Everyone had warned us it would be hot (40C+) once we got north of Mumbai but I have never before experienced air so hot it feels like you’re putting your head in an oven and a constant feeling of the energy draining out when you just walk down the street. Welcome to Rajahstan!
After breaking the long journey from Mumbai at the unexciting hillstation of Mount Abu we reached Udaipur; a nice, if not particularly exciting city of narrow lanes, a lake and numerous palaces. However, we made the mistake of not getting a room with air-conditioning (just a fan) so to get to sleep we had to have a cold shower before bed (without drying yourself) but we still woke up in the night sweating and had to keep having showers throughout the night!
A bumpy and hot bus journey (air-conditioned vehicles seem to be few and far between) brought us to Jodphur. We took a auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) up to the imposing fort which looms over the city. It is huge and is filled with many palaces. From there we could see why Jodphur is known as the ‘blue city’ as many houses are painted the colour.
Not fancying another bus, we upgraded to an AC carriage on the train for the six hour trip (which still turned into eight with delays!) to Jaisalmer. One of the most westerly cities in India (just 60km from the Pakistan border), it lies on the edge of the Great Thar Desert (so it is extremely hot: 45C+).
Despite the intense heat we took a two day/one night camel safari into the desert. We slept amongst sand dunes and ate freshly made chapati and vege curry cooked over a fire by the ‘camel driver’. The camels were pretty slow and uncomfortable but it made for some good photos! The evening was livened up by some beers that had been miraculously kept cool in the desert!
Jaisalmer also has a fort but the interesting thing about this one is that it isn’t just a museum as people still live and work in it. We found a nice hotel which had a lovely semi-circle shaped room with amazing views of the town below. Hours were spent wandering the streets, checking out temples, nosying into people’s houses and admiring the architecture of the palace.
Fancying a change from historical cities, we headed to Ranthambhore National Park on an extremely sweaty overnight non-AC sleeper train. Having failed at sighting any tigers in another national park a few weeks ago, we were even more keen to see one this time.
However, after a frustrating three hours of driving round in a jeep I had given up all hope. But, then suddenly the guide spotted one relaxing in a grassy lake and we sped over to get a better look. Although it was quite far away, it was still amazing to finally see one in the flesh. We watched it attempt to catch a crocodile and then settle back into the cool water to await some more food to come across its path.
Our final stop on this leg of our trip was Agra*, home of the Taj Mahal. A bit like Uluru, it’s one of those icons I have seen millions of images of so I assumed it wouldn’t be very impressive in real life. How wrong I was. As we walked though the south gate it appeared majestically in front of us, and despite being smaller than expected, it was beautiful. It was built from while marble by 20,000 workers over 33 years. The only let down was that to go inside you had to remove your shoes and there was a big stench of very cheesy feet!
An excellent end to what has been one of the most interesting sections of India so far.
* Yes geographers, I know Agra is actually in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh but it made more sense thematically to include it in this post.