After another sleepless night (just cannot understand why I can’t sleep despite flourishing the room with lavender pillow spray!) and a small breakfast, Sukhvinder was waiting to take us to Jaipur. I regard him like my much loved Uncle Ralph coming to collect my sister and I from boarding school to take us away for the weekend!
The drive from Ranthambore to Jaipur was a much welcomed one and we drove through some interesting villages and countryside. The local elections are about to take place and we drove through quite a few checkpoints with soldiers with guns. Sukhvinder explained that cars laden with whisky and other alcohol were trying to be detected and diverted as the political parties will try and bribe the local villagers for their votes.
The countryside was so lush and this is because more technology is being fed through to India and the irrigation and watering systems are much improved. The sight of the vast acres of mustard fields and the smell of the very sweet quava trees was very welcome!
We past the now common sight of camels pulling carts, cows and goats and dodging the dogs. Heart wrenching to see the amount of children walking so close to the narrow roads with no shoes. Sukhvinder explained that the government provides schooling in the villages so children have the opportunity of an education but I wasn’t convinced this was available to all!
What a cultural difference arriving in Jaipur. Much more westernised and the immediate contrast was amazing. Huge billboards advertising a “women-only” university and a lot of focus on the opportunity to women. Stark contrast indeed to a few kilometres away seeing women with faces completely covered, working in the fields, carrying huge dishes of soil on their heads as they tended the fields.
One of Hannah’s tick list items for the trip was to visit the Monkey Temple (also known as Galtaji). We were left at the entrance and made our way in accompanied by a very enthusiastic guide who lives within the temple. After buying the obligatory bag of nuts I could smell the monkeys before we saw them – the stench !!! The architecture is extremely impressive and is surrounded by a natural spring in which the people come to bathe in to wash their sins away and to obtain good energy. We were encouraged to wash our hands in the pool and told “clean hands; good energy”. Never mind the energy – I was regretting leaving the hand sanitiser in the car! Hannah loved the monkeys jumping on her shoulder and there was one which cuddled into her and wouldn’t get down. I declined the offer but one rather cheeky, if not arrogant!, monkey arrived uninvited on the top of my head! I screamed and squirmed and shouted for the blasted thing to get down but it was rather determined to stay put! As if my hair wasn’t a disaster enough with no hair dryer, I now had a smelly monkey pulling at my hair and making itself at home!! Hannah was nearly wetting herself with laughter and even the guide was amused.
Our guide offered to take us 2 km up the hill to witness the fabulous hilltop view of Jaipur. I started to walk but I think he viewed me as a somewhat unfit bird who would not make the steep walk. I think it was either this or he wanted to impress Hannah as he said he would take us by motorbike !! Aged 52 and 9 months I have never been on the back of a motorbike! My girls have always been warned against them; John has even been denied the wish to own a motorbike – I loathe them! But hey, here I was agreeing to “jump on the back”. Hannah got on behind the guide and I clung on behind her. Laugh?!? Tears were rolling down our faces and, not for the first time during this trip, I thought I was going to die! Here – on top of the monkey temple in Jaipur, with dishevelled hair and not even wearing matching underwear – the shame!! I managed to get off the bike and the views were actually worth it – stunning. I limped around and tried to pull myself together concerned I had burnt my leg on the exhaust pipe – Note to my pharmacy friends; you didn’t send me prepared for exhaust burns; you are forgiven xx Another trip down the hillside with our guide shouting “are you ok Mam?” – “No” I yelled back “I am too far from home”. I dread to think what the monks thought as an Indian with 2 blond women on the back of a motorbike hurtled down the hillside with the one on the back screaming trying to hold together her dignity and pride. Another day of getting the dress code wrong – dresses and India do not go.
I almost ran towards Sukhvinder shouting to start the engine whilst Hannah reluctantly walked away from a place she had so wanted to come. I quickly shared the hand sanitiser in the car and shared another M&S mint with Sukhvinder who is quite taken with them. I am having to ration them now as we have elephant and camel rides to come – someone save me!!
After a shower and hair wash at the hotel we tried unsuccessfully to walk to a local bazaar. It is impossible to walk in the city alone and we quickly grabbed a tuk tuk and asked to be taken (quickly!) to a restaurant Hannah had found on Trip Advisor. Bar Palldio will remain in my heart during this trip as I enjoyed my first G&T – so deserved and so welcome. The place was stunning and we enjoyed squash and walnut ravioli and pesto fettuccine with tempura veg – delicious! With two glasses of wine and a bottle of water, the bill including tip came to £23!
A death defying evening trip by tuk tuk back to the hotel followed. Upsetting to see small boys aged about 7 in the middle of the traffic with cars, lorries, motorbikes and tuk tuks whizzing by, trying sell footballs. I just couldn’t look. Our tuk tuk driver got lost so at one point he and Hannah jumped out to ask someone directions – AND THEY LEFT ME ALONE IN THE TUK TUK!! With the engine running and slightly rolling backwards on the side of the road with heavy traffic! The driver realised what was happening and ran and pulled it back and put a small rock behind the back wheel. Hannah jumped in and, ashamed to say, I had a small meltdown and we had our first fall out of the trip!
On arrival at the hotel I arranged a full body massage for myself and Hannah (as a way of an apology for my meltdown). An hour of being slapped and pummelled with hot oil was probably what I needed ! I declined the head massage with oil preferring just the normal head massage (to try and retain some normality with my hair)) but don’t know why I bothered. I declined the facial but she proceeded to slap oil all over my face and hair! I think I am providing Hannah with total amusement this trip as she couldn’t stop laughing when I walked out with hair on end like Cruella de Vil and smelling like a pot of cooking oil. I ran up the stairs to our room and jumped into another cold shower (the perils of 3 star). On with my cotton pjs, large sprays of lavender pillow spray and I have enjoyed 6 hours of sleep which is an improvement.
Off for a day sight seeing in Jaipur tomorrow. I can’t wait to see the Pink City. Elephant ride on the agenda and I think I might wear trousers.
Today’s fear? Do they have saddles on elephants ?!
Love and dignity