31 october - 24 november 2002
The trip started under the best auspices, in fact because of the overbooking Alitalia gave me a business class seat and so the 8 hours of flight passed more quickly between a glass of wine and the other. After having attended all the night, at 6 o'clock in the morning I took the flight to Udaipur, my door of entry in India.
I choose Udaipur as first destination to optimize the itinerary and also to have an impact more soft with the Indian reality, in fact the atmosphere of the city is quite. Despite how much I was intended, I have made take suffered by the frenzy of the shopping, starting to turn for shops in search of a beautiful miniature (typical Udaipur paintings); to the end after having sees I don't know how many I bought 2 of them very beautiful. Between a shop and the other one I visited the city, very beautiful the Lake Palace hotel where besides one of the of James Bond movie has been turned and that all the restaurants project every evening.
I had foreseen to visit a little bit the city but considering that I had a painful foot I preferred to spend the morning in the guest house where besides I talked with a French guy that was making a round the world tour. At 15 o'clock I took the bus that would have brought me to Jodhpur in 8 hours; crossing the Indian roads is a true experience, the transport craft full to the improbable one work for miracle and the style of guide it is really crazy with continuous passing and the continuous use of the horn (has been calculated that is used in average 10-20 times for km!!!); on the back of all the trucks there is straight a writing that invites to use it!!! The madness increase with dark, many times I saw me crushed against a truck. Arrived healthy and safe to Jodhpur I intended me not to make night bus-journey; I have not made time to wear my backpack that I was literally attacked by the ricksaw drivers tried to bring me to the guest house from which they take the commission; after varied bargaining I have succeeded in having me brought to the guest house that I had chosen, really under the fort that dominates the city and that it is really spectacular.
For the first time in my life I didn't hear the alarm clock and so I waked up at 11.30 o'clock, just few minutes for a fast breakfast and then raced to the train station where I booked the ticket to Jaisalmer. I visited then the Umaid Bhawan Palace that it is really imposing and suntuos; I have passed the rest of the day walking through to a maddish chaos for the city that was preparing for the Diwali festivity, very characteristic the market in the plaza of the clock.
I have devoted the morning to the visit of the Merenghar Fort, I walked along the steep alleys between the characteristics painted houses of blue (for this motive Jodhpur is called the blue city). I spent some time to visit the varied structures and rooms of the fort that really liked me a lot and then the sight of the city it is really spectacular even if unfortunately the cloak of smog is evident. In evening started the celebrations for the Diwali, one of the most important Indian festival, I expected some demonstration or procession but the all has turned with fire-works not spectacular but veeery noisy.
Departure by train with the first lights of the dawn to Jaisalmer, a fort built to the borders of the Thar desert and that it has evoked atmospheres for 1000 and 1 night. Together with 4 travelers meet on the train we decided to find a lodge inside the fort, but considering that the guest house didn't have free rooms to sufficiency we distributed us in other guest houses. After a turn for the city to the search of a money-changer I returned to my guest house, the owner with a lot of courtesy offered me a cup of Chai (the Indian tea) while he exposed me his desert-tour; when I told him that I would have thought about, he chased me practically from my room with the excuse that had to give it to a couple that would have done one of his tours. Considering that the tours in the desert are the biggest activity in Jaisalmer unfortunately it is quite common that the owners of guest house are involved so, at the end however I found another accommodation and booked the tour with a reliable agency. Considering that in the afternoon I had lost of sight of the friends met on the train has gone to end that we chose different tour, we met again the evening to dine together and to greet us; very nice to drink the beer from the teapots, in fact the owner of the restaurant because it didn't have the license and because for religious motives served us the drink this way.
Met my companions of the tour, 4 guys from Bologna: Stefano, Franco, Barbara and Giuseppe we reached by jeep the point of meeting with the camel drivers with which we would have passed 1 day and 1/2. After being systematizes us each on the proper camel , the adventure started, to ride the camels (that really they are dromedaries) the ride is amusing and particular, seemed me more comfortable in comparison to the horse. We spent the whole day riding through the desert that is similar to the Australian bush; a standstill to half day for the lunch and a siesta and then again on the camels to reach the zone of the dunes of sand in time for the sunset that however was not anything special. Before it was dark we camped and we dined in front of the light of the fire and the full moon. Instead of listening to the histories of the desert of the camel drivers (they didn't speak English) my companions of trip have told me of their "frightening" experience with the bhang lassi (drink to base of yogurt and marijuana), thing that was really really funny. Spending the night in the absolute silence of the desert and a super starry sky has been exciting even if we have had fortune to take a little of rain.
After the breakfast to the first lights of the dawn we took the way back that we have crossed to the gallop almost all, a little bit because we had taken there the hand but probably also because the camel drivers were wanted to enjoy with us; at the end even if has been an amusing experience I had the legs really asunder. Returned to Jaisalmer I gave systematized to me and then I escaped to catch the train to Jaipur. Besides the atmosphere from 100 and 1 night of the city has struck me the thick military presence due to the proximity with Pakistan.
Arrived to the first lights of the dawn I had some problem to find a lodging considering that the first 2 guest house were full, after having turned a little bit, I found a nice guest house near the city center. I strolled a little bit for the city visiting the City Palace Building and the famous Palace of the Winds. I found veeery annoying the furbonis that with the excuse to talk tried to rub me; to Jaipur is very diffused the trick to propose to the victim (or for better saying stupid) tourist to make courier of precious gems, so the tourist after having withdrawn the packet of gems (naturally false) signs a receipt in white with the data of the own credit card that then comes naturally relieved of a big sum!!!
Considering that I wanted to see the Amber Fort that finds out the city I rented a rickshaw for 1/2 day, so I went first to book the bus to Agra and then I returned to the Palace of the Winds to take some beautiful photos; thanks to a dealer I succeeded to climb on the roofs in way to have a beautiful view and I ended then naturally to buy some souvenirs in his shop. Reached the Fort I preferred to climb by foot instead of picking up the characteristic elephants, I visited the varied areas of the building that to say truth not liked me particularly; I passed the rest of the day to stroll around the bazaars of Jaipur, interesting the bazaar of the sculptors .
I dedicated almost all the day to the transfer by bus to Agra, arrival in the late afternoon after having found the lodging I strolled a little bit for the city that didn't liked me.
I decided to devote this particular day to the visit of the Taj Mahal, considered the biggest and most beautiful symbol of love in the world and one of the symbols of India. The photos and the books don't make the idea of beauty and the harmonious of this building that I admired and photographed for the whole morning . In the afternoon I made the bookings for the rest of the trip and satisfied the driver of my rickshaw visiting some shops from which it hoped to take commission on my acquisitions.
I spent the whole day on the buses that brought me to Pushkar where the famous Pushkar Fair was about to start: the Festival of the camels. From the bus station I had to walk a lot up to the guest house that I had booked because it was very very far from the village than I thought and considering that because of the Fair cost the quadruple of the normal fair the thing made me worried. After a shower I went to the village and I discovered that the main residence of my guest house was in the village-center (and was that one I had booked) and so talk to the owner that naturally had not told me nothing, I agreed for changing room the day after.
Pushkar is found on the shores of a sacred little
lake and I immediately liked the atmosphere, besides pilgrims, santonis, that come for bathing in sacred waters, along the streets of the bazaar are found persons of all the types: acrobats, enchanters of snakes, musicians,
bramins and eunuches. The area devoted to the Fair is found a little out the
village, thousand of camels are bought/sells, I would have been able to acquire one for 200-300 €!!!
Just outside of the area of the Fair there were a small luna-park, even if the safety level of the varied merry-go-rounds was not the maximum one, I have seen the panoramic wheels turn and sees the speed of rotation I thought they were trying it, instead there were really on some persons!!! Toward the end of the day all the tourists find on the shores of the lake to assist to the sunset; the evening while I walked for the bazaar I met the French friend known to Udaipur and so we decided to dine assisting to a show of dancers and fire-eaters.
Long and tiresome transfer with bus and train to Khajuraho to visit the temples of the kamasutra, arrival to Jhansi I went directly to sleep for tiredness.
I waked up early to visit Orchha a little village with some very beautiful temples and buildings. Returned to Jhansi to half morning I took the bus to Khajuraho on which I met a couple of Italians with which I have exchanged some words about the Indian trip; very beautiful the varied and colored landscape especially in comparison to the desert zones of the Rajasthan. I have also known a Indian boy that gave me some good information about Khajuraho and above all he suggested a good hotel to me (the best with the lowest price tried in India), he has explained me that because of the lack of tourists the hotels had lowered the prices. The village of Khajuraho is really nice and calm even if there are quite a lot sellers very annoying.
I dedicated the whole morning to the visit of the really spectacular temples , the erotic incisions are splendid.
Considering that I didn't want to make another drudgery to arrive to Varanasi some days before I booked a flight from Khajuraho to Varanasi, after lunch with my sum joy I discovered that Air India canceled the flight and so I had to opt for another transfer by bus and train. The 4 hours by bus have been really endless, the road was very bad and I was angry and the bus uncomfortable LLL. The time passed more quickly while I chatted with a Swiss boy that had to reach Varanasi like me; arrived to Satna to catch the train we have risked to lose ours backpacks considering that the driver was going forgetting to unload them, fortunately the Swiss friend has succeeded in grabbing on to the bus while I raced it to say the driver to stop. Arrived in the station we have succeeded in catching the train after 5 minutes, but naturally it was full; after having turned it a little bit, thanks to the inspector we have succeeded in finding a berth to divide, and so we have spent the night between merchants that sold of everything, from the chai to the stockings.
We arrived to Varanasi at 4 o'clock in the morning and considering that it was not very safe to turn at night for the old city we waited out station for a couple of hours in company of other travelers considering that the hall was full of poor people and mendicant that slept. To the dawn we went in the zone of the gats (the sacred baths along the Ganges river) finding a lodge, we had to turn quite a lot through narrow and dark alleys (has been an enterprise to avoid the sheet of cows!!!) before finding a guest house; once I met a honest rickshaw driver, in fact he had insisted immediately to bring us in that pension but we were not entrusted him.
After a rests I went out for strolling a little bit, my guest house was found really next to the gat of the cremations, so I took a seat and for around 1 hour I assisted to the rituals, around 150 bodies a day (and night) are cremated after having been purified in the sacred waters of the Ganges; who can not allowed the cost of the cremation is thrown directly into the river even if fortunately I have not seen afloat bodies. I walked then along the river and for the alleys of the city that was preparing for the city festival.
Wakes up at 5 o'clock for the tour by boat on the Ganges, very suggestive the atmosphere, the gats were full of persons that attended the turn for the sacred bath while the sun was rising. I liked the tour by boat so much that I done another one by myself to half day and another in the evening for the sunset, really suggestive the rain of petals of flowers thrown from a helicopter over the people along the shores of the river. Impressive the fact that the water of the Ganges that people drink normally has a concentration of 1.5 million faecal coliform bacteria per 100 ml of water, of norm water is considered safe for bath if this value is less than 500!!!
Endless transfer to Bombay rather Mumbay like it is now called, 26 hours that have become 33, fortunately I choose a I class berth so if nothing else the trip has been comfortable, besides the Indian companions have been a good company.
I dedicated last 2 days to the visit of Bombay and some shopping, the city it is the most western between all those visit in India, also being very great is quite orderly and clean, the population and above all the women it is more emancipated in comparison to the rest of the country. Interesting the visit of the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat the "laundromat" in Bombay where over 5000 men wash, dry and stretch suits succeeding surprisingly to not lose them. I have also done a tour by boat even if unfortunately it was not possible to take photos.
The trip in to India has been an experience of life surely even if for a short period, the most frequent answer to whom asked my impressions at the end of the trip has been it is really another world and that it is a country to live rather than to see. It is often to face strong situations and for this reason it is a destination that I can't recommend to everybody.
I can say for concluding that India should not miss in the destinations of each traveler.
Copyright © 2002 Giuseppe Ruperto. All rights reserved.