From Diary 1
it now get exiting...
10. We are fresh again, and try the hotel's pancakes for breakfast. The hotel got hold of a car with driver for us. It's a Toyota that looks like a four-wheel drive, but just isn't. Two rows of regular seats and two rows along the car's trunk. It has run just under 5,000 kilometres and is really comfortable. They drive strangely in this city: Still as if the streets are unidirectional, but they stop at red! Well, if they don't just have to swing.
We drive up to a large palace complex. At the foot of the mountain it is built on, we stop. A snake tamer materializes and we shoot a few photos. I buy a hat I get down from 50 to 30 kroner. I'm fine with it, until Jesper buys one just alike for eight!
In the river below us, the elephants are
bathed. If possible, a young child splashes more energetically than
the adults. Around us, on the mountain tops, we can see the three
forts: Jaigarh, Galta and Amber, which we must lhave a
closer look at.
We come to an unusually magnificent palace. They have concealed a ticket sale in a pillar, and after paying for four people and three cameras (usually everywhere we come), we can go up the wide and high stairs. Musicians sit with their hat in front, playing local classical music, and several wallets have what we cannot live without. Here everything from hats and woodcuts works across violin-like instruments to postcards, T-shirts, silk paintings and flutes.
Here is one amazingly ornate marble hall after another. The decoration consists of mirrors, stained glass, polished stone figures, inlaid semi-precious stones and incredibly detailed paintings. We walk through one hall after another, and end up on a small balcony. From here, there is a magnificent view of the other two forts, and what is confusingly similar to the Great Wall of China.
A guided bunch of Japanese are coming over. A guy sits down on the beautifully carved stone railing, to be photographed. The guide points out to him that a 500 year old railing is not so strong. Guys say, "I am" showing his chopsticks of arms. It would be terrible for the railing, but ...
Morten goes and complains: An elephant had a cold, sneezing into his one sandal. In spite of that (or is it in particular because of it?), it is a fantastic visit. We find our car and drive through the city again. We pass Prince Albert's Castle, the Parliament and stop at the Palace of Winds, to shoot a few photos. It is located in the Pink Street and has the colour. It looks almost like a strip of towers, with the tallest ones in the middle.
Unfortunately, the next-door shop turns out to be a shoe store. Bad combination when the local ATM refuses to pay more than 500 kroner. Well, it might go anyway; Rikke gets two pairs of great sneakers for 80 kroner. We drive home past the hotel to enjoy some French fries and sandwiches for lunch, while the worst heat is pressing.
The hotel restaurant is, as everywhere else we have seen, strictly vegetarian. Beer is also not something you just find. However, the hotel offers Golden Peacock, which is a reasonably good golden pilsner. The password, which works all round, is to ask for a "b" (for beer), and they will bring you one. Sometimes a lot of time passes, by when they just have to go out and buy one in the alley.
Some leafbirds (or bee-eaters) sit on the wires in front of the residence, while a bunch of kites sits on the roof. They have a keen eye for the landfill down the corner. Here the night's waste is riddled with a larger herd of stiff-brushed pigs, a few sacred cows and some dogs. Everywhere we go, there are a lot of blue rock pigeons and also a lot of gray sparrows and swallows.
We drive an evening ride with our car, out to the Tiger Palace. It offers magnificent views of the blue city and a beautiful sunset. Although far down the town, some conversations can be clearly heard from down there. Strange phenomenon. The driver designates a strip of houses that are washed away by heavy rains. No wonder; they are in the middle of a now dry river, very clear from here.
We sit on a terrace enjoying some cold beer (and a lukewarm water) from the restaurant below us. I saw a walking stick in the scrub on the way up here, and here on the wall comes a small rock climbing stick crawling. Jesper gets a nice photo (after trying about 50 times) and we pass it on to Morten. The sun disappears completely and the minarets begin to wake up. Quran reading from three four pieces at a time.
We had thought there was a restaurant up here, but it is a little down the mountain. Amazing rooms, but very little food. The menu card is painted on the wall and they have far from everything on it. That, and their poor / lacking English in combination with their attitude makes us just have a cup of coffee.
We drive down to the city again, and home to the hotel. The driver seems very nice (how blue-eyed can you be?), So we hire him for the next five days. 73 øre a kilometre, 13 kroner per night. Reasonably cheap, when you consider, the gasoline costs 3.35 kroner a litre. Pasta on the hotel's roof terrace and then head to bed, we need to get up early and drive well into the morning.
11. We drive without breakfast, right at sunrise. Outside the city, a six-lane road starts, or at least the beginning of one: In some places there are only two lanes. Where something is missing, the work is in full swing. The paving is done with huge machines, with the underlying foundation handmade. People are chopping and sweeping, carrying baskets on their heads with gravel and using small cross-spads to dig with. In some places, only one side is finished, and we have three lanes towards us - in our three-lane side! Once again, we get a demonstration of the Indian principle: Unidirectional both ways.
We stop for morning coffee at a nice restaurant. It is about twice as expensive as everyone else we have been to, but there must also be the driver's commission. Then we come to the holy city; Pushkar. The central part is a larger lake where there are gats; sacred stairs all around. Very touristy, just without tourists. Dancers, musicians, snake enthusiasts, showers and souvenir traders en masse.
Here in the city is also one of the only Brahma temples. Brama was the god who helped create the world and since then he has been in meditation. He also has 4 heads, so he can see in all four corners of the world at the same time. In addition to the many believers, here are also some very intrusive "florists". They will first give you a flower you can sacrifice. If you take it and sacrifice it, it turns out they need money for it. If you do not take it, they will be uncomfortable. Since the believers are not drawn to these flowers, I choose to resign.
We put the flip-flops in the designated booths. When we get out, we are charged a total exorbitant amount to have them lying down. I laugh, while I pay, and a young, Western-dressed guy is freaking out. The traders do not take a friendly refusal very nicely, and generally the atmosphere is not very good. We choose to drive on, and find a more hospitable city.
Some military trucks are showing up. We have come closer to the border with Pakistan, and a fairly quiet war is underway. Every year on the anniversary of one or the other, they kill a few hundred soldiers on each side, and then they have both developed A-weapons. It is strange to see how ethnically different the young soldiers are from the locals. They look more Chinese than Indians. Clearly from another province - just like the Romans did.
The roads are extensively used by Tata trucks
with huge loads. Have the feeling that they take driving / rest
times as easily as Danish drivers. At least there is a fresh truck
wreck on or off the road every 20 kilometres, and they are fresh:
the goods are scattered around them. Of course, it can also blame
their traffic culture: the horn at the bottom, and so on. Those who
approach you may be able to block the brake or throw the truck out
at the shoulder.
We get far out in the countryside to see two giant trees; a male and a female tree (they call them). They are actually large, it is a kind of fig, and the sex is determined by, one has an old damage of a broken branch that leaves a hole in the trunk. The other a stump of a branch broken by a miter and a half from the trunk. The funny thing is, it is the male that bears single fruit. For the first time in twelve years, there is fruit on them. A red cord is spun around them, and Jesper is lucky enough to get the priest (or whatever he is) to tie a stump around his wrist. The guy probably expected more than a sincere "thank you". Jesper recalls the episode the following days when he tries in vain to rub the red colour of the wrist.
We pass several huge chicken breeds and a huge beef market. There are maybe 1,000 oxen and some water buffaloes scattered over a large area. We could stop, but it's probably not based on tourists in sandals ... We're starting to see small mountains and small dunes coming creeping out on the road. The large ones can be seen further in, and the strip of bushes standing in the roadside collects two meters high duvets, like snow fences.
We stop a small roadside snack, and get an ice cold soda. I notice the text at the bottom of the Pepsi and Miranda bottles: Contains no fruit. We drive again and take turns sleeping. Unfortunately, the driver also thinks he is part of that plan. We try to keep him awake, telling him; if he likes to take a break, that we could use a coffee break, but he insists on moving on. Not a particularly good experience, when passing totally smashed trucks a few times an hour.
On the road side, tame oxen walk around with a half fence pole around their neck. It must be to sink them, as when tying the legs together on horses, dromedaries and donkeys. In between we pass smaller flocks of black-caged languas sitting in the roadside. In some places they are shown begging. Locals feed them, as if to sacrifice to the gods.
The terrain dries further, and on hills with large cliffs, the only vegetation is two meters high, finger-shaped Euphorbias. Little doubt they are local at first. Previously there namely, been a lot of Opuntias, and they certainly aren't. There are also various members of the cucumber family, some domesticated in the villages, and others must be indigenous. Smaller flowers and fruits, and in the middle of the wilderness.
Finally we stop at a restaurant. Have a clear sense that the driver has agreements with certain ones, since he praises precisely these. It's really okay with us, just they're good. Landscapes continue to dry out. The water buffaloes have disappeared completely, and donkeys have appeared instead. Once in a while, we pass a large herd of dromedaries, and quite often we pass some animals. Some free, others with loads on their backs or in a ridiculous little wagon after them. There are also a lot of goat herds. Some are common black and white, others of a species I've never seen before. They are brown with light brown spots. The trees are groaning. The shepherds walk around with small but long-handled axes and gather small branches for their goats.
We are passing more and more people with flags. Some walk, some are on a bicycle, some on a tractor load or crammed into a truck. There are even tuc-tucs in the middle of nowhere. Everyone is heading to a religious festival. Our driver tells us that ten million people come every year. We have long suspected him of being speech-blind. They were supposed to be Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Wonderful, if that's right!
Our driver still has a hard time staying awake. We learn the symptoms: He stops honking at birds, he turns up the music and starts dancing with his shoulders and talks the fuck off. Then he closes his eyes and his head falls to his chest. then he wakes up with a set, and gets pissed mad, if you suggest he's sleepy.
Suddenly, here is fertile again. There is even a thin layer of water along the road. It is the first time it has rained properly in ten years, and it is again fun to be a farmer. Then the landscape dries out again, and it looks grotesque with plow furrows in the desert-like soil.
We arrive in Jodhpur at five o'clock, and find a lovely hotel. Not just what the driver agreed to, but right after our hearts. Cosy, cheap, clean and not least: With a roof terrace with restaurant and a fantastic view of the fort. To find the hotel we drive through a totally packed bazaar and through some extremely narrow alleys. Throws the luggage in the room and walk back to the bazaar. Here is a selection of clothes, spices, fruits and vegetables, reminders, jewellery, items and junk. The only thing that is not, is dead animals. Pigs, cows and dogs roll around in safety. People are friendly and welcoming.
While the others are getting a pre-food beer, I check out the Resident, which is an internet café. They have a new version of the browser and I get mails checked. It works very well in the first minute, but then comes three Frenchmen. It charges the line a lot, because it goes over a mobile phone. They talk damn loudly, one bounces incessantly, the other bites nails and the last snorts. Charming people!
12. We start early to take advantage of the milder air of the morning. Breakfast on the roof, where the area's minarets wake up, one by one. Jesper chooses to stay in the room. Understandably, he looks a little worn. We walk up the zigzag through the city, then come to the privately owned fort and palace Mehrangarh, which was built in 1459 and has never been conquered. We hire a digital audio guide, which is really well made. In addition to a really good storytelling voice, there are music and sound effects, and the maharaja tells a little about his childhood and the operation of the fort.
Most buildings are in tiptop condition. There is even an elevator leading up from the first yard to the residential area. It is built in the same stone as the rest, and even has sliding roofs. Inside, there are parquet floors and polite service. We see one of the old and fringed rope-water pumps, a magnificent view of a colossal area and quite a bit of the palace and the interior of the fort. The view from the top is stunning, Jodhpur is known as the light blue city and it is clearly seen from here.
Unlike most other forts we've seen, bats don't stink here. They otherwise have a tiles to take over the ceilings in less used rooms. Although the excrement is swept up every morning, the ammonia-heavy flax hangs there. These excrements actually played a significant role in the renovation of this fort. After World War II, the Maharajas were put out of their possessions. This castle has been in the family's possession for 1000 years, and while the heir was finished at the university, the government decided to give back the possessions. Nice gesture, but I think they most needed it if the country was to function optimally.
By the 25 years the palace and the fort surrounding it had been abandoned, the bats had moved in. The money was small and the first renovation was funded by the sale of bat guano to local farmers. The maharaja no longer lives here, but he has created a font that maintains and continues to renovate the countless rooms, halls and squares.
A few of the beautifully renovated halls contain elephant carriers that have carried early maharaja's and their wives. They are fantastic works in wood, precious metals and silk. There are halls of adventurously detailed paintings, firearms, firearms, cannons - many conquered around Asia. Elsewhere, the wildly decorated rooms are the attraction. I sit on my flat watching one in a quarter, and have far from discovering every detail.
A hall is beautifully decorated and the ceiling is decorated with coloured "Christmas balls" in glass, many significantly larger than footballs. Here are many tourists, virtually all are from India. It is fascinating to consider their different suits and jewellery. Many men wear more Western trousers and shirts, but still turbans and fantastic moustaches or full beards.
Completely overwhelmed, we drive back to the hotel and Jesper, who has something running with the toilet. Lunch on the roof for a new Koran reading. Our hotel is just a few floors higher than most other buildings in the city, and it offers great views. On the about ten small mountains that surround the city, forts have been built on all. "Chinese walls" are glimpsed between them.
We find our driver, who seems somewhat embarrassed. He is well aware he is so close to being dropped here. Unfortunately, it doesn't last long. We drive out to a white marble funeral temple: Jaswanat Thada. It is located on a hilltop, close to the great fort, and is the Maharaja's burial place for the last 500 years. There is also a small temple in honour of a peacock, who flew directly into a maharaja's bonfire.
The main temple is made of almost transparent marble. The plates are about ten centimetres thick and in many places they are illuminated by the sun. Morten doesn't get to see much: the guard (or the priest / monk) sees his camera. It turns out his brother has bought another one, and has not understood much of the otherwise bad manual. Nerds meet and black talk arises ...
Outside stands a family. Dad plays and the kids dance. Meaning; little brother of 4 just looks cross in his folk costume. A bus with western tourists shows up, and we get off. We drive up to another fort: Umaid Bhawan, which is still partially inhabited by the Maharaja. It was built from 1939 to 1944 and today also serves as a museum and hotel. As I rudely get passed in line, we retire.
Instead, we head out to Osiyan, a local popular park. Here are foreign plants such as agaves, cacti and other succulents spread over a large park. Under the trees sit local and other Indian tourists with picnic baskets. Part of the large park contains some dark brown funeral temples, such as taken out by Indiana Jones. They were built from 1623 and onwards.
Another part of the park contains a cliff face with Euphorbias and below a water garden. Close by, there are the remains of something that probably has been a small zoo and a covered pillar with large statues for which the area is known. We are looking at a snake tamer who uses a lot of energy to keep the kids from the snakes. There are langues on the lawns, they are being fed. In general, Indians are incredibly sweet at animals. Water bowls are set up for the wild dogs, the ground squirrels get some seeds, hay or fresh grass is added to the bulls in the streets and so on. You can also feel it on the animals. With the exception of two dogs, I do not see any animals dissected begging. They are attentive and incredibly friendly.
There are many great things in the park, but the main attraction is the three white tourists. We are repeatedly photographed in the hidden. A grandfather rushes around with his family to have them arranged on a staircase up to a small temple we are in. Of course, we try to avoid getting into the picture and see too late, what it was really about. A single couple, who looks very western of Indians, asks Rikke if she does not want to be photographed with the girl.
We rush home to Jesper, who still refuses to leave his toilet. He is not quite on top and we decide to stay another night. I am no longer white; I'm red! We spend the last of the afternoon on the hotel roof. We are still in vegetarian land, but Rikke finds some "pagodas" almost reminiscent of meatballs. I don't miss meat, but the crusty crust. Late in the afternoon, many kites appear in the sky around us. They are almost square, and have no tail. They flutter wildly, but can reach incredible heights.
Jesper shows up, in some better shape, and we have new plans. I'll just check the emails again, when I can. It's called could in the past! The net cafe has had its computers updated - or is it called downdated? The evening is spend with general enjoyment on the roof of the hotel, evenly mixed in small sips and a steady stream of coffee and beer.
13. Another morning, we get up before the sun. We keep driving west, and the landscape is getting drier and drier. Here are no cities, only a few small clusters of three to five houses with a common round wall. The walls are, as we have seen many other places, made of long pieces of processed sandstone. Up to four meters long, six to ten centimetres thick and 25-30 centimetres wide. The sand dunes now sometimes reach the other shoulder, and are one meter high in our tracks.
We pass another huge beef market and choose to drive past again. There are more and more walking and cycling pilgrims, all smiling and waving. Then we pass "Ground Zero" where the Indians test their nuclear bombs. Quite close to Pakistan to those to hears! There are also large military camps, with all kinds of hardware.
We glimpse Jaisalmers fort in the hazy horizon, and then we're there. It is not at all as big as the others, the air is just filled with dust from the desert. We look at it from the roof of the hotel and suddenly people show up on the wall. They look huge! - but it is just the fort that is small
We were recommended the hotel by the previous one, and in addition to the driver, we are really pleased, with everything from the roof top restaurant to the pool. And then they have meat on the menu. Meat is probably a more natural part of the diet in the desert. Goats and sheep can live off dried small growths that humans would not find or have the patience to gather. And here are more Muslims, which are not vegetarians like the Hindi.
Morten and I take a cautious scout ride through the commercial street, up towards the fort. There are no tourists here, and only a few shops that cater to them, centred in front of the fort's gates. In addition to the usual statue and jewellery stores, the silk shops have been swapped with leather goods stores. Logically enough; when they eat meat they have leather. But only sheep, goats and dromedaries. The cows are still sacred. I have gradually used the eleven films, brought along, and bought new ones. Also finds a zipper I want stitched in my bag for a "secret" room. I have to drop 70 cents for the zipper, and now I just have to find a man with a sewing machine. We have seen many. These are all old black hand or foot powered, some have added a small electric motor.
The houses here in the city are pretty primitive, but also incredibly charming. Some are closer to tents, others built from the previously mentioned sandstone slabs. Here, just like in all other cities we've been to, most sewers are open, without it really smelling a lot. Dromedaries are patiently standing next to their little wagons, or coming slowly with them.
At home at the hotel, we are helped to book a trip after our heads. A ride by car beyond the plains, see a temple and a few villages. Meet with a dromedary caravan, and ride out among the endless sand dunes in "The Royal Dunes" and finish off with a cold beer and sunset in the dunes. We are not just on a multi-day trip, and the common dining followed by tribal dance in the desert night is not exactly us either.
After waiting for the food to be loaded, we drive off with two Englishmen in an unusually cool 4WD. A brand new, black and shiny Scorpion. Our driver and guide? are two great Muslim men, with an attitude and appearance that doesn't leave the dark hero from "The Mummy" anything.
On the way out of town, we pass one of the first public cemeteries we have seen. The first stop is a temple, which is a disappointment. We dutifully look around the area and gather quickly at the car. The next stop should be the first village, with after seeing it off the main road, we all six agree; we don't need to see it closer. A gold sandy surface is occasionally covered with primitive, comfortless sandstone huts. Personally, I would feel unusually awkward walking around it. A bit like looking at pitiful people in a zoo. Of course, it is a bit of a disappointment for the approaching children, who already have their hands on it, but I can live with that.
The next town is identical, down to the smallest grain of sand, and I sense some relief on the front row, as we also ask to be driven further from this one. The planting becomes even more dispersed. Pencil's thin Euphorbias and slightly small bushes between widely scattered acacias. Then a bunch of dromedaries show up in the roadside and we stop. Big beautiful animals, with colourful saddles. We each get one, that is; Morten gets two. The first one is not that big, and only protests wildly, in stead of getting up. It gets a skinny Englishman on his back instead.
We venture out through the almost barren landscape. Passing a single large Bengal monitor on a little meter, several Euphorbias and some Cucurbitaceae, which I have the greatest desire to dig up. They are just three feet below me and their supposed tuber another meter down. Small desert rats disappear like shadows between the dunes, while the lizards just need the last rays of the sun. The dromedaries walk quietly, but we or our drivers also have a firm grip on their nose piercings.
Then we get to the very large sand dunes, so far the eye rows, there are only huge quilts with washboard surface. Jesper and I make a detour without our driver. We are all alone, along with our (and the dromedaries) shadows. Great motive, hope it gets works on film.
After a couple of hours, we get to the edge, and an impromptu tenant. The other three get their cold beer, but no one opens. I take a walk between the dunes, where there is little vegetation. The arrogant and at all eagerly welcoming Englishman walk and destroys the virginity of the dunes with big "hello" 's. However, he loses quite a bit of gas, as Rikke toasts with him; he has no beer but would give a great deal to one.
We see the sun disappear, and talk a bit with other tourists, who arrivals with other caravans. They are just starting out on the multi-day tours, but really want to go back to town with us. The bonfire is started, and thus the tourist show. We jump into our big Scorpion, and drive quickly but safely into town. Our macho driver honks at desert rats! Chicken and kebab followed by a good shower at the hotel are sure to beat a cold night in the desert with staged dance with the locals and a foreign sleeping bag.
14. We start the day by going up to the fort. It's not particularly impressive seen from the outside; the walls are not as tall nor beautifully decorated. Inside, on the contrary, it is somewhat more impressive; here is a city of 4,000 inhabitants and a heck of a lot of business, cows and people. Many of the houses have fantastic facades with carved sandstone reliefs, sculptures and grids. We move slowly, but purposefully, through the maze, between mopeds, cows, trolleys, piles of goods, firewood and feeding troughs to the cows. I don't think they are owned by some, they just trot around peacefully and check the troughs and places where people throw away edible waste or sacrifices.
We pass a temple where the ticket-hut is discreetly located on the other side of the street. We enter the very dark, but at the same time extremely exciting building. Everything from floor to pillars to the vaulted ceiling is adorned with carvings in stone. There is a narrow walk around the central chamber, where the head-god statue stands. Around there are small niches with other statues and some small candles. An almost hidden staircase leads up to the gallery on top, and here the structure is similar.
Morten and I get out a little later, and the others are gone. We enjoy the sun, and take a look at the exciting bronze statues of a stall. We both stand and tug a bit at a giant dragon candlestick of a few kilos or three, but it costs close to 80 kroner. The others show up, and tell of an even more beautiful temple, right next door.
The ticket is valid here as well, but the guard wants to look after my water bottle, while I'm in there. Like the other temples, the shoos are placed outside. Have heard they also banned for example leather belts and other animal products.
It's really impressive; An open, very deep corridor leads around the central chamber. Polished statues sit in all niches, and some large, round carved stone-things are wise calendars. Again, all surfaces and columns are covered with incredibly detailed stone figures. About a camera-film later, we tumble out, a great experience richer.
Then we reach another tourist shopping street. Since there are actually no tourists here, they are quite hungry and prices can be haggled down a bit. Rikke finds some really nice turn-around pants in silk and some English-language cookbooks with local dishes. I finally get a photo of a man's ear: Some just have unbelievably much hair on the outer edge of the earlobe. Roughly the same amount, as a heavy moustache, and up to five centimetres long. Looks almost like they're going by airplane headphones.
We are being hijacked up onto a roof, which overlooks most of the city. The man lures; we do not have to buy anything, it does not cost anything, and he has one of the oldest and tallest houses in the city. On the way in, he highlights the ancient and very beautifully carved door posts: they are real wood, not stones! We see the view, and slip down again, to his great and obvious annoyance without worthy of his galleries a look.
It's getting really hot and we've seen what they had to offer. On the way home, we pass a strip of the ubiquitous car and tuc-tuc workshops. Where we in Denmark hear the sound of compressed air tools and angle grinders, one of the only things you hear from Indian workshops is the loud and penetrating sound of heavy, powerful, precise muck, and then maybe the hiss of cutting burners.
At home we pay, and on the way out to the car, the director comes rushing with four cowboy hats in thin dromedary leather. Nice thought, and the nephews at home get excited. A few kilometres outside the city, we meet the pilgrims again. Where they turn off from our road, there are only ten kilometres to the holy city, and they throw their clippers, slippers and shoes. Many have large bandages on their feet, it is hard to walk for weeks in 40 degree heat, when you are not used to it, and far from wearing your footwear. Despite that, if possible, they are waving even more now that we are running against them.
We set out in the car to return to Jodhpur. We hardly get settled in the car, before our driver almost assaults us and starts scolding us and calling us stupid, because we've been staying at a bad hotel that they has taken us by the nose, in terms of our dromedary safari. He gets upset well until I explain to him in a calm, clear voice that it won't come to him what we spend our money on, when we're satisfied. Actually, it seems more like he's offended that he hasn't been able to milk us for that money. His hoarseness lasts a good hour, and then he tries to grease again, but we're getting a little tired of his mood change.
We saw no soldiers in Jaisalmer, but on the way home, we met a lot. There are huge military areas along the road, and now they are filled with hardware. There are also quite a few military vehicles on the roads. Some are old Tata's, others are big and new. They are pushed and mocked just as much by others as by others.
We start getting back towards Jodhpur, just as the power fails. It get back after 18, they say. It turns out; many of the power failures we experience, are planned. Here in this metropolis, it is between 15 and 18. Then there is power to the surrounding villages, so that they can get their water pumps running. India, understandably, has a hard time keeping up with demand. No wonder, when you think about the US doing the same and even claiming their electrical system is 20 years behind.
On the way into the square in the bazaar, we meet a procession, we never figure out what it was about. We book into the old hotel, where I had booked. Lucky; tourism is getting underway. We sit on the roof planning, as we enjoy the sight of all swallows, crows, parakeets, gray spruce, glitter, bül-büls and kites sharing the sky over us.
15. We drive "home wards", passing some enormous cliffs that are occasionally covered by Euphorbias. None of us remember we passed them on the way out. This time, only the driver is asleep. We ask for coffee breaks, but that doesn't help. He refuses to stop. Then he starts driving completely insane. Only the other drivers' lightning reflexes and perhaps the Ganesh we have on board, save our lives. In the zigzag, at the uneven shoulder on both sides and twice as fast as the other (far from slow) motorists. Morten and Jesper yell at each other in the mouth: That's enough! We drive a little more carefully to the next restaurant, where we ,over a cup of coffee, decide at least not to use him anymore.
We arrive in Jaihpur at three o'clock, and book into our white marble hotel. Settle with the driver, so we can get rid of him. We have driven 1350 kilometres and had him for five days. It will be 1,000 kroner. He is trying to sell us the trip to Varanasi and back to Delhi, but we should enjoy nothing. Not because of the price, but because of him. We are more than just plain tired of his eternal: "No problem, It's my duty" and "You are my goods". Maybe he could go if he listened to our demands and didn't get pissed, when I finally trumped them in through. And of course it would also help if he had enough sleep at night.
As we sit on the roof eating and planning, I discover a little young mouse, trapped on a staircase. It is photographed (about 100 times) and then released among the potted plants on the roof terrace. Jesper donates some sugar to it, and unfortunately the ants too.
We are back to the noise, which we really only escaped on the dromedary trip. Here is always the rush from the air-conditioner and the fan. The perpetual honking and noise from free blow-out, tool noice from craftsmen, cries from street vendors and just plain city noise. Jesper finds the traffic rules in a book: Slow down is hesitant. To brake is to fail, and to stop is a defeat. A little reminiscent of my way of going go-cart. The book just lacks: "Not to hit is cowardly", but it is well known by the Indians.
I go for a walk with Morten, while the others relax with books. Unable to find the zipper i bought, and I start the search of a new one. A guy asks us where we come from. It's just the most common beginning of a conversation. We say Denmark, and all answer: Nice country. I think every time: What the heck do you know about that, but a lot of times, they keep saying we have a lot of milk.
Well, the guy here wants to know more about Denmark. He is actually on his way to the country to sell goods. I tell him we have a slightly different store structure. You do not just go into the store, find the owner, and sell him the contents of his bag. We have large chains with central purchasing functions and agents, who have no idea. He wants to know more and offers a cup of coffee. We don't have time, it is getting dark, but before I thank him for a nice conversation, I use him as a guide to find a zipper business. It's a bit of trouble here in town. Gets it to 40 øre.
The tailors are easier to find, they sit on the sidewalk most times. The first one we find, will not touch my bag with a tong. The next one is a bit sceptical, and dare not promise it will be perfect. He drives on, and after a while he shows it a little apologetic. I thought it was nice and ask about the price: two bucks, he gets three. I sew a little with my hand in the hotel, and then it looks as if it has always been there.
It has become dark, but the city is still teeming with life. There will be some wind tears, not enough to wet the ground. Meet at the hotel and take a tuc-tuc to an expensive restaurant. Rich, mostly white, guests and an exciting menu - with meat on! We order plenty of dishes, and some dishes may go half full, but that's good. With some beer we have to drop 200 kroner.
Our tuc-tuc man has disappeared, otherwise he has stood wide laughing outside the restaurant and beckoned. Then we can happily walk that kilometer home. Have not really sensed some dissident poor, but some of the sidewalks and the 60 centimetre wide shoulder are full of sleeping people. There is still quite a lot of traffic, must be somewhat risky to sleep at the 15 centimetre high shoulder. It's a little murky before we reach the hotel, but we don't feel unsafe. Just before we reach it, we meet the tuc-tuc driver on a delicious, and brand new motorcycle. He has to use the tuc-tuc job as a cover or angle for something far more lucrative!
16. We get to sleep, and talk to the hotel owner's son for a rental car, and not least about the driver. We end up renting the same car, but with a different driver for the next few days. We save a lot of time, rather than take buses and trains, and we get everything else a much better view, and the breaks we want ourselves. It's a little more expensive, but bus, train and tuc-tucs also cost something, so the difference is probably not that big. There is also something comfortable in it, you can have several water tanks and gradually reasonably large amounts of fabric and shoes lying in the car while seeing sights.
It will be eleven before we roll out of town. We are just crossing the border into Uttar Pradesh and have to pay 455 kroner in taxes. Quite a lot of money in this country! But then the "passport" also applies for 3 days. In the province we just left here, Madhya Pradesh, the "passport" applies for 3 months and it varies from province to province.
Just as we have crossed the border, some dancing bears appear. They have a rope through their soft and sensitive nose, and not a tooth in their mouth. The hole does not pass like bulls through the nostril but a hole is drilled down through the nostril and out of the nostril. Strange to see, when you consider how well they treat all their other animals. The bears can do some tricks, some with a little monkey. Since we do not want to support this business, we are quickly leaving.
The next kilometres we see about 20 bears,
with their owners lying in the shade under the big road trees. They
really just look like giant big dogs, with long brown fur.
Landscapes are incredibly fertile: Light green jasmine rice, millet, corn, bean, soy and lentil fields. We come to Gwalior at dusk. It turns out to be a bit difficult to find a hotel that is both the Gwalior Regency, and the one we want to find, which is significantly less well-known; Regency. We end up picking up a guide, after being shown back to the wrong hotel several times. This is the city in India where the inhabitants have been poorest to English, they try but it is difficult.
When we finally find it, it's not exactly what we had dreamed of. It stands as a means and we tend to stay on budget. It's been a nice hotel, but now it's worn down. The huge brass handrails, the polished marble floors and the entire interior testify to the greatness of the early days. The room is dirty, the condom package has not even been removed. The beds are stained and we ask to get new ones. The room, and not least the bathroom is filled with various insects and covered in muck. It's just been pretty late and we're too tired to find anything new.
We drive out to our local favourite restaurant; Kwality, where we once again order far too much food. Well humiliated, and just before we lie down on the padded benches, we roll back home. We have other sheets. They are not clean, but they have been changed. Well, you can't demand the world, in a country where there is only hand washing. As we ask for two sheets to have over us, the staff must complain; they only have one left. I sleep under a towel, not quite the same pleasure!
Not many tourists come to this city, even the tuc-tuc drivers and hotel staff hardly speak a word of English. Never mind, they otherwise seem very nice, and then it goes well. Rather this, than the overcrowded places where they speak English but are also sticky and unpleasant.
17. We continue our way east. It is still incredibly fertile, the temperature rises and it becomes almost tropical. We drive many miles through the Central Air Force school. Barracks, polo lanes, kindergartens, exercise courts, parade grounds, airfields, huge schools and then a huge lotus lake. We stop to photograph, and I try in vain to get down to it. I just don't dare jumping the three metres into unknown soil or swamp, and can't figure out how to get up again.
We drive out into the countryside again, through a low and fairly scattered forest. Scout for some pagodas, and suddenly they're there. A few miles to the right is a low mountain ridge, and on top of it stands a series of white artificial pagodas, shrouded in light mist. As soon as they appeared, just as quickly this dream vision is gone.
More scenery, where some of the only buildings are the high chimneys of the brick "factories". The stones are made on site, artfully piled up around the wood in 15-20 meter high cones. They are covered with soil, and burnt. We have passed an incredible number of these red stacks on our entire trip through India.
Then a very high wall appears. There are huge watchtowers in the corners and the wall itself stretches for miles along the road. Inside is an oil refinery, where there is lively activity. Seems totally out of place here in the wild, but we're approaching a big city: Jhansi?. Here we will see the big fort of the same name.
It was built about 500 years ago by the local maharaja, and has been used ever since. Last of the English, who have added and modified on it, like everyone else. The shoots that were originally made for bow and arrow have been made wider, have thick metal shutters and a platform for a Gatling machine gun. Everything is completely maintained, from the tall towers to the manicured lawns.
We have been warned against the aggressive monkeys, but see only two, who have gone into a coma at noon. There is significantly more life in a bearded agame that flies up in a palm tree. I find some flowering Cossinias, and even a ripe fruit. After enjoying the view, and not least the breeze from the top of the walls, we drive on. The city is also famous for its museum.
We are welcomed outside, with handshakes and all. Passed through the huge hall, and into an office where the director welcomes us even more. The scene is like taken out of a B movie. All the characters are typical, almost a little too typical. It turns out the museum is closed due to renovations, but we can exceptionally see a few of the halls.
A very persistent custodian or similar, guides
us round. I can see the 20-30 figures in five minutes, but Jesper
and especially Morten are given a small hour's lecture in each room.
We get locked into one hall after another, and
since we have seen the latest exhibition that looks like it is made
by school students, and at least made in cow dung, we look at the
clock and we do not regret have time to see more.
We drive the 18 kilometres to Orchha, which is really just a huge palace, some big temples and then hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops have been shot up over the last 15 years. It seems very cosy and authentic, since the building style has not changed in the last 500 years. We first look for a nice hotel. It turns out we have to cross the bridge to the palace, and the officer who watch the boom doesn't bother to lighten his bud, so our driver has to get out, and open.
We come all the way to the palace, where part of it has been converted into a hotel - expensive hotel! We drive back across the bridge and into the centre of the tiny town. Here we find a hotel for 40 kroner per room. Nice and clean, and then they claim, they can organize beer.
We walk across the bridge to the huge palace, which seems a little dilapidated. The buildings themselves are intact, but they are black and they are slightly overgrown. We head north, where I come across some exciting plants. There grows some Jatrophas, which even have ripe fruits. On it crawls big pale green beetles. Butterflies swarm among the many colourful flowers outside the palace's shade, birds chirping and bees buzz.
We enter the shadow of the tall buildings, and the mood changes completely. Here are more quiet, humid, almost no flowers, and over us the huge walls towering menacing and black. There is a huge vulture on each of the large dome-shaped spires. It's like taken out of a horror scene in Indiana Jones. Counts up to ten vultures sitting among the occasional planting on top of the building, which only emphasizes it gloomy mood.
We arrive on the east side, where there is a fantastic view over a low forest, and a rushing river. We find the back entrance to the palace, and begin to investigate its desolated interior. After going through many dilapidated halls and hallways, narrow stairs in thick walls, balanced by fragile coolness and followed long columns, I finally get close to a vulture. A bunch of young Belgians show up, and just like us, they talk very softly together. In the middle of the large yard is a pool, and a sleeping guard. Behind him, we find the remains of a museum that shows a little of the greatness of the area and the palace. Some individual objects and old yellowed photos clearly show what amazing wealth has attached to the place.
From the upper wall of the palace, we look out over a magnificent tree-covered valley to the south. The river meanders through it, all the way to the horizon. Tomorrow we will head out and experience some unspoilt nature. Right now, we just want to head down to the small town and find some refreshments. I'm just having a hard time leaving the totally moody palace, with its bats and vultures. On the way out ,we pass a huge ficus tree and the hotel which was unreasonably expensive.
We can't help, but look at the stalls' quantities of souvenirs. The vast majority are fine bronze or silk things, shoes or other crafts. There is no plastic filth here. People are incredibly good-natured and restrained. Then we get to a small vegetable market, and some colour merchants. Great motifs with the great ancient temples in the background.
I find a hairdresser, who trims my gradually long beard and gives me a great scalp massage and the shoulders and back also get a go. I have to drop three bucks for that. Then we come to a shoe dealer who is not only significantly more expensive than the others, he is also better at speaking for his sick aunt. Under an canopy stands an ironing man, with a huge huge coal-fired iron. We have seen several, but it still seems fascinating.
We each go and rattle about meat, and end up at a Chinese restaurant that unfortunately does not serve meat. They also have pagodas, but not nearly as good as the ones we got last. There are great views of the temples from the restaurant's terrace, and Jesper sees a really nice motif: The beautiful new moon on top of one of the spires.
It has turned into a worse insect soup, and we
have to go home: mosquitoes and unimaginably large amounts of small
black beetles, a kind of leaf juice-sucking bitch. At home, we are
very happy with the mosquito net - Morten and Jesper probably would
have been, if they had one. Bats and geckos keep partying around all
the lights. Here at the hotel, there are many low doors, like
everywhere else, and I repeatedly test the durability of the post
with my forehead.