Abdul and wife and from left in back, Ryan, Nick, Aaron and Brooke
I recuperated from my camel trek by getting some shopping done in Pushkar. I had heard from many that they really loved this place, often staying a week or more. I failed to understand why. The place was overrun with tourists and the main street was one big shopping bazaar. There were lots of temples and a lake with ghats, but I guess I’ve had my fill of temples. Anyway, I got some shopping done, finally buying a blanket and fleece cap - now that it is warming up around here of course! Darjeeling will likely be pretty chilly yet at least. After three nights I decided to move onto Bundi, a place a fellow traveler recommended but one that seemed more off the circuit.
The best toilet yet!
Only local buses went to Bundi, so I made my way to the station, standing there and having no idea what bus went where. I was brought back to a travel show my grandmother and I watched together in which a gal struggled to find the right bus while traveling in India. We both laughed, knowing that I was going there. Up until then I had not experienced this so I laughed yet again thinking about that moment and missing my grandmother. Anyway, some locals offered me help and I made my way to Bundi, sharing much food with the gal next me.
The hotel in Pushkar recommended I stay at Shivam in Bundi, so I made my way there on arrival.
They were expecting me but were all booked up. The gal running the place spoke great English and I was sad I couldn’t stay there, but I found a very friendly family running a guesthouse two doors down and promised to come back for dinner later. After checking out Bundi, running into far fewer tourists, I went back to Shivam’s roof for some grub. A group was up there working on lap tops, and one of them asked another about going back to Minneapolis (and I noticed his “Nordeast Mpls” t-shirt), and they started chatting about advertising in the Rake and City Pages. I piped in and said the SW Journal and the Sun Posts were other options, so there you have it, I ran into some Minneapolitans in India! There were four of them, three guys (two bros) and one gal, also a recovering attorney. She and one brother actually live in Denver right now.
Checking out the palace Kipling once visited while working on Jungle Book
We made fast friends and I got invited to ride with them the next day to tour around Bundi. They are on bikes they bought in Delhi where they are also starting a bike tour business, so they were basically out scouting places to bring groups. I hadn’t had a tour on a motorcycle since Turkey, so I was pretty excited!
Kings' tombs. This place definitely inspired Kipling's Jungle Book.
We set out after a long breakfast and made our way, bit by bit, outside of town,checking out an abandoned summer house and king's tombs. Now these guys (and gal) are real motorheads, and while going along, Aaron spotted out of the corner of his eye some old car in someone’s drive. We turned around so he could inquire about buying it. The lady of the house came out and said she wasn’t sure about selling and invited us in for chai.
She woke her husband and he appeared with the car papers. It was a 42 Hilman that he described as a “family showpiece.” Upon hearing this, Aaron quickly gave up the idea of purchasing and we just visited for about an hour with this couple and their servant. It turned out he is a pretty big guy in these parts. He showed us a book apparently about him, mostly in Hindi, but there were articles in the back in English describing his trip to the US in 2000. He is the head of an organization that preaches religious tolerance, and he, a Muslim, is also the head of the Muslim group here in Rajashtan. We couldn’t believe our luck meeting him, and were amazed how we could approach such a prominent person’s home and be invited in so easily. They were lovely to chat with. Upon hearing about my friend’s business intentions, he recommended we check out a nearby guesthouse.
At the guest ranch - these tents are defintely for honeymooners
Posing with our hosts
Of we went, making it just another few yards before reaching this “guest ranch” really. There were beautiful tents set up around a garden area, and a tree house for grabbing a beer and watching the sunset. There are also many, many birds to watch, thriving in the area because of the water source. We were invited to have drinks and dinner there, so we promised to come back after we checked out some nearby caves, one of the many things we intended to see but were having trouble getting to that day. We made our way through some treacherous roads, having very little room ourselves in passing trucks. Locals kept urging us forward, indicating only a few kilometers away, but we eventually gave up with the sun setting and the thought of beers awaiting us.
Upon getting back to the guest ranch, the owner approached us. He apparently is the Maharajah of Dugadi, a place nearby (?), and he had just opened this place. He was very friendly and we ended up deciding to stay for dinner. After sunset, we sat around a fire awaiting dinner, with the Maharaj giving us some whisky and having quite a few himself. While this was going on, the police showed up to do a sort of security dry run in anticipation of “the governor” visiting the next day for lunch. We all couldn’t believe the prominent people we kept meeting! We talked and talked, with him telling us of his family and the partition, while we all got a little drunker and drunker, smoked some beedies (tobacco wrapped in eucalyptus leaves), waiting for a break for dinner.
Finally at about 9:30 we got to eat, having a scrumptious meal of soup and various sorts of things. I was so famished by then I’m afraid I ate too fast to taste. The Maharaj didn’t eat, saying he must go home for dinner, but he sat with us and kept on his whisky. We finally finished, and as the hour was late, we tried to pay and he insisted we should not, inviting us for lunch with the governor the next day. He also found a moment to grab me, hug me and try to kiss me. My companions did little to help me during this “Pepe Le Pew” moment, using the Maharaj’s distraction to tip the servants.
Detail on the tombs
Now we all had quite a bit to drink, but I felt safe for the most part on the ride back.
Brooke unfortunately took a spill during a particularly rough patch in the road. We were behind here and saw her go down, with much grace I might add. She quickly got up, saying she was fine, so we made our way back to the guesthouses. Now there is a curfew here and I wasn’t too worried about it, but when we got back, the Shivam folks were worried and ushered me off right way to my guesthouse, making sure I got in. I had to ring the family and as I got in, Lucky the owner’s son, lectured me about my tardiness • it was only 11:30. His mother stood and listened, and I just thought, I’m 33, I can’t believe I’m being lectured about showing up at 11:30! I wanted to say hey, I was having drinks with the Chief of Police (which he did have one with us around the fire), but I finally just said, what exactly do you want me to do about this right now, and they bid me goodnight.
At the summer place outside Bundi
This morning I felt bad and apologized over breakfast, learning that they are very strict about 11 curfew due to the fact some American girl was out late one night by herself and apparently got touched and complained to the police. Now they require everyone to be inside their guesthouses by 11. They had made calls the night before and learned I was with “the King” but they were worried nonetheless. Anyway, that was cleared up over samosas on the roof with monkeys leaping about hoping for a scrap.
Tree for tea? Or beer...
I found my crew having breakfast at Shivam, with Brooke in much pain from her fall. She is now off getting x-rayed, while I await the governor’s arrival so we can join the fancy lunch. I just hope the frisky-with-his-whisky Maharaj behaves himself!
Yesterday was probably one of my most favorite days in India.
It is so great to just stumble along with no plan and see where you end up, and having friends from home is also a real treat! I’m also excited because after renting a scooter in Goa, I made my mind up to get one when I get home (after getting a job, apartment and paying off some travel debt of course!). But I have a great hook up as these guys also have a bike and scooter shop in St. Paul.
Detail inside the palace
Until then I can’t wait to see who we meet next!