My great O/E Bus tour of India.
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The first three days.
This is all written from memory, my diary and from postcards home, I wrote many letters but most got lost in the postal system.
Day of great excitment I have been waiting for , let the adventures begin.
The Bus tour begins and a friendship ends, Jaipur.
Had to be up early for 7am departure, quickly packed and swallowed our 5 tablets each (mainly for malaria protection and allergies) for the day before we went down for one last lovely omelette at the Connaught Hotel, quite sad to leave as its been a wonderful 5 days and this hotel has become a little haven from the maddening crowd and noise of the streets, the hotel is rather European in it own Indian way.
First stop was at Red Fort where we had our first taste of all the touts, hawkers and beggars there are at every major tourist attraction, (strange that they never bothered us when we were being chauffeured in the school bus or when we were with Cedric) all jostling, demanding our attention and our money! I remember very little of this fort, as I was too upset, then we visited Nehru and Gandhi’s tombs once more, then made a quick stop at Old Delhi in a quiet part where we could walk around reasonably safely, just the fringes of the area, not where we had been taken to. Seemed to be a chicken selling area as there were masses of them squawking and having their heads chopped off! Final stop in Old Delhi was at Jami Masjid the largest Mosque in India, built way back in 1651, an impressive building, where we gathered for a group photo of as many of our tour party as we could find.
All the party seem very friendly and I think we will mostly get on well, there are 4 Dutch people who may well form a little clique since they have there own language, (but they didn’t really) but they do speak English, its always easier to be able to speak your mother tongue. Two young Italian nurses struggle with English but it will be good practice for them being among us. (And it was)
Bus stopped for us all to buy fruit for our lunch, then we are off on our real holiday, travelling all day to Jaipur with Julie and I at opposite ends of the bus, I am a bit lonely and the journey seems long, although there is much to look at out the windows, there are paddocks of yellowed linseed plants grown for oil that goes into all the curries, lots of animals with one young person looking after them, farmers ploughing paddocks with bullocks, tiny villages along the way, full of folk all dressed in saris and dhotis, and many loaded trucks all decorated colourfully with streamers and bells and god icons hanging for protection, transporting goods all over the country.
We arrive and I am worn out, all I can think of is a shower, but its in a room I must share with Julie so I am quickly showered and feeling refreshed I go downstairs and am asked to join with 7 others to walk to a restaurant of Eric’s (a French Canadian psychiatrist) choosing, he is the one with the Lonely Planet Guide book and he chose well. Have no idea where Julie went.
We all enjoyed our first meal together, everyone tried from a large mixture of Indian dishes like we had when we dined with Cedric, plus we discovered Lassi a delicious drink based on yoghurt, there was a great deal of friendly chatting and I felt my depression vanish, this will be a great trip.
Arrive back at our room to find Julie pretending to be asleep and that she had washed everything she owns and spread it all wetly to dry - on my bed! Im amazed I kept my temper, but I just took it and threw it all over the cloths line in the bathroom, and slept in a soaking wet bed.
Monsoon and Samode Palace.
Awoke to the thunder of heavy rain on the roof; the monsoon has come early, great quantities of water was cascading down from the roof as gutters couldn’t cope. After breakfast we all get on the buss to begin our tour of Jaipur, but things don’t go as planned, its far too wet and also we discover its election day and most things are closed. We did see the Palace of winds, Hawa Mahal, and Sultans Museum and visited a carpet factory, I as an asthmatic could stay in the factory as there was just too much lint and dust flying around, but still I spoke to a weaver who gave me a small spool of gold thread that he had been weaving into a special carpet.
We found great puddles and flooding everywhere and masses of water birds had appeared from nowhere to enjoy the fresh water, but not much good for us, so the tour guide got us all to have an early lunch as the bus driver knew of a beautiful Palace high up in the Mountains that he would take us to instead of all the other attractions we have missed. It had not been raining heavily in the mountains.
It’s a bit of a bonus to go to Samode Palace, as it was not on the tour originally. The building is very run down and dilapidated but you could see what a wonderful place it must have been in its hay -day. All walls and ceilings were covered in paintings and little mirrors, including a whole room of mirrors, our guide lit a candle in the closed room and we saw a million candle power flickering in all those mirrors, The palace was about 6 stories high with very high ceilings all a glitter and sparkle.
Drove back to Jaipur where we had a lovely vegetarian meal.
Also I bargain and bought a lovely silk bag to carry with me on the bus with my gear in, this was fully lined with a zip along the top and very soft and silky, I was able to hook it over my shoulder and hold it flat and close to my body, no pickpockets could get at it at all; they did try! We all bought some nice things.
Once back at the hotel I wrote a lovely thankyou note to Cedric and Shoba to say goodbye once again, and signed it.
Amber fort, Elephant rides and Sariska Palace.
Everyone had to be up and packed by 7.
Loaded the luggage and headed off to the Amber Fort, a huge complex high in the hills in a different direction to yesterdays trip. We all walked up the hill to the entrance and rode back down on an elephant! Jamie an American girl accidentally dropped her camera from the back of the elephant she was riding on. No problem; the mahout immediately jumped down to retrieve it, and the elephant took his chance for a free run, he picked up his heels and ran down the narrow path, with Jamie yelling and screaming all the way and the mahout running along behind yelling too. However the elephant had no further thoughts in his head than his lunchtime snack of a bail of hay, that’s where he took poor Jamie! The rest of us rode very sedately down with all elephants kept fully under control, I had been waiting years for just such a ride and enjoyed it immensely.
As we drove on towards Sariska Palace, we asked our driver if he would stop in a tiny remote village so we could buy bananas and things. He was happy to stop, before we could get off the bus a delegation of elders had hurried out to meet us, none too pleased to see a bus full of tourists, demanding to know why we were there, fortunately the bus driver explained and we were welcomed to a village not frequented by tourists. No name for this village sorry, it was small and scruffy and very dirty. The bananas were very cheap for a big bunch plus we all bought other things to assist their economy rather than give money to the beggars of which there weren’t many at all.
Arrived at Sariska Palace where we will spend the night, it is a genuine Palace belonging at some stage to a Maharajah and was rather grand and stately, luxuriously appointed though rather run down.
For the first time we can all relax together, enjoy the sunshine and appreciate the Palace. Tonight we dined vegetarian around the banquet table, after which Sandy an English hospital Matron and Sharon joined me for an after dinner brandy on the balcony, while most of the rest of the group held a rowdy party downstairs.