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Published: December 27th 2011
December ’11 Jaisalmer to Jodhpur
5.30am and there’s a knock on the door – the alarm hadn’t gone off! So 9 minutes later, we are up, dressed and off in a tuk tuk to the bus. It was freezing cold on the bus but I managed to nod off a few times. The bus was interesting, it had a row of 2 seats down the left side, with sleeping cubicles overhead and down the right hand side both top and bottom were sleeping cubicles too. How anyone could sleep in them was beyond me as you couldn’t exactly stretch out. We found our seats without too much trouble, the rucksacks went in the boot with a few misgivings and we were off. The bus stopped once for a 10 minutes break but we just stayed on as we had no idea what was going on! A young lad – a student studying commerce called Narris was sat along from us chatting away, asking what jobs we did, where we were from etc and then asked for Howard’s email address and gave him his family’s business card! Eventually we arrived at the final stop in Jodhpur – I had no
idea what a large city it was until then. Narris then shook our hands and wished us well. As we had arrived on a private bus we were actually pretty well out of the city centre but there were loads of tuk tuks and immediately we were adopted by one driver who waited while I had a fag and then took us to the Blue House Guest House where we had a room booked. Howard was slightly agitated as he thought we had arrived at the public bus station and were going to far but all was fine. We went past the English Speaking Primary School for Brain Child!!! Although Jodhpur is known as the blue city not all the buildings are blue which was a shame as I had thought they would be. A very fortress like fort dominates the top of the hill overlooking the town and a bizarre ornate clock tower is the focal point in the town centre.
After much haggling and a quick trip back to the Blue House (which is painted blue!) to check out the tuk tuk prices we found ourselves in the slowest (but believe me that is GOOD) tuk tuk
in town and on our way through the maze of winding streets, teeming with people, cows, motorbikes, push bikes, tuk tuks, children shouting hello, ladies shyly smiling, men spitting, shops selling and making anything you can possibly conceive of and eventually out of the town and on the road up the hillside to the Merengarh Fort. From up close you can see what an amazing building it is. Two men were painting beautiful Mughal freizes on the walls either side of the entrance gateway and while we were admiring them on of the artists came over to tell us he would be in England in march as he was commissioned to paint a bank! He told us to give him our phone number and he would give us a call when he got to England – unfortunately he might be there but we wont be, what a shame.
The fort gates must have been at least 30ft high and the height of the walls I cant begin to guess at. We hiked upwards then through a sharp right turn – designed to stop enemy elephants building up momentum to charge, through another set of doors (with huge spikes sticking
out of them – to stop said elephants battering them down) on each side of the inside of this gates’ walls were about 11 single vermillion hand prints – these were the prints of the Royal ladies who had made them on their final journey out of the fort on their way to commit suttee.
When the Maharajah dies the wife then preforms rituals and wears her best clothes and jewellery and sits with his body on the funeral pyre and then without flinching (apparently the use of opium for many reasons was very widespread and the norm then) is burnt. She then joins her husband in his celestial life. The last suttee here was in the 1840s.
The Royal Palace was fantastic!, the fretwork and latticework was amazing, everything was excellently carved and so beautiful, the courtyards were wide and open with fascinating tiny windows and carved screens on the overlooking buildings where the women of the court could peep out and see what was happening below without being seen.
The women had a separate palace within the complex where they lived in purdah, the entranceway was guarded by the most trustworthy guards who were usually
eunuchs. They were allowed to be visited by other women bringing both goods and gossip but no men. The present Maharajah’s mother only came out of purdah in the 1980’s ‘as they have to move with the times’. All learn’t from yet another excellent audio tour!
One of the durbah halls was decorated with gold and jewels, paintings and lush carpets. The window screens were filled with coloured glass which then reflected into the room. We came across the Royal Astrologer in one of the courtyards and I wanted to get my palm read but it meant at least a 45 minute wait so Howard was having none of it! And it was only £6 for a full reading! We met a Dutch woman here who was contemplating it but in the end decided it would plant too many ideas I into her sub conscious and then affect her so she didn’t go through with it. She was travelling alone and this was her first time in India and she wasn’t too keen on it, brave lady to attempt India alone!
On the way out we visited an absolutely fascinating photographic display about the travels of Lilah Wingfield
who visited India in 1911 to attend the Royal Durbar where King George V was proclaimed Emperor of India and she also travelled to escape her domineering mother!! She clearly had several men falling in love with her, both within the English military and the Indian nobility! She travelled with a female chaperone and another female friend. On her return to England (and her mother) she she met an MP and was engaged within one month! A definite book to purchase when we return!
Pancakes for breakfast and then it was out wandering the streets to try and find the Clock Tower. Which we managed remarkably easily considering the streets kept winding back on themselves, at one point I was nearly squished by a tuk tuk but was saved by a group of Indian ladies who were all waiting in a line – no idea why, but they pulled me in amongst them thankfully!
The Clock Tower is just inside a beautiful arched entranceway to the market, so we had a good look around the stalls which were typical market stalls plus lots of bangles and saris stalls, all really colourful. It was at
The Clock Tower
this point that we started being stalked by a tuk tuk whose driver would not take no for an answer, no matter what alleyway we went up we could hear the thrumming of his engine waiting for us or suddenly coming up behind us – it was like being in Stephen King’s film Christine!! Finally we found a bit of pavement (yes pavement!) away from the road and heading out of the market area so he eventually got the message and went! We then found a nice tuk tuk driver who didn’t want to rip us off and took us up to the current Maharajah’s Palace with no hassle, offered us a good price to wait and then take us back again so we gladly accepted.
The Palace is built in a very similar style to the Taj Mahal but in pink sandstone and looks out right across the town. It was originally built by the Maharajah’s grandfather and the inside is decorated in the Art Deco style. Only a small part of the palace is open to the public with photographs and items from the royal household. There was a display of the Indian polo teams various victories
and an interesting note that while touring England back in the day they won every match and then donated a pavilion to the West Somerset Polo club as it was the loveliest pitch! It didn’t take long to see it all but it was so peaceful I didn’t want to leave. Outside there was a long glass fronted ‘garage’ with lots of the vintage royal cars. We then met up with our tuk tuk man and hurtled back to town only slowing or stopping for the convoy of army vehicles – probably the only thing anyone does ever wait for! Back at the Blue House we had power at last but no wifi – we suspect there never was any to start with! So off on the hunt for lunch, wifi and a nice place to relax for a few hours before getting ready for the next overnight train – this time back to Delhi to join the trip – which doesn’t seem as dreaded anymore – let someone else have the hassle for a while!!
Arrived at the station which was the usual seething mass of humanity, lots of families camped out in the station entrance, people charging about in every direction and the one security scanner for all these people to get through in order to reach the platforms.
The train was on time and it was easy to find our carriage this time, once again we marvelled at the sight of our names on the reservation list and hopped on. So once again its Delhi here we come.
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