Location: Leaving Jaipur on an overnight trip to a village that apparently has 350 stepwells!
It is worth mentioning that the other day, when I realised the bus into Jaipur was only a couple of blocks from the hotel I was heading for – I track where we are on Google maps – I went to jump off as we stopped at some traffic lights. The driver said “No get off in street”. I wish I knew enough Hindi to respond with “Are you the same guy who drove on the wrong side of a divided highway, into oncoming traffic, to get to the restaurant for our 30 minute break?”. But I don’t.
To continue the “sleeping anywhere” theme.
I don’t get how anyone could get any sleep on the seat of a cycle rickshaw, on a busy road, in the sun. But I suppose if you work as hard as these guys do…
Started the day with a sweet lassi at a shop I remember from last time here. I don’t know what they do differently to all the other lassi wallahs, but theirs are great. I noted last time and it is worth repeating as it takes some getting used to, that with street vendors you eat or drink and when you are done, then you pay.
I like this because it means I hang around rather than eat or drink and walk. And when you hang around, invariably someone will talk to you. In this case it is the guy who owns the restaurant next door. His English is pretty good and we banter for a while and mentions Australians are very tall, I explain that I am proof that isn’t true. Plenty of laughs. I tell him I may come back for a meal…I never promise as I never know what will come up.
Crossing the road to walk in the shade the regular stream of auto drivers are hopeful of taking me somewhere, anywhere. One young guy is quite friendly and wants to practice his English, Mohammed Sam from Afghanistan – sounds like the title of a kid’s book. When he finds out I am from Australia, can you guess the first thing he says? “Australians are very tall”. It makes me wonder if there is some sort of conspiracy afoot.
We agree to meet in the evening for a beer and we end up at a rooftop hotel chatting and enjoying the view and fireworks going off all over. And then his friend showed up…I think he was really drunk, maybe he was a bit crazy too. But he was a pain and not entirely coherent.
You know that moment when you have started to trust someone and enjoy them and suddenly a thought enters your mind “I wonder if these guys are setting me up?” and you can’t unthink that thought. It was time to bail and Mohammed was actually apologetic for his friend. [Update a couple of days later] Stupid me, I gave him my whatsapp info…he is really keen to take me to a carpet factory…really keen. I can always block him I suppose.
I love wandering the streets of whatever city I am in, turning down random lanes and heading wherever looks or sounds interesting. I was in the old part of Jaipur known as the pink city. Down a few alleys heading more or less in the direction of a bazaar.
I glanced in a door and couldn’t believe my eyes.
These guys are 2m in length…yeah, yeah, head to toe. Made of marble, and according to the guy who came out they make them right there, though the place didn’t look dusty enough…but who knows. There was a couple of guys hand finishing some cast brass temple gods. Another tortuous manual job, sitting on the floor, steadying the piece with their toes, filing and sanding by hand. But it was the statues in the photo that pricked my attention.
Jumping all over the place chronologically, after the beer I wandered directly over the road to the restaurant I mentioned earlier. I was indeed the honoured guest, actually I was the only guest in a 50 seat room. This being my about my 60th day in India (in total) I have eaten a lot of Indian food. But the vegetarian jalfrezi they served me was possibly the best Indian meal in my life. I was glad I couldn’t eat it all so there was some for breakfast.
I’m going back there tonight and am faced with a quandary. Do I have the same again, it was so good, or do assume all their meals are this good and try something different…only to discover the jalfrezi is their specialty. Life is so tough. (In the end I was too tired and ate in – still excellent)
This little girl was begging from cars stopped at traffic lights. My instinct is to give something to kids who are doing something more than just asking for money. They might be selling balloons or picking up plastic rubbish for recycling or anything, I will give them R10 and not take the balloon (or the plastic).
It’s easy to see why she was interesting. I gave her R10 not planning to take a photo, then changed my mind. When I asked her to come a little closer, out of the shade, what seemed like an automatic response was to put her hand out for money again 🙁 Then I showed her the photo and the look of surprise was great! I don’t think she had any idea of the result of what was plastered on her face.
I am sure I have left out some stuff, this was 2 days ago now. If you have read this far you get to hear the amazeballs story…of the trip most likely, and I have only been gone 1 week out of 5.
A month or 3 ago some how the Chand Baori came into my consciousness and despite baolis being so ‘last trip’ they are still fascinating. I mentioned to Ajeet, the hotel owner, that I wanted to go, asking how to get there and he suggested a different trip, overnight, inclusive of everything – food, accommodation, snacks, drinks, everything – for R4,000 ($80).
A tour? I never do tours but it sounded like an idea and we agreed to leave on Thursday. He has included an Italian and a French woman and the four of us head off…I have
pretty much no idea where we are going.
I already know one of the things I am looking forward to and that is being able to say “stop here”. In the photo above we have just been given some peanuts by the people harvesting them.
The drive out of Jaipur is an experience in itself dealing with Indian traffic. Pure insanity, but somehow it all works with no aggression. The trip to Toda Rai Singh where there is a bunch of baoli takes a couple of hours. One baoli is in very good condition and reasonably popular. Because we have no real itinerary, we hang there for at least an hour sitting, talking, exploring.
Speaking of popular, i feel for my poor female companions. They constantly attract a following of men tagging along at a distance they might feel doesn’t make their tagging along obvious but only helps to accentuate it. Fuck creepy Clowns, this is creepy men. Yeah they are only a little creepy, but I can see how and why it gives the girls the shits. We even played a little game drawing them from one place to another and back again.
They mostly don’t hang this close, this was a photo op, but any opportunity to come close to talk to Ajeet is taken. It is funny in a sad way.
We go from here to several other not as spectacular but still interesting baoli in Toda Rai Singh. There’s also a quite amazing very old temple that was destroyed by one attacking horde or another. They have taken pieces of the wreckage and built a makeshift structure around the idol. Why didn’t I take any photos here?
And then to a quiet quiet peaceful temple complex around a lake. This is the quintessential there is no way photos can do this place justice place. In photos the pinks aren’t pink enough, they can’t convey the stillness and peace, something so hard to find in India. We sit for another hour soaking the place up. Are you getting a sense of the pace of this trip?
By now it is about 4PM and we climb up a pretty rough track to another abandoned temple. But they aren’t really abandoned. The structure is often really dilapidated, but there is always some one maintaining the inner sanctum, so to speak. This will probably be in bad shape too, but more from the many many years of love and devotion to whatever god is represented.
To set the scene, it is now late afternoon, the light is beautiful? See the series of arches stretching to the right? On top is a pathway that leads out like a huge diving board giving 300 degree views of the city, the other 60 degrees is the temple and the hill.
Spectacular? An understatement. We sit here watching the sun disappear into the haze before it finally sets, out of sight. But don’t let me spoil the moment, it is beautiful and we are having the time of our lives. Laughing, exploring, hanging out, interacting as best we can with the locals. This is an untour of the highest order.
Who thought to put an LED torch in the back of phones? Thanks. But for that the trip back down in the dark would have led to a claim on my travel insurance for death or permanent injury.
Then we head off for the 2 hours drive to Bundi for the night stopping at a roadside restaurant for another great meal, ending up at Visham Hotel with a great host family and the biggest rooms I have seen in India.
Will I break the next day into another post? Nah, too much to tell.
Breakfast in the rooftop restaurant of Visham includes monkeys scooting past and over the rooftops, views of the fort, cow watching and 2 fried eggs on toast done to perfection…you don’t know tricky it is to get any Western food that doesn’t have a unique Indian touch. I am reminded of French Toast in Bodh Gaya which was essentially a piece of toast wrapped in a pancake.
This man has a little store that sells among other things paan, which is in all those hanging packets. Paan is made from betel nut leaves and can probably best be described as the Indian version of Red Bull. I didn’t realise this, I thought it was more about the taste than anything…naive idiot westerner.
At some point during the previous day Ajeet bought some paan and after the initial oral shock of bitterness and something I can’t even name, it became quite a pleasant taste, and there is a gentle buzz. Apparently it can be addictive, not for me though I am happy I tried it once – I tried it last trip too and couldn’t hold it in my mouth for more than a few seconds.
Are you getting the idea of how this untour is going?
We spend the morning touring the fort, including a fantastic tour of the really old paintings in the women’s quarters, with the “caretaker” taking lots of time and giving us wonderfully detailed information about the stories. It was nice to see that this is all being protected behind lock and key and he was mindful we didn’t touch anything, I hope he is passing on his extensive knowledge.
Off we head to the next mysterious location. Along the way, as well as stopping for chai, snacks and photos, we stop at what I think would be called a bhang shop. Essentially it is a doorway with a bit of space the size of your toilet room. Bloke has various sizes balls of pulverised cannabis leaves for sale. And it seems that is all he sells, another “how on earth does he make a living” moment. Note that this is perfectly legal and government regulated (but how much?) in India.
Ajeet purchases a R60 serving, about the size of a golf ball. For R10 the portion is about the size of a grape. It is mixed with some buttermilk and flavouring and looks and smells like the average Australian green smoothie – scrumptious. Being about 11 in the morning I decline my own serve but I have a taste, nothing special but quite salty from the flavouring sachet. Pauline finds it too salty to drink her small glass, about 1/5 the size of a full serve so I gallantly offer to finish it off.
We turn off along a back road worse than most I have seen, deeper we go along an even worse (if that is possible) dirt road until we end up at a barren looking spot with a stream running through it. I am feeling pretty good by now.
We walk over to the edge, intrigued by a lush valley we can see below. And there – we are speechless – is a spectacular waterfall, the last thing I expected to see.
We have brought some flowers to give to the holy man at the Bhimlat Mahadev Temple we must pass through as we wend our way to the bottom of the valley. Had this been smooth going it would have been much easier now that the taste was sneaking up on me.
This place was so unexpectedly beautiful it was hard to take in. On one side the roaring waterfall, on another, the rocky, rubbish strewn path back out, on another side a tranquil lush meandering stream, a complete contrast to the waterfall that was its source.
We had the place to ourselves, apart from the monkeys who apparently liked to pinch bags and things. We put all our stuff into one bag and then put in on the ground next to a rock and it blended right into all the rubbish (you probably think I am kidding).
The water was beautiful to swim in despite the rocks being treacherously slippery and I am still in awe, mostly because it is so out of character compared with the surrounding landscape. By now I am extremely thankful that I didn’t go for the R60 serving if my state of almost complete incapacity was from a small glass.
This is our almost last stop, there is still a meal to be had on the way home and by the time we get back it is about 7PM, we’ve been gone a day and a half, great value. I am still cruising.
But more than just good value for Rupees, it is one of those trips of a lifetime…within a trip of a lifetime. Some things I will never forget and this is one of them. If you are coming to Jaipur, find Hathroi Tours on Facebook. You really should do one of the 9 trips on which Ajeet can take you.
Rishikesh seemed like a good idea, but I would have to go through Delhi. So instead I leave tomorrow for Pushkar for a few days then to Udaipur for Diwali on Sunday.
I will tempt fate by saying that I haven’t gotten sick at all. Last time there was an initial WTF? from my guts, his trip it is like “oh, this again”.
And I bought some carpets.