24 days travelling and getting into the swing of things.
17th October 2018 – Jodhpur
We certainly didn’t feel ready to leave Jaisalmer when our alarm went off at silly o’clock in the morning. There was a sense of excitement in the air, as this was the day when we finally got to experience first hand the train network that is arguably the beating heart of India. Sadly there were no last minute flights for us today, so off we marched, bags in tow, down towards the entrance gate of the fort. From here the group split into two cars and we made the short journey to the station. Being completely unprepared as usual, we had the standard breakfast of champions – an oversized bag of crisps from one of the platform vendors for around 25p. It would have to do.
There was a lot of apprehension amongst the group about travelling in 3rd Class AC carriages (which we were booked in to for all our day and overnight trains). To our relief, they actually turned out to be rather pleasant. They were clean, reasonably spacious and a nice way to mingle with other travellers, who were often local families. Carriages can be broadly separated into reserved and unreserved seating, with and without AC. 3rd Class AC means that there are 3 reserved berths in clusters of 6 (there are two berths on the other side of the gangway) with air conditioning. When travelling during the day, you usually keep the middle berth folded up so you can all sit up comfortably.
On this occasion we decided to put the middle berth down, so we could all either read or nap and meant the journey went by pretty quickly. Before we knew it, we were in Jodhpur and being welcomed by our hosts at Jagat Vilas with an incredible buffet spread of traditional Northern Indian food. They also had the most adorable puppy and a slightly aggressive sausage dog, although he seemed to take to me. It wasn’t long before we were jumping back into tuk tuks and making our way to the impressive Mehrangarh Fort (anyone close to me knows I love me a good fort).
We opted to initially use the audio guides, but found ourselves ditching them early on when we realised we didn’t have time to complete the whole tour. It turns out an hour and a half goes by a lot quicker than you think and it just isn’t enough time to do this fort justice. As most of the tour group were women, once we were inside the walls it wasn’t long before we found ourselves being separated. Having lost the only other guy in our group, I aimlessly followed the other Indian men for what felt like an eternity through some rather uninspiring grounds, spotting the heads of the other women and my wife every so often along the wall above.
At least they’re having some nice views, I grumbled to myself.
This is what happens when you don’t pay attention and miss the correct turning point. It was too late now and I had accepted my fate. Having not seen the heads of any of the women in the group for some time, I suddenly realised I was the only Westerner and the only one still wearing shoes. I quickly took them off and carried them by my side and next thing I knew I was being yelled at by a guard to leave them to one side, which I reluctantly did. Turns out the girls had turned back as they had refused to leave their expensive shoes unattended.
It was a massive wave of relief when I spotted the other guy from our group who looked equally as confused as me and was also carrying his own shoes. This is how we both unintentionally ended up queuing to pray at a temple, getting blessed and walking away with what I assume was some sort of bindi. Even more confused than before, we gratefully managed to finally rejoin our tour group and finished exploring the rest of the fort and taking in the incredible views over Jodhpur.
It wasn’t long until the sun was due to set, so we made our way down from the fort through the winding lanes of the famed Blue City. People traditionally painted their houses with a combination of indigo and lime to work as a natural insect repellant, although today that’s not always the case as the materials are expensive. We ended our walk in one of the oldest markets in India, Sadar Bazaar – which features the picturesque Ghanta Ghar (a large clock tower) at its centre. It was here that we had the famous Makhaniya Lassi (35 INR ~39p) from Mishrilal, which was so good that even my wife got one (she usually hates them). It was so good that it has now ruined them for me everywhere else, for which I have no regrets.
The evening was rounded off nicely with a street samosa (16INR ~18p) for my wife from the supposedly famous Shahi Samosa (which I am told was equally as good as the lassi) and a rooftop meal with the group. We had perfect uninterrupted views of the fort which was lit up under the night sky. We even had a couple power cuts, which made for a rather surreal experience, sitting in complete darkness as we finished our dinner.
18th October 2018 – Jodhpur
This morning we skipped the optional day trip to a traditional village and instead opted to spend the morning exploring the old town ourselves. It was so much fun to walk around the back streets, getting lost and taking pictures of all the blue buildings and colourful doors. Once we were all photographed out, we made our way back to the market to take even more photographs of the spice market (which was a little underwhelming, I must admit).
Whilst the girls were gazing longingly at all the fresh vegetables on display (at this point we were so concerned about Delhi belly, we were avoiding a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables) I ended up being dragged into a small tea shop, where I tested some of the most unique flavours we have ever come across. We particularly liked the pink grapefruit and saffron tea. Never have I ever sniffed such potent smelling mint tea, it could almost knock you out if you breathed in too deeply.
We made one final pit stop to pick up yet another Lassi – like I said, they were good, very good before heading home for the afternoon. Which was spent unwinding at our home stay with the rest of our group as we wanted to relax ahead of tomorrow’s 6 hour bus journey.
Until next time.
P.S. To this date, I still haven’t had a better lassi than I did in Jodhpur.