“There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't sit still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Their's is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.”
- Robert Service

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Sarah and Michael on a Shoestring: Beijing to Udaipur

It's a good thing we're rained out in Udaipur, India today. Last night, I had just put the finishing touches on a lengthily blog entry when I accidentally deleted it all. The shame of it was that with our busy touring schedule, a bad head cold, and the resulting early bedtimes it had taken me the better part of 4 days to finish it. So, while we're stuck in the hotel hiding from the heavy downpour, I'll do my best to give you the Cliff notes.

On Jan 8, Michael and I started out towards India, but since we had to layover in Beijing anyway we opted to take advantage of China's 72 hr visa-free option. Over two days we were able to see the Forbidden City (HUGE!), walkabout Old Beijing, and then hired a tour guide to take us to see the Great Wall. The Wall is definitely impressive, though officially you're only allowed to visit a few short sections which are maintained by the government. Beyond these parts was the "Wild Wall," which looked like it was being slowly reclaimed by the earth - with guard posts dotting along impossibly steep moutain ridges. Hard to believe that each brick had to be carried up the mountains by hand!
Standing atop a guard post
Next, Delhi! It's a dusty, busy, loud city, but has plenty to offer a tourist seeking adventure. We were on our own for two days before we were scheduled to meet up with our tour group, so we were free to try and introduce ourselves at our own pace. Delhi is a fairly old city, which makes it all the more interesting. Amongst high-end shops and cars and modern buildings are colonialist style shopping areas (Connaught Circle), and ancient mosques. Some of my favourite places in Delhi are large parks with the ruins of temples dating back to the 1200's, where locals come to picnic with their famlies

Humayun's Tomb - within a large park complex, restored not long ago. It was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal!
One of the aforementioned mosques-in-a-park
 After we joined the rest of the tour (16 young people from Canada, the US, Germany, England, Scotland, Norway, New Zealand and Australia), we made off for the desert and the hotly anticipated camel safari near Bikaner. We were each assigned a camel, though we weren't trusted to lead ourselves, so each camel also came with a local boy who walked beside us - for 4 hours! (and in flip-flops, through the sand...) We stayed overnight at a cozy camp, where our hosts prepared us a delicious supper, and we all chatted on into the night next to a fire. I will admit to being quite cold on this excursion, though. My expectations of India's weather were incorrect, and nighttime in the desert was very chilly! Thank goodness for the extra blankets and the hot water bottles we were given!
Giving a camel good pats after having brought us our of the desert the next morning
The next few days after that were busy! Long bus rides for several mornings, plenty of local food (even the "non-spicy" food can be piquant), temples, tuktuks and huge forts rising up over well-worn cities. It was in Bikaner that we stumbled upon the Camel Festival, where - as western tourists - we were ushered through a VIP entrance to the stadium and invited to join in on some special competitions. Initially, we were hesitant to join (there were at least a thousand people in attendance), but in the end, we joined the tug-o-war (locals vs tourists), and came up on stage for a tourist-only turban-tying contest! For the most part, our turbans weren't very good, though one in our group won second place and 2000 Rupees!

I found these gentlemen at the festival, dressed to the nines. They had competed in a mustache growing contest! (though you wouldn't know it, since they keep them well curled up), the winner was crowned "Mr. Bikaner"

We visited a sacred Rat Temple near Bikaner- a temple that was over-run with rats!

In Jaisalmer, the man with the longest mustache in town, in front of a Haveli. The ornately carved balconies was all over, and so beautiful!

In Jodhpur, the "Blue City," we toured a large palace. One of the more striking pieces in the collection (besides the ornate seats for riding elephants), was this dagger. Once stabbed into an enemy, a trigger could be pulled to open the blade and flay them from the inside!
We took a fleet of Jeeps out to the countryside to visit local artisans. Here, Michael's watching a potter showing us the wheel that he must spin manually with a long stick. We got to try our hand, but generally failed miserably....
Last night in Udaipur, we attended a local dance show. This woman was able to dance with 10 water pots on her head!
So, today we try and wait out the rain. We're still in a fairly arid region, so I'm hoping it doesn't last all day. Later this afternoon, we have plans to regroup and attend a Henna tattoo demonstration, and then a cooking class where I've been told we'll get to try and make samosas! Yum!

*For the record, we're currently taking the India on a Shoestring tour, organized by G Adventures

No comments:

Post a Comment