After treating ourselves to a night in a very nice hotel in New Delhi to allow Alexandra to recover from her twisted ankle we filled up on the huge posh buffet breakfast (knowing that we wouldn’t have the chance to eat a full fried breakfast, followed by cereal, followed by pastries, followed by fruit, followed by cheese and crackers, followed by coffee for some time), jumped in a taxi to the airport and caught our flight to Jodhpur, the ‘blue city’.
Unfortunately on our first night we were unable to get into our guest house of choice in the old town and we were stuck in one of the new areas of the city which meant loud traffic noise and lots of smog. Fortunately the ‘rooftop restaurant’ is about as common as a dodgy bathroom in guest houses across Rajasthan. So we spent the evening relaxing and enjoying the view while having dinner on the roof.
The next morning we made some pathetic excuses to the enquiring manager about why we were only staying in Jodhpur for one night without even bothering to see the sights, ran around the corner and hopped into a rickshaw for the quick ride to the place we actually wanted to be at the night before. Once we’d made it into the old town the difference was striking. I gave up on my map within 5 minutes of us entering the tiny maze-like streets, which even Lonely Planet couldn’t mark out properly. Soon enough we’d arrived at our new guest house, Singhvi’s Haveli, a beautiful little place with lots of character and an amazing view of the most dominant feature on the Jodhpur cityscape, Mehrangarh Fort. We settled into our great little room (and settling into a room is something that is a rarity when you’re backpacking on a budget!) and had a brief look around the place before heading back out. That afternoon we visited Jaswant Thada – a beautiful marble memorial building, and Umaid Bhawan Palace – the current residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, before heading back to our haveli and spending the rest of the day researching and organising guest houses and buses for the coming days and weeks. Something which seems to take up a huge amount of time when we’re only staying in each place for 2 or 3 days. We then got some rest, knowing that the next morning we’d be climbing to the top of the huge fort that had been looming over us for most of the day.
It was the first morning so far in India that we actually felt a bit cold (apologies to friends back in London and New York, I know you’re probably still suffering!) so we filled up with the required breakfast of pancakes and tea, and headed out on foot to the base of Mehrangarh Fort. Just this first walk on foot, following arrows and ‘way to fort’ signs painted sporadically on walls, gave us our first real impression of why Jodhpur is called the ‘blue city’. As we headed through the labyrinth of houses toward the Fort, the lack of tiny shops and stalls in this area revealed that most of the buildings were painted a vibrant sky blue colour which looked amazing in the morning light against the clear sky of an almost identical hue. After a 15 minute walk we hit a fork in the road. We were right next to the Fort’s walls but couldn’t find the gate and without any arrows to be seen, pulled out the map and tried to guess where we were. Just then the front door of one of the blue houses in front of us opened slightly and an old hand slid through the gap pointing us to the right. No face, no words… just a hand. Very odd. Supposing that this must be a common junction for tourists to get lost, we followed the hand’s direction and lo and behold, right around the next corner was the giant gateway to the Fort. Looking back at the door where the hand had been I thought that it’s owner could save themselves a lot of time by just painting one on the door. Still, everyone needs a job.
We spent the rest of the morning wandering all around the spectacular Mehrangarh Fort with views of the blue city that put the rooftop restaurants’ in the shade (sometimes literally). We completed our time there by having our palms read by the Maharaja’s own astrologer!
After leaving the Fort we headed for the city’s one and only clock tower, to find a nearby travel agent for yet more travel arrangements. On the way we came across a small band playing trumpets and drums followed by a colourful procession of people, many throwing petals up into the air and over a flower decorated palanquin. It’s not uncommon to come across weddings being celebrated in the streets and before then I’d not managed to get a nice photograph of one so I pulled out the camera. Just as I did, I noticed that the first members of the crowd to pass me were a group of women all of whom had tears streaming down their faces as they walked together at the front of the group. I tucked the camera away as the realisation hit me that we were witnessing a funeral procession, and as the palanquin passed we saw the body of an old bearded man, made to sit upright with his legs crossed and covered from head to toe in flowers, with only his face exposed. I had to admire the fact that this man’s life was being celebrated in such a grand and happy way that it made me think it was a wedding procession.
We decided to walk back to the haveli through the markets, saving the haggling energy that we would have used on a rickshaw driver in case we came across something we wanted to buy along the way. The fumes from the rickshaws and motorbikes (not to mention the cow’s arses) became a bit overwhelming in the tiny market streets and we were relieved to finally find our way back to our room.
The next morning we were up before dawn and headed out to find a rickshaw to take us to where we had to catch a bus to Jaisalmer. Although we were promised that we’d find lots of rickshaws to choose from at the square near the haveli at that time of the morning, there were none to be seen. We had a worrying 20 minutes of wandering about the nearby streets, dodging cow shit and hoping to hear the sound of an engine approaching, before one finally did and took us to the bus stop. We were lucky to have got up extra early that morning because having booked a 7am bus, and with many other people telling us it wouldn’t leave until 7.30am, of course it actually left the bus stop at 6.40am! It was another thing that has made us realise that you simply can’t make any reliable plans in India if any aspect of them is dependant on public transport, but I suppose that’s all part of the experience! So there we were, on the bus, tired but relieved and ready for the 6 1/2 hour trip to Jaisalmer.
Here’s a few pictures from our time in Jodhpur.