I got the time wrong for seeing Gravity in the Celebration Mall (and Yes, a genuine 5-story Mall in Udaipur and reasonably full of Indian punters) so I am in an extremely seedy internet cafe (no actual cafe stuff available) to pass the couple of hours until film time.
I arrived at Bundi in a monsoon and Bundi must have the worst roads in India. Bundi is described by Lonely Planet as “a captivating town .. “. The guy must have been completely high on drugs or some such. The filthiest city I have encountered with a plethora of nasty pigs and piglets rushing here and there. My lodging was described as “run by a dynamic mother-and-two-daughters team” but both the girls have married and moved away and I never saw the famous mother .. but perhaps I needed to be female. The first room had no AC so I asked for one with AC which it had but the remote was broken and it was turned on and off from the room next door. On the second (final) night I had no water at all! However, it so happened that they fixed the AC remote and I had the best night’s sleep of the holiday (helped with the odd drug or two!).
The town is famous for the palace which Kipling said had been built by goblins rather than humans. A quite extraordinary place built into a hillside with only a few (magnificent) rooms open to the public and an overwhelming stench of bats’ piss everywhere. It is all falling to pieces and won’t be long before it will be closed for good. Such a shame but that is India: so many monuments and so little money. Bundi is also famous for its stepped wells – BUT every one is either closed, or has scaffolding and all have rubbish in the well instead of water. Earlier this year 12 irate American tourists took the city chief to task and insisted that he clean the major ones out and apparently they did but it takes but a trice to trash them again. After wandering around for some hours rather forlornly I eventually came upon a lovely summer residence overlooking a beautiful lake covered in lillies where Kipling stayed for three nights when writing Kim. So that was splendid, and then I was in the midst of the procession for the end of Dussera when large images of Ma-Durga are brought to the lake on floats with music blaring from each one and with much dancing and jollity. Each statute is dumped into the (fetid) lake with much ceremony. That night there was a long procession of floats winding through the town, again with much jollity. Each float was followed by a poor man dragging along a very heavy transformer to power the lights and tremendous noise. So, much to my surprise, a rather enjoyable day. Spent quite some time in a rooftop cafe drinking Kingfisher with the lovely owner (man) who said that the number of tourists is going down every year and with more competition he just cannot make a go of it. I suspect that tales in the Western media about India are having an effect.
And so at 9 am I arrived in Udaipur and by 9:15 I was sitting in the rooftop restaurant having breakfast overlooking a lake with beautiful buildings everywhere and no litter. The town is (relatively) spotless and that means no nasty pigs (but still plenty of cows one of which has just rum amock and careered down the middle of a main road and it had very big horns indeed. I could see the owner slinking off and pretending it was not his!) I have visited the palace, taken a boat trip on the lake, had lunch sitting by the lake, and today walked many miles to see another lake and a garden (which on the map looked gigantic but that was a naughty trick and it was rather small and although beautiful could have been so much more with some imagination).
Whilst eating that first lunch Jonathan from Pushkar sat down after returning from his camel trip in Jaisalmer. He had spotted me from the bridge. Philippa always used to tell me that she kept on meeting up with people on her Indian trips; extraordinary! We spent some more happy times together yesterday and today and have just parted with every intention of keeping in touch.
This morning I went to yoga and this time there were nine others and the teacher could do poses I had not thought possible, and got me doing some that more than surprised me. I thought the hour would never end! The toughest work out of my life, at one point regretting having had a coffee and toast beforehand and thinking I was about to pass out .. but I shall return for more punishment tomorrow. He said that after a week I would feel wonderful. Either that or the Red Cross.
Tomorrow I may take a trip to a temple described as Rajasthan’s Khajuraho – which no one here seems to have heard about. However it is quite a way (50kms) so will see how I feel after yoga.
Must away to Gravity. Next stop Jodhpur then a camel trek for two days in Jaisalmer. Jonathan insists that I do two days rather than the one I had planned since the second night out in the dunes the stars are incredible.