India on a shoestring – Part 2


 

Sunday 30th March

Up at 5am….who gets up at 5am on a Sunday…and the morning after dancing to Ricky Martin on a rooftop at a restaurant!

We got a public coach today, interesting experience – we had chairs which were rather claustrophobic due to be packed into the bus and underneath sleeper beds! Not much head room!

The journey was 6 hours through desert-esque scrubland, and we had one loo stop where the toilet was behind a pile of timber!  To be honest the journey was rather uneventful…read, played candy crush and listened to music.

We arrived in Jodhpur just after lunch and after checking in we sat in the hotel garden and had some lunch. We then had some free time, which we used to sleep! Late afternoon we met up with the group and took tuktuks to the fort.

Firstly we stopped off at the market area and did a quick orientation around the market area…narrow streets where we were again avoiding cows, crap, dogs, people, tuktuks and motorbikes!

After a quick walk around the market we went up to the fort and took an audio guide around the fort. It’s an impressive huge fort perched on the hill overlooking Jodhpur, the blue city. We spent over an hour wandering round listening to the irritating man on the audioguide…he had a rather posh english accent and pronounced cous cous ‘cuss cuss’. Tit!

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After the fort we went to a homestay owned by a family that Ankur, our guide, knows well. We sat in the internal courtyard of their home and had amazing home cooked food, which included rice, chicken, paneer, vegetable, sweet mango pickle etc. homecooked food is definitely best!

There was no partying tonight just early to bed!

Monday 31st

Another early start and another bus for 7 hours to Udaipur. The bus was another public bus with chairs underneath sleeper beds.  Again the bus was rather uneventful….passed miles and miles of marble companies whilst listening to music, reading and playing candy crush!

Upon arriving at Udaipur we had a few hours to rest before going on an orientation power walks! Ankur walks so fast I practically have to run to keep up with him!

We wandered past the palace and around the narrow streets before popping into an artist’s studio where they talked us through how they did miniature paintings before painting a miniature picture on one of our fingernails! We then carried on walking down to the lake, and then went to a heritage dancing event. We sat on the floor inside a beautiful heritage home with the amazing architecture lit up by coloured lights and bats flying around us! We had 6 different traditional dances shown to us, the dancers were amazing! There were women with flaming pots on their heads, spinning around and women with tiny cymbals attached to their clothes in all different places and they spun a cymbal in their hand around and hit the cymbals in turn producing an amazing tune.

Some women also then did a dance usually performed at weddings which was amazing to watch as they all had different sparkly coloured dresses on.

After dancing we met another Gadventures group for dinner, Shiv’s group. We had a nice meal and then went back to the hotel for guess what….a party on the roof! A couple of people from Shiv’s group including Ragu, the tour guide, came back to our hotel to join in the festivities. Another Gadventures group consisting of 16 women who were doing Delhi to Goa were already on the roof with their guide Gerry who looked exactly like Che Guevara even down to the hat!

We had a drink, danced on podiums then joined in a drinking game the other group were playing! They called it ‘ring of fire’ which is basically ‘kings’ with different rules! Luckily there were so many of us playing and only one pack of cards so the game didn’t last long and the damage was quite low! We then continued to dance into the early morning…most people disappeared off from 1am onwards with Ankur and myself being the last 2 standing! After clearing up we finally called it a night at 4am! Immense! Glad to say that even though I am on a YOLO (you only live once) tour where all the other group members are between 10-15 years younger than me that I am the last one standing! Booooyah….

Tuesday 1st April

Today we had the opportunity to lie in, which would have been marvellous if building works hadn’t started at 8am! Zoe and I woke up worse for wear and then decided we wanted pancakes for breakfast! We went down to the hotel restaurant but the only breakfast was buffet, so we went out into the bright streets on a pancake hunt! First was Cafe Coffee Day across the road…no pancakes only samosas. Then we tried about 3 hotel restaurants down the road but all had their restaurant on the 5th floor which was too much to deal with at that point in time! So we admitted defeat and went back to our hotel and had toast and chocolate milkshake!

After breakfast we went back to the room and lazed around until 12.30pm. When we met up with the group and jumped in tuktuks up to the palace. Zoe, Miriam and myself went into the palace and spent a good few hours wandering around the beautifully decorated rooms and gardens.

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Afterwards we went to the restaurant in the palace grounds and had a peach and apricot mocktail and some amazing houmous and pitta. Then we headed back to the artist’s studio where we had been the night before having miniature nail paintings done! We then had henna done, mine was a rather elaborate affair on my palm and up my inside arm. We also got miniature paintings done on the rest of our fingernails, so I now have mini paintings of a rose, a camel, an elephant, a bird, a peacock, Shah Jahan, Mumtaz Muhal and the Taj Mahal amongst other designs!

Afterwards we met early for dinner and ate at another amazing rooftop restaurant whilst the sun went down.

No partying, early night as early start again!

Wednesday 2nd April

This morning was another early morning start for a train to Pushkar. The train was another 7 hour job where we were supposed to sit on bench style seats but luckily the train was empty for the first few hours so we all grabbed a bench each and slept. Once the train started filling up we all sat together and played cards to pass the time. This time the 7 hours went quickly and before we knew it we were arriving into Ajmer station, which was about 40 minute drive from our hotel in Pushkar.

We had a few hours rest before going out late afternoon for an orientation walk. It took a good half an hour to walk from the hotel to the centre of town and there are very few tuktuks available! Firstly we went to the Brahma temple which is the only temple in the world dedicated to Brahma, then we walked to the lake before having dinner and watching the sunset from a lakeside restaurant.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and hit bed early as we had sunrise hike in the morning.

Thursday 3rd April

Up and out at 5am and jumped in tuktuk for 15 minute drive to start of steps up to the temple where we were to watch the sunrise from.

The steps started off as lovely concrete jobs and then changed to uneven, steep stone jobs! We climbed for 20 minutes or so before the path got really steep and the climb was part on all fours! At this point i conveniently found an amazing viewing spot off the path on a huge boulder right in prime location for sunrise watching. Myself and Krissy (who hadn’t been very well) stopped just shy of the top and got comfortable on our personal rock seat. It was so peaceful, no sound apart from birds and the occasional indian climbing up the path listening to Bollywood music! At one point a saddhu fully clad in orange appeared and proceeded to dance for us under the tree! The sun peeked over the mountains and we watched in awe as it bathed the valley and city in golden light. After sitting for half an hour or so the rest of the group came back down and sat with us for a few minutes taking in the view before we walked back down and walked to a restaurant for breakfast.

Breakfast was pancakes! Yay! I had the mixed fruit pancake which was immense and just what I needed after climbing up most of a mountain and coming back down all before 9am!

After breakfast we went back to the hotel and went back to bed! Slept until 3pm when we got up and all took a taxi into town, we then went to another rooftop restaurant for late lunch. I had houmous, pitta, salad and chips which was a nice change from curry! Lunch was entertaining…a young lad that was working there came out and offered us free homemade pesto because his boss was away!

After finishing lunch he then offered us all a free piece of Indian-style banoffee pie followed by some homemade muesli. Just as we were wondering what else he would bring us for free he appeared with hash cookies. We all declined at this point and left without a free trip as we had shopping to do!

We took a slow saunter back to the hotel, stopping off at various shops on the way back.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and then had another party on the rooftop! This time it was just us and another tour guide called Ricky. We played cards for a while then ‘Kings’ drinking game, followed by general dancing to psychedelic trance under the stars. 3am came and bed was calling, Zoe, Kirsty and I were the only ones left standing, well Zoe was quite drunk and barely capable of standing! Lol

Friday 4th

Lie in…..yippee….. We got up at 8am and went to the restaurant for breakfast at 9ish. Today we had the luxury of a private air-conditioned car and a departure time of 9.45am.

We drove for 3 hours or so and reached Jaipur at lunchtime, had a snack in the hotel restaurant before having a rest for 2 hours.

We then met for an orientation walk around the new city before going to the cinema to watch a new Bollywood release. As normal the audience really get into the film, all laughing out loud at the funny parts, whistling at the romantic parts, cheering at the good parts and generally chatting on their phones or to each other whilst having a little picnic!

The film was nearly 3 hours long including a 15 minute interval, so we didn’t leave the cinema until late. Dinner was a dirty chicken burger at McDonald’s which was fun, so many staff members and still chaos!

Saturday 5th

Met at 8.30am and with local guide took tuktuk to Amber Fort, stopping on way to take photos of the windy palace. We the jumped out at the Fort and were met by Snake Charmers, so spent a few minutes watching them. We then walked up into the Amber Fort, it’s a good 15 minute climb! There was a man who was making his way up by taking a step then kneeling before lying prostrate on the ground, then repeating this all the way to the temple. This is apparently because he went the year before asked for something from the gods and promised to do this if he was given his wish. Clearly he got what he wanted and is now demonstrating his thankfulness.

 

Once at the top we popped into the temple where people are offering huge bottles of alcohol for blessings. We just strolled in, got given a flower garland then blessed and told to leave! Lol

We wandered around the Amber Palace for about an hour before walking back down and jumping in a tuktuk to the water palace for photos. There is normally a hive of activity along the waterfront and this time we had some street kids who have moved on from begging and are now mini magicians. The little indian dynamo did a few amazing tricks for us using coins and wooden balls and cups!

Afterwards we went to a block printing shop and watched a demonstration of block printing prior to some retail therapy in the shop. I ordered a made-to-measure Punjab suit in crepe silk, white tunic with blue pattern and blue trousers, it looks pretty swish if I do say so myself! Then we tried on saris before going to lunch.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to get out of the heat for a few hours. At 5pm we met up and took a tuktuk to the old city to wander round the market stalls. After wandering around for 45 minutes or so we jumped in tuktuks and went to a shoe shop. We spent over an hour in the shoeshop trying on almost every pair of shoes! Purchases in hand we left and headed back to the hotel in a tuktuk for dinner and group briefing with Ankur.

After dinner we made a half-hearted attempt to play Taboo before we decided we were all too tired and we went to bed.

Sunday 6th

Up at 5am yet again, left at 5.50am in tuktuks and headed to Jaipur station where we got a train to Agra. The train was much nicer than the Auschwitz types we have been used to! We had seats, air con and meals on wheels breakfast! The train journey was 4 hours to Agra.

Upon arrival we all crashed out and then hit Costa Coffee next door for lunch. We then went to the Baby Taj and a cool spot on the yamuna river to watch the sunset over the back of the Taj Mahal. Not an angle you normally see it from, was definitely something different for me.

We then went to a rooftop restaurant for dinner and back to the hotel for bed as early start for sunrise at the Taj.

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