Jodhpur - Put On Your Horseriding Pants
Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
235Trip End Mar 04, 2006
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Where I stayed
Former footpaths had been turned into housing of corrugated iron, old wood and plastic, and most certainly far from watertight. In the mornings, kids are soaping themselves up in the streets and washing themselves, smiling, or brushing their teeth and spitting into the gutter. There mothers might be helping them, their fathers milling around or some lying down on mats asleep. Occasionally when the taxi slowed for a speed hump, you could see in to the single "room", with cooking done outside right on the gutter.
The buildings are unbelievably filthy. It is a ghastly place to visit. But its alright for me - I'm just passing through, provided the taxi doesn't break down. The drive did want to switch me to another cab so he could definitely make it back to town for another pickup he had lined up, but I simply didn't want to stop.
It does make me wonder how they don't fight tooth and nail to get out of there and make better lives for themselves. I think I would work 24/7 to get away, doing anything. Having a vast number of children doesn't help either. I can't help but think that it cruel to even consider bringing a child into life, when you know what the kind of life the child will live. Why would you do it?
Jodhpur is on the edge of the Great Thar Desert. As you fly into the single runway, single gate, single building (except for the India Airforce buildings, choppers and planes around) domestic airport, you can see the palaces and forts of the city, and the surrounding sand and scrub. Yet you can't see anyone wearing Jodhpur pants, although apparently this is where they were invented.
Its a dry dry 37 degrees of heat here. You don't seem to sweat, because of the low humidity it just gets sucked straight out of you and evaporates. The guesthouse I have booked for one night is hopelessly away from the main area, so I had to catch a autorickshaw (the Indian version of the Tuk Tuk) through the outskirts of town and up to the Meherangarh Fort.
Meherangarh towers atop one of the only hills you can see in Jodhpur. There are high sandstone walls surrounding the fortified palace structure. It is an absolutely awesome sight. I must be lucky as a pigeon with a laser guidance system drops a dump right on the peak of my cap. I'll keep that in mind for future experiences in palaces where there are pigeons.
The Maharaja no longer lives here, but he did create a trust which looks after Meherangarh as a museum. A wander through, complete with English audio headphone descriptions, reveals ornate rooms, and amazing views of the old Blue City. A large proportion of the surrounding buildings built within the old city walls, are painted a light royal blue. The idea is to keep the buildings cool, and act as an insect repellant. It does make the views down into the city incredible.
As I was walking out, who is walking in but none other than Denise from the US who I met in Thailand. I knew she was in the Rajastan state but didn't know what town she was in. Its a little crazy. Hence I turned around and went back into the fort with her and the small group who she'd been travelling through Rajastan with.
There were many freshly married couples making their way down from the fort as we stood there, all dressed in traditional costume. We became their wedding photographers. They were happy for us to take snaps of the 'big day', actually encouraging us (verging on demanding) that we took shots. The important question - were they arranged marriages? At a guess I'd suggest they were, because neither the bride nor groom looked the slighted bit happy.
Dinner was on the rooftop of a guesthouse in the old city. Although its not a great deal cooler in the evening, there's a nice breeze up on the fourth floor, and great views of the Meherangarh, which is lit up at night. I'll be making the trek back here in the morning from the outer 'burbs of Jodhpur and checking in, even though the first guesthouse did bestow on me the priviledge of staying in their room called "The Maharaja".
After checking into my new abode, I wandered the streets of the old city of Jodhpur. They are narrow, with drains of washing water gushing beside them, and goats, bulls, cows, dogs and the occasional camel running the gauntlet of motorbikes and autorickshaws. That also means the obligatory poo from the local animals peppering the street. You spend more time looking at the ground than at the sights around you, while listening in for a speeding autorickshaw and scampering out of the way before it takes you out coming round a corner. Still all the locals are very friendly, as its hard to take ten paces without having to say "hello" back to someone. You just can't make eye contact with them, otherwise you risk having to spend an hour scraping cow dung out of the grooves of your boots.
It is stinking hot here in Jodhpur and only shade offers some respite. It must be close on 40 degrees, with a warm breeze straight off the desert. You can only last a few hours at a time before having to head back to the guesthouse for a break from the heat, and its compulsory to gulp a litre bottle of water every hour or two.
Denise is a veteran here in Jodhpur by an extra couple of days, so she showed me the way round through the old city markets and clock tower. Prior to sunset we headed up to the Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is home to Jodhpur's most exclusive hotel (rumoured to be 7 stars) and also home to the last Maharaja of the region.
After the waiter in traditional Raj outfit, Turban, and curly mo' takes you out onto the patio to sip cocktails and listen to live Sitar, while peacocks roam the lush lawns in front of the temple structure in front of you as the sun sets, you remind yourself - hell its good to be unemployed.
I have an air-cooler in my room (the "Desert Cooler" suggests its branding). Its a large contraption that points into an open window that is meant to, cool the air. Alas sleeping is near impossible, as at night the temperature seems only drops a handful of degrees from the daytime peak, and the air-cooler isn't exactly a success story. You are awake every couple of hours to guzzle more water and have another shower, and once the sun comes up, your sleep time is pretty much ka-put.
Its time to start thinking about where I am heading over the next few stops and how to get there. I know that Jaisalmer, in the midst of the Thar Desert is next for me, but how to get there is my next issue. There is a train, so I headed down to the ticket counter with Denise in the morning to check it out, as she needs to purchase one herself as she's heading north. The ticket counter is a little on the crazy side, and since its easier to catch an hourly bus to Jaisalmer, I've decided to risk the madness of Indian roads and make my way by "deluxe" public bus. The fingers are crossed.
We made our way to the Jaswant Thada, which is a grand marble palace about a kilometre from the Fort. Here another pigeon displays a precise level of accuracy by hitting my shoulder. I must be extra lucky. Its another grand building, sitting high on a hill in the heat.
Wandering the streets later in the afternoon, a seated cow flicks its tail, and manages to flick its wet dung on my newly cleaned t-shirt. I'm not sure if getting cow dung on you is lucky. But if so, can I get any luckier? Shit happens I guess.