A Travellerspoint blog

The riches of Rajasthan and the world's largest camel fair

Udaipur, Diwali Festival, Jaisalmer, Desert safari, Pushkar camel fair, Jaipur and back to Delhi

semi-overcast 25 °C

In my usual deep sleep it was only when fellow passengers in the berth moved about at 6.30am that I got into an alive state of mind and watched the sun come up. In Udaipur station the drivers appeared to have a ‘no hassle’ agreement and didn’t approach you but short, well dressed Jamil came to us offering a 72 rupee ride so instantly I remarked ‘why?!’ (he happened to be a favourite among tourists according to his comment book and did this thing alot). As it was so early we had to wait a while at Mewargarh Palace for our rooms to be checked out/cleaned but as a high vantage point could see most of the non watery side of the city.

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With legs stretched out on cushions we each ate a weird but edibe 55 rupee pizza (basically microwaved), used fast wifi, spoke with Sonny from Birmingham (Indian decent) and got stressed at the abiity of my laptop to only charge when the cable at a certain angle. In rooms by 11am we killed four hours before getting cabin fever and going out down to the footbridge to see Lake Pichola. Using a 500 rupee note (banks give them out but hard to get rid of them- the Asian way) the stupid women at a ‘corner shop’ had to verify it was legitimate using not just her eyes but three other sets pissing me off something chronic.

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At 5pm myself, Lisa, Daria and Sonny walked the five minutes to Noble Cooking Classes (first one so quite excited) where a lovely Indian lady dressed in blue traditional dress showed first of all how to make Masala Tea (ginger, black tea leaves, masala, water and milk) with Lisa being nominated to write down all the recipe’s. Chipati’s turned out to be the only thing we got to make ourselves but was cool rolling the mixture up, turning it on a pan and when the other side needed browning put directly on flame to see it expand like a puffer fish before smothering it in butter and dipping it in chutney- whole process takes 2 minutes but I still managed to roll one onto the floor! In the small kitchen we watched as she used all her skills and knowledge to make Aloo Gobi, Jeera rice, Lentils, stuffed Paratha’s, coriander sauce and other types of bread combining many different spices and and ingredients I can probably get at home. At times I got bored and lost concentration so listened to an angry cow and observed candles being placing in window’s whilst her family were busy painting & cleaning the the house as Diwali effectively start of a new year to Hindu's.

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When full from the finished product I concluded that Rajasthani food isn’t as adventurous or as hot as hoped but makes up for it in flavour. Having seen virtually nothing of Udaipur so far we walked about in the direction of most activity seeing the extravagantly lit up streets full of people and scooters (like Jersey christmas decorations but multiplied tenfold) passing many small shrines and temples (Lakshmi had a line outside) as well as all the artistic shops.

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We tried asking numerous people where the lake was but none were helpful and we ended where we started so gave up and ordered a well deserved beer in a tree house like structure atop Natural Lake View- solves the problem of where we were at least (muppets). Knowing there was an 11pm curfew we thought we knew the way to our hotel but sadly had not one clue, haplessly stumbling upon a small sign for it in the dead of night in an alleyway.

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At 10am Jamil arrived on time to take us for a tour in his black and gold exceptionally clean rickshaw with the temperature not being too hot and sun high in the sky. We took in all the visual treats and smells of a spice market and 2km to the east walked among the Royal Cenotaphs which are numerous burial monuments each with a dome and Chhatri’s/Shiva lingams as decoration in various states of disrepair- camera playground.

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We followed the edge of Fateh Sagar Lake and up to the monuments of Moti Magri which are dedicated to famous warriors, in particular Pratak Singh and his horse Chetak who fought against the Mughal army at the battle of Haldighati in 16th century. After the girls had their ‘pepsi with straw’ I bought an intricately designed textile with elephant and all wet ourselves at a young white guy giving us the once over from his little white car and driver- bit of a douche me think.

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Following the distinctly average ‘Garden of maids of honour’ we scoffed our faces with Thalli in a restaurant where we were the only non Indians (great sign) and had my eyes wide open looking at the amazing miniature paintings inside an art school- ‘such fine detail’ as the master professed and it really was especially the ones on camel bone. I liked the unique art so much that I paid roughly £90 for a coronation scene a couple of days later (plus some small designs on silk for greeting cards) when had my credit card handy and having thought about it enough to nearly drive me insane- realistically not a huge amount but when travelling it’s a different story.

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Jamil ended the day as any good businessman would- at his place, which happened to be a lake shore restaurant. Admiring the view (man on paddle board- not a common sight) we opted to do some shopping (leather camel design journal and stone elephant within an elephant for 450 rupees), gaze at the only liquor store and chill till coming back to watch James Bond- Octupussy as alot filmed in and around Udaipur. Straining my eyes trying to watch it on the tiny TV in the corner I came to understand just how cheesy and not actually that good the 40 year old film was. Beer kept me going then when only customers about at 10pm put in an order of food (can’t imagine that went down well)- stodgy vegetable Kofta's. Again getting slightly disorientated we came back, skyped Amy and progressed on my laptop till the wee hours of the morning.

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It was Diwali (13th November) which was celebrated in the evening onwards so, in no mood to spend a fortune seeing the lake palace or do anything else touristy, it took little effort to stay at Mewargarh till almost 5pm and somehow not rip each other’s head’s off. Me and the girls witnessed the ongoing preparations for the festival as finally put something spicy in my mouth (wrapped in banana leaf to boot- winning) at a street cart, meandered about and bought cigarettes (ongoing mission every day by the girls to find thin/menthol/flavoured for varying prices it got so tiring), a Snicker’s bar, lots of water and soft drinks not far from Tibetan Market. Using 4 empty bottles I poured 1:3 vodka to 7up/Fanta and trod very carefully as to not be next to or on top of all the bombs/crackers/waterfalls that produced an immense noise- all kids and adults busy lighting them willy nilly outside their front doors even going up to unexploded ordinance to relight with a total lack of awareness to the dangers- Daria not like one little bit and my dog Max would be shaking in his boots! Stupidly we had the western mentality and expected parades/dancers/costumes but there was in fact fewer people than normal by the square infront of Jagdish Temple. Bana Bazaar was apparently where the party was at and the journey there provided me with some flip flops (left mine in Poland and sandals stink to high heaven) and all of us with possibly the best bag of crisps ever- 100% natural and made there and then by one man.

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An avenue closed off to traffic was where thousands of Indians were with their families (left and right side stuck to by all). Lisa and I couldn’t take passing ever single ice cream man without purchasing anything so gave in to temptation, although within seconds most of her cone was on the floor- Man Down! HAHAHA. Except for some music, decorated horses and an army band beneath a partial roof of glitter and lights (entire road- must of taken weeks) nothing special was occurring so continued drinking and sat on the side doing our own bit of people watching- still had fathers throw up their children to pose for photos. I made the mistake of noticing a bright fair ground and within ten minutes tipsy Sonny (could not handle alcohol) was escorted out by police and we very nearly had all our drink confiscated or the same happen to us- oops.

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Disappointed, we sat in on a rooftop away from all the bangs watching the sporadic fireworks going off in all directions discussing upsetting topics (blame the drink) and still returned to the hotel at 11.30pm to set off 2/4 15 rupee fireworks I got earlier as well as chunky glitter filled sparklers with a group of English girls. It was like being in a war torn city seeing and hearing the random blasts in the alleyways, dogs barking and people screaming when had enough of it all and went to bed.

What was etched other our faces the following lunchtime was a desire to leave this overrated place even though had not been on any of the lakes or waterways in what is known as the ‘Venice of the East’. As unable to achieve this till next morning we motivated ourselves to the single touristiest thing we would partake in during our travels in India- a sunset boat ride for £2.30! Through years of unwanted practice I followed standard procedure- waiting for enough people, cramming onto a tiny boat, putting on ‘compulsory’ stylish lifejackets and scrambling over others to get a photo I would look back on and most likely delete later. To be fair an old wooden boat, mosque and hills produced something to go on but as last trip of the day the driver apparently didn’t want to return to base till he was good and ready...we were HUNGRY!

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Unbelievably we docked somewhere else, had tickets checked again (where the fuck were we going to go?!) and slowly returned. Using Virtual Tourist (and collaborating it with Trip Advisor) I had pre picked a restaurant to go to for our last night and to our relief was about 50 yards away, not sign posted and atop a mid-range hotel called Jaiwana Haveli. What entailed was the best meal to date- Lassi, Chicken Tikka (first meat since Delhi) with yoghurt based spicy sauce, never ending cheese naan, roti and Gulab Jamun (deep friend dough balls in syrup) plus an unobstructed view over the lakes and palaces- pricey for what we've been used to but still less than a burger and chips in any wertern country. Daria and Lisa still had room for cold apple pie at ground level then I had a mini panic when my intricate planning got the better of me. Having changed the plan slightly to avoid Bikaner I accidentally used the original spreadsheet for trains and so gave Lisa wrong information on hostels in the process. At the end of the day it all meant not being able to stay overnight in a temple and only using Jodhpur as a stopover not as an actual destination- something we would be glad of.

Following a night finally uploading my first facebook album we packed from scratch, finalised the complicated bill and avoided burning any more money with these people who act friendly but just want every cent out of you- even though stayed in same room all nights they charged us 200 extra for a/c on one of them as was only way to book it through hostels.com! In a white Tata driven by Ganesh we headed north out of the city and up into the hills far far away.

Not used to such luxury we each couldn’t help but nod off in the soft surroundings of a seat with head rest attached even though past the short section of dual carriageway (group of tourist’s on a cycle tour with their van waiting at the top) we were winding along single lane dirt roads playing chicken with many trucks and buses of superior size (eyes closed better). At 11am Ganesh showed us a panoramic view of the Kumbulgarh Fort and bastion walls that begin a mighty 37km chain of ramparts.

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Seeing the car park full of coaches we were far from alone as we strolled up as high as we could get to see the Jain and Hindu Temples in the distance and impenetrable location (only invaded once due to enemy poisoning water supply) the fort commands. There wasn’t so much to see here in terms of specific’s so took some abstract photos of the defences, negotiated wobbly stairs and got frustrated waiting for people to get out of the way for what was an unspectacular scene.

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Needing sustenance Daria picked me out Indian Masala Lays chips as my breakfast/lunch then had a further 70 minutes, mostly downhill, to Ranakpor Temple. The opposite of peaceful due to something religious taking place, we had to carry our bags to the cloak room then laughed in Ganesh’s face when he asked for a tip (600 each for a half day drive and not having to take us back- cheeky prick). Being told we had barely half hour till a rare bus came needing to change my clothes meant we very nearly decided to leave but as made it all the way here would of been foolish. When told no water inside Lisa chose to stay outside as, with one camera (pay for each one and they check bags!), me and Daria behaved like Japanese tourists running about changing lenses between her 18-55 and my 10-20 snapping everything and just about having time to appreciate the astonishing tall marble columns, high ceiling and detail at every turn carved into the rock; not happy when told couldn’t go in the ‘Indian Only’ sacred area due to hassle to get this far and the simple fact that the guard has no idea of my religion.

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I skipped out barefoot, changed (so hot now in jeans) and ate two crispy samosas by the bus stop hoping for a good ride. The beat up, old government bus packed full of people from all walks of life put my hopes at bay and, along with 4 other backpackers patiently waited for a solution that didn’t involve walking 7km to the town as one fat man remarked. A signal came to pass the bags up for a pile to be made at the front as one by now we were packed in like sardines into the aisle wondering how going to stand like this for next 5 hours; curious and inquisitive looks abound. A combination of people getting off and the ticket master doing everything in his power to make sure foreigners were looked after meant we all had a seat/s to speak of quickly despite paying same 130 rupee amount. In the back corner I opened the window and watched Ice Age 3 ignoring the comings and goings (one young guy tried interacting and looking over my shoulder) till was quite empty but then were forced to change vehicles for rest of journey meaning our bags caused numerous problems with angry locals wanting something to sit on; my lump was in aisle getting trampled over but safe in the knowledge anything breakable or expensive was on my person. At 7.30pm we pulled into Jodhpur and had a larger, more decorative rickshaw (photos of family built in) take us to Durag Niwas Guest House. In contrast to the city the place was very welcoming and airy with the openly gay manager finding us a triple room (problem solved) and arranging for us Thali where sat among 50-something western women who stay long term and volunteer for the charity organisation run by him. I gave into Daria’s requests to use my laptop (charging issue a real pain) to phone home for the hundredth time, wrote journal and made sure was asleep by 11pm; Lisa out well before.

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At the ungodly hour of 4am my loud, irritating alarm went off and within 15 minutes we were outside not willing to see if the transport we booked would turn up so walked to the main road and only had to wait a short time for a ride to the station. It wasn’t as dirty as Agra but the hundreds of people littered about outside on the floor (as if dropped from the sky) gave us a bad enough impression already so avoided using the ATM and booted it directly to the platform we guessed was right. As Lisa went to S3 we went to B1 and joined forces with a Chinese father and daughter to make sure this man’s huge sack stayed with him and not on the floor impeding out movement. Needing to write a blog I spent the majority of the 5.5 hour trip typing (Daria watched movies) and wondering if the repeated stops and apparent change in direction would be a problem but the shadows on the ground confirmed we were in fact going due west. At the desert town of Jaisalmer, Hotel Surja had a pick up ready to take us to First Gate. Into the walls, past the tour groups we went and at the eastern edge walked up two flights of stairs to a panorama exactly how the pictures show it.

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I enjoyed a banana/chocolate pancake and a cup of coffee, used wifi, checked in officially (passports etc), showered and, feeling somewhat energised left the walls to explore. We saw the English Wine Shop and Bhang store (degraded marijuana), ‘magic bed sheet’ guy and numerous tour operators, all providing the same services, as I took money out from the State Bank (15000 rupee so enough to change some into US and Nepalese) which came to me in 1000 notes meaning was over the moon in the thought of having to get rid of them. We repeatedly said ‘no, thanks’ to shopkeepers and brought 12 rupee samosas from a popular place that has a constant production line of them and other similar items and would turn out to be our staple diet. Turning into a dark, pungent smelling corner of town we came across Dylan’s where could listen to normal tunes on an iPod whilst sipping on good value cold beer in a micro Art’s Factory type feel; plastic chairs caused problems for Daria. Our hotel manager, Raj, took Lisa on his motorbike to take money out (none left in one I used) then we spent the rest of the afternoon and night perched on the edge making for a good timed picture of us (put chair on table to form temporary tripod). Constantly refusing offers of food from an ill mannered boy who seemed constantly miserable I set up wordpress.com and got to grips with how it all worked- complicated to say the least.

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When actually hungry I just had a toastie and made an error having two plain Chipati’s with nothing to dip into (so dry...why did I do it?) then the boy asked me straight out- ‘where did you buy your body from?’ with me not knowing exactly how to answer him without sounding sarcastic. Loud, screeching, violent dog noises prevailed just outside our window but luckily people came out to stop it and no animal seemed badly hurt- dogs seem to be similar breed.

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At the end of one crazy ass dream I saw we were running out of time so was glad to have prepared the night before for the safari. Along with Swiss German Martin we got in a jeep to go the 60km or so south west into the Thar Desert just off the road the main tours use where, at about 9.30am arrived just as the other not so happy group finished. Atop Mandra (Daria on unruly Papaya and Lisa on Little Jonny) with legs stretched apart and bag conveniently infront the camels lifted off the ground in one mechanical motion and followed leader Sarif into the scrub not feeling all that remote due to the dozens of Belgian owned wind turbines dotted about the desert in all directions.

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Besides having my ankles and feer getting scratched on cacti/thorn bushes I was quite comfortable (much better than being on an elephant that’s for sure) until was time to get off and briefly see a group of nomadic gypsies who just wanted money for a photo; not staged or touristy as such but still not going to. Unanimously agreeing not to stop for an early lunch we continued unabated another 90 minutes (stomach muscles hurting as uneven packs mean leaning constantly to the left) till at a farmers clear patch of ground where the camels got 'undressed' and let off to eat whatever they could find (basically anything) and we spent three hours chilling under a tree, trying colourful crisp type things, drinking chai, watching Martin carve yellow fruit and waiting for lunch to be cooked.

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Nice as this was being in peacefully surroundings we wanted to crack on so got impatient. Back on Mandra I had control and was put at the front to lead the way towards the sand dunes in the distance, stopping at a water trough so the camels could stock up for x amount of days; vegetation changing now to slender trees with big leaves to catch every ray of sun.

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Slowly but surely (kept using rope and feet to get him to speed up but stubborn animal- think we’re quite alike) we made it to what I would class as a desert environment and with no manmade objects to gaze onto took funny silhouettes using my Gorillapod for the first time, watched some horny dogs race around, go for gold and attack each other then sat down for more chai as the fire was up and running. At 7.30pm a boy came bearing chilled beer (got to love Asia) so sipped a couple long necks each as ‘kinder surprise’ Martin passed around joints to mellow the mood as the stars came out in force. For a rare moment I felt completely chilled, forgetting all my minor worries and future plans as looked up into the heavens. The harmless Dung Beetles put the girls off sleeping on just a mat but they no posed no problem and with the heavy blankets provided slept soundly before midnight.

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Shocked to see it was already 7.30am (time Sarif said we would leave) and the sun still hadn’t showed itself I got lovely looks from the girls as took my camera out for shots of ‘natural beauty’, watched the two male white dogs never ending pursuit of a black female; the weak one won and got his red rocket out right by us as eating to mark his achievement (lovely). It was obvious the guides had slept in as they rushed around, grabbed the camels (never too far away despite not being tied up) and hurriedly packed them for the remaining two hours to the Jeep in which we ran about 50% of the time stopping and starting causing much thigh discomfort as moved up and down uncontrollably.

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The safari (landscape different to what expected but fact saw no other tourists entire time making it good) ended when outside the fort again at 11am where we all had the same idea- Samosa Man! We tried khulfi ice cream for the first time as a sort of street dessert then had to wait for our room to be available as the younger staff of Surja are useless when boss Raj is offsite. I stayed there till evening then went to Dylan’s for dinner.

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A bad nights sleep, headache, skin drying out (different water here) and straining eyes on the screen in the dark made me grumpy come morning but breakfast helped. The three of us were all prepared to see the Jain Temples nearby at 12.30 but upon a quick read of the book saw they in fact closed at 12- fail! Wanting to achieve something we followed the narrow paths to all corners of the fort seeing the souvenirs and sandstone buildings before choosing to join the girls in having an Ayervedic Massage.

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I drew the short straw and had owner Deepak rub oil into my skin in the basement (sounds so bad) but he did a great job on my slightly painful/noisy shoulders making it worthwhile; said I stress too much (got it in one). Although feeling extremely greasy I had to wait for a shower (apparently not good to have straight away) then, as colder, put jeans and shoes on for another night at Dylan's. This time there was a few people around so could socialise, get ripped into about England losing the cricket, experimented by having a Kashmiri curry and stuffed tomato with Daria and going through half a dozen beers together. Once past the putrid sewage smell that dogs & cows were having a ball in we noticed just how much of a ghost town Jaisalmer is after hours.

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A combination of coach loads of people, Lisa being shattered and a general 'cant be arsed' feeling meant bye bye to the temples so stayed on the rooftop eating, paying a lesser bill than we should have (Yogi asked ME the room rate so decreased it and none of the many bottles of water were charged) and doing some more bartering. Getting sick of waiting outside jewellery/clothes shops I left to do blog posting in a shaded area of the hotel then at 4pm got given complimentary water (haha) as we rickshawed it over to the train station. Opting to kill time outside a pretty cow (reminded me of Jersey's) came up to us and posed for a photo shoot. At 5.15pm we were heading east to Jodhpur.

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The journey to Jodhpur was smooth and almost hassle free (had to make a 'tired' family leave light on when they decided to sleep at 6pm as was typing on laptop!) which is more than I can say about what happened when we arrived back at Durag Niwas Guest House when arrived at 10.30pm. We knew there wasn't space from what the manager said last time but expected to be in the building next door, however following complimentary coffee and seeing staff noticably stressed it turns out that wasn't possible. Gavind pushed the boat out in a way almost unheard of by handing us 1000 rupees and taking us and the bags in his nice truck to a hotel nearby, Takhat Vilas, and making sure we were well looked after and set in a room of our choice- wow! Starving by this point he brought us back to his place for toasties (kitchen long since closed) and wrote a great review on hostels.com then went to bed in our new hotel.

Following the best shower so far, a goodbye hug to Lisa (see her soon in Philippines and Cambodia) and a 60 rupee rickshaw listening to loud Indian beats we were at the train station and soon on board the very long Ajmer Express sat opposite a miserable, unhygenic couple who tried taking over as much space as they could. We watched Ice Age 4 and I got blog bits done then in the city managed to grab an Asian/Australian couple so could share a 400 rupee van for the short journey over the hills to Pushkar (much easier than cramped bus). A big western presence didn't take long to be noticed as we were forced to walk 20 minutes with all our things through the narrow main bazar to the western side of town past Bhrama Temple to Hotel Akash Although Deepak, the owner, was great and it was peaceful it was clear we were getting a bad deal as had to share a bathroom, food was pricey and the internet seemed to be down half the time- it may be fesitval time but 1400 a night is a rip-off. We glanced over the program of events and although nothing specific happening right now couldnt resist going for a walkabout amongst the camels only a few minutes away.

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It was exactly how I envisioned it with thousands of animals spread out over two gentle slopes and their owners/ traders seated in groups around a fire drinking tea or smoking either doing deals or relaxing from a tough summer and long, arduous walk here. Currently being amongst the only white's around we wondered aimlessly taking photos and experiencing all the sights, smells and sounds- dung collected, hay distributed, camels yelping when examined, babies feeding, drinking from troughs, seeing rope around most front legs, women wanting photos and guys being fake nice. On the more open south side more 'naked' camels stood and rested as the light grew softer and and more tourists came with an ever increasing amount of amazing kit making for a spectacle in itself. The best cameras money can buy, tripods, assistants, his & hers, white lenses and every gadget possible making us feel quite amateur with our d5100's.

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With some herds leaving and sun nearly gone we brought chips and water, used internet (worked at last), did some writing and pondered where to go for dinner. With the street nearly deserted at only 8.45pm we didn't have high hopes until came across Shiva Juice Bar that was almost too cheap, very tasty, quick and most importantly good portions. It was the thick banana lassi which stole the show as full of flavour and contained bits of fruit and nut. Pleased in the knowledge we had found a 'local' we stocked up on H20 and eventually posted another blog by 2am.

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After a solid breakfast we entered the dusty stadium under the hot sun, saw a young girl do tight rope tricks, horses race about and a crowd gather by an enclosed area ready for the camel beauty pageant to take place. Dressed up so heavily you could barely tell there was a real animal beneath about 5 paraded about promoting much jostling and pushing/shouting/moaning to get the same photograph. When had enough we mutually agreed to move on to Pushkar itself.

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By a snake charmer we set foot in Brahm Ghat beneath a unique tree and arch complete with worshipping bell. Notices everywhere stipulated no alcohol, drugs or cameras (especially none of the female bathers as a mark of respect); still saw local people with phones out taking sneaky shots. On the spiritual walkway (Pankrama Marg) we passed the quiet Uttarmukhi Hanaman Temple and at the bridge looked out across the lake at the many ghats and bathers with our shoes off away from any hassle. We did some shopping then Daria couldnt resist the jewellery stores as sipped on a cold lemon Minute Maid and had samosas as a snack.

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Batteries were charged and it was time for another camel walk sticking to the one side as now with my zoom lens which I for some reason didn't feel was required yesterday. When sat having Chai overlooking the world's largest livestock fair I stupidly got caught out by an old man who appeared to want to chat but instead played a song with his accomplices then demanded I pay for their drinks- did so for two that contributed and stood my ground not getting all four.

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When dusted off and got back ok in the dark seeing the traders flock to buy new shoes and textiles we put long sleeves and jeans on and went to Shiva. Very nearly leaving upon hearing most menu items had stopped I saw in the corner of my eye an appetising lentil mix in a pan so had that with potatoes, a veggie roll and a mixed fruit lassi being positively stuffed in the process; ate so quickly completely forgot about my chapati so kind guy sorted me out another plate at no extra cost. With big grins on our faces we lay down in Akash unable ot move except for jumping in excitement when the wifi turned itself micraculously on.

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On Friday it was time for the camel and horse dancing but as got there slightly late at 11am it was hard to get remotely close so used wits and my height to see. Not liking how the handler treated the first in a cruel fashion (pulling, hitting, whip) i considered parting ways but the acts that followed were entertaining and quite well choregraphed seeing the rider connect well with the animal. Thinking I was just plain lucky when there was no human obstructions it was because there was a sweaty 20 minute wait till anything new happened and most were wisely under shade. The horses were mesmerising and immaculately clean in every way (bum didn't have a blemish) moving their hooves to the beat and standing on two legs from years of training. A shiny black beauty racing controlled in a circle and a white stallion doing step on a trampoline ended the stadiums showcase spectacularly.

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I literally threw tiny Indians out of the way in an effort to leave then on the bazar got some gifts for the family and repeatedly found myself in the street observing life go by waiting for the Pole to buy up half the goods available. I scanned documents in to secure the mountain flight, changed Rupees to USD at a better than expected rate, ate samosas and at Old Rangji Temple took a look at an exhibition of Tribal Photography in a courtyard with the prohibited, flowing building as a backdrop. I stressed myself out looking at limited bus options from Jaipur then couldn't pay for one due to not having a domestic credit card only for Deepak to reassure us the goverment buses run frequently and so won't have any problems (hope so).

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With a million worries in my head on our final afternoon walk it was only by chance that the capturing of a perfect silhouette cheered me up in an instant. Ignoring anyone that came within ten feet of us while having a hot drink ontop of the hill we bid farewell to the spectacle we had got quite used to seeing and hoped to see a lively ceremony that night on the new stage in the stadium only for it to be so boring and unwatchable we gambled on an Indian Circus instead. This was to be a fail of epic proportions as waited nearly an hour for something to happen inside the sizeable tent then witnessed a bunch of amateurs do nothing spectacular or funny (end was a motorcycle jump of about 3 metres) and it finished so late we missed a good meal at Shiva and ended up accepting horrible Thali by a bunch of prying young people.

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No power whatsoever pushed us out the door mid morning where we argued in the street about trivial things as tried watching the 'holy walk' go by (Into the Blue staff throwing many handfulls of flowers) then I packed my rucksack complete with new purchases, charged laptop and paid the super expensive bill. Leaving for Ajmer at 12.15pm I ended up hanging onto the side of a crowded bus with one arm holding on for dear life (what you get for 15 rupees) which was followed by an ultra convenient rickshaw to the station to catch the Shatabdi Express to Jaipur (in B2 carriage not B1 for once) only a couple of hourse down the track.

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Close by was Vinayak Guest House with its perfect rooms but overlong check in process which hindered us as only had a small amount of time to see anything. Along with French bus driver Olivier we passed the Pink City and although missed sunset still made most of the Monkey Palace at Galti. Inevitably our furry ancestors were everywhere on the walk up as well as fighting dogs, lots of homeless, rushed temple structures and a smogless view.

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At the place of worship we gave a donation then at long last on ride home saw an elephant justifying all those things I bought with that animal on as concerned me. I was thankful I had biscuits to line my stomach as dinner took well over an hour and was so small and simple we wondered what on earth they were doing to prepare it. A rough 24 hours culminated in having to see an emotional Daria and try to watch terrible film Macgruber which saw tilll end at 3am.

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Sleeping in late as a Muslim holiday and no point trying to see any of the sights (would be overrun and not known as friendliest people) we checked out at midday and made it to the Interstate Bus Station which was siginificantly cleaner and safer than any train station we've been to. Upon seeing the Volvo Coach was 650 rupees we opted to do as the locals do and take the government bus for a third of the price (got ripped off again for food in a cafe even though lots of chapati's given). Making sure were first in line for the next one (every 15 minutes) we were seated at the very front not having to see anyone look at us or move out of the way. It was a long 7 hours to Delhi but with putting on Dark Knight, talking and listening to music we were never bored; got asked if wanted to borrow clothes as I was in boardies and a singlet whilst the rest were ready for winter. Although convinced we were near Paharganj we listened to the conductor and stayed on till on ring road with no choice but to fork out for a damn rickshaw. I swore at a group of them so were left to fend for ourselves till a fat man accepted an offer and went the longest way possible around Connaught Place but did drop us right by Hostel New King. In a 70's style room with circular bed we prepared for the flight, ate south Indian Uttapum's (big omlette thing) and got a takeway Black Label beer as Pushkar was a dry town and didn't bother in Jaipur. I phoned Mum, Nick and Dad as not sure on internet signal in Nepal then slept late again after 2am very much looking forward to seeing Kathmandu and trekking.

Posted by antony25 09:38 Archived in India

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