Published: April 18th 2011April 19th 2011
Although we missed the Grand Prix on tv, I assure you that we have not missed A Grand Prix. With the speed, narrow roads, sharp corners, rapid overtaking and close distance to other drivers, I feel like I am living the grand prix. To say the driving has made short work of my nerves is an understatement. It is not unusual to have cars driving towards you in the fast lane on the highway. Nor is it unusual to drive right in the middle of the road, with the line in the centre of your car. Indicators are not used, but hooters are most definitely your most valuable tool.
We spent the weekend in Mt Abu in Rajastan province. Gordon was told about the place from someone at work and everyone has said that it is a great place to go, not only for the cooler weather, but also for the sights. Bikaner Palace, an old residential palace, is very colonial and you feel like you have been cast back in time. On the wall hangs photos of trophy tigers and leopards having being shot Indian princes. They date as far back as the 1920s.
One thing I can say
is that India can’t ‘do’ Chinese. They tend to mix Indian and Chinese and you get a strange flavor. Even the vegetable lasagna served in our hotel in Ahmedabad was spicy.
Our room in Bikaner Palace are huge. We had our own dressing room and courtyard, and you could fit a few people in the shower at one time quite easily. We had arranged a driver, Imran, to take us to Mt Abu, so we had someone who knew the place and acted as our tour guide as well. He picked us up on Saturday morning and we started at Gurushikhar which is the highest point of the mountain. There are about 100 steps to the top of the mountain, but I felt quite bad for the guys who carried people, suspended between two ends of a bamboo pole, up a mountain. Is that lazy or clever of the passengers? Take a look at the photo of the ‘digital photo studio’ at the top of the mountain. Classic! Once we reached the top, there were beautiful views from this point although it is hazy for some reason. Rain is the most definitely not the reason. It is very dry
On top of the world
It was much cooler at the higher altitude
in India at the moment.
I still find it amusing that our white skin is so unusual that people stare and want their picture taken with us. I was asked very nicely to hold someone’s baby while they take a photo of the two of us. But it is endearing too because people are so nice about it and just want to have the ‘experience’ of talking to white people.
Imran found a nice vegetarian place to go for lunch. We let him have full reign over what we were going to eat, and he did not disappoint. We ate the most delicious vegetarian food. He did stress ‘less spicy’ to the waiter which we were grateful for because it still had quite a bite to it, but it was great to experience authentic Indian food (and it cost less than R100 for all 3 of us).
Next we went to a temple that is 1 000 years old. Inside it has white marble floors and a 250kg gold statue and very intricately carved white marble.
Lake Nakki is quite an attraction in Mt Abu. It is a big lake in the middle of town, with some
trees and benches, but the best part of it was the pedal-o. You sit in a duck or frog or swan and pedal your way around the lake. It was refreshing to pedal around the lake on the water. Another fun thing to do at the Lake is to have your photo taken in full Indian dress, with all the ‘bells and whistles’, literally. When I was being dressed I turned around and literally burst out laughing at Gordon because he looked that funny. I hadn’t looked in a mirror though so I had no idea that I looked like a sequin bucket was dumped on me. It was fun and we drew quite a crowd.
The sun was going down and we drove to catch the sunset and Sunset Point. You’d think this is a relatively quiet place but you would have thought we were coming out of a ruby match. There were so many people there, but it made it quite a festive atmosphere. We arrived early to take our place and wait for the sun to set. While waiting there was a little girl (6) who according to her mother, wants to be white. She shyly
came over and said hello and eventually sat next to me. She was a real lady, crossing her legs and batting her eyelashes.
It is not uncommon to see someone out the corner of your eye taking your photo. They take the photo over their friend’s shoulder in a restaurant or make it look like they are just checking their phone at that particular angle (conveniently pointing at you). We almost started a ‘riot’ when we were leaving because everybody wanted their photo taken with Gordon and I. Eventually we had to just leave, otherwise we wouldn’t have got out of there. By the way, Gordon was wearing an Indian cricket t-shirt. That may have been the reason.
Some of the things we saw and did are too difficult to describe but a photo says a thousand words. Take a look at the photos that I’ve put up. It is a great experience to be walking among the people and seeing the things we are. Not just the tourist things, but the everyday things, like the tea stops on the side of the road. Men stand around with little cups of tea that has been brewed in a
big pot over a small fire. I was going to try my luck and taste it but Gordon had a good point in that if it’s not sealed, we shouldn’t drink it.
There have also been a few misunderstandings between us and the locals - We had vegetable gratin delivered to our room when I actually asked for Earl Grey tea.
On Sunday morning Imran picked us up and we took a leisurely stroll through town looking for bargains. Things are so cheap in India. Anywhere else in the world you would pay double if not triple for things aimed at tourists, however in India, you can’t help but laugh at how inexpensive things are. The colours and fabrics are beautiful and everything catches your eye.
This is what our time in India is about… meeting and mingling with the locals and getting involved in the culture. This is what I hoped it would be like and Gordon and I both fell asleep on Saturday night with huge smiles on our faces, knowing that we were living our dream.
There are more photos below