Last night I met my tour group for the first time. I am super happy with the people and I think it is going to be a great adventure together. There are 4 from the UK, 1 American, 1 Canadian, 1 Brazilian, 1 Belgium and 1 South African. For once I am the only Australian!!
We all went out to dinner to a restaurant near by that our tour leader AJ picked out. We had to brave the crazy market street to get there. Luckily the boys are quite tall so I could follow them, but it was literally shoulder to shoulder of people.
We let AJ do the ordering and had a great meal trying cottage cheese curry, a lentil curry and curry vegetables with of course the obligatory garlic naan. I have really enjoyed the food so far. I surprised my self that my favourite dish was the lentil curry. It was a bit bazaar that near the end of the meal, the music started and it wasn’t Indian music to set the scene but a crazy dub step. There was another couple there having a lovely dinner for 2 with this crazy soundtrack!
Next morning we were up at 7am for a bit of breaky before we hit the road. Some toast and banana did me fine. Our chariot for the next week pulled up. A bright purple G Adventures coach. I like to call it the purple people eater. It felt like the the PPE had eaten a hell of a lot of mosquitos. For the first 20 minutes we were all slapping away like special school children on the bus.
We drove past the India Gate arch and continued out of the horrific traffic that is Delhi. I dozed off not long after departure and awoke to being on the highway en route to Jaipur. We had a 6 hour drive ahead of us. The bus was comfy and the first stop believe it or not was at a Maccas. I was so interested in the menu because there was not a big mac or cheeseburger to be seen. There was a Tikka Aloo burger as well as chicken options. A bunch of us settled on some good old nuggets. However there was no sweet and sour sauce so mustard was my dip of choice.
We also stopped at some over priced road house. I was thankful I was still full from the nuggets and had some chickpea bread with yoghurt dip.
I was in awe at the landscape passing me by. The sheer poverty and filth/pollution is astounding. I am so amused about the wildlife. We saw goat herders, sheep, monkeys and of course cows. Cows everywhere. The bus even swerved as we were hurtling down the highway to avoid a white cow in the middle of the lanes!
We pulled into our hotel in Jaipur and it is a converted Palace. A small one but quaint. The decor is very “Exotic Marigold Hotel” as my brother described it from my photos. It does have a pool, so we got our togs on and got in the water which was refreshing after a travel day.
The optional excursion tonight was a Bollywood movie. Six of us jumped into Tuk Tuk’s and went to the theatre. The theatre was over 200 years old and it was beautiful. Soft pink walls and dark blue carpets. It can seat up to 1000 people. We had big comfy seats. The movie was not in English and had no subtitles. Luckily it was a action film to keep your interest for the 2.5 hours! They did have an intermission which was useful. I really enjoyed the film and the main actor was really good looking which made it easier to watch! And there was a few dance sequences in true Indian fashion. Near the end of the film it was more like watching a Rambo movie!
On the Tuk Tuk ride back to the hotel, the streets were alive with people bustling about and food vendors. Some smelt good, some not so good. Looks like I might be a vegetarian for the next fortnight as people tend to get sick from eating meat. Once upon a time I would of hated that, but the food has such complex flavours, that I don’t miss the meat at all!!
The next morning we awoke and headed down to breakfast. Some got adventurous with Indian options but I was a strict tea and toast girl. We set off in the purple people eater to the Amber Fort. What I saw outside the bus was real fkn India. We drove down “meat street”. There were chickens in the smallest of cages. I saw one get it’s head cut off. There were various other small animals slaughted and stinking up the joint. The smell was foul. Mix that with the garbage on the street and random cows and you turn vegetarian very quickly!
On the way we stopped at the Hawa Mahal for some photos. It is palace with a massive wall of viewing windows that the women could see street festivals back in the day when they were not allowed to leave the palace. We also came across snake charmers on the street and some monkeys. It was a major sensory overload!
We arrived at the fort and there were a few options to get to it. One was to ride elephants but lucky G Adventures do not condone this so we crammed into some jeeps and drove up. We had a local guide but he was as dry as a piece of toast. I enjoyed the architecture as it was a mix of the Arab and Indian influence. At one point I watched a “traffic jam” of elephants. One part of me knew how cruel it was that tourist were riding them but the other hand I was like a little kid and in awe of how many there was! These ones also had their head and trunks painted which again was a tug of war of moral emotions for me.
With my group everyone is basically from the UK and they all drink tea at a drop of a hat. While listening to the guide in the fort, this boy came around and offered us small shot glass size paper cups and Chai. Everyone was taking one so I thought what they hell, I mean its only 100 degrees and we are sweating out in the sun, why not drink some spicy hot tea?!! Well I enjoyed it and it actually cooled me down a little. So India 1…Skye 0.
Next we headed to lunch. A buffet had been set up for us…. How can I sarcastically write “yummy?”. I was still wary of the local food. But alas, there was an al carte menu to choose from. Now remember I have been on the road for awhile and I came across pizza! Oh thank you baby Jesus, beer and pizza. I was so happy. To be on the safe side I ordered a veg pizza, gotta be careful of that meat! My new tour buddy Ryno, a tall South African lad living in Germany, was going hell for leather with the buffet and he was loving it. I spotted he had Gulab Jamun balls on his plate and asked if he could sneak me some. This, apart from naan is probably the only Indian dish I can easily recognise. They are sweet, doughy balls in a sugar syrup. I had to be stealth in eating them so I didn’t get charged for the buffet and my pizza!
After lunch we went to a fabric printing factory. On the onset it sounded a bit lame, but it was actually really interesting. They team are in this hot tin shed, the condition of the shed has no impact on the product, just reflecting Indian conditions. Anyway, the guys start with a blank white canvas sheet. They then get a big stamp, dip it in ink and start pressing the pattern on. But the fascinating part is, say they are printing a flower pattern; the first stamp with the outline of the flower. They do the whole sheet and then get a new stamp which my be the colour of the petals. They have to line it up and stamp the whole sheet. Then the third stamp my be the background, again line it up and stamp away. The sheet then sundries for 2 days and the colours change. If I was going straight home after the trip I would of purchased some staff from them, but my bag is full already!!.
After the fabric store we went to a jewellery “factory” where they showed us how they cut down and polish gem stones. Now jewellery I can buy as it is small! Inside their store I tried on a ring, it was beautiful. Gold and diamonds and pink stones. The guy did the currency conversion and It turned out I had a $2,000 ring on. Suddenly I couldn’t get it off quick enough! By then I had had enough. I felt bloated and decided to venture outside back out in the heat. When I was coming back in, Amanda, a lovely chick from Arizona asked me what I was doing outside, to which I honestly replied “ I was farting”. The look on her face was priceless. It may only be day 2, but we have 2 weeks together and pardon the pun, but shit is going to get a whole lot realer as we travel!
We all voted we had had enough and headed back to our “palace” to hang by the pool for the arvo and catch up on some wifi time.
A group of us were in the pool and looked up and noticed the sky getting darker. Some rain started to fall. I actually felt dirtier from the rain due to the air pollution. Some thunder rolled over and I thought this is nice. Then we saw the lightening and I wasn’t in the mood to be electrocuted in a pool. As we hopped out the wind started to not just pick up, but swirl around a little. We headed the porch area where the only wifi spot is. Suddenly a huge storm hit. Rain pelted down, the wind whipped like a mini tornado around. Then there was a huge CRACK as a massive tree in courtyard came crashing down. As nice as it was watching this storm, I had had enough and went back to the room. I wanted to get out of my swimmers, the heat was getting to me, I think I just want a nap I just want……omg to get to a bathroom! And it happened. My first (and happy to report only!) bout of “Delhi” belly. Yes both end folks. What had I eaten? And then I remembered that pizza was like the most handled food on the menu from the dough to the toppings!
After a bit I trudged back to the porch and felt sorry for myself while I chatted to friends back home. My gorgeous roommate Ria went and bought me lemonade and water from the shops….. the only thing is she asked to wear my thongs as she was bare foot. I was in an internal predicament. I NEEDED the drinks BUT it had just rained and I knew how filthy the streets were with faeces and now slushy rain mud I didn’t want my thongs dirty!! I stopped being pathetic and handed them over with a smile. Better her than me going out there I thought!
I stayed home while others went to dinner. I was sick a couple more times but enjoyed doing it alone and watching a movie on my laptop. Amanda had bestowed on me a travel trick I had not known. She carries peppermint oil with her. A few drops in a bottle lid with some water makes a room smell fresh and relaxing. This worked wonders for our room as I felt absolutely terrible for Ria.
One thing I like about this side of the world is that the rooms come with air con and a fan. I needed the air con, but it was literally inline with your head when in bed. I felt like I was sky diving all night!! I had to get my beauty sleep though….tomorrow is Agra and the Taj Mahal!!