Morten and Jesper had an amazing trip to
Nepal, and promise to be guides for Rikke and me, when we get to see
the Himalayas, wild tigers, elephants, rhinos and river dolphins. I
save 8,000 per seat by buying Delhi and not Kathmandu airline
tickets. You can drive between the two capitals in a few days. It
turns out to be a really good choice.
Nepal has long been the scene of the Maoist moderate rebellion against the king, but the week before our departure, it increases a lot. The Hilton Hotel and the Kathmandu Police Station are blown in the air, buses are blowing up landmines just outside the capital, and so they have no desire to drive. Old globe rats like us quickly make a plan "B" (and "C" and "D" and ....).
India should be an exciting country too, why not see it? Their national parks are very close to Nepal. Unfortunately, it turns out they are also closed due to the monsoon! Then plan "C" comes into force: palaces, castles, forts, people ... (10 years later I finally managed to see Nepal).
3. I sit next to an Indian professional tennis player in the plane. He talks about his country and where he would recommend us to go. Since we are out on plan "C", it is worth listening to good advice. The flight is less than eight hours from Munich, pleasantly short compared to what we usually expose our bodies to. We land 6.45, it's just been bright. Delhi has a population of 13.8 million so we are not alone at this time of day.
4. After raising some money, we leave the airport to find a taxi. At the ten meters from the door to the taxi, we meet our first holy cow! It turns out later, they topple around everywhere. Fairly good-natured, I only get stung twice. We really would have taken the train to Agra, where Taj Mahal is located, among other things, but is recommended by several Indians.
You can prepay it at the airport, then you are free to be cheated: You are ripped off! We later learn that the recommended "pre-paid" offices take three to four times the price. Shit, it's still wildly cheap; we give 460 kroner for a four hour tour. We start in an Ambasador, which looks like a car from the 30's or 40's, but still is getting made. Outside the city limits, we are moving into a new but smaller car, which is privately owned. It has something to do with charges. India is divided into 20-25 provinces, each with its weight tax.
We are in a foreign land: Man in big turbans and huge moustaches, women in beautiful silk suits, water buffaloes, white oxen, domesticated boars, mongoose, cow herds, prey, kingfishers, Indian necklace parakeets, monkeys, dromedaries, peacocks, crows, coloureds weaver birds, kites, vultures, eagles, dressed lip bears and many dogs.
Here is fertile, we are at the end of the
monsoon and everything is green. We pass small fields of millet,
rice, corn, lentils, soy and beans. In some places, the lush fields
are broken by swamps and in other places by very low hills.
We stop for brunch. Rice with spices and nan, which is flat bread. Everywhere we drive, we pass hand water pumps in the roadside. They are new, but it is limited how far below the water is obtained. That, combined with the dense population, makes water a serious health factor!
We sit in the middle of the courtyard and are busy keeping mosquitoes, flies and giant ants in check. The host proudly comes with a guestbook. It is quite lithe, thin and then it is from sometime before 1987. Here do not come so many strangers. We are in Uttar Pradesh province, which has a population of 166.1 million. In fact, if it detached, it would be the seventh largest country in the world!
We arrive at Agra at lunch time, and strengthen ourselves with some food before the experiences. The temperature is around 35 degrees and as my travelling companions discover "Kingfisher", which is an excellent local pilsner, there is joy. They come in 650 cl. bottles and in two strengths: Five and eight percent. As we eat, we see the ground squirrel. These incredibly charming creatures follow us most of the trip and cost a lot of photos!
The entrance to Taj Mahal is quite expensive: 100 kroner, and then we have to pay a guide ourselves. Good guy, who speaks reasonably understandable English, shows us around and tells about the history and structure of the place. This huge white marble complex was built in 1200 as a mausoleum over a beloved wife. Four minarets encircle what they pour slightly, so if they were to be destroyed by an earthquake, they would not fall over the main building. There are countless small refined details everywhere in this stunning edifice.
The sacred scriptures that surround the huge portals look similar, but grow bigger and bigger up to the top so you can still read them. They are made by inserting black marble into the white. Inside, the polished marble walls are also inlaid, here it is just with coloured semi-precious stones. Flowers and patterns and more writings. Everything is in symmetry, from the smallest decorations to the four minarets, the mosque, the entrance portal, the huge water events and the guest palace. The garden between the buildings offers perfect lawns and beautiful flowers.
We have to take off our shoes to get close to the main building. Even the white marble is almost unbearably hot, and the black can be cooked on! Behind the main building the great river Yamuna winds, and along its banks you can glimpse other enormous palaces. To preserve this amazing monument and icon of India, strict restrictions have been made for the area. Motor vehicles must not be driven from the buildings at a certain distance and the entire area is industry free. Only 100% needlework can be done here. Then, in turn, they have been exempt from tax. We pass some stalls with marble work: Ashes, tables and figures in white marble with inlay. Great craftsmanship, but not just something you take in your backpack for three weeks!
Slightly worn down, we find an excellent hotel for 30 kroner for a double room. We go out to find a bank or ATM. The one at the airport would only pay 500 kroner. A repetitive nuisance that blames a maximum on the number of banknotes. It still costs 30 kroner to withdraw. For that amount, an Indian can do reasonably well with housing, clothing and food for a week!
We walk through the hectic bazaar, where virtually everything is offered. An uncommonly persistent tuc-tuc driver, who has his appearance, being and attitude towards him, follows us for almost an hour. He just doesn't understand, we'll walk. To shake him off, we head to a bar where my companions feel compelled to buy beer. The place (like so many others) does not officially deal with beer, so they are poured and the bottle placed under the table. We are here half an hour, but it is not enough to make the driver disappear. We walk a few more miles, while he still perseveres, talking to me. Finally we reach the National Bank, but their ATM just does not take Visa or for that matter other foreign cards. It is also called the "National Bank" .....
The tuc-tuc driver has finally given up, and we are being taken care of by a somewhat more charming rickshaws. We hop on board his and his partner's bicycles, and hope we meet the other guy. They drive us to a nice restaurant, where we sit alone in the middle of a large lawn, surrounded by neat beds, awaited by five servants and watching the sunset. Some of them get a thali, which is a tray with a little of everything the kitchen has to offer. With food and drink for four, we can get away with 130 kroner. It can be a cheap holiday!
Our two rickshaws have been waiting outside the gate, and are now driving us home. That means; now that we have traded the price down so far, we just have to pass by a nice shop giving commission. This is not the worst, as Rikke sees all the wonderful silk products and beautiful suits! However, we agree; it's a little too early to stuff the backpack. Marble works, silverware and endless rows of bronze figures and woodwork also draw. We finally get out, drive home, and doze off about half past nine. It's been an eventful first day!
5. Up a little to seven. Down the street, the noise is increasing. A smaller orchestra comes by, mopeds and tuc-tucs without much exhaust system and cars, all with the horn at the bottom. We have breakfast on the roof, overlooking the Taj Mahal and Fort Agra, which tower over the city. Inside the walls and at the top of the highest crusades a total of 16 palaces, all built in red sandstone. A huge complex that we must explore.
A relatively narrow alleyway sneaks up into the zigzag of the mountain, ending in a pair of huge gates, beautifully decorated. For 35 kroner we will be aloud in. It will not be less impressive inside: Many high-ceilinged halls, built in white marble with inlaid with black and semi-precious stones. Large pillars, huge squares and sandstone carvings on all surfaces. Up to four floors with cool hallways and balconies, hollow walls with stairs, underground giant baths, wildly beautifully decorated bedrooms and auditoriums.
From one of the high balconies, there is a great view of the river, right down to the dazzling white Taj Mahal. In the riverbed immediately below us, a large herd of water buffalos is walking gently around. On one of the many perfect lawns, three hoopoes walk around, looking for food. The roofs and more distant overhangs and balconies are frequently used by collar parakeets and monkeys.
In many places new, equally beautiful, processed stones have been inserted. Sandstone is passing away and buildings from 1100-1600 need maintenance. Most of the castles, forts and palaces we visit, have a small army of stone cutters. They sit on the ground with a large rock, a small hammer and a rusty nail. Primitive tools produce perfect works of very high standard. Both finish and shape are impeccable.
We have agreed with our rickshaws "engines" from yesterday, we are going to drive with the one's brother, who is a taxi driver. Here you have no cousins, you have brothers. We should go straight into town and call - at a jeweller. We get to see the whole business - many times before he comes. We are actually there for so long, that even I buy something! A small black stone, smaller than a small fingernail. It is a "Black Star of India", a black semi-precious stone that has a white cross inside, created by light refraction.
We drive 33 kilometres to Fathehbur Sikri, which is another fort. Along the way, we meet countless horse-, donkey-, ox- and dromedary wagons, as well as a lot of very worn down Tata trucks. We are still in a wonderfully lush and green area, with many fields of food. We stop at a small cafe, and enjoy vegetarian coma, dal, spice rice and nan for almost no money.
Fathehbur Sikri is a very tall and large fort, built in red sandstone. We walk around, and have gradually met today's need for fantastic sandstone decorations and impressive buildings. On the road "home", we have to pass a new business, "to cover gas costs". We are more hardened, and get away without buying anything. The rest of the trip we should remember to push the price a little less, but at the same time avoid these time wastes.
We will reach Gwalior, 120 kilometres south on. The driver won't, the road is too bad. He finds a brand new 4WD for us. We agree on the price and are headed over to a barely so new one! Well, what the heck, it's cheaper for three hours, than the starting tariff in Denmark.
The bad, two-lane road is pretty busy and it all piles up, at a railroad crossing. They are bridging the bridge, which will help a lot. I have the impression that they are pulling down the booms for a while before the train should be there, and then just waiting. Delays are also not an unknown phenomenon in this country. Their excuses are just a little easier to understand: Bulls on the track, washed-away tracks, broken-down 50-year-old locomotives and the like. All cars are advancing towards the cut. The last 100 meters of the queue turn into about three to four unusually disorganized rows on the two-lane road. Not that it's any consolation, but they do the same on the other side. And yet we get along fairly quickly as the booms finally go up.
The next queue occurs on a very high bridge and strange "soft" bridge over a large river. Below us hold up to 100 tractors with wagons, on which an entire army of hard-working little men unloads sand from the river's deposits. Some tractors fight their way up the road, others load off the road, after which another army of hard-working men load the sand into baskets and carry it into waiting trucks. I had respect for the Indians' work ability before, and am almost speechless after seeing them fighting with all that sand!
In even the smallest water and mud holes along the road, large, black water buffaloes lie and cool their bodies. We see about 20 peacocks and a lot of other animals. Where Laos was totally dead, here is an amazing wildlife. Of course, it is because of the Indians' great respect for other living creatures and the result of this: Vegetarians. The peacocks then have the added advantage that they have been protected for 1000 years, as only the maharaja were aloud shoot them. They are also the national bird of India.
It's become dark as we reach the city of Gwalior. We say goodbye to the driver at a large square, and take a giant tuc-tuc, which runs as a bus, towards the selected hotel. A few young people help us along the way. Expect them to have some money, but they are just students, who will help. It's hard to distinguish sweet, helpful people from hustlers and alike. Am afraid I get caught in between, or coldly reject a nice and hospitable person.
There are not immediately empty rooms, but while we wait while some (native?) travellers are thrown out, new bedding is added and we get two reasonable rooms for 40 kroner each. Feel a little bad conscience while the half-dressed and broadly smiling men trot off. We walk into the neighbouring hotel, which looks very expensive with pool and all. There's just pretty noisy live music, and we have a pretty desperate need for quiet.
Takes a small tuc-tuc back to the centre. Finding a nice and pretty expensive restaurant, where we try six really delicious dishes; garlic nan, tofu with chilli and onion, stuffed tomatoes in cream sauce, stuffed potatoes, raita with pineapple, baked cottage cheese in tomato sauce and mixed vegetables. Drink six litres of water and finish off with tea and coffee. We then have to drop 100 kroner - all together.
Haven't seen near as many cast marks, as I expected. In fact, here are only red, highest cast, if I'm not mistaken. Holy cows, on the other hand! They tumble around on sidewalks, in narrow alleys, sleep in the middle of heavily congested roads and are able - completely - to ignore the other traffic. We talk, almost hypothetically, about walking the three kilometres home, but end up spending four kroner on a tuc-tuc. The bed is hard as a board, the pillow harder. That's just how it is in India, good night and sleep well!
6. Does not actually sleep well, it works way better, sitting in taxis. A habit that keeps the whole trip around, and unfortunately, gets to some drivers too. After a simple and not very varied morning meal without Kellogg's, we take a tuc-tuc to the "top" of Gwalior Fort. Admission: Three øre! We walk up through a large deep gorge. On the hillsides there are monkeys, peacocks and many other birds. Hearing a deep sound, scouting for larger monkeys, but finding out, it came from some brown magpie-like birds. Spot a single lizard, otherwise it is reasonably light with reptiles. Of course, except for the countless house geckos that are found in all restaurants, hotel rooms and other used rooms.
I see several exciting flowering plants; Ipomeas, Cucurbitaceae and others not identified. On a very large stretch, the road is flanked by giant god statues. From half a meter up to 15 meters, beautifully carved in the sandstone of the place. We reach, slightly sweaty, the fort 's one and a half times four kilometres outside wall. In most places, it is 140 meters high!
In the middle of the fort is a flashy royal palace. No longer inhabited, so we can get around and see the 2-500 year old installations. Here is air conditioning; thick bamboo tubes headed from the bottom of the ravine up to the King's favourite rooms, and the upwind / pressure difference or what, I know, swelled his highness. Both in basements and in less open spaces there are white marble pools. Between the different rooms, there are pipes in the walls that make it next to phones.
The king has always been able to contact his seven wives. Some rooms have been taken over by smelly bat colonies, others stand as the king has left them. Fantastic embellishments in semi-precious stones, gold plaques and countless statues, one more beautiful than the other.
Within these impressive walls lie six other palaces and a smaller city. Some are well preserved, others have been allowed to collapse. We pass through quickly and arrive at a water reservoir, which is almost an artificial lake. The removed rock was probably used for building, and a hole of 100 times 100 meters and 30 meters deep has been created. A fort like this without a water supply is worthless. Some local boys and countless frogs enjoy the water today.
We head down to the bus station to book a seat at 14:00 o'clock bus. Despite some language barrier, we understand, we can't buy it until 13:45. Taking a tuc-tuc to the restaurant, and full of energy, we slowly return. We are there at 13:45 and have to jump on the bus, that is just leaving. Well, that's what they meant. We only reach the first village, then there is a longer break, while we get patched a rear wheel. Landscapes are Lolland flat and very fertile.
After 120 kilometres we reach Shivpuri. Morten saw a sign at the start of the city, pointing towards the resort we are looking for. Traverse a few kilometres out of town again, interrupted by a stop at an unusually expensive and disgusting hotel and a post office. Far out of town we finally find the sign. We are the only non-locals in the town, and have been a great entertainment for the city's young people, and they are curiously following us to the city border. Here is very little high-tech and a lot of cows.
The sign says two kilometres and we reject a tuc-tuc's expensive offer. As we have walked four kilometres we are reviewing the offer! A new sign says one kilometre, but they probably count in Swedish miles (10 km). It has been a good walk, through a beautiful landscape, but when there is a tuc-tuc, we jump up. After several kilometres we arrive at a really nice resort. A large central building with cafe and restaurant, surrounded by individual cottages, spread around a large lawn, broken by flower beds.
While we are at the reception, a large falcon is straying inside. It hits a pane in the back of the room and five employees storm down there. They just don't touch the dumb bird and I decide to help it. I have previously handled large parrots that can cut off a finger in bite, and use my experience. I just forget the powerful claws that the parrots don't have! Well, it is worth the pain to watch it fly freely.
We get cabins right down to a crack of the river - great views! Large kingfishers sit in the park's trees, crowds of dragonflie swarms and feed on the countless insects. We grab a quick shower and meet on the lawn for beer and coffee. The afternoon coffee slides comfortably into a sumptuous evening meal, which is replaced by a barely so interesting laundry. During dinner, a large local upper class family comes out onto the terrace. At one point, all the girls come over and greet Rikke, telling her how beautiful she seemed. Outside, small black beetles appear in unlikely quantities, much to the delight of the geckos.
7. Up half past six, while it is still dark. Hotel staff bring hot tea and coffee for all to the boys' room, followed by a large plate of biscuits. A large bag contains the lunch. A small van with a back seat awaits us in front of the reception. A seat from a sofa at the reception will be the last seat and we are ready for safari.
We pick up a "guide". He wears very close-fitting one-off white clothes, high-heeled boots and loose wrists. He says almost nothing and point-out no animals - at all! We see a lot of animals ourselves: Peacocks, black-headed bül-bül, spotted deer (sica?), kingfishers, ground squirrels, starlings, crows, agams, langurs monkeys, antelopes, small and large pigeons, swallows and many small birds - singers, weavers, finches and the like.
A three kilometre long dam provides a large lake. We drive along it, and see the small waterfalls and thin rays bursting. It is built by the maharaja to provide local wildlife with water all year round. In fact, we also see a live tiger, which was born here. Unfortunately for it: In captivity. Inside the Madhav National Park, there are a bunch of enclosures where tigers have been kept for protection. Otherwise, there are no tigers in the area at this time of year. It live in a pretty big cage, is ten years and don't give us a glance.
Next stop is the classic English Boat Club.
Great views of the river and some blackboards over which animals you
might be lucky to see in the area.
I botanize a bit in the area: In addition to all the unidentified ones, there are Moringas, Fabaceae, Asparagaceae, Ficus and others like Cucurbitaceae and Vitaceae. We drive around the park for a bit. Much reminiscent of African savannah: More or less scattered acacia and bushes up to ten meters, bright red soil, which is exposed in between and single rocks.
Next stop is a brick viewing tower at a small lake. We eat the sandwiches on top, while we watch the wildlife below us; mainly birds. The sandwiches consist of grated cheese with lots of pepper and a strong spicy tomato sauce. Wandering around the area, finding some fun succulents and insects, but nothing special. Then it becomes somewhat more exciting at a small waterfall, which is cut through by the dirt road. Here are frogs, crabs, water insects - both above and below the crystal clear water. Small, and some slightly larger fish escape from our shadows while coloured beetles ignore us. Exploring around the small falls for a long time, until we sense the driver ratteling with the keys. On the way back, we see a meter-sized Bengali monitor. Ending up at a museum that provides some background knowledge.
We gt time for a shower and a bite to eat, before heading into town with our former driver. We reach the bus at 1 pm towards Kota, a 100 km ride. Sits squeezed together at the back seat. The buses have three seats on one side and two on the other. Indians are a little smaller than an average Dane! Slept amazingly, well as we rummaged on in the assuring heat. Landscapes are unchanged; flat and green. There are really few items with the buses. A single grocery bag or a bunch of vegetables is everything.
We pass domesticated boars, water buffaloes, women in brightly coloured suits with goods or water jars on their heads, cow and oxen, and also sheep flocks. A huge flock of camels walking along the road, impressive! Here, like so many other places, there are countless "Vespa" scooters.
We get further out in the countryside, and then there are astonishing few villages. The ones that are, are just a collection of clay-clad cottages, gathered around a common well. No electricity nor sewage. Nor is it in the larger cities, by the way.
We crumble well together, the suspension on the rear axle has clearly known better days, and the exhaust system was last last year (or century?). We reach an area where women are completely different dressed. Black dresses with a very tight top inside. On the arms, they have numerous bracelets that completely cover both the lower and upper arms. They are in plastic, but have probably been in ivory once. They get rid of a large tent camp, that is covered with heavy black plastic tarpaulins. Gypsies?
We reach a shrub-land with scattered grazing, but still with many rice-, maize- and bean fields. As we got into the bus, we were told that the bus that was driving an hour later, would be arriving sooner. It seemed crazy that it should catch up, and overtake us at 100 kilometres, when we have an hour's lead. We learn, over the next nine hours, that it is pretty much when running directly. We reach, in a deep V down past Biaora or something similar.
We are now in Rajasthan Province, which goes all the way to Pakistan. Along the road, we have driven through almost stone-age society, and now we are a place where MP3 players and mobile phones are numerous and "important". The guy in front of Rikke has been through his entire, not insignificant collection of ringtones - several times. Rikke is impressed, but by his stupidity!
We are first in Kota around ten, long after it gets dark. Not quite the plan, and it does not get any better, we can only find a relatively expensive hotel, which is rather poor, but popular with ants. We try to book rooms and water. Three men stand listening a little, and then just go. It is a state-owned RTDC hotel, but we can no longer manage, and finally we are alone in the room - along with a few hundred ants. We head down to the restaurant and then at least get some dinner.
They speak very little English and it is not much use to point to the menu, because they do not have many of the dishes. It ends with the "waiter" protesting and we don't know what to expect. He returns after a long time with rice, dal and thankfully water and beer. To his praise it must be said that it is the best dal we get in all of India. Dal is a warm lentil moss with different spices that vary from region to region.
8. The next morning, we head down to the restaurant more confidently, we can always order the same again. However, there is a small problem. All the staff are sleeping on top of the tables in the restaurant. Now, we are well-behaved people so we sit down and wait for them to wake up. It finally succeeds. We are going to the neighbouring town of Bundi approx. 20 km away. A tuc-tuc brings us into the "bus station". Here is a choice to "Jeeps" and we are set off in front of the right one. It seems that when the car is filled up enough, it drives. We first knew the price was two kroner per nose, but after a quick look at our well-fed Danish bodies, we were offered the whole charge with seats for 13 kroner. We fill it up completely and sit well, but there could have been twice as many Indians. There are actually in the front; they sit six next to each other on that row.
In Bundi , we first go through the bazaar, which does not really offer new temptations. At the end of the bazaar, a huge royal castle towers. The gates are flanked by stone elephants and inside it becomes even more impressive. Especially the bedroom is fantastically decorated. Other rooms and halls are barely so well maintained, some are dominated by the pungent smell of bats.
From all the beautifully decorated windows on one side of the palace, there are views of the city, way down below us. Most houses are painted light blue, it keeps the flies away, and looks quite nice. On the way out, we head into something we think is a cafe. It is a bit too, but the main emphasis is on the owner's silk paintings. They are unbelievably beautiful, the colours, design and execution are top notch and the price at the low. We bring a thick roll home.
We walk down the steep path from the fortified mountain top, and find the rooftop restaurant overlooking the fort. Finds an Internet cafe, but I can't read emails. TDC has increased security, so you can't read with the insecure browser ver.5, and that's all they have in India. The neighbour is Excort tours, and we just hear what they charge for a trip to the cave paintings, 35 kilometres outside the city.
The owner lives up. In addition to the bottom of the low season, it is actually him who discovered them. Sounds pretty self-indulgent, but maybe that's right. At least, he seems incredibly enthusiastic as we get out there. An employee is sent out to hire a taxi, and then we roll out of a small road. Or rather: a place that was one way before the monsoon. It takes an hour and a half to cover the 35 kilometres. We drive through small villages located around the common hand-operated well.
We crawl out of the "Jeep" by an artificial lake. Around the lake, there are red sandstone cliffs that are reminiscent of the Ayers Rock formations - just somewhat smaller. Inside these enormous sandstone shells are the most beautiful cave paintings. They are 6-15,000 years old, well - yes - with the exception of the brand-new soot and concrete, which is splashed upstairs in some places.
Our guide took a can of water and started splashing water on it. The little hairs get up in my neck, but he usually does it. In fact, he usually has a large fire extinguisher with him. The characters appear significantly better, and we shoot with the cameras to preserve them for posterity.
The sun is setting, and its last rays are reflected in the surface of the lake, lighting up even the deepest caves. The guide has not experienced this before, and disappears in his neat clothes, far into the half-meter-high crevices. Morten is smart enough to give him a camera.
The cave paintings are all around the lake and
we crawl / climb around. We meet late herds of goats and have to
jump from stone to stone to cross the river. On the other hand,
there are even better drawings. Dancing scenes, antelopes,
scorpions, men with spears and bow, women dancing, patterns and less
The guide turns a few stones to show us a
scorpion. I have resisted the urge to turn stones, usually I would
have seen under several tons by now. I have silenced the abstinence
by looking at the fire-bellied frogs at the water's edge.
It gets dark before we reach "home". The sad remains of the road are still used by men with diapers, or it looks like they tie their pants, women with brightly coloured suits, who leave nothing to Danish road workers in terms of colours. Horses, oxen, donkeys and dark tractors increase the excitement of the dark-black road. We also see a single small snake, rushing over the open section. Well back, we have to pay 30 kroner for the guide and 90 for the car.
We sit on the roof-terrace waiting for dinner as a violent "fireworks" occurs on the hill behind the district. And then there is black! We get candles on the table, and continue the fun with increased strength. Here on the roof we meet the first tourists, since the Taj Mahal. Well understand the souvenir vendors we have met are hungry!
Talks with the well-spoken owner, who is in the process of building a five-star hotel in the city. Gives him some good advice on how Americans and Europeans want it. White marble floors instead of carpets. Beds that are long enough, mattresses that are reasonably soft and the like. Before heading to bed, I work a bit with showers and hot water tanks, and we get the only warm shower of the holiday. Maybe not so important when you consider it was 42 degrees hot today, but very comfortable. The room is incredibly charming: Niches with art and travel books / classics. Ancient furniture draped with beautiful fabrics and small cosy lamps. When the shutters are opened there is a fantastic view of the fort.
9. We get up "half passed hell" (it's before "a quarter of nausea"), and enjoy a warm bath in the cold morning air. Down the street, a guy walks with a drum and screams a song. He may not be very popular, other locals sleep relatively long. A quick breakfast on the roof, a loop through the centre to see a very deep and impressive well. 60 meters on each joint and 80 meters deep. Stairs lead in zigzag down along the finely walled sides.
Here in the city there are two kinds of monkeys, like so many other places in India. The long-tailed and black-feathered languers and the more plump, short-tailed rhesus Macaques. The former are reasonably harmless, the other pure vandals, who can easily unlock doors and just shatter everything for fun.
We find the bus stop, where we just jump on the bus to Jaipur. The landscape is slowly drying out, becoming slightly more hilly, and fewer water buffaloes and more dromedaries. Here are several women dressed in black and having henna-painted hands. The men wear brightly coloured turbans and white suits, very similar to the Pakistani chemise i sekal. Some men with white hair dye it red with henna - looking somewhat kinky. It is a Muslim area.
We drive through some larger and smaller cities. There are still many cows, pigs and dogs in the streets. They are all friendly, and feed on alms and in the open trash-areas, which are in all unused areas. They are emptied at intervals, but there is guarantee nothing edible left.
Rikke samples some of the content from the countless small aluminium bags that are sold everywhere. It turns out to be an unusually strong spice mix, which is almost used as a snuff. We reach Jaipur at one o'clock. The city is big; 1.86 million inhabitants. That does not mean the number of tractors and pigs lowers, on the contrary.
We are attacked by the tuc-tuc driver as we leave the bus, and although we are gettingusedif to, it is a bit overwhelming. We first look into a centrally located hotel: Pretty expensive and very dirty. We walk 600 meters and arrive at a really nice, newly built hotel. Almost embarrassingly clean, white marble everywhere and at an affordable price: twice 70 kroner. They, unlike most others, do not give a commission to the taxi, tuc-tuc and rickshaw's driver. We are just around the corner from the centre, but the silence is almost paralyzing. An exceptionally pleasant break from the otherwise disruptive noise we are exposed to everywhere.
We immediately take two tuc-tuc's to the city's largest palace, where the maharaja still lives. It is a large complex and there are many exhibitions. We see one with clothes from the last centuries. Many impressive things, including the clothes from a large maharaja: Two meters high and 120 centimetres above the shoulders! He weighed 250 kilos, pretty much for a man in a country, where the average weight is 35-45 kilos. Here are amazing suits, one is a maharaja's polo-suit. Here are blinds of split, stitched bamboo that we know. Here they are just with beautiful motifs. It turns out, these motifs arise from the fact that every two millimetres of thin stick is wrapped with different coloured silk cords! These curtains hung in the countless spaces between the ubiquitous pillars. In the summer, they were sprinkled with perfumed water, and contributed to a pleasant climate in the palace.
Further inside the palace complex, we see two silver jars. Not any jars: They weigh 350 kilograms each, and are the world's largest silver worker. They were made about 100 years ago, to be filled with 900 litres of water each, from the holy river Ganges, and follow the Maharaja to London. He was not interested in drinking other water for health reasons. They stand freely in an amazing marble pavilion.
And then just a few general considerations: Most women wear a lot of jewellery. Huge earrings, some associated nose rings. Some go all the way around the ear. The nose rings can be so big, they go down well over the mouth. Heavy bracelets and even heavier ankle rings. Mostly in silver. As mentioned earlier, some wrist-to-shoulder bracelets carry both the black-clad gypsies, but also quite a few others. Most women have many rings, both on fingers and toes. Many women have their hair covers and some even their face, but exposed belly.
It is quite common to see two, usually younger, men walking and holding hands, or fingers. The men, still mostly the youngest, touch a lot. There are just no obvious gay men; for it gives life in prison. The women are aloud; it's just spicy.
Cricket seems to be the only
sport being cultivated. In many open spaces, boys or more organized
teams play. India has just won the World Cup over England. Polo is
an Indian invention, but we only see it in a huge boxes.
Here are sun signs everywhere, on
houses, cars, in people's brows, on T-shirts, as jewellery and of
course at temples. Having grown up with it is a swastika (which is a
mirrored sun sign), and symbolizes something very bad and
uncomfortable, it may well seem a bit strange.
We find our tuc-tucs, and drive to the next sight of the city, which is an observatory. Here is a huge collection of sundials and the like. They are built in different ways, showing months, zodiac signs and much more. The largest is 30 meters high and has a scale of two seconds! Most are made of marble. Some are large dome-shaped holes in the ground, others complicated structures. We are close to closing time and unable to immerse ourselves.
We drive home and pass the Water Palace. It lies in the middle of a large lake, which has been dry for ten years, until 14 days ago. It looks really romantic, but you can't get out there. It is both closed and there are no boats. We see the first big elephants! Those in Thailand are significantly smaller, these are approaching African size. We focus on elephant riding later, and it is getting dark.
Here, as in so many other cities,
there are many dromedaries. They are also big, and then they pull
around with some absolutely ridiculously small wagons. Even a donkey
would be offended, if it were tightened for such a wheelbarrow.
Once again we have to go past a shop or factory, where they make very special batik garments. The difference with this is that it is run by the state, so you are only slightly cheated with the price. We quickly agree that what they do in the factory is pretty awful and they show us up at the store. Here it is flowing with richly decorated silk fabrics, shawls, saris and fabrics. Rikke buys two silk shawls which are also from the city. Despite being a little tired of being run as cattle around the stores, they manage to get us into another one. And it's hard to go without buying something.
We all have headaches, maybe we haven't been good enough to drink. Speaking of drinks; The local drink of bottles and public mugs without touching their lips. Either by pouring it into a beam, or by pouring it into a hollow hand, in its hygienic way.
We stay at the hotel and sit on
their beautiful roof terrace and get a pizza brought up from the
kitchen. All around the large terrace stands well-kept potted
plants. I can't resist the temptation to bring home a rhizome from a
relative of the asparagus family that has small tubers.