Jodhpur

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On our way to Jodhpur we demanded that we stop back in Jaisalmer to see the fort.
“No, no, is much nicer fort in Jodhpur.” Explained Raju.
No! We were exhausted of being told what and where we were going to see things. WE really wanted to see the fort. He said he would, but only because he liked us. Reminding us that he wouldn’t have done it for some other tourists… So much for “you choose the places you want to see!”
In the end, I’m so glad we made the stop. The Jaisalmer fort is bustling with life! Shop merchants and locals and guesthouses: the place was full of tourists and temples and most of all, history. Can you imagine living in this fort so many years ago? Before the city was built up around it? Before the smog rolled in and you could see out forever across the distance? Wow. The place was incredible. We walked the streets for a little while, took some photos of a view point and then headed back to the car. We had only one night in Jodhpur and we weren’t going to miss it.
Our hotel in Jodhpur was incredible, just like all the the others had been; however, I think this was my favourite. It had a swimming pool, very nice rooms, outdoor courtyards and a huge rooftop patio with an outstanding view of the Jodhpur fort.
The Jodhpur fort may have actually been more impressive to look at than the Jaisalmer one, and from right underneath it, the walls looks imposing and impenetrable.
For the afternoon we checked out the markets. Jodhpur is known for its delicious spices, so we spent some time smelling all the different curries and teas that they had to offer. It was hard not to buy everything in the shop! But we did manage to get a few small things to carry with us for the next month and a half (our bags are becoming so full we will soon fall over with the weight of them!). For the next hour or so, we wandered the streets, with Raju as our unnecessary body guard of course, and checked out the markets. The center of the market has a beautiful clock tower right in the middle. Below it is a chaos of motorbikes, horse drawn carriages and a herd of cows, all trying to co-exist with one another. Good luck!
Eventually, we strolled back to the hotel for dinner on the rooftop. Our hotel restaurant just happened to be the number one recommended restaurant in the Lonely Planet guide, so we didn’t have to go very far for a delicious meal.
In the morning we checked out the fort. Unlike the living Jaisalmer fort, the Jodhpur fort, named Mehrangarh, no longer has any permanent residents. The fort does, however, have some outstanding views from its outer ramparts and a museum that snakes it’s way through the inner castle. Once you start in the museum though, there’s no getting out! You have to move through the crowds of people, up stairways and down passages until the end of the tour. We didn’t realize this until it was too late. An hour later we escaped through the exit, exhausted from seeing throne rooms and decorated hallways!
When we finally found Raju back in the parking lot, we drove off to a nearby palace. We opted not to go inside, but had some spectacular views of the palace behind the lake. It didn’t even look real standing there! Finally, we carried on to our next stopover: Ranakpur.

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Mandawa

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We’d only had about 5 hours of sleep when the alarm went off. Time to explore Rajasthan! We packed our bags and checked out before anyone else in the hotel (staff included) had woken up. Then we climbed into our waiting car.
We had a new driver, Raju was his name, and he seemed to be very nice. We slept on and off for most of the trip, but Raju kept turning around every hour or so to see if we were still okay.
When we pulled up to our hotel in Mandawa we were surprised at how beautiful the place was. Mandawa is just a tiny town. It has dusty streets, a small food market with rickety wooden stalls, and dilapidated looking homes built in a maze around the city. But when we pulled into the lot where we were staying, we were faced with a beautiful white building, painted intricately with Indian designs. The lobby was gorgeous. It had lovely seating areas scattered around, and an open courtyard through a doorway next to it. The place had a rooftop restaurant that looked out over the tiny town and towards the setting sun. If this was the budget tour, I can’t imagine what the mid-range and luxury people were experiencing!
We rested for a couple hours in the heat of the day, then had a local man walk us around the city and show us the sites. There really isn’t much to do in Mandawa. It’s very untouristy, there aren’t any major temples to explore, and the place is very small. But, it is a beautiful town to see if you want to get a feel for a real Rajasthani town. Mandawa used to be the major hub for the exporting of textiles and opium. Hard to imagine given its size, but it’s true.
The town was influenced by both traditional Indian art, and British business culture, leaving it uniquely beautiful. The town sports wall paintings that are over 150 years old. They are found on so many buildings as you wander around town. They depict stories and tableaus of Indian gods and animals, and also of British colonialism.
On many buildings, the paintings are faded or ruined from years of sun damage or structural collapse. But Mandawa still has many homes that have paintings inside as well. We were lucky enough to explore a few of them.
One building we went into was a home that must have belonged to a fairly wealthy family. Our guide said that it was probably home to a family of about 25 people (children, parents, grandparents etc). When you come ducking through the main door, you stumble into an open courtyard. Stairs lead off in three directions: left, right and straight ahead. We walked to the right and up into a little room.
“This is the business room” our guide said. This would be the room where the family would entertain its guests, or talk business with partners. It had a large square cushion on the floor where men would sit together, discussing the world and smoking opium. A small area in front was for dancing and entertaining, then a raised section in the back was for musicians to play. Right around the room, close to the ceiling were small wooden doors.
“That is the ladies section” he explained. The women were not allowed to join the men in business discussions. So instead they sat in the ladies quarters and could stick their heads through the little doors to watch the entertainment below. Prime viewing seats if you ask me!
The entire room was ornately decorated with carvings and paintings. Hardly a spot on the wall was bare. It was exquisite! I can just imagine how amazing it would be to sit in one of those smokey rooms, watching the dancers and listening to the musicians play over 150 years ago.
The rest of the home was slightly less ornate, but equally as unique. Brightly painted doors, a slave’s quarters, stalls for the livestock and a stunning rooftop with views across the city. This place was magical.
We continued our walk around the town, exploring homes here and admiring paintings there. At one point we went into a place called “The Golden Room” it was a beautifully crafted business room much like the others we had seen. This one however had paintings embossed with real gold detailing. The room sparkled in the light and was wonderful to see. It wasn’t a fully golden room, as we had sort of hoped from the name of it, but it was gorgeous nonetheless!
The paintings and old homes were absolute gems within an otherwise dusty old town. It gave spirit and culture to the area, and a look into what Mandawa used to be like.
My initial reaction of Delhi left me missing South Africa, but seeing Mandawa gave me a glimmer of hope that India is more than just chaos and bribes. I was glad we had stopped in this nothing town, and I was looking forward to exploring deeper into the rich history of India over the next two months.

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Changing Continents

We had two flights and 17 hours before we got to New Delhi. When I first booked the flight I thought to myself, “Why does it take so long?!” Oh, because South Africa and India are on TWO SEPARATE CONTINENTS! That’s why! Okay, maybe fitting in two continents in one trip was a silly idea. But I have no regrets! I couldn’t decide between the two places, might as well do both!
Our first flight was about 10 hours from Cape Town to Dubai. As we loaded the plane, Kelsi was told to go to the right, while I walked down the farther lane on the other side of the aircraft.
“Race you!” She said, and took off down the aisle.
My line moved at a glacial pace. One man couldn’t decide where he wanted to put his luggage and was trying to fight his way back the other direction. A family was trying to gather their children and pack all their toys, books and bags into one overhead compartment.
When I travel I usually have pretty good luck… Until the airports. Airports are where all my luck goes out the window and I’m left in utter agony for the majority of the time. I’ve been in the screaming children’s section of a 9 hour flight from London. The parents decided to leave all their wailing youngsters next to me while they quietly conversed at the back of the plane: I called it the “ball pit section” and the screeching went great with my hangover. I had an old drunk man pass out on my shoulder during my flight to Greece: a wonderful 10 hours of my life. I missed my connecting flight in Houston because of my terrible choice of security lines: much to Adam’s amusement. And we all remember the chaos of my flight to Argentina when the airport had no power: why do I travel…
Standing in the longer line in this plane was peanuts compared to the airport disasters I’ve had before. It was at least 5 minutes later than Kelsi when I stuck my head into our plane compartment and saw her sitting in her seat laughing at me. I gave her my best Adrienne impression of “I’m stuck behind a bunch if people on the stairs” look and she laughed even harder. I was still slowly working my way towards her in line when I realized she couldn’t stop laughing at me.
Okay, it was funny that I was stuck in line, but not THAT funny. Then she looked to her right, then back at me and then laughed again. I peeked my head around the line to see what she was looking at.
Kelsi and I were in the middle two seats in the middle section of the plane. On the far right was a man on his own, then Kelsi, then me, then the LARGEST man I’ve ever seen on an airplane!
I don’t want to make fun of him, he was a lovely man, but he DID take up all of his seat, and half of mine. The flight attendant ACTUALLY had to give him an extra seatbelt to clip on to the first one so that he could be strapped in. Of course I would get that seat.
Then, about five minutes into the flight, the seat in front of me flew back, crushing me in even further. Kelsi found this hilarious. If I’d had room to move my arms, I would have slapped her.
This flight is where I realized that I have difficulty doing normal things in cramped spaces. Taking off a sweater? Not a chance! I wriggled and squirmed for about five minutes before I squeezed myself out of it. I dropped every one of my utensils on the ground, but couldn’t contort my body enough to pick it up again. So I sat, straight as an arrow in the left half of my little airplane seat, and watched a movie… For 10 hours.
During the flight Kelsi watched Twilight 4 times. Yup, that’s right, FOUR times. Apparently she still doesn’t know what it’s about (and I thought MY flight experience was bad).
Well it was excruciating, but we did land in the Dubai airport. We had a couple hours layover and were total zombies the entire time. All I wanted to do was go to sleep! Kelsi Skyped her parents on the wifi while I struggled to hold myself together. It was one of those “I’ve never been so tired and haggard in my life” moments. I couldn’t wait to get on ANOTHER flight.
Our second flight was much quicker, but I can’t exactly tell you what happened. I was in a state of limbo: half awake and half asleep. I don’t remember watching a movie, but I didn’t sleep either. I just stared off into oblivion like the undead and waited for the plane to land.
Eventually it did land. Thank goodness. And we stumbled our way into India…