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June 23rd 2009
Published: July 6th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Early the following morning we were picked up by our driver (who amusingly gets a furrowed brow of confusion during every conversation attempt) to go to Ranakpur, which is ninety kilometres north of Udaipur. There was a new highway being carved out of the mountains, and the road itself seemed to encapsulate modern India. Cars took guesses at where to drive on the unfinished roads while the diggers were still making them. This meant that there were boulders in the road that drivers had to keep getting out of their cars to move out the way. People were sat in the road painting the road markings by hand, and dogs, goats, donkeys and camels were all being narrowly avoided by the traffic. Buses passed us with people packed in like sardines and piled onto the roof as well, trucks inched precariously around corners with a massive drop below. As we got slightly more into the countryside we saw men in lungis pushing along ox carts, and women in brightly coloured saris balancing pots of water and piles of wood or bricks on their heads. As we neared Ranakpur there were tribes of monkeys in the road, sat like old men and with the same sort of expression on their faces.

The Jain Temple at Ranakpur is said to be one of the best in India, and with a reputation like that in a guide book, we normally take this with a pinch of salt. However, this temple was one of the most beautiful man made structures that I think we have ever seen. It was carved out of milk white marble, and had 1444 pillars (no two alike) inside and no walls at all so it was really bright and airy. There was also a 600 year old tree that was completely hollow but had never dried up. After the temple our driver tried his luck by taking us to a Dury weavers, another handicraft demonstration, which included them trying to set fire to one of their rugs (don't ask). We had a bit of an awkward silence that seemed to last forever as the tumbleweeds went past, with them really wanting us to buy a rug and us blatantly not wanting a (although very nice) rug.

The hotel we stayed in was set in the mountains by a lake, that was again dried up. The surroundings were really rustic, although I saw a man who worked there throw a brick at a buffalo and it made me a little grumpy! The place was teeming with nature. There were birds sat on our window which was pretty special. There also appeared to be a family living in the cottage next door which was pretty quirky.

As we were staying in the mountains in Ranakpur, there wasn't really much to do as such. After a walk around the dried up lake we sat outside and did some reading and some painting. We decided to get some food just outside of our cottage, and watching the birds and the monkeys (who were teasing the local dogs) was pretty good entertainment after the hustle and bustle of other places we had visited. We could also hear some thunder brewing in the mountains a slight distance away. This gradually got closer, and the wind started to blow through the trees. By the time that the sky had gone completely purple we'd finished our food and got comfortable to watch as the sky opened and threw down bucket loads of water. We could see sheet lightning and the wind blew through the trees more aggressively. I concentrated on counting the seconds between the lightning to see how far away it was to check we weren't about to get struck, and we both watched in awe as the wind blew the rain so strongly that it came into our shelter, like someone literally throwing buckets of water in our faces. After spending the day outdoors taking in nature, seeing the storm made us realise who's boss and made us appreciate it even more.

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