandered the narrow alleys and visited the sikh temple. We then had lunch in a very local fast food restaurant, although let me assure you the food was not fast!

After lunch Ankur left us with some free time so we wandered around Connaught Place and a chinese underground market before jumping in tuktuks back to the hotel. We then grabbed a drink in a bar together before wandering the shops again. Back at the hotel we all shared one room for the last few hours, where we all freshened up and watched films before we left the hotel at 10pm to get overnight sleeper train to Bikaner.

The train left at 11.30pm, as it rolled out of Delhi station we all made our beds and climbed in hoping to sleep for the majority of the 8 hours!

Wednesday 26th March

After an uneventful sleeper train journey and a reasonable nights sleep we arrived in Bikaner at 7am. Jumped in tuktuks to the hotel, which was a beautiful heritage property previously owned by royalty! We had the chance to freshen up, nap and eat breakfast before leaving at 11am for the camel safari!

We jumped in a jeep and drove 40 minutes or so to meet the camels! We then jumped out and picked our camel, I took the approach that I wanted a sturdy looking one, so picked a male camel that I proceeded to name Boris.

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Once I had mounted Boris and he stood up I realised he was a giant among camels and was by far the tallest! Good job I don’t suffer with vertigo!

Boris and I bonded immediately, he was so placid and handsome!

We rode the camels for about an hour into scrubland desert before stopping for lunch for a few hours. Once the sun had calmed itself a bit we left the lunch spot and rode for another 2 hours before arriving at our camp for the night.

Our bed for the night was a small pink tent which was made even smaller by the fact Zoe slept in the middle all night and left me squashed up against the side! Ha!

We sat around having chai and biscuits then had a pleasant surprise in the form of another gadventures group arriving on camel carts for chai! In amongst the clean-looking travellers was Shiv! They all looked clean, refreshed and definitely had not spent 3 hours riding a camel! The joys of a comfort tour over a basic one! Lol

We spent an hour or so with the other group, we all trekked across the dunes to watch the sunset before having a few drinks in camp.

Once it was dark the comfort tour group left to go back to their 4 star hotel and beds and we sat round the campfire eating dinner and chatting.

After dinner I got my phone out and cracked out the google skymap app, so we spent a while looking at the stars before we retired to our tents for bed!

Thursday 27th March

After a reasonable nights sleep we got up and had breakfast in the desert camp before boarding a camel cart to take us back to civilisation! We spent about an hour on the cart before meeting the jeep again which took us back to the hotel.

We then had a few hours to shower and sleep before meeting back up to go to the famous rat temple in Deshanoke. I have seen this temple on telly and always wanted to go. It was about a 45 min drive through scrubland desert. Once at the temple we had to remove our shoes which makes such sense! Clearly a rat temple would be made unhygienic by people’s shoes, not the rats!!

We got given hideous fabric slipper things to wear which were fundamental to not leaving with feet covered in rat shit!

The temple itself was cool though, hundreds if not thousands of brown rats everywhere, some lazing about, some zooming about, some drinking milk, some hanging from metal balustrades! We then took a tour of the temple being careful not to tread on the rats which are all supposed to be reincarnated hindu men!

I spotted a white rat which is meant to be lucky and means you will get married soon. Can’t see how that can be lucky myself!

After an hour of wading through rats, flies and rat shit we headed back to the hotel where we sat in the beautiful gardens playing cards whilst waiting for dinner.

After dinner we had a few drinks and watched Ankur come out of his shell. After discussing our favourite films, quotes and books we went to bed, possibly could have been 1am! Not sure…it was late anyhow!

Friday 28th March

After 4 hours sleep we were up at 5am to drive to Bikaner station for our train to Jaisalmer. This time it wasn’t a sleeper car we were in but a chair carriage, benches which held 3 people, no air con and shutters on the windows! It felt like we were on a train to Auschwitz!

The train wound its way through the Rajasthan desert so we were prepared for a dusty ride. We wore scarfs across our nose and face in a variety of fashions…Zoe in a serene lady of the desert style way and me like a combination of Milan Ultra and girly ninja assassin! It’s a good look I was rocking! Lol

The train journey was about 7 hours in this sweaty, dust box! Great fun though!

Upon arrival in Jaisalmer we jumped in tuktuks and whizzed along to our hotel. We had lunch together at the hotel then had a few hours rest before meeting at 5.30pm for orientation walk. We wandered up to a beautiful lake containing beautiful yellow sandstone cenotaphs, belonging to the Jaisalmer royal family. We watched the sun start to set over the lake before dashing around the other side of the lake to watch it setting over the fort. The fort is also beautiful yellow sandstone, as is most of Jaisalmer, in the sunlight it shines golden! Stunning.

After the sunset we headed to another heritage property which is now a restaurant. We dined on the roof overlooking Jaisalmer which was amazing.

We then headed back to the hotel and all met up in mine and Zoe’s room for rum and coke (this is now habit I feel….) and we sat playing cards and Kings the drinking game! Luckily we didn’t have much rum between 7 and I didn’t get the last king, that honour was bestowed on Miriam! Lol

Saturday 29th March

Had a lie in today, which was needed really! Met at 9am and jumped in tuktuks and headed to Jaisalmer fort with a local guide, Puri. He is a 37-year-old Rajasthani playboy…not married, lives with his mum and declared he doesn’t want to get married as he doesn’t always want to eat bread and butter and sometimes fancies something else! Ha ha.

Anyway Puri took us around the fort, where we wandered the back streets, stopped at ideal picture spots and places where he could chat up women! The streets of Jaisalmer fort are like an obstacle course…when strolling around these narrow flagstoned streets one must avoid…people, motorbikes, roaming cows, fighting cows, dogs, cowshit, uneven flagstones, random holes in the floor, drains and strings of dried chillis! The dried chillis are hung up outside homes and shops for a week at a time to absorb negative energies and bad shit! Every week these strings of chillis are then tossed into the street, taking with them all the evil! If you step on them you absorb this apparently!

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We had lunch in a nice spot with view of the fort, before returning to the streets for bindi and leather bag shopping.

We had a few hours rest back at the hotel before taking tuktuks to another amazing rooftop restaurant with spectacular views across Jaisalmer. Puri the sleazy tour guide joined us and bought us all drinks! He then rang his mum and got her to find his mp3 speakers in his bedroom ( yes he is 37! ) and he sent his friend to go get them. We then spent a couple of hours dancing on the rooftop under the stars! Never imagined we would salsa-ing to Ricky Martin on a rooftop in India but hey….life is all about the random spontaneous things!

Got back to the hotel at 1am and crashed out as 5am start again tomorrow!

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