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Published: January 17th 2012
A suprisingly short truck drive and we arrive in Jaipur before sunset. Our accomodation for the next 2 nights is an ex-Maharaja's palace which is beautiful! Painted from floor to ceiling in beautifully ornate designs & colours, in every archway and every room - we're going up in the world! After a visit to the Observatory & City Palace; very interesting & yet more stunning architecture, we head off to explore the pink city itself (although technically and rather disappointingly it is in fact not pink, but more terracotta in my opinion!)
Myself & Cassie, not having a clue what direction we're heading in, opt for a bicycle rickshaw to take us to the Main Bazaar, but no sooner than we climb onboard we realise our mistake...The poor man is barely strong enough to pedal with our two sizeable asses on his rickety old bike - we could honestly walk quicker! I imagine we look so lazy but the fact is we don't know the way and directions are hopeless!...Anyway, the man is determined and eventually he gets going and we pick up speed, getting in amongst the tuk-tuks, cars, vans, dogs etc and after a "stop" via the poor
man's brother's stall, where they pretend to give you pretty flower garlands for free then demand your money (of course I'm having none of it) we finally arrive at the market.
A local guide has informed me that wealth is traditionally the most important thing to Hindus in India. According to the God of wealth "Laxmi"; so long as you are wealthy everything else comes second, including life to a certain extent, is the belief of many. Of course everyone is just trying to make a living, but more often than not at the expense of ripping off the tourist and I'm quickly getting wise to the scams. I find myself haggling over the price of a Kit Kat (not intentionally but the man halves the price before I even reach for my purse!) Everything is worth whatever you're willing to pay and then half it, half it again and you're somewhere near.
A very dodgy scam I encountered at a wine shop, on the way to a local guide's house for dinner and luckily he had warned us beforehand. "How much for a bottle of wine?" I ask at the counter..."1600rupees madam"...I get him down to 800
(about 10 pounds - wine is very expensive here but I needed a treat!) and I hand over 2 x 500rupee notes...With a flash of his hand he shows me 2 x 100rupee notes. "No madam - eight hundrrrred....you only give me two hundrrrred..." I know full well I gave hime 1000 so naturally the red mist descends and I fly into rage; "You f***ing lying bastard!! You cheeky f***er!! How dare you try to rip me off!!..." My arms are flying up in the air as I shout at him, he looks a bit scared and hands over the wine with my correct change straight away - nobody rips Tina off!...As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of Hull...
A visit to the Amber Fort the next day was magnificent - a huge palace equally as impressive as the numerous forts and palaces I have seen throughout Rajasthan, which has quickly become my favourite province of India so far. After seeing this great spectacle we walk down the steps to the foot of the hill to find one man in our group (who me and Cassie have aptly named "Pervy Pants")
to be stood there adorning two women's chunky ethnic necklaces and a bright red and gold turban...teamed with his green fisherman's jumper, safari shorts and socks with sandals would have been bad enough but the look on his face that read: "Yes, I look The Bollocks" was enough to have us in fits of giggles. I don't wish to sound mean, but this man has been annoying us since day one of the trip. About 50 something years old, the only thing that seems to come out of his mouth is smutty remarks and seedy comments (which is fine amongst friends but not with girls young enough to be his daughter!) He's got it in his head that Cassie is on some massive man hunt in India (which she very much isn't) and can't understand why the two of us are perfectly happy without a man. He openly boasts to the rest of the group how his Thai wife has given him a "free pass" for 3 months to have any woman he wants (though fat chance of him finding one that will have him!) He is a vile, chauvanistic pig, so I think with the nickname "Pervy Pants" he's
actually got off quite lightly! Needless to say, when later that afternoon he had to ask Phil to do an emergency stop in the truck to run off into the bushes with a bout of "Delhi Belly", we again all had a giggle at his expense.
I do sometimes feel like I'm in a reality TV show on this trip...peeing in bushes, camping, spending so much time in close proximity with 18 other people can become quite a strain. We find ourselves bitching about people (mainly Pervy Pants) not pulling their weight with chores, not tipping fairly etc and often have the conversation "Who would you vote off the truck & why?" late at night. But it's all good fun and I feel lucky to have met and spent time with such a great bunch of people.
My last night on the trip is spent in Delhi with Cassie, Judy the Ozzie, the two Argentinian brothers - Gonzalo & Rodrigo and new boy Mark, who has just joined the truck to do the next 2 week stretch to Mumbai. We spend much of the night teaching Gonzalo & Rodrigo the words to "You're so Vain" by Carly Simon
which has randomly become the soundtrack of the truck and in exchange they teach us the words to "Un Elefante" a kid's song I learnt in Spanish class at school years ago (Rachee, do you remember??) and also a bit of Tango! A couple of cocktails later calls an end to the night and an end to the first chapter of my travels...
Sad to say goodbye to my Dragoman posse, especially my partner in crime for the last 2 weeks, Cassie, and even sad to say bye to that god damn truck!
It's been a truly amazing whirlwind tour of Nepal & Northern India, sad to leave so soon but plenty more adventures await...
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